One of my favorite marketing events of 2008 was the MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer in Scottsdale. Although I was there to lend expertise about a single digital marketing path (email), an entire paradigm of roads clearly became apparent: a perspective of online marketing as much more than the sum of its component parts.

As a practitioner of digital marketing, I couldn't have been happier to see it, more so as we head into 2009 than even just a few short months earlier.

Digital marketing isn't just an ever-growing collection of components anymore (if it ever was). Don't limit your perception of it to adding the latest Web 2.0 gadget to your site or playing in the newest online community. It's not simply about befriending the Johnny-come-lately of the Web 2.0 family, ranging from YouTube to Twitter to podcasts, blogs, MySpace, Facebook and SecondLife. There is no "connect the dots," because digital marketing is geometric, not linear.

What's it all about then? These days, it's about creating fusion.

Successfully generating brand interest, involvement, buzz and new customers involves bridging Web and traditional marketing environments—then melding a fluid, growing constellation of online components together into what is an intentional, ordered chaos that I call "digital convergence."

It's a sort of alchemy—both art and science with a little passion and magic thrown in. It's about creating—or allowing for the creation of—a whole greater and more influential than any of its individual parts, and certainly greater than the simple sum of marketing tactics on a list.

Nonetheless, a thorough understanding of how to not only drive but also maximize the value of components is a prerequisite to recognizing the possibilities for fusing them together.

True, there's no substitute for basic training, so get that training (hint: you're already in the right place!)

So, taking two specialties near and dear to my heart—email marketing and social networking—here's a quickly brainstormed list of ways to create digital convergence between them:

  • If you have an e-newsletter, tweet the link to each issue as it is published with a question answered within it, or a catchy fact from it, that provokes curiosity.
  • Speaking of Twitter, always come from a place of service or inquiry rather than blatant self-promotion (save the shameless self-promotion for email).
  • Include a feature like Silverpop's Share-to-Social in your emails to help you go viral. 
  • Include the link to your email sign-up page on all social media Web site individual or group profile pages. (Twitter, for example, allows you to upload your own custom background design—great real estate for including alternate points of contact).
  • Include your Twitter handle and links to Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace or other relevant points of online presence in your email templates.
  • Use—in your emails, marketing materials, and on your site—reader praise, questions, and experiences (with permission) gathered from social networking sites.
  • Create component exclusivity and change it up frequently. What do you offer Twitter followers that they couldn't find anywhere else? Which exclusive perks, deals, or intel are available only to email subscribers?
  • Solicit user-generated content from all avenues, then populate content-rich environments (e-zines, blog, photo albums) with the results. Or fashion the effort as a contest.
  • Entice and reward audiences to share, share, share! More people would rather share once with a network than forward-to-a-friend via email, especially since Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and LinkedIn have gone mainstream and the average user can reach a significant percentage of colleagues, friends, and family members via these environments. Then again, brilliant email campaigns can and do take on a viral life of their own.

Marketers who have put these and other simple steps into practice begin to notice exponential rather than linear increases in subscribers, brand recognition, leads, word-of-mouth, and sales—increases that can't be attributed to a single digital channel or practice alone.

It's as though once given enough heat... digital connections fuse, changing the properties of the original compounds and resulting in a new, more valuable substance just as the alchemists of old attempted to transmute common metals into gold.

In marketing and elsewhere, quantum shifts are being made. You need to be willing to take some risks, make some leaps, or be left behind. Old systems are crumbling and new ones are breaking through. Worry less about how to deal with them and more about whether you're participating. Then get in the game.

Really, the only way to understand fusion is to be willing to mix, mash, and experiment a bit.  

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image of Karen Talavera

Karen Talavera is the founder of Synchronicity Marketing, a company specializing in digital marketing training, coaching, and education.