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Digital marketing takes over university, world

Submitted by Sarah DeClerk on September 24, 2013 – 1:40 pmNo Comment

Imagine yourself browsing on Facebook. You see an interesting post your friend shared, perhaps some cat-based meme. You think the post is pretty funny, so you share it too. Then several of your friends see it on their newsfeed, and share it as well. Congratulations – you have just participated in the viral phenomenon.

Material goes viral on the Internet when it is passed from user to user until it has reached a mass audience. Viral videos and memes are popular, but increasingly companies, schools and other organizations are working to make their content go viral. The product of this is viral marketing.

“Before, a company would release a product and hire sales staff to go to different houses door-to-door and say ‘I have this product, this is what it does, and I just sold one to your neighbor. You should buy one too.’ Viral marketing cuts out the middle man,” said Ryan Guinee, a senior marketing major and digital strategist for the College of Business.

Viral marketing is not a new phenomenon, he added, saying “everyone wants their information to be spread if they have something to say.” What has changed is how quickly and how far the information can spread. The Internet allows a message to rapidly reach a huge audience. Although people have been sharing product information for a long time, they have been restricted by the medium, Guinee said.

There are many reasons why organizations are using viral marketing. Their product can receive a great amount of publicity at very little expense, he said. If users share the advertisement because they think it is funny, they create more awareness of the brand. “When done inexpensively, you can see a great return on your investment,” he said.

Another benefit is that viral marketing campaigns allow companies to reach a younger audience. “If your target market grows with you, you are not doing something right,” Guinee said. “You want new people coming in. Young people enjoy memes, and companies want to meet them on that level.”

Viral marketing also has drawbacks. Many users want to keep viral content user-generated and do not welcome corporate interlopers, Guinee said. Authenticity is crucial for a viral promotion to succeed, he said.

Viral marketing works very well when businesses are trying to reach consumers directly, he said. It is not as successful when they are marketing to other businesses, however.

The way consumers behave has also changed. Most consumers like to do their own research when buying a product, rather than listening to a sales pitch, Guinee said. If they are aware of a brand, they can seek it out when they need a product.

Traditional marketing mediums tend to be very passive, he said. People were fed information through a television or radio advertisement. The Internet allows consumers to be more active. “What we have now is consumers telling marketers who they are, not marketers telling consumers ‘this is who you are,’” he said.

A popular way to transfer the viral material is through Facebook, a platform on which corporations and other organizations are developing an increasing presence.

“If someone checks something 10 times a day, you are going to pay money to make sure you are on their page,” said Trey Woodruff, senior marketing major and Student Marketing Association vice president. “Making something go viral on Facebook is the way to get them, and once they like your page, it takes a lot of time and effort to de-like your page, so you will be on their newsfeed as long as they are there.”

“We also have your email address so we know how to contact you later. We can direct message you and do all kinds of things,” added Whitney Burgess, senior marketing major and SMA president.

The Internet has fostered direct marketing, in which companies gauge users’ potential interest in a product and fit their message to meet the interests of a specific user. Companies customize what products they advertize to users by monitoring their browsing patterns, Facebook likes and locations, Burgess said.

“As advertisers, we want to control our message as much as possible,” Guinee said.

The SMA uses direct marketing to efficiently connect to its members through software, Burgess said. They use MailChimp to manage their email lists so their members receive only the information they need. More active members can receive event information, while less-involved members may receive only job listings and emails from general meetings.

The student organization also uses SurveyMonkey to receive feedback from their members. Additionally, the SMA is utilizing EventBright to publicize their events. The software also allows students to sign up for the SMA anytime, anywhere, Burgess said.

UALR also employs digital marketing. Social and Digital Content Strategist Meaghan Milliorn manages the university’s social media. She uses paid, promoted posts on Facebook, as well as Facebook advertisements, to market UALR. Her content usually focuses on enrollment or events happening on campus, she said.

She said that using Facebook she can reach many people inexpensively. Although television advertising is important, she said, it can be costly and you have to determine when to run an advertisement based on viewer statistics. With print media there is no way to tell who is reading the promotion, she said.

On Facebook, however, she can tag posts and advertisements to tell how many people are clicking on an ad. It is uncertain, she said, which posts will be popular. Milliorn said if she sees that something is not successful, she can change it at any time.

“I love that, because with TV your ad is locked in. You cannot change it as daily – it is not fluid. With Facebook and other social media advertising, it is all easier,” she said.

Milliorn said her posts represent the university as a whole in a positive way. The information she posts comes from across campus, she said. Students can look at the university’s social media to get updates on situations like inclement weather.

She added that she wants the social media to foster communication with students. “It is really important to me that they [students] know that if they ask a questions, we are going to respond,” she said.


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