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Essay: How SEO, Social Media & Content Marketing/Big Data have expanded the scope of marketing practices

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Introduction

Since the beginning of human life and interaction, marketing has been a practice used before there was a proper word for it (History Cooperative 2018). Through the centuries, marketing activities and practices have shifted from “simply trying to sell goods and services” to a having a never ending supply of technological advancements that continue to redefine its immense scope (History Cooperative 2018). Specifically during the 1990s, marketing practices expanded significantly when companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb launched a successful online marketing campaign and sold many products because of it (History Cooperative 2018). Nowadays, with the essential use of technology in everyday life, companies have had to adjust their strategies in order to better accommodate the new generation of savvy buyers (History Cooperative 2018). In short, this essay outlines our view that the scope of marketing has changed significantly in the era of the digital. First, we will explore how different marketing activities, such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Social Media Marketing and Content Marketing/ Big Data, has expanded the scope of marketing practices. Then, we will move to discuss how these expansions, especially Big Data and mobile devices, affected the bigger picture – how the technological advances might transform businesses, shifting the balance of power to marketing function.

Marketing Activities

a) SEO

Search engine optimisation (SEO) aims for a website to appear in the first position when a user types in a specific keyword (Evans 2007, p. 21-37). With the constant expansion of marketing activities, 61% of companies listed “growing [their] SEO” as their biggest priority of 2018 (Digital Strategy Consulting 2018).
The most difficult part of executing a SEO strategy is knowing where to focus, therefore by performing a SWOT analysis, companies can choose where to direct their effort to ensure their SEO strategy is at maximum potential (Miller 2017).

Strengths

  • Industry experts
  • Fairly Decent Domain name

Weaknesses

  • No knowledge on SEO
  • Site not optimized well (still use wordpress)
  • Duplication of content

Editor’s note: it is perfectly possible to well-optimise a WordPress website, especially with the use of a fast framework such as Generatepress.

Opportunities

  • Increase rank in SERPs
  • Publish more revised & useful content
  • Use of social media

Threats

  • Widening of gap with top ranking competitors
  • Competitor increase SEO strategies
  • New competitors overtaking

SEO is a very broad topic and can be categorized into on-page method, which focuses on the “right keywords” and off-page method, which is generally distinguished by “links” (Zlatin 2017).

For on-page SEO, companies need to position themselves so that their content creation strategy is tailored to their targeted market. Besides that, getting the title tag, meta-description and page performance right is key. Research has shown that people tend to choose articles according to their catchy and relevant headlines that play a big role in SERPs. (Sturdy 2010). Ensuring your website loads fast enough and that is compatible on mobile devices helps increase SERPs ranking (Zlatin 2017).

Disregarding off-page SEO is one of the most common mistakes done by marketers. Nowadays, practices such as backlinks, social promotion, domain authority and others have proven to be more valuable in this digital era. The more backlinks a business has attached to their site, the higher chance search engine platforms will grant more domain authority to websites, causing them to rank higher. While page ranking isn’t directly linked to social media posting, it does prove to be an effective way to drive traffic and boost the number of clicks in order to generate an increase in link sharing (Zlatin 2017).

b) Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing has been a “game changer on numerous fronts (Evans 2010, p. 4 ).” Social media applications like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat have created platforms for businesses to not only advertise their products, but also to connect with their customers individually (Evans 2010, p. 4). The most popular ways that businesses market on social media are through social shopping, paid social media advertisements and brand ambassadors.

Through social shopping, businesses have the ability to freely post curated photo and video content of their products, which influence buyers to shop on their official websites. Nowadays, about “30% of consumers make purchases through [social media] (Arnold 2018).” Additionally, social media applications add their own business features. Such as, Instagram, who, in 2018, added an item pricing feature to their business accounts, making it more efficient to sell items (Arnold 2018).

Similarly, paid social media advertisements are targeted posts that allow businesses to blast mass advertisements to their customers (Herman). Though apps charge for this type of marketing, it is a much more cost effective way to advertise products, depending on where and how many people they plan on reaching (Herman). Facebook, for example, has an advertising feature that gives businesses the opportunity to choose their audiences based on region, age and interests (Herman).

Additionally, businesses can now forge their own relationships with celebrities and brand influencers in order to better promote their products (Santana 2015). There tends to be a rise in purchases if a brand ambassador is associated with a company (Santana 2015). When Oprah became the new face of Weight Watchers in 2015, their stock price rose over 550% (Motley Fool Staff 2018). Weight Watchers continues to grow and endorse other celebrity ambassadors like DJ Khaled (Motley Fool Staff 2018). On the downside, however, these partnerships can sometimes be too “fragile and unreliable” for a brand to rely too heavily on (Evans 2010, p. 37).

c) Content Marketing / Big Data

Though traditional marketing has changed rapidly over the years, it still plays a huge role in marketing practices today. John Hall, the author of “Top of Mind” (2017, p193-194), wrote that:

“decades of exposure to relentless advertising [has] transformed our attention spans. As we learned to tune out ads and aggressive sales pitches, we developed a hunger for substantive, engaging information.”

