You should be.

The whole corporate communications world has become complex.

Fragmentation is what’s occurring.

Consumers don’t just listen to radio, read newspapers/magazines, watch TV, and drive by billboards/bus benches.

They now do a lot online too.

They’re surfing websites, buying products, laughing at YouTube.com videos, socializing on various big and niche social networking websites, reading blogs, telling the world when they arrive at their favourite pizza joint, producing content.

Gosh, are they producing content.

They’re e-mailing, Facebook status updating, LinkedIn e-networking, message boarding, location based logging, tweeting, podcasting, video uploading, and product reviewing.

Did I miss one?

Sadly, for the committed preservers of the marketing & communications tome, consumers’ buying, socializing, and media consumption habits will continue to become more fragmented.

In other words, the future will continue to look different from the past.

As I was taking stock of tbk Creative’s own areas of expertise to better serve our clients, I drafted an internal document outlining the areas a brand needs to consider when developing, deploying, and optimizing a digital marketing strategy.

As I began crafting this document, it just kept getting larger and larger. I’ve now re-purposed it as a blog article for you to read.

What you’re about to read isn’t meant to scare you and isn’t meant to subtly pitch you on tbk Creative’s services.

It’s meant to inform you on the reality of the digital marketing world so you now have greater foresight when planning and deploying your efforts to win consumer’s attention, financial purchases, and heart.

I realize as I write this blog, not only have consumers become fragmented in their actions, but most marketing resources have become fragmented as well, making it rare to see articles and books outlining the bigger tactical picture. Niche can be necessary as it can heighten quality, but makes it more difficult to know if one is on the wrong course.

From where you’re standing, you may only see one side of the coffee mug. From where others are standing, they may be able to see the other side!

So here is the bigger picture about things to be thinking about. If I missed anything, feel free to add it below.

Enjoy and equip yourself accordingly:

Social Media Monitoring & Engagement – Generally, this is where you’re monitoring all the conversations happening throughout the web about your brand. Most brands limit their monitoring & engagement to only their digital platforms (their blog, Twitter, Facebook). The second stage is to go beyond your Facebook Wall and monitor the entire web using software like Radian6. The third stage (and most strategic), is to monitor all conversations happening in your marketplace, engaging in conversations with consumers, and creating new customers. Ashley Rose Hall, David Ciccarelli, and Stephanie Ciccarelli at Voices.com are doing an excellent job at this.

Social Media Campaigns – Social media campaigns are distinct from editorial and content creation/curation (ie. publishing photos of an event or a tweet) and are also distinct from regular tactical communications to advertise your social media presence (ie. e-newsletter blasts, in-store print collateral, e-mail signatures, etc.). If you want a large community built around your brand quickly, consider launching a social media campaign. Here are two recent campaigns tbk Creative executed with clients. We launched Siskinds The Law Firm’s page in partnership with Children’s Hospital Foundation. Siskinds was looking to give back to the community in an innovative way while building their online presence so they chose to give out $2 for every “Like” on their page to the foundation up to $1,000. Within 8 days, they had over 1000 fans.

Currently, tbk Creative is running a campaign with YoYo’s Yogurt Cafe (Toronto & London Ontario based) where we’re giving out a years supply of YoYo’s through a FB contest application we developed. We’ve had 31 entries in the last 7 days, and this number will continue to climb.

I’m passionate about social media marketing campaigns. I find the best ones give a platform to their customers to become marketers for the brand.

Facebook Application Development – You can build Facebook applications which run on corporate Facebook subpages. There can be many purposes of these apps including a social media campaign (such as what you saw with YoYo’s above), or as a fan engagement tool, but you can do a whole slew of other tactics through them (including emulating your website, an e-commerce portal, etc.). To give you an example of a fan engagement tool, tbk Creative built and launched an application for Dream Lottery (through London’s three hospital foundations: London Health Sciences Foundation, St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation, and Children’s Hospital Foundation) called Picture It. Fans can use the tool to import their photo into an animated scene in which it appears like they’ve won the Dream Lottery. The tool is designed to be entertaining and to get fans more engaged in the incredible Dream Lottery experience.

