Belfast Telegraph

Business Soapbox: Frank McKee

Finding out what your customers want through mediums like Facebook can help deliver a competitive advantage

If you are not aware of the digital revolution then you must be on a different planet. On planet Earth, one third of the population uses the internet.

Or if you prefer a different number, that is circa 2.3bn people. Over one third of that number, 800m, are on Facebook.

One quarter of that again, 200m, actively use Twitter.

Add this to other digital era statistics such as 25% of all time spent online is on social networking sites and one in four of these users is over 65, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and over 1.2bn people now use a mobile device to access the internet, it is not difficult to equate that digital marketing communications is an imperative for any organisation, in any business and in any sector. However, just like traditional marketing communications, it is not a numbers game.

Just as the old style should not have been dominated by 'opportunities to view' or 'share of voice', the new style should not be dominated by the amount of friends, likes, followers or connections.

Too often too much lip service is paid to the buzz terms of 'digital marketing' or 'social network marketing' without a core understanding of what it is really all about. If we reduce marketing to a straightforward verb, we lose the plot.

Marketing, and therefore digital marketing, and any other word you want to put in front of the word marketing, is about engagement.

That is what consumers want.

They want to be engaged. They do not want to be patronised and ignored. Unfortunately, the vast majority of what is referred to as 'digital marketing', is self centred and patronising and consequently, ignored.

Digital marketing has to be concerned with establishing what it is your audience wants to hear. When they want to hear it? How often they want to hear it? In what format? On what medium?

It is a process that needs to be informed by the consumer and integrated across the relevant platforms only, both online and offline.

Engagement is the key and success needs to measured in engagement metrics not just big meaningless numbers.

If used strategically, digital marketing will deliver competitive advantage through customer engagement and lifetime value.

If used as a verb, your customers, clients and citizens will disengage in extremely large numbers with consistent frequency.

Frank McKee is principal of The Marketers’ Forum in Belfast He will be running The Belfast Telegraph Digital Marketing Essentials course which will give people in business an overview to best practice in all the main aspects of digital communication. The two-day course will run from June 20 to June 21 and to reserve a place call 0844 272 5845 or email