A volcano eruption, ash clouds driving millions of air travellers crazy, national bankruptcy… It is an euphemism to say that Iceland, as a country, has been hardly spared in the last couple years. Yet, 2011 could be the year of redemption as the entire country has mobilised to put Iceland back on the map.
To a certain extend I am convinced that many corporations could learn from the Icelandic people and how their passion, dedication and enthusiasm have found in digital a way to achieve their objective. In other words, the country of Northern Lights could well become a digital Northern Star.
Under the influence of local digital guru, Kristján Már Hauksson, the Reykjavik Internet Marketing Conference (RIMC) has indeed established itself as a multinational summit where international digital experts share trends and best practices with an audience of 300 marketers from 20 countries. Contributors of this year’s edition included advertisers such as Icelandair, Wall Street Journal, SAP, boats.com but also SEO gurus and ad networks such as Facebook, YouTube or Microsoft Advertising. Each of the speakers explored how brands can maximise their return on marketing spend by leveraging the growing interconnection between search, social and mobile.
Northern Lights and shooting stars.
The rise of social media and its interlock with search and display advertising are indeed changing the way marketers operate and plan. Gudmundunr Gudmundsson, Icelandair’s brand manager, was adamant that traditional decision-making models like AIDA are now obsolete. A new purchase funnel is emerging as a result of the new digital landscape and its impact on consumer behaviours: consideration, evaluation, purchase and finally enjoy/advocate/bond – a later stage which implies that deeper than ever connections occur after the act of purchase. If advertising continues to play a pivotal role in the early stages of this funnel, marketers need to pay more attention in what happens after the act of purchase. This means that online reputation, community management but also remessaging are growingly critical if brands want to seize the full potential of their customer base.
The search gateway.
But with the exponential growth of content, available both through your desktop computer or your phone, everybody concurred: it has never been more important for brands to dominate the Search Engine Result Pages (SERP). After all, you need to be found first. Combining paid search with optimised corporate presence like an official website or a fan page have enabled advertisers to dominate the real estate, but with the growing competitive pressure, paid and owned real estates are no longer enough in SERPs: it is paramount to align your social media strategy. It will enrich your owned results with earned mention in which third parties like bloggers and other influencers will endorse your message or products. Easy to say, but really challenging when it comes to do it right. At RIMC one speaker after the other was exchanging their best practices on how to harness and influence a community, yet stressing that this should not be approached as a PR or a search engine optimisation tactic. It has to be a strategy, embraced by the entire business, from senior management all the way to the people in the call centre.
The year mobile. Finally?
This concept may seem straight forward yet too often search and social media are approach in silo, leading brands to miss out on great opportunities and sometimes feeling serious backlashes. A year ago I worked with the IAB UK to publish an industry report on how search and social media can cross-pollinate each other. This document has never been as up-to-date as today… with the exception mobile. With over 30% of UK mobile contracts being attached to a smart phone, the web consumption through mobile is bound to grow at a fast pace. And with this explosion, we should expect a significant evolution of consumer behaviour which will have rippled effects on SEO, on SEM and on all of the digital marketing ecosystem.
Think about that: a search query is about immediacy (70% of mobile intents are to be fulfilled within an hour), about transaction (39% use their mobile phone to compare prices while shopping for electronics) and about local to hyper local… So if mobile searches already account for 13% of the query volumes and growing, it is clear that this triumvirate will give a new perspective to search marketing. Brands will have to optimise their web journeys for this type of consumption, adapt their ad copy to these intents, explore how to engage through the different point of entry whether a mobile browser, an app or even the camera of a phone which can play the role of a scanner.
Is it finally the year of mobile that so many people have announced in the past? It looks more than ever probable, however I am personally convinced that 2011 is the year of personal search. With the growing integration of social signals in the search engine pages, the geolocalisation graph overlaid by your mobile device, the search experience is to become more and more relevant to me as an individual. And brands need to understand that core principle. Ultimately you are not optimising your content and digital strategy for a search algorithm, you are optimising for people…
This leads me back to my introduction. Iceland decided to tackle its sudden bad reputation by mobilising its entire population. Every citizen was encouraged to engage with their international friends, their professional networks of influencers, and let everyone know that Iceland was still that great country which deserved more than a few dodgy headlines. They embraced digital communication tactics to restore their reputation. They served targeted ads to people searching about their country, they engaged in the social spheres… Every Icelander became an ambassador leveraging a core value of this population: being personable. That was the main reason of their success, and as I said, many brands should learn from that lesson.