When marketers evaluate all the digital communication channels at their disposal, they're faced with a rich array of choices, including the latest in social-media and mobile marketing.

Social-media marketing includes participation on social-networking websites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace; video- and photo-sharing websites, including YouTube and Flickr; blogging; microblogging (e.g., Twitter); podcasts; forums; product reviews, such as those on Amazon; and social-bookmarking websites.

Like email marketing, those channels help companies disseminate information to large audiences rapidly and cost-effectively.

Omniture and The CMO Club conducted a Digital Marketing Survey in May of 2009, asking 102 CMOs to rate the relative effectiveness of digital-marketing media.

Most respondents, 78%, found email marketing most effective, while 33% had success with online communities and blogs.

Most online consumers engage with a variety of online communications and activities, and they have different preferences and tastes. The Digital Marketing Survey and others underscore the importance of including a full range of interactive- and mobile-marketing vehicles in your digital-marketing campaigns.

Today's businesses should be using complementary media—email, social networks, and mobile—to most effectively connect and communicate with their current and prospective customers.

Networking With Customers

With companies incorporating interactive and digital strategies more frequently into their campaign mixes, Forrester Research has predicted the highest rate of growth for social media, among those digital strategies, over the next five years (according to the company's Interactive Advertising Model published on July 7, 2009).

Social-networking venues do not necessarily increase leads, nor do they populate a company's prospect database. But social networking does give organizations the opportunity to share information in a one-to-many format authenticated by consumer and peer reports, comments, and endorsements; extend their brand reach; and learn even more about their audiences—from age and sex to education level, social patterns, preferences, and tastes.

At the same time, social-networking websites give customers the ability to research companies more thoroughly, read peer reviews, and develop a comprehensive business profile before they ever make a purchase. For both parties, social networking offers a means to foster trust and long-term loyalty.

Blogging and microblogging further nurture that relationship, providing a vehicle for companies to tout their expertise, promote new products, share news, and stay connected without being pushy.

Blog comments offer real-time feedback and encourage a worthwhile dialogue, helping businesses better understand their customers' needs. Blogs and microblogs increase brand visibility, and they improve search-engine rankings and word-of-mouth marketing.

Moreover, companies can use posts to gain visibility within premium publications at little to no cost simply through mentions or links from Web media, press, or high-profile industry bloggers.

The Power of Email and Mobile Marketing

Mobile phones, particularly smartphones, have become indispensable assets for both personal and business productivity, acting as a means for digital interactions, such as sending text messages, browsing the Internet, or reviewing email correspondence.

It is also one of the most personal devices, as most of us carry our phones with us just about everywhere we go. As a result, communications and marketing messages received via mobile phone have the highest degree of relevance and, ultimately, success for its users.

Different from their social-media counterparts, email and mobile marketing are more direct one-to-one communication vehicles. That means the degree of relevance and targeted messaging can return some of the most successful and measurable campaigns.

As a result, mobile and email marketing have become important sales and marketing tools; and although traditionally viewed as the "desktop" communication, email is becoming increasingly mobile as well because of the increasing popularity of smartphones.

Companies may use email and mobile marketing to reach customers and prospects instantly—wherever they may be. Email and mobile marketing are immediate and cost-effective, enabling the push-pull features and personalized content that consumers want.

Connecting the Pieces

As various social and interactive communication channels enter and leave the marketplace, CMOs can gain the strongest impact by blending all those channels into one comprehensive interactive-marketing strategy.

Cross-promotional efforts can help companies spread the word as new online-marketing platforms are launched, boosting follower interest and opt-in. The following are 10 popular strategies that companies use to maximize their digital-marketing mix:

  1. Use email-marketing newsletters to announce new LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter feeds, directing readers to social-networking websites for signup.
  2. Use Twitter to link followers to your latest blog post or email newsletter online to fuel interest and re-tweets.
  3. Include an option to join the company's social networks in the email-newsletter registration section.
  4. Use the sidebar on your email-marketing newsletter to list all company social-networking profiles, and use those profiles to gather email-newsletter signups.
  5. Invite customers to participate in YouTube viral-marketing video contests that show real consumers using and enjoying your products or solutions.
  6. Read and respond to comments within social networks, developing newsletter or blog articles around topics readers discuss the most.
  7. Launch a regular Q&A section in your company's email newsletter that specifically addresses reader questions across all social-networking platforms.
  8. Include a link to your Help forum or YouTube video tutorial within purchase-confirmation emails.
  9. Include a social-bookmark console on product pages in case readers want to share your website or products with others.
  10. Join relevant LinkedIn and Facebook groups, assigning knowledgeable representatives within your company to answer questions, thus positioning your company as a valuable industry resource.

When businesses share, network, and create a dialogue with their customers using various interactive-marketing strategies, they show the public that they care about the customers' experience before, during, and after the sale.

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Dan Forootan is president of StreamSend Email Marketing (www.streamsend.com), a provider of email marketing solutions. He can be reached at dforootan@streamsend.com.