In the early days of the internet, social media was in the rudimentary stages of development. Early networking platforms like Six Degrees and Friendster and blog platforms like LiveJournal had virtually no competitors. If you were active at all on social media, you were probably on one channel doing one thing.
Fast-forward to today, and things have changed. While we still have a select few dominant social channels, there are more competitors, shifting algorithms, new features every year, and of course, the introduction of a new concept: cross-channel presence. We’re no longer choosing platforms – We’re choosing them all.
Multichannel Doesn’t Cut It
In a world where getting online attention is more challenging than ever, being on one platform and doing one thing doesn’t cut it anymore. Similarly, being on multiple channels doing separate things (multi-channel marketing) doesn’t create the kind of consistency customers need.
Most brands are using various mediums on various platforms – photography on Instagram, networking on LinkedIn, advertising on Facebook, etc. Platforms compete with one another so that you can do just about anything on any platform (e.g. you can share an image anywhere, post a comment anywhere, run an ad anywhere, etc).
There are things your audience needs to know about you – your vision and values, the problem you solve, the benefits of your product or service over a competitor’s. All of these need to be communicated continuously and in creative ways to engage and teach your audience about you.
Most organizations already know this. But using cross-channel marketing to execute that goal is where it gets complicated. You know what you’re doing and why, but there are a million options for how you should do it. And the right answers are different for each organization.
So what does this mean for organizations that need to get their message out in a cohesive way? Essentially, it means there’s a greater need for deliberate planning. While you can do anything on any platform, that doesn’t mean you should. Threading together a purposeful, data-informed marketing strategy will involve multiple channels – but they’ll be in communication with one another, all compatible with each other. You may use channels differently, but they’ll work together to help you establish your brand strategically.
The Nuts & Bolts of Cross-Channel
According to an IAB survey, organizations are already well aware of the value of cross-channel data and are prioritizing it above all else.
“Understanding interactions across different channels is a particular thorn in the side of marketers and advertisers. A report by Advertiser Perceptions revealed that one-third (33%) of advertisers cited the lack of standard measurement across different channels and platforms as one of their top 3 challenges, while about (49%) ranked it in their top 5.” – source
Cross-channel marketing emerged from the realization that customers need a smooth experience with your brand. Let’s say they saw your ad on Google, clicked through to your website, then followed your Facebook page, and so on. The relationship you’re building with that person spanned across several platforms. Without one channel playing its rightful role, the relationship would have fizzled.
“Your marketing should not interrupt, but rather complement the experience. That is why it is important to not only reach your audience on many different channels, but also to send them timely, personalized, and cohesive messaging based on their behavior. Your content should correspond to the buyer’s journey. Your messaging should be tailored for the media type and channel and customized for each individual customer. This is cross-channel marketing.” – Josh Meah
A truly cross-channel marketing strategy will incorporate offline interactions as well. Getting in-person potential customers to interact with you online (and vice versa) continues the cross-channel relationship you’re building.
Coupled with data and automation, a wise cross-channel strategy can maximize the impact of your marketing funnel and make lead generation a breeze.
Without customer information, making decisions that intelligently guide your marketing strategy is near impossible.
A few simple questions that can guide your cross-channel strategy are:
- What product features are my customers seeking?
- Which social platforms do they engage with the most?
- Where do they most often discover you?
- Which type of content is succeeding above the rest?
- Which of my products/services seems relevant to specific customer segments?
The ideal cross-channel marketing strategy ushers customers from one stage to the next – from being aware of your brand to becoming a customer.
“People don’t buy your product the instant they know you exist. They go through several stages before they finally part with their money—awareness, interest, evaluation, decision, and post-purchase behavior,” explains Meah.
Data points allow organizations to track and understand how their audience is interacting with campaigns and social media content. Cross-channel campaign attribution is a method of doing just that – using technology to understand your marketing results and tweak your strategy accordingly.
By collecting data and uncovering these initial insights, your marketing strategy will naturally start to take form. From there, gathering more complex insights from more nuanced data sets can provide even deeper guidance.