Mobile & Tablet Application Development – With the surge in popularity of smart phones, mobile applications have become part of some company’s marketing and customer experience mix. If you’ve ever downloaded a Twitter.com, Facebook.com, LinkedIn.com or news media application (ie. National Post) for your smart phone, that’s an example of this technology. To be honest, tbk Creative has very little experience building these applications. We chose not to delve into this technology yet as we’ve waited to see if the average business will have a real need for these applications (outside of very popular news and social networking websites). The question that should always be asked is: will this mobile application serve our customers better than what a mobile version of our website can do? With that said, a good London-based interactive firm that we know has ample experience building this technology for clients is resolution interactive media (resIM).

Website Design – It’s not enough to have a static website anymore. Some of the many things to consider when developing your website are: Does it allow visitors to easily share its content on their own social networking websites, does it have a blogging suite, and does it act as a communications tool to advance greater digital marketing objectives (ie. one goal may be to increase your Facebook.com fan base. You can use your website to do this by installing a free Facebook “Like” plug-in on your website so visitors can become a fan of your Facebook page without ever leaving your website.

Ashley Rose Hall at Voices.com and I spoke more about this on video in the blog article, Social Media Interview With Voices.com.

One last important mention on web design: The long-term consideration you should make is how your website will technologically scale in the next 2-5 years as the social web evolves. We find most content management systems over-priced for clients and don’t have the long-term scalability to fulfill the needs of the web, long-term. For this reason, we recommend an open source system like WordPress (Joomla and Drupel content management systems are good too). Mission Services of London, for example, is running on a WordPress system. It does a swell job.

Mobile Website – With smart phones selling like hot cakes in North America, many consumers are now accessing the internet through their mobile devices (the most recent report I read shows 5 million Canadians access websites now from their phones, but I need more data on this). Regardless of market research, it’s indisputable, that the adoption of smart phones will climb until we hit deep market saturation. It’s now important to have a mobile version of your website that loads quickly and has a user interface that allows visitors to easily find and accomplish what they are looking to do on your website.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Despite the social media boom, Google.com is still the staple website for people finding information and researching product/service providers. Here is what to think about when improving your website’s search ranking: a) Coded effectively, b) Website speed (a good video of Google’s Matt Cutts talking about website speed), c) Copy should reflect what your customers would search for, d) High quantity of backlinks, e) Regularly updated and content rich (ie. active blog).

I could sum up all good SEO in 5 words: clean, fast, relevant, popular, dynamic.

Content Editorial & Creation – Different types of content you can create include blog articles, Facebook Status Updates, Tweets, LinkedIn updates, podcasts, and videos. A good social media marketing strategy lays out at strong content strategy which covers what content you’re creating, why, when, where, and how all your digital platforms interact with each other strategically.

Web Programming – This can fall within many categories but I’ll make it it’s own for your individual consideration. Additional programming a website may require is an e-commerce suite, if you will use Flash or jQuery (Flash isn’t compatible on iPads or IPhones, while jQuery is), if you are going to have a private client login area, how your content management system (CMS) will function, etc.

Graphic Design – Great graphic design sends the corporate message you’re intending to send. Thoughtful graphic design through digital communications is as important as graphic design through traditional communications. The importance of this area is often overlooked by small to medium sized businesses.

E-mail Marketing – Email still yields the best rate of customer conversion. It’s effective because once you have a consumer who has opted into your list, you can send them messages directly to their inbox whenever you like.

Most other forms of media is much more limiting. With TV for example, you don’t know how many of your watchers are using the washroom or getting potato chips while your commercial is running (which happens a lot). With social, you don’t know how many followers aren’t logged in to see your tweet. In conversation with one large London Ontario company, the marketing manager told me they have a list of 146,000 users with an open rate of 80%. You bet email marketing makes them money. The key here is two fold: a strategy to build your e-mail database larger, and providing content your list will find valuable and act upon.

Social & Search Pay Per Click (PPC) – Over 90% of the $29 billion dollars Google.com made in 2010 came from PPC advertising. According to Wikipedia, Facebook.com generated an estimated $2 billion in revenue in 2010. That means consumers click these ads a lot. What makes search PPC so effective for brands is you can serve your ads only to customers who are actually searching for your services (through a search engine). What makes social PPC so effective for brands is you can serve your ads to users who may not even know they need your services right now (you’re interrupting their social networking experience to show them something new).

