This is an excerpt from one of my latest chapters on online marketing methods.
Suggested Citation: Hajarian, M., Camilleri, M. A., Diaz, P., & Aedo, I. (2021). A taxonomy of online marketing methods for corporate communication. In M. A. Camilleri (Ed.), Strategic corporate communication in the digital age. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 235-250. DOI: 10.1108/978-1-80071-264-520211014
One of the well-known online marketing methods is the use of email marketing. It is one of the most popular digital tactics. Despite the current popularity of social media, many individuals still prefer to receive the news about the brands via emails (Camilleri, 2018a). Email marketing is very effective in terms of return on investment (ROI). However, there are many ways that can improve the email marketing performance (Conceição & Gama, 2019). Sahni, Wheeler and Chintagunta (2018) found that by personalizing email marketing (e.g. adding the name of the receiver to the email subject), the probability that the receiver reads the email increases by 20%. Conceição and Gama (2019) have developed a classification algorithm to predict the effectiveness of email campaign. The authors suggested that the open rates were based on the keywords that were featured inside the email. They maintained that the utilization of personalized messages and the inclusion of question marks in the subjects of the email can increase the chance of opening an email. Moreover, they hinted that there are specific times during the day where there are more chances that the marketing emails will be noticed and read by their recipients. These times can be identified by using data mining technologies.
Direct emails could be forwarded to specific users for different reasons. Evans, (2018) described advertising emails in three categories: (i) promotional emails that raise awareness about attractive offers, including discounts and reduced prices of products and services. This type of email is very helpful to increase sales and customer loyalty. Some innovative marketers are using disruptive technologies, including gamification to reward and incentivize online users to click their email links; (ii) electronic newsletters that are aimed at building consumer engagement. Hence, these emails ought to provide high-quality, interactive content to online users. These emails are also known as relational emails that are intended to build a rapport with online users; (iii) confirmation emails that are used to confirm to the customers that their online transactions were carried out successfully. These types of emails are very valuable in terms of branding and corporate image. In sum, the electronic newsletters are intended to redirect online users to the businesses’ websites.
Another major online marketing method is the social network marketing. Brands and corporations can feature their page on social media networks (e.g. Facebook or Instagram) to communicate with their customers and/or promote their products and services to their followers. This can result in an improved brand awareness and a surge in sales. On the other hand, customers can write their reviews about brands or even purchase products online (Smith, Hernández-García, Agudo Peregrina & Hair, 2016). Thus, social network marketing can have a positive impact on electronic positive eWOM advertising in addition to enhancing the customers’ loyalty (Smith et al, 2016).
There are other forms of social network marketing including influencer marketing, video marketing and viral marketing, among others. The social networks are providing various benefits to various marketers as they can use them to publish their content online. Their intention is to influence online users and to entice them to purchase their products or services. Liang, Wang and Zhao (2019) have developed a novel algorithm that can identify the effects of influencer marketing content. Notwithstanding, various social networks such as Facebook and Instagram are increasingly placing the businesses’ video ads for their subscribers. In both cases, the advertisers may use Facebook marketing (Instagram is owned by Facebook) to identify the most appropriate subscribers to serve their ads (Camilleri, 2019). The social networks are a very suitable place for targeted advertising because they have access to a wide range of user information such as their demographical details, and other relevant information (Hajarian, Bastanfard, Mohammadzadeh & Khalilian, 2019a). However, online users may not always be interested in the marketers’ social media messages. As a result, they may decide to block or filter ads (Camilleri, 2020).
One of the most profitable and interesting online marketing methods is the Electronic Word of Mouth (eWOM) (see Hajarian, Bastanfard, Mohammadzadeh & Khalilian, 2017). The internet users are increasingly engaging in eWOM. More individuals are sharing their positive or negative statements about products or services (Ismagilova, Dwivedi, Slade & Williams, 2017). Hence, the individual users’ reviews in online fora, blogs, and social media can be considered as eWOM. Ismagilova et al. (2017) stated that the businesses would benefit through positive eWOM as this would improve their positioning in their consumers’ minds. Moreover, eWOM is also useful to prospective consumers as they rely on the consumers’ independent comments about their experience with the businesses’ products or services. The consumers’ reviews and ratings can reduce the risk and search time of prospective consumers. In addition, individuals can use the review platforms to ask questions and/or interact with other users. These are some of the motivations that lure online users to engage in eWOM.
Influencer marketing is another type of online marketing that is conspicuous with the social media. The influencers may include those online users who are promoting products or brands to their audiences. Hence, influencer marketing is closely related to eWOM advertising. However, in this case, the influencer may be a popular individual including a celebrity, figurehead or an athlete who will usually have a high number of followers on social media. The influencers may be considered as the celebrities of online social networks. They are proficient in personal branding (Jin & Muqaddam, 2019). Hence, the social media influencers will promote their image like a brand. Thus, the influencer marketing, involves the cooperation of two brands, the social media influencer and the brand that s/he are promoting (Jin & Muqaddam, 2019). Social media influencers can charge up to $250,000 for each post (Lieber, 2018), although this depends on the number of their audience and the platform that they are active on. The influencers work on different topics such as lifestyle, fashion, comedy, politics and gaming (Stoldt, 2019). It is projected that influencer marketing will become a $5 to $10 billion market by 2020 (Mediakix, 2019). It is worth to mention that the gaming influencers are also becoming very successful in online marketing.
