How to grow a digital backbone

The techniques of digital marketing can be effectively adapted into corporate communications

You might be surprised how easily the techniques of digital marketing – from custom audiences to long tail keywords – can be effectively adapted into corporate communications. The first step is to familiarise yourself with the jargon: let this overview be your guide.

There are a variety of digital marketing technologies and techniques that are easily adapted to suit communications which can be very effective tools when implemented correctly. For instance, the engagement techniques used by retail brands to find and target new customers can also be deployed to build new corporate connections. Just because there is no shopping trolley to check out with, it does not mean these newly converted connections are not meaningful.

When you combine communications insights with digital marketing, the benefits are obvious. By focusing on small groups of people with a relevant message in the right tone of voice, you will start to convert and build powerful custom audiences efficiently and cost effectively. This in turn will increase your digital influence by creating new advocates, customers and followers. 

Custom audiences

Custom audiences can be built across all departments. Think about how you deal with inbound traffic for marketing, communications, investor relations or public affairs. These audiences can be split into various segments – for investor communications you can easily split retail, intermediary, institutional, employees and media/journalists. To build these audiences the first thing you need to do is to put the right digital backbone in place.

 Build data

The first step is about building data from your daily traffic - interpreting and understanding information from your website and social networks. If you do nothing else to actively promote your business or expand your audience, you will still be getting the most out of what happens passively every day. 

There is little point in pushing a corporate narrative online if you don’t make it easy for people to follow it. Calls to action (CTAs), landing pages and forms are all used too infrequently by larger businesses. A recent study by shows that over 40 per cent of FTSE 100 websites do not have clearly signposted CTAs for news alerts in their investor relations pages meaning the onus is on the visitor to keep checking for recent news.

If they don’t check back, the only time they will hear about the business is through the news, which will usually be negative, damaging the brand and reputation. CTAs and forms are even less present across other business functions, which is not good practice. New contacts should be made every day, across every department, and managed correctly. Conversion tracking, particularly on the right pages and from quality sources, helps find new people and digital communities to focus on.

With the correct digital infrastructure in place, businesses can then concentrate on creating content and pushing it through the appropriate channels. A leading SEO and content marketing company called Moz has no sales people and generates 100 per cent of its revenue from content and search. Moz refers to a “magical number” of eight items of content.

If a business objective or conversion has a specific purpose–gaining a new investor, customer or brand ambassador, there are two extremes: a person arrives at your website either immediately ready to convert or they will never convert.

For everything else in between there is the average number of eight. After an individual receives eight pieces of content that are relevant and resonate well, then this is the point at which they will convert. Reverse IP lookup (the ability to see what companies are visiting your website) and tracking the IP addresses that come from good sources or reach important pages on your site, helps bring new organisations onto the radar and produce quality audience lists. 

Consistency and relevance

 It is more important than ever to make sure the terminologies you are using online are consistent. Assuming your content is original, relevant, resonates well and targeted to the right people, you will generate good engagements. Taking the time to build your audiences is important, as is the volume of content you publish. Producing too little will fail to ignite loyalty from your audience, while too much can work against you, ruining hard earned connections.

Brand and package your campaigns properly. Try and focus the delivery of each campaign on the segments of your audience that will respond well, in order to prevent audience fatigue. Continually pushing all of your content to your entire audience is never a good idea. Peer networks Many large companies are starting from a position of strength from a digital perspective.

The combination of basic employee advocacy, awareness and daily traffic are all tools which larger companies have at their disposal, but they still often allow smaller and nimbler businesses to outsmart them. In fact, smaller companies very often piggyback the networks that larger companies have built with great effect. It’s a relatively simple process to assess a company’s digital networks and find people to market to. 

Google – paid and organic search   

With Google AdWords you can use ‘long tail’ keywords to target very specific combinations or terminologies that only the most experienced people would be searching for or be interested in. For instance, if your company is involved in medical devices to treat specific conditions, how do you leverage niche search terms that fit the narrative? You either pay for AdWords that can drive traffic from those terms, or produce content that can attract traffic organically. 

Targeting individuals 

LinkedIn is a highly effective method of targeting individuals based on their sector and role (for example, environmental, social and governance officers in industrial sectors, operations directors of FMCG brands or chief information officers of finance companies) as well as employees of individual organisations. Using account-based marketing in communications helps you target entire addressable markets based on their role, geography, sector and company.

The smallest audience you can market to is 300 people, which will have a minimal pay-per-click (PPC) ad spend. You can push them thought leadership pieces to generate new enquiries, connections and leads, and manually add new companies, people and roles to your campaigns as they come onto your radar. 

Twitter tailored audience lists

Too many people look at Twitter as a dense swamp, as just another channel for distributing announcements usually with little effect. Twitter is great for targeting specific groups of people based on their interests and the accounts they follow. Creating tailored audience lists (a minimum of 500 accounts) means you can target people through their Twitter handles, but only pay when each individual clicks.

You can create lists of people who are all interested in a particular topic (fintech, investing in natural resources, the circular economy, and so on) and also leverage the networks of your peers by targeting their followers. You can create a private audience list for your company that evolves on a monthly basis where you can manually add individuals you discover and then remove them once they convert.

Narrative themes  

Championing specific themes and values is a good way to build quality audiences. For example, how do you champion your approach to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues? You can argue a good litmus test for the strength of a company’s ESG principles is shown by how well they can articulate and showcase them. As strong ESG principles generate more sustainable shareholder value, many companies are putting these practices at the core of their business.

This also helps build quality advocates. Social media means people are sticking to their principles, values and identity, and not just promoting them. With custom audiences, you can champion your company values and connect with people that will have an affinity with your individual principles - so if your business is innovating in the circular economy, build a circular economy audience. 

Communications remarketing

If you go online to look at a bicycle to purchase, you may often find that same bicycle being marketed to you on a variety of websites. This can be frustrating if it happens too often but is very powerful when timed well. If you use the above techniques to distribute your content and narrative, you can build audience lists from your website visitors. It is possible to reactivate these audiences with remarketing by using their IP addresses to deliver display campaigns to them when they visit top media publishers and bring them back to your site.

So with account- based targeting through LinkedIn, Twitter tailored audience lists or long tail search terms on AdWords you can remarket new messages to small, quality groups of people you have gathered.

Choose your audience

Finding the right people, having them follow you on social media or ideally bringing them back to your website to track or convert them as a contact for email marketing, all helps to achieve the same objective which is to build and expand your audience. Build your lists into different segments to run multi-layered messaging campaigns. In the end you should be able to push your campaigns, news, announcements and press releases to the people they are most suited to.

Your audiences may be split into subsets of NGOs, employees, investors or local communities that can be each be activated when needed. Grow these audiences using traffic that is low cost, low volume, high quality and high impact. Your data builds insight, your influence increases your awareness and improves digital authority. And this will ultimately generate your future revenue. 

Mungo Park

Mungo Park is a co-founder of The content marketing agency specialises in digital strategy and video production with offices in London, Toronto and Houston. work with some of world’s biggest brands in finance, tech and the third sector. Image: