We all want to know what the future of marketing and brand success holds. The experienced marketing strategists at the Litmus Live virtual summit spoke on the subject, but of course, none of them can definitively say what marketers must do to make brands successful in years to come. They can only describe the challenges and opportunities they see and make their most informed projections based on a combination of observable, measurable, and intuited factors.
There were many great speakers at Litmus Live 2021, but one stood out for me. She advocated for long-term brand transformation with an emphasis on invisible engagement—everything that can’t be seen and tracked when it comes to your prospects and customers.
Shama Hyder, a future-forward marketer who predicted the important role social platforms would play in marketing, shared three guiding principles to propel marketing in the new digital age. As the author of An Open Letter to CEOs: Why your CMO Is Thinking About Leaving and founder of Zen Media, a PR agency, Hyder reaffirmed her position on the shortcomings of short-term ROI-producing results, which she believes sacrifices the more important yields that come from forging long-term connections with customers. She offered her expertise on how to propel your marketing and transform your brand in the new digital marketing age.
She began by saying, “Attention isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” Marketers sometimes struggle to discriminate between attention that is simply intoxicating and attention that’s meaningful. Not every engagement is measurable, and that’s OK. If marketers get too enthralled with metrics, they may unconsciously play it safe. She reminds us that marketing is an offense sport, and teams that play defensive games lose 86% of the time. Take risks.
According to Hyder, these are the three principles to keep in mind as digital marketing evolves.
Consumers are more concerned with privacy now. As a result, over-personalization can backfire if it comes across as invasive. Hyder believes it’s becoming more difficult to follow the customer journey because the transition from learning about your brand to buying from your brand is increasingly complex and shrouded.
She cited dark social private channels, like Slack, LinkedIn messages, and other private groups, as the places where most decisions are made. And you won’t know when your brand is being discussed in these channels.
She reassures us that just because we can’t see a customer engaging with our digital marketing touchpoints (i.e., liking, sharing, reviewing, commenting, etc.) doesn’t mean they’re not engaged. Your brand’s share of voice, or the amount of conversation you own in a marketplace, must penetrate this messy middle. When a consumer is exploring and evaluating, it’s not always clear and measurable what triggers them to make a purchase.
Exposure to the brand is critical, of course, but it’s not always direct. It’s the exposure in the margins that often makes the biggest difference. Some of the best campaigns don’t elicit feedback.
Yes, the big cat. Before the pandemic, consumers needed an average of 17 touchpoints before deciding to do business with a brand. According to Forrester’s latest research, now it’s 27.
Patience, preparedness, and stealth is key. Start with up-leveling your content, then use the learnings and tools available to you to act fast when the story of what your customers want emerges. Make sure talent and resources are in the proper place so they can be deployed tactfully at the right moment. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer when it comes to things such as frequency of email sends. Ask yourself: Do they really need and want the content I’m creating and sending so you can create content worth sharing in customers’ private channels?
Here are some quick tips for using dark social to hunt like a jaguar:
Optimizing for clicks and opens can be a waste of time. Instead, think of measuring how well your brand’s digital marketing share of voice is competing by considering a variety of marketing metrics together and separately, including social media interactions, organic traffic, and pay-per-click.
You can calculate share of voice by taking your advertising spend and dividing it by the total of all marketing spend for a product or category. But keep in mind that this number is just a guide. Always look for subtle trends across channels (because they may differ) to better understand how to appeal to your target audiences. Hyder insists that just because something is measurable and efficient doesn’t mean it’s meaningful and effective. Learn which channels need attention—and what kind of messaging strategy they need.
You may not get to control the customer journey or know every touchpoint, but if you take Hyder’s advice, you can amplify your brand’s share of voice and make your brand the first preference when a prospect is ready to buy—whenever and wherever that happens.
It’s time to give dark social a more important role.
Monica McClure is a senior copywriter for creative services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. She is the author of several poetry books and a former creative writing professor. With her background in fashion ecommerce, she enjoys bringing elevated, surprising approaches to storytelling in the consulting space.