Legacy marketing has a lot of waste built in: it’s based on blitzkrieg campaigns that leave an environmental hangover of old posters peeling off billboards and absurdly out-of-date banners still plastered to the sides of buses almost a year after campaign launch.
Its effectiveness in connecting with customers is hit and miss and it’s not always easy to see which ideas work and which don’t.
But today more and more of the average marketing budget is being diverted to online communications rather than the traditional campaigns.
The difference is strategic: previously, marketeers would carpet bomb the consumers with flyers, adverts and posters; by contrast the new marketing approach is digitised and looks to start a conversation with the public and build a community incrementally over the longer-term.
Digital marketing offers visitors to its online platforms both curated and native content. The marketeers’ aim is to entertain, educate and inform the public and have them coming back for more. Visiting the site will become habitual and the user turns into a loyal member of a community and eventually a customer.
In fact this community building strategy is very much like that used by specialist magazines. People buy it monthly or weekly and demonstrate a loyalty to the brand over many years.
All About The Girl
Sheology Digital is a digital publishing house based in Dublin and it’s a very good illustration of the correct way to build an online community. The company has identified the audiences it wants to engage: these are mothers and single women in Britain and Ireland.
It was founded in 2009 and now has four magazine type websites in its portfolio, SHEmazing, MagicMum (a recent acquisition), MummyPages, which are all Irish based and MummyPages.co.uk. which is the British offering.
In June this year founders, Sandra and Cormac McKenna, announced that they had achieved 1 million unique users per month for the sites in both Ireland and Britain, giving Sheology a total of 2 million monthly visitors in the British Isles.“Our mums tell us that we are their first port of call first thing in the morning, after the school run, and often last thing at night.” Sandra McKenna, Sheology, talking to Business and Leadership.
Speaking to Business and Leadership the couple said that their market feedback is that mums check the site when they take a break early in the morning and late in the evening, which suggests their content strategy is working with users incorporating visits into their daily routine.
The McKennas clearly take user experience seriously: the sites are clean, easy to scan for interesting content and it’s simple to open up a story on the panel menu.
They also have Shemazing TV which posts daily videos on beauty and make-up. But there’s a lot of native content as well.
In fact, Sheology really puts online community building theory into practice. Content should not only divert and entertain but a winning content strategy also has to inform and educate as well.
Its MummyPages site published an investigation into regulatory pressures on creche owners across Ireland, potential health hazards of Loom bands, a current craze among children and research into a complex of issues around the beginning of the new school term.
But the McKennas take it a stage further by becoming activists on behalf of the MummyPages community. They made a budgetary submission to the Irish exchequer on behalf of Irish mums in advance of the recent budget announcement. This is going further than most digital community building strategies and is a great way to build a community.
Interaction and Reward
An online community wouldn’t actually be one if the communication is only one way. One method Sheology Digital uses to create that dialogue is very clever use of social media like Facebook and Twitter.
Each community has a Facebook page so readers can comment on content posted, but MummyPages also has a Mum’s Questions forum where the editor selects a reader’s question usually on childcare and the community can comment.
It also offers advice from the MummyPages Expert Panel: each week a member of the panel, who is an expert in a particular field of childcare, answers the most popular question posed by community members.
Another community building tactic is to actually allow users to have an input in developing Sheology’s own brand voice by rewarding highly active community members. It ran a competition on its Shemazing website called SFactor.
The winner, Ciara O`Doherty, got a part-time role as presenter on the Shemazing TV channel. According to Laura Haugh, PR & Marketing Manager, Ciara will be reporting from “the red carpet at music and movie events”.
Once the community is vibrant with lots of content and engagement, potential corporate partners could become interested in marketing opportunities it offers. This has potential value add for all parties but corporate involvement will have to be closely aligned to the market demographics of the community. The sponsor of Shemazing’s SFactor competition was Cadbury Èclairs.
And corporate partners can also deliver their own content on the community websites. Again, Sheology posts informative content on its MummyPages sites. For example, in partnership with Nurofen, posts relating to information on its Nurofen Pain and Fever Centre offers advice on how to relieve pain and fever for pre-schoolers.
Not only is Sheology’s strategy paying off in community numbers but it’s also translating into profit as well. A report in the Irish Times on 23rd October says that Sheology Digital “recorded a 134 per cent increase in revenues to €1.04 million for 2013. Profits more than doubled, from €90,256 to €183,570 during the same period”. They are impressive figures and demonstrate how important it is for a business to get its Digital Marketing strategy right.
There are a few main take-aways from the Sheology Digital strategy.
1. you must have a clear idea of your audience,
2. publish content that adds value to their lives,
3. follow a tight publishing schedule with new updates at least daily and
4. you must constantly innovate, the content must never get stale.
These are all must-haves but like any successful entrepreneur you’ll also need that rare ability to look at your market and see what everyone else is missing. Something that the McKennas have managed to do very successfully indeed.