Launched in mid-2016, Instagram Stories became one of the social media platform’s most popular features. Within a year, IG reported more than 300 million users posting stories on a daily basis. This didn’t go unnoticed by marketers, with various companies leveraging the feature to promote brands, products, and services on the platform. As of 2018, marketers using this feature have reported higher conversions, traffic, and engagement for their campaigns.
It comes as no surprise for tech-savvy marketers that a social media platform like IG could be such an effective tool to create and expand brand presence. However, many businesses, particularly small-to-medium enterprises, are still a little apprehensive when it comes to leveraging social media and online marketing in general.
Part of the hesitance comes from a lack of information. Yes, many people are aware that they need online marketing, but these same people don’t know why they need it. One of the first steps to understanding online marketing’s importance is to demystify it so that marketers can have a firm grasp of how to proceed with future campaigns.
So what is Online Marketing?
By definition, online marketing is any kind of marketing effort deployed in a digital space, whether it’s videos and images or ads and copies. Because the internet is such a multi-faceted platform that supports all kinds of media, online marketing lends itself naturally to flexibility, scalability, and most importantly, creativity.
While different marketers may have different opinions about the types of online marketing channels, we believe it can be separated into 2 umbrella categories: Search Engine Marketing, and Social Media Marketing. Each category can then be divided into different sub-categories that perform specific functions for that particular channel.
Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing is a broad term for any type of online marketing effort that leverages search engines to encourage traffic into a company’s website. Usually, marketers focus on Google’s platform for their SEM efforts, primarily because 90% of online searches are done on Google (as of August 2018, according to GlobalStats).
To understand how SEM works, let’s take a quick look at how search engines work. Whenever a person or a company creates a website, it sends out a kind-of homing beacon for the search engine, in this case Google, to find it and index it, making it part of their search database. Because of the sheer amount of websites out there (almost 2 BILLION, according to online analyst Tek Eye), Google employs algorithms that contain hundreds of search and ranking factors to help users get the most relevant results possible. SEM works with this algorithm and helps websites be more visible and rank higher.
Ranking, in this case, means displaying your company’s website on top of the first page of results. According to internet analysts Chitika, more than 30% of users will stay on the first page of search results, with only 11% of users going to the second page. This number goes down exponentially per page, with page 5 receiving only 6% of traffic, and page 12 receiving a dismal 0.8%.
With these numbers, it’s essential for marketers employing SEM to rank their website as high on the first page as possible. They do this using a variety of methods, including:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of working with the latest algorithm factors to rank a website on the “organic”, or non-paid, search results. This is done with a variety of methods such as keyword insertion, creating authoritative sites (Google has specific definitions of authoritative), among others.
- Pay-per-Click (PPC) is the practice of running a company’s ads on other websites, with payment being done based on the number of clicks that the advertisement receives.
- Link Building is a practice in SEO that aims to increase a particular website’s traffic by strategically placing their website link in trade websites and other authoritative websites.
The list doesn’t end there. The variety of SEM methods is as varied as the search factors of search engines. Most companies employ a combination of SEM methods for their campaigns to be more comprehensive and to rank as high as possible in the results page.
Social Media Marketing
Perhaps one of the most recognizable type of online marketing, thanks to the prevalence of social media in all aspect of today’s society. Social Media Marketing uses the different features of the various social media platforms to disseminate a business’ marketing collaterals. Innovative, modern, and hip, it’s the marketing choice for most millenials, start-ups, and youth-oriented brands.
Many marketing experts consider social media as one of the forces that drove marketing to a more customer-centric model. SMM fits this role perfectly with its ability to create a personal creation between company and customer and open up channels of direct communication between the two.
Just like SEM, SMM is a broad category that can be divided into different sub-categories, including:
Social Networking is the practice of using social media platforms, like Facebook or Linkedin and the like, to create a hub for customers to interact with the business. Normally, social networking involves creating social media profiles where marketers can promote their products or services, interact directly with customers via chat or comments, and expand their brand presence.
Influencer Marketing is an aspect of SMM that utilizes “influencers”. Influencers are people who have large followings on social media (while there’s no official number of followers to qualify to become an influencer, social media think-tank Social Media Today pegs it at 10,000) and are considered by customers to have authoritative opinions of brands. They kind of function like brand endorsers in traditional marketing, but with a more personal connection to their fan base.
Photo and Video sharing can be performed in any of the social media platforms, and is aimed at creating content that is enjoyable and sharable. This kind of content marketing is reminiscent of broadcast media like print ads and TV commercials, with the difference being the platform from where they are shared. This is important because these collaterals can last longer and reach a wider audience than traditional broadcast media.
Much like SEM, this list of SMM sub-categories is not an exhaustive one, especially consider social media’s constantly evolving form and the many innovations that happen within its scope.
Which Type of Online Marketing is Right for Me?
This is a tricky question to answer, mainly because there are so many options and so many platforms for marketers to use. The best way to make the best of an online marketing campaign is to use a combination of both SEM and SMM, and employ a blend of each of their sub-categories. This is, of course, dependent on your company’s business needs, budget, customer base, and all other strategic considerations.
One thing is for sure: online marketing is a business’ gateway into the future, and creating a strong presence in the digital landscape will not ensure your brand’s survival, it’s an opportunity to thrive.