A common request you'd probably hear in ad land is "I need a viral post." We have a pretty good promotion, how do we make that viral, they’d ask. The marketer in you is probably twitching at the idea of conflating branding and performance metrics.
Welcome to the confounding landscape of digital marketing.
Principles for sustainable, trackable marketing outcomes
So its off to the drawing board, trying to reframe the question, sneak in a lesson on metrics, engineer a strategy, give it a name, and table it for the next WIP.
Unfortunately, any science that attempts to tear apart components that make a post “viral” is at the ultimate mercy of the platform algorithm. In any case, getting viral should not be the only goal of a marketer. Instead of chasing short spikes in your traffic volume, a more sustainable approach is getting the right people to watch and interact with your ad in a meaningful way, at the right time.
My takeaway from various years of digital marketing experience can be distilled to 3 guiding principles to go by for sustainable, trackable outcomes:
- Pursue message longevity.
- Watch how brands communicate with their brand equity.
- Give your winning set up time to succeed.
1. Pursue message longevity, not (just) spikes in likes and shares
It is important to be talked about – but the context must be relevant to achieve message longevity. Customise strategies to cater to user motivations at every stage of the consumer lifecycle. My approach is to start with an understanding of your audience and craft specific messages to them. We see a much more tangible impact when brands maximise engagement for high message retention – it is possible to design these ads in a way that has a direct correlation to sales.
Conversely, going viral has its benefits of having mass reach – but it is sometimes difficult to develop on-point messaging that carries the buzzword of the moment and do so within brand guidelines. Few companies have managed to merge their own brand with a strong game in capitalising gaffes and gags of the moment. IKEA and Scoot have, in my opinion, proved that it is possible to exemplify coveted marketing philosophies: being accessible, cheeky, authentic and on-trend. But in the absence of a sizable retainer fee and/or marketing team, it is key to build your company’s message in captivating ways. As if it weren’t difficult enough, we need to do so in an increasingly noisy environment.
Enter programmatic display. Partnerships with data signal providers make it easy to reach users when it counts. When it comes to maximising ROI, its never a thousand flower bloom strategy. Throwing various messages into the marketplace “to see what sticks” can have the counterproductive effect of diluting your brand message. Pick your battleground wisely.
2. How brands communicate their brand equity matters
Display and video channels are a start, but how do we start maximising the ad dollars we put behind these placements? The design of the ads – the way users touch, swipe, interact with the ads – speak as much as what is spelt out on the ads. Sometimes the way brands communicate their brand message is as important as what is being said, if not more.
To achieve this in the past, my team created various interactive formats for our clients. One of my most memorable work is for Finance DR campaign, where we launched campaigns with aspirational in-banner videos for reach. We later retargeted users with customised ads based on products they were interested in - interest rate calculators, real-time trading boards, etc. Eventually, we lead them towards inbuilt forms for lead generation campaigns.
Each of the custom units were designed to lead users further down the stages of eventual conversion, whatever that may be defined to be. And because we customised the ad units towards actions that encouraged, reach, acquisition, conversion, cross-sell and up-sell, we ensured quality engagement to a qualified audience.
3. Giving your winning set up time to succeed
“I’d like many conversions, upsized CTRs, with a side of must-meet cost per registration and cost per click metrics please. I have time for a 10-minute wait, but if I don’t get results within 5 minutes, I’m shutting this down.”
The more KPIs there are, the more confounding it gets – and unfortunately, most metrics are correlated. A low CPM most definitely cannot guarantee a low CPA, low CPC and high CTR at the same time. However, even with performance marketing metrics, marketers can be easily distracted by vanity metrics, in their quest to commit more than is feasible, to their management.
It is worth clarifying that KPIs are only useful if you give them time. For an adequate and fair test of campaigns, I recommend a minimum of 2 months to test-learn new strategies. This means we can have the ability to pivot and capitalise on new trends in the data; it also means we get time to design and execute A/B tests correctly. Thus time has direct correlation to improvement in performance.
One of the first campaigns I ran was for a niche brand, competing against much bigger players in a crowded space. The odds were seemingly stacked against us, but my team pushed ahead with the pre-campaign planning tool, to start off the campaign right. The first month performed as expected – no notable trend with a smattering of conversions. On the second month, it started performing with more users performing actions that we were measured against. Our always-on strategy design worked because we had time to design multivariate tests, hypothesise, put it to a test, and scale.
Ultimately, viral content can help with driving traffic – up to a point. For consistent performance, we need three things:
- Contextually relevant ads for users to maximise message retention.
- High impact ads that guide users further down the conversion journey.
- Give it time to flourish and our traders and algorithm to do the rest of the fine-tuning.
Would love to hear your thoughts, especially a contrarian view. Drop me an inmail to comment!
This article was edited and reposted with permission from the author. The orginal article can be found here.
Author: Danielle Goh
Danielle is a Digital Consultant with experience across FMCG, Government and BFSI industries and held a variety of job functions from Strategy Consulting, to Sales and Account Management.