Viral marketing is another method of online marketing that can be performed by regular social media users (not necessarily influencers). The social media subscribers can disseminate online content, including websites, images and videos among friends, colleagues and acquaintances (Daif & Elsayed, 2019). Their social media posts may become viral (like a virus) if they are appreciated by their audiences. In this case, the posts will be shared and reshared by third parties. The most appealing or creative content can turn viral in different social media. For example, breaking news or emotional content, including humoristic videos have the potential to become viral content as they are usually appreciated and shared by social media users.
The social networks as well as the messengers like Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, et cetera are ideal vehicles of viral marketing as online users and their contacts are active on them. Similarly, other marketing methods such as email marketing can also be used as a tool for viral marketing. In viral marketing the influencers can play a very important role as they can spread the message among their followers. Hence, the most influential people could propagate online content that can turn viral. Nguyen, Thai and Dinh (2016) have developed algorithms that identify the most effective social media influencers that have more clout among their followers. In a similar way, businesses can identify and recruit influential social media users to disseminate their promotional content (Pfeiffer & Zheleva, 2018). Their viral marketing strategies may involve mass-marketing sharing incentives, where users receive rewards for promoting ads among their friends (Pfeiffer & Zheleva, 2018). There are business websites that are incentivizing online users, by offering financial rewards if they invite their friends to use their services.
Videos are one of the best methods for marketing. Abouyounes (2019) estimated that over 80% of internet traffic was related to videos in 2019. He projected that US businesses will spend $28 billion on video marketing in 2020. The relevant literature suggests that individuals may be intrigued to share emotional videos. Such videos may even go viral (Nikolinakou & King, 2018). The elements of surprise, happiness as well as other factors such as the length of the video can affect whether a video turns viral or not. Abouyounes’s (2019) reported that the individuals would share a video with their friends if they found it to be interesting. Alternatively, they may decide to disseminate such videos on social media to share cognitive (informational) and/or emotional messages among their contacts. Hence, the term social video marketing refers to those videos that can increase the social media users’ engagement with video content. Over 77% of the business that have used social video marketing have reported a positive direct impact on their online metrics (Camilleri, 2017).
With the rise of social media, many online users have started to refine the content of their online messages to appeal to the different digital audiences. The online users’ content marketing involves the creation of relevant messages that are shared via videos, blogs and social media content. These messages are intended to stimulate the recipients’ interest. The content marketers’ aim is to engage with existing and potential customers (Järvinen & Taiminen, 2016). Therefore, their marketing messages ought to be relevant for their target audiences. The online users may not perceive that the marketed content is valuable and informative for them. Thus, the content should be carefully adapted to the targeted audience. The content marketers may use various interactive systems to engage with online users in order to gain their trust (Montero, Zarraonandia, Diaz, & Aedo, 2019; Díaz, Aedo & Zarraonandia, 2019a; Díaz, Zarraonandía, Sánchez-Francisco, Aedo & Onorati, 2019b; Díaz & Ioannou, 2019c; Baltes, 2015). To this end, the advertisers should analyze the interests of their target audience to better understand their preferred content. Successful content marketing relies on the creation of convincing and timely messages that appeal to online users. Zarrella (2013) study suggested that some Facebook and Twitter content is more effective during particular times of the day and in some days of the week.
Native advertising present promotional content including articles, infographics, videos, et cetera that are integrated within the platforms where they are featured (e.g. in search engines or social media). In 2014, various business invested more than $3.2 billion in this type of digital advertising (Wojdynski & Evans, 2016). Native ads may include banners or short articles that are presented in webpages. However, online users would be redirected to other webpages if they click on them. Parsana, Poola, Wang and Wang (2018) has explored the click-through rates (CTR) of native advertisements as they examined the historic data of online users. Other studies investigated how native ads were consistent in different situations and pages (Lin, 2018).
The advertorials are similar to native ads as they are featured as reports or as recommendations within websites. They are presented in such a way that the reader thinks that they are part of the news (Charlesworth, 2018). This type of advertising can be featured as video or infographic content that will redirect the online users to the advertisers’ websites. Besides, these ads may indicate a small “sponsored by” note that is usually ignored by the online users. In some regards, this is similar to the editorial content marketing, where editors write promotional content about a company or a website. However, in the case of editorial marketing, the main purpose is to educate or to inform the readers about a specific subject. Therefore, such a news item is usually presented free of charge as it appears at the discretion of the editor. Nevertheless, both advertorial and editorial marketing can have a positive impact on brand awareness and brand equity.
