Control, Disintermediation and other Social Media Myths. Life beyond Facebook and Native Advertising in the Language Education Sector by Dr Alex Grech
Are you being taken in by social media myths? On 11 March, ALTO members were challenged by business strategist and digital media academic Alex Grech to rethink their marketing strategies and adapt to the new digital marketplace.
We are using technology in ways we did not originally conceptualise, and “The old marketing playbook is broken,” Grech told listeners.
With research showing that 86% of internet uses now skip TV advertisements when watching online and 91% unsubscribe from emails, while 44% of direct mail goes unopened, a new approach is needed, he urged.
A personalised approach is necessary, Grech advised, using personas to identify the people you’re targeting – those with a need your product can satisfy; those interested in learning about your products; and those with the money to buy them.
And don’t fall into the trap of treating marketing as a generation game, he cautioned; “the idea that people are behaving differently because they were born in a different era needs to be challenged; that’s not necessarily true,” he urged.
We are always distracted – by our phones, by social media – which means that anyone who wants to try and sell a product is in trouble. Consumption has moved away from a utilitarian to an experiential model.
Because of this, you need to make information accessible and engage users with direct call to action, Grech advised. He stressed the need for mobile-optimised landing pages, which are essential for data mining. Make special offers and data forms obvious and don’t expect people to find them buried in a sub-section, he warned.
Another pervasive social media myth is that “if you shout loud enough… something will stick”; but Grech warned that digital natives are increasingly tuning out aggressive advertising and “interruption marketing”.
Regular digital users favour shareable content instead, which also challenges the idea that return on investment necessarily increases with budget. They may be inclined to share an interesting photo or blog post that they feel will interest their followers online, thus influencing the decisions of their friends and family.
In fact, the number one source of information for millenials is their close friends, and 84% distrust advertising.
Deciding which media platform to use can be crucial, Grech said: Medium can be an effective publishing space for blog posts on subjects such as ‘the five best types of language travel’, and Snapchat can work well for competitions.
Received wisdom says it’s much easier to sell to existing customers, Grech explained, but added that these can all be a source of word-of-mouth referrals. Education, leisure and career are now being crystallised in the media we’re using – students may be advocates for your brands even by posting selfies at school online.
Identifying advocates in the markets can be very effective; these can include bloggers, vloggers, online commentators and employees.
When engaging with these groups, make sure to pitch the benefits, specifics and deadlines clearly, he advised, asking: do you know how to engage, reward and add value for them?
Another way of working with influential people is by conducting interviews and asking them to share the content with their followers, Grech suggested.
And work with agents, he advised. In the past, agents and schools have both been worried that the internet remove the need for agents, but rather than worrying about disintermediation, agents and schools should cooperate at different stages of the marketing process, he suggested – who is best placed to engage with which groups?
Above all, Grech warned a strategic plan is crucial – and if you don’t have one, not only will it make planning difficult but it will be hard to gain the support of senior management.
This webinar was the first in a series of sessions by Alex followed by another webinar in April and his keynote at the ALTO Conference in New York. Members are encouraged to log in and watch the webinar online, the presentation slides are also available here .