The best part of both Social and Search PPC is advertisers only pay when consumers click the ads which keeps the CPM (cost per thousand impressions) rate astonishingly low and lets advertisers better manage and measure the results of their campaign.

Display Advertising & Digital Media Buys – You purchase display banners on other websites, usually priced out in a CPM model. If each page on a website has a lot of display banners, it could quickly become overpriced. Display banner advertising usually yields best results when you can find niche websites that have your core audience frequenting with reasonably priced inventory.

Affiliate Marketing – This is when contracted individuals refer people to your services for a fee. Many of the world’s largest internet companies have affiliate programs such as Amazon.com. When setup properly and marketed well, a strong affiliate program can give you consistent leads while dramatically reducing your marketing costs (in some cases you can market less to the end consumer and more to the affiliate). tbk Creative’s client Directdial.com (one of Canada’s largest IT resellers), recently launched an affiliate program for IT Consultants across Canada. The program has been met with initial success.

If you’re going to launch an affiliate program the questions to ask are a) how do we attract affiliates, b) how do we motivate them, and c) how do we retain them?

Mobile Marketing- This is a growing category that includes: a) location based marketing (Foursquare how now surpassed 10 million users), b) SMS marketing campaigns, and c) QR Codes.

Professional Photography – Often times, one of the best things a company can do for the health of its brand is invest in strategic professional photography and use it throughout its website. Good marketing is about effective storytelling. Real photography will always help you tell great authentic stories about your brand than the cheesy stock photography we see everywhere. How many times have you seen that blonde woman with the perfect teeth and headset on in the Contact Us page?

Copywriting – Like photography, strong words can move mountains. Consider such things as what your website says, the core copy in your e-newsletter, and the persona of your Facebook.com status updates and Twitter.com tweets.

Video Marketing Production & Editing – Even today, video is one of digital marketing’s best kept secrets (it’s still under utilized by brands). I like to say, when brands start producing video as part of their social media strategy, they get out of the theoretical and into the practical.

Philip Blair, President at Tilting Planet Multimedia, pointed out in London Ontario at the recent Tecumseh Community Development Corp. web marketing conference we were both speaking at that websites with video maintain visitors for 6 minutes on average. Websites without video maintain visitors for 57 seconds on average. The price of video production and consumers’ expectations of quality have gone down dramatically (thanks to YouTube.com) making the only barrier to entry for your company doing video production is courage.

Whether you’re a social media consultant or in charge of growing your company’s brand, I want you to know no body is born great on camera. I was terrified of camera until recently. Get out there and practice.

Web Analytics – This includes monitoring and gleaning important data on how your marketing efforts are doing from resources such as: Facebook Insights, Facebook’s applications analytics, bit.ly, and a good website analytics program such as Google Analytics. It’s easy for all of us to get overwhelmed fast in these programs. People like Avinash Kaushik have made careers out of business consulting on web analytics.

The key is to set these programs up to give you the data that’s relevant and can be acted upon. Ignore the rest.

Employee Marketing – I wanted to include this last one as a bonus. A communications professional with Loblaw chatted with me about this item at a recent Toronto IABC event. The question she posed was how can a brand leverage social media to inspire their staff to make more product and company referrals? The idea here is their friends will trust what they say more than a company’s advertisement. I thought it was a question worthy of exploration and tbk Creative will be rolling out its first beta version of an answer to this question with a client on August 1.

This article took me a while to write, but I think was an important exercise to do.

I hope it will aid you in looking at what you’re doing well and not doing well in your own company’s digital marketing. If you feel I missed any items, want to ask any questions, or expand on anything, please share below.

If you liked this article and want more of Andrew’s digital & social media marketing thoughts delivered weekly to your inbox, you can subscribe here.

Andrew Schiestel is the Chief of WOW! Projects at tbk Creative, a digital & social media marketing agency that’s helping pioneer the new world of corporate communications. He’s also the founder of the $100 Challenge. To contact Andrew about speaking at your upcoming marketing & communications event, email him at andrew [ at ] tbkcreative [ dot ] com. Andrew can be followed on Twitter here. To contact tbk Creative, click here.