Here at Engage Comms we’re celebrating our third birthday and we’re taking the opportunity to reflect on how digital marketing and social media in business has evolved over the last three years. My business partner Jo and I are from a background in traditional PR and set up Engage Comms back in 2012 as ‘digital communications specialists’.

Our mission was to fill a gap in the market between traditional marketing and PR agencies employing social media as an ‘add on’ and a new wave of techy digital marketers and ‘social media gurus’ who were jumping on the social media ‘fad’ bandwagon. Neither were offering an integrated approach to communications for the digital age. Social media in business was by no means in its infancy but a determination to ram it down everyone’s throats as something businesses and organisations must ‘do’ to stay current meant that common sense business principles – ie aligning everything with a robust strategy tied to clear outcomes – often went out of the window.

Fast forward to June 2015 and digital marketing has matured somewhat. Here are the three biggest shifts we’ve seen (and celebrated!) over the last three years:

Quality is finally prevailing over quantity (woo hoo!)

For those of you who know us, you’re probably bored of hearing us bang on about our ‘quality over quantity approach’, but we’ve had to keep hammering home the fact that volume isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to either outputs or outcomes. Just as Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) has now been rubbished as a measurement tool for traditional PR, clients are quick to question what tangible outcomes are coming from their digital marketing activity. They are much less interested in numbers of followers/fans/retweets, numbers of clicks and ranking on Google and much more interested in the quality of relationships and leads that are generated and converted.

Where there is still some way to go is an understanding about the value of ‘brand traffic’. Clients still want ‘quick wins’ and expect to see conversions coming directly from their online marketing efforts. And then there are those who are convinced that their website/social media presence still plays no part in engaging or converting customers, just because they don’t sell products or services directly through it. Just as employees now accept that a potential employer will scrutinise their online footprint as part of the decision making process, businesses need to understand that many of their clients and customers will do the same, even if they don’t openly admit to it.

Content has ‘come of age’

‘Content is king’ blah blah……… Marketeers have been preaching it for eons and yet ‘SEO factories’ were churning out keyword littered content from overseas to create manufactured backlinks to websites to push it up the Google rankings. Even the worst offenders in this ‘dark art’ are now recognising (because Google has forced them to) that quality content and endorsement from influential sources is the only way to increase online visibility with the right audiences. It’s traditional PR, but not as we know it. Again, it has taken time for businesses to realise that the online world doesn’t come with a new set of rules – fundamental business and communications principles still apply.

Digital and social media are just media

In 2015, talking about ‘digital marketing’ or ‘social media’ is essentially old hat. Social media is now seen as just another route to market, one that needs to be approached in a non-salesy, collaborative way – an approach that should be employed across the marketing mix. And the ‘digital world’ is becoming part of how we all do business, rather than something that should be looked at in isolation from our ‘real world’ interactions. This is the biggest and most important shift that we’ve seen because it means that there is a recognition that all marketing communications needs to be part of an integrated, consistent approach.

So, things are looking good for the future of content marketing and we’ll continue banging the drum about the importance of an integrated, strategic, long term approach in favour of chasing after ‘quick wins’, until we’re 100!

3rd birthday celebrations ABF

In the meantime, we’ll be celebrating our third birthday by enjoying the fruits of an industry that has evolved massively over the last three years – craft beer – at Airedale Beer Festival!