It’s almost everyday that I come across an awesome Facebook fan page. Then I go to their site, and wow – it’s in full flash and I can hardly navigate it without throwing up. I search for their topic and the brand is nowhere to be found.

The allure of social media has made brands throw out any semblance of a strategy and have just jumped in. Instead, brands should take a moment to consider your long term digital strategy.

If you’re not sure what a possible workflow should look like – I’ve outlined three steps to digital maturity below. Each step explains what should be happening across each individual media type.

When going through the outline, you’ll see me refer to owned media, shared media, paid media, and earned media. I define each as:

  • Owned media is the brand website and blog, media the brand has direct control over.
  • Shared media includes brand social media platform and profiles.
  • Paid media is all online advertising.
  • Earned media includes press coverage, viral buzz, and online word of mouth.

The First Step

Assuming your brand is just getting started, the first step can be the hardest. It involves a huge investment of time and money, but it is totally worth it. The impact of an online marketing campaign can be tremendous, especially as more and more consumers become digitally savvy.


Owned Media:
The first step for owned media is creating a branded website and blog.

The website should have all the brand information, an about section and contact section for interacting directly with consumers. The blog acts as a platform for the brand to publish content and continue to grow the website.

During the creation of the website, be sure to connect with an SEO agency or consultant. These specialized consultants will explain how to best build your website to adhere to search engine best practices and make sure the brand doesn’t miss any keyword opportunities.

The SEO firm should also consult on the editorial calendar for the brand blog to create an effective content generation system. They should highlight the best way to structure content for search effectiveness.

Paid Media:
Once the website is built and deployed, the brand will need a comprehensive advertising campaign to build interest and counteract the low SEO authority. To do this the brand should invest in a display advertising plan that builds brand familiarity with the core demographic.

Search engine marketing (adwords, etc.) should be used to “buy” keywords on search engines.

The SEM campaign should be split into 10% / 90%. 10% of the budget should be allocated to identifying optimal keywords for SEO, meaning keywords that do well and may be captured organically. 90% of the budget should be used to drive traffic and conversions.

Earned Media:
Finally, for the first step, earned media can be important. Use the blog to post content that can be spread via online word of mouth marketing. Infographics, controversial articles, and interesting information tend to build online buzz and increase brand familiarity.

Also, be sure that your PR team is pitching online news outlets and bloggers. Editorial coverage can increase the brands authority and quickly build traffic.

The Next Step

Once the brand has built an optimized brand website and blog, has a consistent content schedule, is becoming a familiar brand online, and is getting consisten PR coverage – it’s one step closer to online maturity. The next step is building a more advance online presence.


Owned Media
At this point the brand’s owned media platforms – the website and blog – should consistently be building web traffic.

It’s important to begin a regular reporting schedule that tracks visits, goals completed, and high impact keywords (which keywords are driving visitors and sales). This intelligence should guide the editorial content and more importantly any future micro-sites.

Micro-sites can be an effective tool for building and capturing online visitors without impacting the brand website.

Identify important information and brand messaging that is robust enough to become a micro-site. Build and deploy micro-sites for promotions and informational messaging.

Be careful to only build micro-sites when they’re warranted – otherwise you may find yourself losing equity from your own main website.

Paid Media:
As your brand website begins to grow in authority, organic traffic will increase and you’ll be able to lower your online ad spending.

Once you see a plateua in branded searches to your website, lower your display advertising budget from an introduction branding to a maintenance.

At this point you’ve saurated the marketing with your advertising, you just want to continue to stay top of mind – a less aggressive media plan will work.

Continue to use SEM to drive traffic from keywords not captured by the brand website and blog – as long as they are relevant and have good return.

For high value SEO keywords, driving terms that are extremely lucrative, continue to use SEM. High rankings and an SEM buy can ensure maximum capturing of online visitors.

Earned Media:
In conjunction with branded micro-sites, create PR opportunities or stunts to get online coverage. Your micro sites and brand website should integrate with any offline PR opportunities and events.

At this point integration between online and offline PR is extremely important.

Shared Media:
Now that the owned media is fully optimized and strong, we can invest in shared media. Investing in shared media too early can mean that potentially your social media platforms will outpace your owned media, a potentially serious problem.

Start by building and deploying a Facebook fan page, twitter account, and any other relevant profiles.

For the Facebook fan page, create a custom landing tab.

Build a custom background for your Twitter account.

Finally, figure out an editorial and messaging strategy for your shared media platforms.

You should be able to answer the questions:

  • How will these work together?
  • What is their individual goals?
  • How much am I willing to invest in them?
  • How am I measuring and claiming success?

Reaching Maturity:

Before a brand can be considered mature online, the business must be fulfilling the following.

  • It must have a sophisticated integrated reporting schedule that includes SEO impact, shared media values, buzz metrics, paid marketing, and branding.
  • The website and brand blog should be effective and optimized. It should be able to maintain and launch a network of micro-sites depending on promotions and opportunities.
  • The brand should be familiar and receive consistent PR coverage.
  • The SEM campaign should be ROI positive and the website should rank for high value SEO keywords.
  • A community should be building on any shared media platforms.

Owned Media:
Since the owned media platform should be built and fully optimized, all that is left is optimizations on the content. The editorial calendar should begin to incorporate multiple media types, including video and podcasts. Articles should be targeted to drive sales, capture SEO keywords, or build community.

The brand should also create a dedicated “Connect” landing page, to help consumers find and connect with the brands social media profiles. This page should be referenced in any ads that are meant to build brand community.

Finally, a comprehensive newsletter list should be created that offers consumers insider information and deals. Newsletters are important because they can act as direct response vessels for surveys, consumer intelligence, and even sales.

Paid Media:
Once the “Connect” landing page is built, the display media plan should include driving traffic to that page. The page should be conversion tested to ensure that consumers are interacting with the brand and joining the community.

The SEM expenditures should continue and be further refined. At this point, with the amount of intelligence collected, the SEM program should consistently be ROI positive.

Earned Media:
The PR team should continue to build online and offline interest in the brand, reaching out to relevant journalist and bloggers with information. Whenever an event, promotion, or stunt is to be created – shared media platforms should be integrated. PR events are effective share points and community building tools.

Shared Media:
The shared media profiles and online community should be growing at this point. Now is the time to consider each social media platform as a potential communications vessel. Create an integrated messaging strategy and define potential goals and tonality for each platform.

Begin to use promotions, giveaways, and contests to build the online community and drive traffic back to the brand’s owned media.

Finally, be sure to integrate any offline events, advertising, and promotions with the social media platforms to increase the reach and effectiveness of these events.

After Maturity

Once each system is working in concert like a well-oiled machine, brands should look to optimizing and identifying efficiencies. You have the system in place, now is the time to make it better. Also, it doesn’t stop here.

Continually audit and review your digital marketing strategy to ensure that things are working and that you’ve begun taking advantage of new and upcoming platforms.

For example, once an online presence is matured it may be time to consider a mobile marketing integration.

The work of a digital marketing strategist never ends, there are always changes and optimizations to be done. The above outline should give you a place to start and give a general roadmap.

The Graphical Timeline

Is this how you imagine your digital strategy? What did you do differently? Would this work for your brand?

The Three Phases of a Successful Online Marketing Strategy is a post by Samir Balwani – Online Marketing and Digital Communications