Back in the mid to late 1990’s, the business world was just beginning to explore the vast potential offered by the Internet to generate revenue and market to consumers. Those early years were marked by their simplicity as nascent digital businesses and practitioners learned to utilize evolving technology and techniques. They provided an increasing number of employable options available to match the full promise of the new digital era. As the years have advanced, the success of innovation in online business and marketing has grown both in its scale and complexity.
Digital marketing, as it is defined today, encompasses the use of the Internet, mobile devices, social media, search engines, and other online channels to reach consumers. This very general interpretation lists some rather large and complex mediums in their own right. Some of which have only reached prominence in the last five to ten years. What’s more, all of these high level channels have evolved greatly from their fledgling origins.
The Digital Marketing Ecosystem
While once considered a sideshow to other, more traditional mediums, digital marketing has grown into a highly sophisticated and interconnected system with many differing channels and functions that require their own set of unique knowledge and skills to master. This progress is not unlike what is seen in nature with the development of more evolved, complex and highly interconnected communities and environments. This idea of digital marketing as an ecosystem is not necessarily new but is becoming an increasingly necessary method to view the entirety of this medium and to appreciate the interconnectivity that prevails throughout.
The digital ecosystem comprises all of the different channels available today with success most assured when its full range of digital marketing options are employed. In other words, better results often occur when marketing efforts include multiple digital channels as opposed to just one. In addition, the most value from this digital ecosystem is extracted when the interconnection that exists between the different channels and functions is better understood and acted upon. That means looking at each channel and the marketing efforts being undertaken within as part of and reliant upon a broader system or network.
The Common Thread, A Shared Goal
The easiest connection forged amongst the various channels within the digital marketing ecosystem is their shared goal of interacting and connecting with consumers. How they do this can differ greatly as well as the measures of success and their respective returns on investment. However, every marketing effort ultimately shares the same underlying goal, to reach customers with the intent to get them to spend money on the business’s products or services. Each channel within the digital marketing ecosystem offers different ways to reach consumers but their ultimate purpose is always the same.
Different businesses can have differing digital ecosystems depending on the nature and type of consumer interaction they require. An ecommerce business is likely to demonstrate significant differences compared to a professional services organization relative to their online presence and associated marketing techniques. Individual channels like social media, mobile or search are each better suited to different types of consumer/user interactions as well. Search looks to engage consumers as they look for information and/or to answer questions with an end goal to drive traffic to a page or website. Social media generally seeks to interact with users more intimately building a relationship leading to greater support for the business. These examples do not come close to expressing the vast complexity each channel represents in terms of marketing tactics and potential outcomes. Coupled with differing business structures and needs, they do demonstrate the significant differences in approach and measurement that can make their common connections less visible and easier to overlook.
The concept of the digital marketing ecosystem itself is not difficult to recognize. The concept behind extracting the most value from it is not necessarily difficult to see either. A higher degree of coordination and communication across multiple digital marketing channels will add significant value through overlapping audiences, shared creative and their united goal to interact with consumers in support of the business. Taken at face value, this statement is a no-brainer but the aforementioned differences between each channel and the sheer complexity involved in executing strategies in each make this far less a slam dunk in actual practice.
Effective coordination requires a commitment across the digital marketing organization and constant vigilance as teams get wrapped within the minutiae of their individual channel executions. Cross functional management can certainly help as well as shared reporting that emphasizes the common goals of the overall digital ecosystem. Some organizations rely on a single individual to manage the entirety of the digital ecosystem but the most reliable means to maximize value is to proliferate a better understanding of the role each channel plays and how these roles connect and interact with the others.
Understanding Connections Amongst Channels
As mentioned previously, each of the individual digital marketing channels and support functions offer expansive options in terms of strategies and tactics. With that, delving into each to better understand how they can work together represents extensive discussions in their own right. However, building a better understanding for the sake of increased value can begin simply with being more aware of potential opportunities to share and/or coordinate efforts. Also, a brief list of low hanging fruit is provided here to help jumpstart this effort and to provide some easy examples:
- Content Marketing – Content creation is a key aspect for many digital channels and functions. Most notably included are SEO, Social Media and the website (UX, etc). Even digital media might rely on the development of specific content for some of its executions.
- SEO – In the past year, SEO practitioners have been expressing the need to better coordinate their efforts across the entire digital spectrum to best ensure organic traffic results. Involvement in the development of content marketing pieces proves critical in efforts to improve page rankings. This need goes beyond just the content on web pages and should include social media as well.
- Website – An organization’s website is often at the center of many, if not all digital marketing activities. This comes through supportive links to its content/pages, as a destination for generated traffic and as a consistent source of and beneficiary to created content across the digital marketing spectrum. Note that the focus of development and optimization centers around user experience and this can often find itself at odds with other digital marketing efforts, even ones designed to support the site.
The above list is by no means comprehensive but it hopefully illustrates where some opportunities may lie to find marketing efficiencies and extract greater value. This is the benefit of viewing your digital marketing efforts as an interconnected ecosystem. Each individual digital channel’s strategies and tactics offer opportunities to coordinate and share. While not every instance will effectively permit this, it is important to reserve some thought as to the possibilities during development. What’s more, even a low level of interaction, discussion and/or coordination can foster improved understanding of what is going on across the digital organization and will lead to some incremental value.
Embracing this idea of a digital marketing ecosystem will lead to a better understanding of how this network interconnects whether its across large, siloed teams or with an individual digital marketing contributor. With this advancement, a higher degree of value can and will be extracted from your digital marketing efforts.