Various technologies companies including Google and Facebook are providing location-based marketing opportunities to many businesses. However, this innovative marketing approach relies on the individuals’ willingness to share their location data with their chosen mobile applications (apps). For example, foursquare, among other apps, can send messages to its mobile users (if they enable location sharing). It can convey messages about the users favorite spots, including businesses, facilities, et cetera, when they are located in close proximity to them (Guzzo, D’Andrea, Ferri & Grifoni, 2012).
Currently, the messengers are growing at a very fast pace. It may appear that they are becoming more popular than the social networks. Messengers such as WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and QQ, among others, have over 4.6 billion active users in a month (Mehner, 2019). This makes them a very attractive channel for online marketing. Since messengers can provide a private, secure connection between the business and their customers, they are very useful tools for marketing purposes. Moreover, the messengers can be used in conjunction with other advertisement methods like display (or banner) marketing, viral marketing, click-to-message ads, et cetera. Online or mobile users can use the messengers to communicate with a company representative (or bot) on different issues. They may even raise their complaints through such systems. Some messengers like Apple Business Chat and WeChat, among others have also integrated in-app payments. Hence, the messengers have lots of possible features and can be used to improve the business-to-consumer (B2C) relationships. In addition, other messengers like Skype, Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, et cetera can provide video conferencing platforms for corporations and small businesses. These systems have become very popular communication tools during COVID-19.
Other online marketing approaches can assist corporations in building their brand equity among customers. Various businesses are organizing virtual events and webinars to engage with their target audience. They may raise awareness about their events by sending invitations (via email) to their subscribers (Harvey & An, 2018). The organization of the virtual meetings are remarkably cheaper than face-to-face meetings (Lande, 2011). They can be recorded and/or broadcast to wider audiences through live streaming technologies via social media (Veissi, 2017). Today, online users can also use Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn live streaming facilities to broadcast their videos in real time and share them amongst their followers.
The display (or banner) marketing may usually comprise promotional videos, images and/or textual content. They are usually presented in webpages and applications. Thus, online banners may advertise products or services on internet websites to increase brand awareness (Turban et al, 2018). The display ads may be created by the website owners themselves. Alternatively, they may have been placed by Google Adsense on behalf of their customers (advertisers).
The display advertisements may also be featured in digital and mobile games. Such online advertisements are also known as in-game marketing. The digital ads can be included within the games’ apps and/or may also be accessed through popular social networks. The in-game marketing may either be static (as the ads cannot be modified after the game was released) or dynamic (where new ads will be displayed via Internet connections) (Terlutter & Capella, 2013). Lewis and Porter (2010) suggested that in-game advertising should be harmonious with the games’ environments. There are different forms of advertisements that can be featured in games. For instance, advergames are serious games that have been developed in close collaboration with a corporate entity for advertising purposes (Terlutter & Capella, 2013), e.g. Pepsi man game for PlayStation.
The latest online marketing technologies are increasingly using interactive systems like augmented reality. These innovations are being utilized to enhance the businesses’ engagement with their consumers (Díaz et al., 2019b). The augmented reality software can help the businesses to promote their products (Turban et al, 2018). For example, IKEA (the furnishing company) has introduced an augmented reality application to help their customers to visualize how their products would appear in their homes. Similarly, online fashion stores can benefit from augmented reality applications as their customers can customize their personal avatars with their appearance, in terms of size, length and body type, to check out products well before they commit to purchase them (Montero et al., 2019).
The banner advertising was one of the earliest forms of digital marketing. However, there were other unsophisticated online marketing tactics that were used in the past. Some of these methods are still being used by some marketers. For instance, online users can list themselves and/or their organization in an online directory. This marketing channel is similar to the traditional yellow pages (Guzzo et al., 2012). The online directory has preceded the search engine marketing (SEM). This form of online advertising involves paid advertisements that appear on search engine results pages (like native ads). Currently, SEM is valued at $70 billion market by 2020 (Aswani, Kar, Ilavarasan & Dwivedi, 2018). The advertisements may be related to specific keywords that are used in search queries. SEM can be presented in a variety of formats, including small, text-based ads or visual, product listing ads. The advertisers bid on the keywords that are used in the search engines. Therefore, they will pay the search engines like Google and Bing to feature their ads alongside the search results.
The search engine optimization (SEO) is different than SEM. The individuals or organizations do not have to pay the search engine for traffic and clicks. SEO involves a set of practices that are intended to improve the websites’ visibility within the search results of search engines. The search engines algorithms can optimize the search results of certain websites, (i) if they have published relevant content, (ii) if they regularly update their content, and (iii) if they include link-worthy sites. Although, SEO is a free tool, Google AdWords and Bing ads are two popular search engine marketing platforms that can promote websites in their search engines (through their SEM packages). Various researchers have relied on different scientific approaches to optimise the search engine results of their queries. For example, Wong, Collins and Venkataraman, (2018) have used machine learning methods to identify which ad placements and biddings were yielding the best return of investment from Google Adwords.
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