Put as simply as possible, a channel is any medium through which a message can be delivered. It’s how someone with a message, product, or service communicates with the rest of the world. Different people prioritize different channels of information.
Some people prefer to get their information from social media, while others opt for television, radio, or print magazines. There are a broad variety of channels, and who pays attention to what is vital information for understanding your target audience. Even a billboard is a channel!
Some companies choose to carefully target a small number of channels, while others prefer to spread a wider net and use many channels. This is called omnichannel marketing, and it requires a lot more planning than just buying ad space on every channel you can think of.
In the digital world, channels are becoming highly versatile; social media is allowing companies to perform marketing, customer service, and public relations along the same channel. So what’s the best way to manage all of this potential?
One big problem that can occur with poorly planned omnichannel marketing is that your message can become diluted. You need all of your channels to lead somewhere — ideally the same place, or at least to a carefully planned series of locations depending on current promotions. Omnichannel marketing should look like a pyramid, with the message beginning at a single central location before being disseminated across the channels. Not all messages work across all channels, so not every campaign should be omnichannel, but every campaign should very clearly lead back to the particular conversion or action that you want people to perform.
People should know where to go for what, how to get in touch, and what channels are best for which interactions. When you start marketing across multiple channels, especially digital ones, you are more likely to encounter situations where user interaction differs from what’s expected.
Using social media for customer service developed sort of organically. The back-and-forth nature of social media platforms lend themselves well to that use. It’s become so common that if you’re not prepared to do customer service through social media these days, people interacting with you on those channels may become frustrated. Data collected by the University of Southern California’s Department of Applied Psychology shows that engaging with people through social media in order to give them quick service often leaves them feeling as though their time has been respected. Those positive feelings tend to result in a customer spending more money with you.
The rub here is that when you start using social media as part of your marketing strategy, you’ve begun to use a unique channel. Social media platforms require a good degree of management that many companies aren’t prepared for. A single social media manager isn’t equipped to deal with a long list of customer queries, but an unanswered complaint is in full view of the general public and can negatively impact your reputation.
Not every product or campaign is at home on every channel, and what works online might not work in TV or print. The people that primarily consume different channels are often very different groups, and it pays to be aware of how audiences use certain channels. If you’re looking to target young adults, and are trying to keep your business healthy through new generations, social media research is a must. In fact, it’s becoming so ubiquitous among youth that there’s an ongoing debate about the use of social media in the classroom.
Remember, however, that blasting every social media channel with your message isn’t enough. Young people use Instagram for different purposes than Twitter, and while Facebook is a great way to reach millennials if you want your message to reach today’s teenagers, the demographics on that particular network are against you.
Modern marketing can’t ignore digital channels. If you’re aiming for omnichannel marketing, you simply must contend with the dominance of digital media in the everyday lives of almost every audience. It’s crucial to treat each different platform as its own channel, with different audiences expecting different content. “Digital” isn’t a single channel, so think carefully about the platforms you’re using.
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