Digital media is constantly evolving, with new and emerging channels seemingly becoming available each day. With all of the changes happening, it's easy for digital marketers to become distracted.
How should you approach testing these opportunities without compromising your results? How can you keep learning new tools and technology while keeping your focus on existing campaigns? Where should you spend your time, energy and money for best results?
Importantly, you have to find the balance between testing and learning with new channels or formats, and leaning on what you know works. Often, digital marketers over-rely on flashy new opportunities, whether it's Snapchat, or augmented reality, or [insert buzzword here], without thinking about why it should matter to their audience.
Snapchat, for example, is a perfectly capable channel for some brands - depending on the audience, creative, and objectives - but it's very specialized in that you cannot simply take your existing strategy and re-purpose it for that format. It just won't work without a unique strategy. So, without a unique strategy, what will happen is you will test it out halfheartedly and you won't find results you expected, so then you'll write it off as ineffective for the rest of time.
If anything, these new emerging channels have emphasized the importance of channel-specific strategies. It's possible to have an over-arching creative concept, but you'd better make sure that concept works for all the channels you're proposing, and vice versa.
It's easy to get lost in the maze of new digital channels. As a digital marketer, your job is to sort through the chaos and be an advocate for your company or clients, to make the best recommendations and set your campaigns up for success. Despite the increasingly complex landscape, it all comes down to investing in understanding the following: the objectives, the audiences, and the channels.
Focus on the objectives
Before anything, you need to set expectations for yourself and anyone else who is invested about what each channel will deliver. And in order to do that, you should fully understand what each channel is capable of achieving, and how you're going to measure it.
Developing a measurement framework, outlining each channel specifically, how it fits into the overall business objectives and the marketing objectives, as well as specific KPIs and how each will be measured, will set you up for success as you go forward. By stating up front that you don't expect Snapchat to deliver direct leads, and you're okay with that since you're expecting it to deliver impressions which will drive engagement and awareness (and success of these things means X), you are setting the proper campaign expectations and you know specifically what success means for each channel.
Give yourself a test budget
The reality is that new channels are usually the first to be cut or moved when the inevitable budget crunch comes along. Though this is fiscally responsible in the short term, it's also short sighted as you're not setting the groundwork for new channel testing and potential opening up new successful channels. To avoid this, set aside a specific testing/innovation budget which is solely used to test and learn. Although it's still important to measure how these tests will be deemed successful or not, you're also setting an expectation that an objective here is to learn what will work for the future.
Providing a unique budget and solidifying the importance of that budget also helps to avoid that imminent reallocation exercise. Emphasize the importance of this budget and keep it separate from other digital marketing budgets so it's more difficult to conflate with the overall campaign finances, thus keeping this effort in tact.
Think about the audience
Many digital marketers start with the channel or creative. For example, you may have a fun creative concept which would translate spectacularly into GIFs. Your product is also a hearing device for seniors.
As they say - just because I can wear spandex, doesn't mean I should wear spandex.
Your audience is the most important determining factor when it comes to marketing channel selection. After all, it makes no sense to place your ads/content somewhere where your audience doesn't reside.
Identifying the best channels/environments for your audiences is an essential part of the planning process. Use as many tools as possible to help map out and prioritize channels - this may also reveal new channel opportunities that you hadn't thought of or tried yet. Tools to employ in this process may include: web analytics (top referring sources, audience demographics), market research and trends, surveys, social media research (Facebook page analytics, social listening tools), previous campaign performance.
Understand the principles, then the tools
If you're going to select a marketing channel, you first have to fully understand that channel. Digital marketers often find themselves advocating for new channels to sound cutting-edge, but many have never even used them. I've listened to digital marketers pan the idea of something ("why would anyone use that?") and then turn around and recommend it in a plan because it sounds cool. If you don't understand or believe in the channel, why should your company or client?
Before recommending something, you must first understand why something has resonated. Even if you don't believe it's useful, somebody does, and your job is to understand why, and how to leverage that to meet campaign objectives.
As a digital marketer part of your job is to stay on top of these trends. This means downloading every new app, exploring new channels/tools, and reading everything about emerging trends and campaign examples. Similar to a fashion look-book, you should create a repository of channels, formats and platforms. For example, under social media you could have an entire portfolio of Facebook ad examples that you've seen and grabbed over time, trends, case studies and strategies. This way you keep yourself apprised of each channel, and you can easily reach back into your records to help identify the right channels and examples when the time comes.