Online Marketing Strategy: The Human Element
If you’ve long since made a foray into the world of Internet marketing, you’ve probably found search engine marketing (SEM) to be the idol everyone dutifully bows down to. There are innumerable bloggers and industry insiders touting the wonders of SEM. And with due reason.
The promotional methods entailed by search engine marketing ensure, usually, that your website or blog will get more visibility. And of course, it follows that the more people see your website and visit it, the more opportunity you have to make money. The strength of SEM lies in skewing the probability of increased visits your way. I contend, however, that SEM in of itself is not a guarantor of your success.
You’ve probably also heard that “content is king.”
That’s true as well. You’d better have something worth reading on your website or blog, something that visitors will like and share with their friends, if you want to generate organic traffic. A garbage-laden website will turn off visitors, no matter how “optimized” it is.
So content does matter. But it’s still not the ultimate indicator of your success.
The key to success in your online marketing strategy is the heart and the passion you have for your niche. It’s from the heart that you’ll produce great, traffic-generating content on a regular basis—because you’ll want to do so. It’s your passion for your subject that will infuse your writing and marketing with sincerity, and will allow people to viscerally relate to you. It’s your hunger for deeper knowledge that will make the research process fun and engaging for you, and will keep you in the game.
Your site has to have a heart and soul—the human element—in order to really shine. How can you demonstrate that human element through your online presence? There are a number of simple ways.
Develop relationships with people online.
Relationship marketing works. After a while, if you’ve been providing valuable content and services and doing some very basic promotion through social networks and blogs, you should begin to find a steady stream of visitors. Sometimes you'll find a few returning, loyal visitors who habitually leave nice comments. Never let an insightful comment go unnoticed. Make sure you reply in a way that expresses your appreciation, and do so in a timely manner. This shows that you appreciate the time the person took to express his or her thoughts, and expressing that appreciation garners trust.
Also, you should be networking with non-competitors in the same line of business. Follow a few blogs in your niche regularly, making sure to leave thoughtful, valuable comments. The secret to doing this consistently lies in being honest with yourself. Follow blogs that truly get your gears turning—sites that really excite, inspire, provoke or motivate you.
(By the way, it’s not a bad idea to make sure the blogs you follow are high-ranking and popular, either.)
Consistent, earnest participation in relevant blogs and discussions not only affords you some high-quality backlinks, but opens the door to possible affiliations with site owners and businesses. Networking opportunities like these are not to be ignored.
Be responsive to people's online needs.
How can you do this? Yet again, our friend introspection saves the day. Take stock of what you want out of your web-browsing experience:
- Interesting, intellectually-stimulating and well-written content
- Bloggers and online marketers who take a personal interest in visitors and customers
- Websites that are attractive, intuitive and user-friendly
- Interactivity through forums, comments, the ability to leave ideas or suggestions, polls, etc.
Then, do your best to implement those things and bring that human element into your online marketing strategy. Make your internet presence a positive force, a place people know they can come to satisfy their needs and curiosities. For example, if you write a baseball blog, make sure it's regularly updated with the latest stats and opinion columns, and encourage friendly discussion about the players, the tactics and the philosophy behind the game. If you're a hairstylist maintaining your salon's website, keep a blog in which you talk about such things as trendy hairstyles, celebrity haircuts, and the connection between well-being and an established personal style. Again, your passion about the subject is what will fuel consistent, powerful content.
Find new ways to reach out.
Who says you have to do things the old-fashioned way? Keeping in touch with potential customers through social networks and blogs is a reliable and time-tested tradition, but that shouldn't keep you from using those resources in innovative ways. Combine that with a willingness to hear what people have to say, and you've got a winning internet marketing strategy. Some examples are:
- Organizing community events that promote your business and support good causes
- Organizing contests for customers in which winners receive discounts, prizes, and other special offers
- Challenging visitors to engage with their social networks in different ways (e.g., using Facebook groups and Twitter hashtags to start discussions or stories that others can add on to)
- Letting customers influence the design of your Internet “façade”—i.e., the front page of your website—by submitting their most creative artistic ideas (à la Google)
- Inviting local bloggers in your niche to a real world meet-and-greet or brainstorming session
- Using games and interactive graphical elements on your website
When your readers or visitors become personally invested in something you’ve created, it brings out the human element in them, which can only mean good things for your blog or business. Continue to brainstorm new ways of reaching out to web surfers that are not only eye-catching, but substantial and infused with a personal appeal.
In short—connect with who you are as an Internet entrepreneur, blogger, or marketer, and you’ll see clearly how to best relate to others like you. The secrets of successful online marketing strategies are understanding and communicating in terms of the desires, curiosities, and ideas of ordinary people. They’re out there. With a newfound empathy and sincerity, go get ‘em.
The popularity will follow.