UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Five ways to boost your digital marketing strategy


Digital MarketingCharting a digital strategy roadmap was on the syllabus when Dean Hanlon of Razorfish came to campus Feb. 6. The senior manager, strategy, helps his clients at Razorfish, the digital agency named No. 9 on Advertising Age’s A-List, address challenging issues affecting their business models, marketing and digital presence.

He participated in the MBA course “Digital Marketing Strategy: Search, Social, Mobile, and Beyond” designed and taught by UNC Kenan-Flagler marketing professor Valarie Zeithaml. In a later conversation with the school staff, he shared simple, easy-to-implement tips that businesses of all sizes can use to navigate the constantly changing world of social media.

Ask the right questions. Consider how new technologies will contribute to the business objectives, he said. A redesigned website or Twitter account might not be the best use of resources. “Chasing every new technology that comes along is dangerous because you get spread thin really quickly,” said Hanlon. Focus on what works for the business model rather than the hottest trends. And before adopting the latest social media craze, answer two questions: Does it reach the key audience I’m targeting? If so, how are they using it? Surveys, usability tests and consultants can help find the answers. Learn what key audiences’ expectations and behaviors are, and then decide which technologies will optimize the firm’s online presence and get the highest ROI.

Content makes your social media presence sustainable. “One of the biggest challenges in social media is generating the amount of content you need to keep those channels interesting,” said Hanlon. “But often our clients have more content than they expect.” If a company sends an email blast or a monthly newsletter, it can repurpose content through complementary digital channels. Using it in tweets and Facebook posts throughout the month can help the content receive more attention, he said. “You’re not necessarily spoiling it if you send some of it out early on social media. Then the email itself becomes more of a summary of what you’re sharing during the week or month.” Many firms might not have enough to create unique updates for all of the social media platforms that are relevant to their target audiences. One solution, said Hanlon, is to use one of the apps that link social media networks and manage updates simultaneously, such as Buffer and HootSuite.

Divide and conquer. A simple distribution of labor is an easy way to deal with the constant pressure to feed the social media beasts. For example, have a different employee each week take on the responsibility of finding one or two interesting, industry-related articles per day to share online, Hanlon said.

Don’t forget to talk back. While creating content is crucial, don’t forget about the importance of interacting. Organizations need to be present and responsive, answering questions and replying to comments within 24 hours. “Ultimately it’s when people respond to you that the magic happens,” said Hanlon. “Conversations help spread your Twitter handle and message beyond your own core group of followers.” And establish a company voice or personality for the networks, said Hanlon. This can be accomplished by putting one employee who understands the social media rules of engagement – who to respond to and how to create authentic conversations – in charge of responding.

Measurement is more than counting likes and followers. Hanlon acknowledged that measurement is a challenge and that the tools frequently change. Various social measurement companies can help clients understand what people are saying about their brands on social media, blogs and community sites. While tracking the basics, such as Twitter mentions or site traffic, is critical, recognize that there are multiple levels of metrics and performance benefits, he said. At the highest level, companies need to evaluate how social media platforms help them reach the main goals of the organization, such as raising brand awareness and increasing prestige.