This is where the more recent technique of content marketing steps in, which focuses more on online media platforms (i.e. more interactive and entertaining). Now, with the rise of technology, all content can be reached with only a few clicks – anywhere and anytime. While this may seem like another form of traditional marketing wearing a fancy new suit, but content marketing has become even more powerful as content has become more user-friendly and less ‘ad’ like. For example, streaming service, Netflix, is known for mining data by looking at audience behaviour on their website. According to B2B marketing veteran Dave Bruno says that “data doesn’t present instant answers. It’s what you do with the data that matters (cited in Sands 2016).” This is why many companies these days (including Netflix) expand their marketing team with specialists who analyse the target market and try to give customers what they want – not what the company may want. This is so that they relate to each consumer individually. Marketing activities have undoubtedly expanded due to the raise of new channels. Integrating content marketing with public relations is one of the best ways to survive in an increasingly crowded digital space. Because marketing departments are no longer solely responsible for marketing based activities, knowing how to analyse and use Big Data has become are innumerable to companies today.

Balance of power in organisations

Another important aspect to consider is how the digital era might has changed the marketing functions in the organisations. We have seen how the expanding possibilities of digital advances changed the tasks of marketing and it is also affecting the bigger picture – how the companies are run.

The key factor in changing the industries seems to be the growing usage of data – in “Virtual Competition” A. Ezrachi and M. E. Stucke go as far to say that Big Data is one of the fueling forces in the marketplace. Considering how common it is in this day and age for the people to be almost constantly submerged in digital environment of internet shopping, banking and social media, there should be no surprise how quickly the amount and the importance of collected data is expanding. Especially in the era of smart mobile devices firms are open to so much more opportunities for collecting and spreading information than before. According to International Data Corporation report data volume doubles every two year.

Such rapid data growth increase over 10 years set off shifts in both small and large scale. It has changed the balance between human judgement and data-driven decision. Moreover, considering the extensive use of mobile devices, also the balance between the firm and the customer interaction has shifted – mobile environment has been the fueling power of transformation of B2C commerce.

Consequently, it has changed how the business decisions are being made. Thus, it should be no surprise that most organisations see the need to reform or restructure not only their marketing strategy, but the whole business model, and in doing so, they are leaning into the models that value personal data as the main resource in running the business, i.e. Data-driven business models.
Facebook, once a small socializing app for Harvard University students, is now one of the most famous and popular social networking service company in the world (Zack, 2017). With Facebook’s growth on the market, it has shifted its strategy and model to take advantage of big data and digital marketing strategy (David, 2017). Recently, the company explored the power of digital marketing even further, introducing playable ads that bring customer interaction via mobile devices to another level. This shift in strategy helped Facebook to become one of the best advertising platform in the world.

However, such cases of digital evolution are not limited to inherently-digital companies as Facebook, but are also spreading into other industries. Coca-Cola has heavily put their research and recourse on Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, “rethinking itself as a technology driven company”. According to the Forbes Magazine, Coca-Cola’s ads campaign that used AI image recognition to target customers had a click-rate four times bigger than when using other targeting methods. At 2017 MobileBeat event, Coca-Cola’s global director of digital innovation said that “AI is the foundation for everything [they] do”. This shows how the expansion of customers’ digital lives drives companies to shift their focus onto digital, Big-Data-based marketing.

Nonetheless, some argue about the significance of the impact the digital era has brought to the balance of power of the marketing function. First of all, the market power balance is believed not to be constant, and so to be due to shift again. Despite the enormous scale of the changes caused by the recent digital developments, it might occur to gradually have less and less impact on business, for example in favour of new, different developments yet to come. Another point is that we, as a society seem to have not yet get to understand all of the implications brought by the emerging technologies. As Kenneth Cukier said, “The hope is that the benefits [of Big Data] outweigh the drawbacks, but that is mostly a hope.” There already is a rising concern of what data-driven analytics mean to our privacy, e.g. in 2015, 90% of Americans did not feel in control of their data is collected on the Internet. Thus with time, data-driven businesses may face more and more limitations resulting from counteracting the too large invasion of personal lives.

Therefore, it is argued that companies should not seek to overpower their practices with digital marketing completely, but rather work to combine it with traditional activities. ING Bank case study suggests that combination of various marketing media would still appear to be way more effective than any medium alone, including digital marketing media. It then seems that regardless of how quick and impressive digital advances are, some companies refrain from relying their business strategy solely on digital and data driven marketing.

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