How to Rise Above the Noise with Digital Marketing

The digital economy is noisy. There are lots of companies out there saying lots of different things all at the same time. That makes it increasingly difficult to stand out from the competition…to get the attention of prospective customers.

At Limelight, we’ve been talking a lot about storytelling as a way to get above that noise. There’s no doubt that it provides a way to differentiate from competitors. Only what happens when everyone starts to tell stories? Will it be a new sort of noise? The answer isn’t black and white. It will take a long time, if ever, for storytelling to completely replace traditional broadcast-advertising. Yet there is definitely a factor of everyone doing the same thing. Again.

So with that, how else can you use digital marketing to get yourself noticed? What, if anything, can you do to make your storytelling more impactful and resonant better with prospective customers? We’ve put together a few ideas below.

Be Quick. Be Creative. Be Timely.

The 2013 Superbowl provided a great example of a brand, Oreo, taking advantage of a situation in real-time. During the Superbowl, shortly after the teams returned from the half-time intermission, the lights went out in the stadium. For over 30 minutes players milled around, announcers yapped, pontificators pontificated. For the most part, brands waited. Not Oreo. They took advantage of the situation to tie their Superbowl ad storyline into the power outage:

The result was a phenomenal social media response (as indicated by the retweets and favorites). What it demonstrated was Oreo using digital marketing tools (in this case, Twitter) to expand the emotional connection with their story. And what did it take but putting some text on a picture (that probably already existed), doing a little photoshopping, and tweeting the pic?

Get Personal

The issue with most digital storytelling is that it’s still marketing-campaign driven. Marketer comes up with campaign idea. Story is created. Assets are developed (words, videos, images, etc.). Campaign is launched and measured. The problem with that is that once the campaign is done, most marketers ditch the story. What happens then to any emotional connection that is created between audience and story? Well, unless that audience is converted to customers, the connection is pretty much lost. That’s the problem. Most marketers see storytelling as simply the new “digital marketing campaign approach.” That’s wrong. Emotional connection is not a factor to exploit. Not if you really want to drive the relationships that will help you get above the noise.

If you want people to connect with your company and brand (i.e., you want to be a digital storyteller), the story has to be your digital marketing. It’s huge. Massive. It spans narrative arcs, characters, days, months, and maybe even years. It branches. It morphs as your audience interacts with it (there’s not any real science fiction behind that; it just means you are paying attention and changing the story to resonate more personally with the audience). In this model, your story becomes a game that your audience plays, well, forever.

Use the Noise

Heard of Klout? How about Kred? There are others out there, but Klout and Kred are two of the biggest platforms emerging to measure the online influence of people (including you…and your company). Usually based on some sort of base-10 score, numbers represent how much a user engages with others, is quoted, is re-tweeted, is referred to, and, in Klout’s case, even perceived in the real world (through nothing more than activity and job titles on business networks like LinkedIn). And people with the biggest scores? Well, they are influencers. They should be your targets not because they are the loudest but because they can help amplify your message. In doing so, that message may resonate with a bit more authenticity (i.e., not be perceived as broadcast-advertising).

How you approach those influencers should be done with caution (as it can backfire when done incorrectly), but it’s simple enough to accomplish. Create a story for them. Heck create a story with them in it. Get them involved with the story. It may cost you a little money, but this kind of highly-personalized, highly-targeted marketing can enable you to use the noise to your advantage.

Co-Opt the Tools

New technologies (like Google+ Hangouts, for example) are appearing all the time. Companies like Facebook are continually innovating. Services like Instagram are popping up monthly. Although it’s hard to predict what will be the “next big thing,” co-opting these new tools and features for your digital storytelling is important. First, not only do you look like a true innovator (especially if you put the technology to use in some novel way) but you also get attached to a potential swell of attention. Case in point. I recently started using AtContent (a WordPress Plugin) on my blog. The developers of the plugin contacted me and asked if I wanted to do a case study with them. So all of a sudden there is a story developing around me simply because I’m adopting a new technology with no real work required on my part.

The work on your part is two fold. First, you have to keep abreast of what’s happening in the tech world. Join betas. Involve yourself in startup forums. Second, you have to be willing to put some time in to forming parts of your story to work with these new technologies. Remember that whatever you do out in the digital world becomes part of your digital presence. If you want that to be awesome, you can’t just broadcast your story to every channel. You have to make it contextual. You have to make it relevant.

Conclusion

There are probably lots of other ideas you may have for employing digital marketing to get yourself noticed. These are just a few that, with some luck and extra work on your part (and little to no capital investment) you can leverage to provide a little rocket fuel for your story. How do you use digital marketing today to get noticed? What are some of the strategies you employ to “get above the noise” and get noticed?

- Jason Thibeault, Sr. Director, Marketing Strategy. You can connect with Jason on Twitter @_jasonthibeault.

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