When the Internet was first created, few people saw it as a means for advertising or marketing. The Internet was designed as a means to exchange messages in the form of electronic mail (email), and then to exchange information by means of web pages that were mostly text, with a few charts, tables, and graphs thrown in. There was almost no money at all spent on marketing via the Internet, compared to the more than $200 billion spent each year on Internet marketing today.
By the late 80s and early 90s, however, marketers began to see the Internet as a great way of advancing their marketing business, with millions of web surfers logging on every day to look for valuable and relevant information. Marketing pioneers conceived of ways to leverage the Internet to market businesses to consumers. When the first flashy banner ads showed up in the early 90s, they were at first seen as a cool, new way to advertise, but they quickly became a source of annoyance.
Marketing efforts for businesses were typically limited to web pages and email marketing campaigns. Companies that had previously spent large chunks of their marketing budgets on offline list building came to realize that they could accomplish much the same thing via email for much less than they were paying for their offline mail campaigns. While it’s difficult to believe in having an organization without some sort of online presence today, in the early days such presences were limited mainly to larger businesses and electronic-based businesses.
Email marketing followed the same general timeline as web marketing, beginning to be used en masse for marketing efforts in the early 90s. As with the flashy banner ads, advertorial email quickly became a nuisance, and began to be labeled as “spam.” With the CANSPAM Act of 2003, online marketers were forced to offer a way for consumers to “opt out” of email marketing campaigns, and many consumers took advantage of that ability.
Web browsers started offering a means to turn off the advertisements, too, by allowing users to disable popups and hide banner ads. Consumers took advantage of this method of blocking out advertisements, and the marketing bust of the Internet happened in around 2000, and marketers once again had to find ways to reach their Internet-based consumers.
Also in 2000, Google released its AdWords offering to 350 customers, providing a means for those customers to have keyword-matching advertisements showing up in Google search engine results. This prompted the first wave of what would become a more elegant, refined means of advertising to customers, since it allowed advertisers to target those customers who would actually be the most interested in whatever product they were marketing.
Google AdWords began to prove, after the marketing bubble burst in 2000, that there were still possibilities for Internet marketing. Marketers simply had to be smarter about their targeting and their advertising, and Google helped them realize that goal. Within 5-6 years, keyword-based marketing was becoming very popular and profitable.
With this success certainly in mind, Facebook launched an advertising program in August of 2006. This allowed businesses to purchase advertising space on Facebook that would cater to Facebook users with likes and interests similar to what was being advertised. Within a year, Facebook was able to turn on the ability for advertisers to target specific demographics of users, allowing even more targeted marketing efforts.
In 2009, Google joined the social media marketing frenzy by launching interest-based advertising on partner sites and on YouTube. This eventually turned into a means for YouTube uploaders to monetize their videos, thus providing even more ways for advertisers to attract their marketing base.
The following year, in 2010, Twitter launched promotional trend and promotional tweets. While some Internet advertising had already been happening via the short message based social media site, Twitter’s launch of promotional tweets enabled digital marketers to end out advertisements to people even if the Tweeple were not following the particular Twitter handle sending out the Tweets.
In 2012, Facebook upped the ante for its marketers once again, by putting ads into news feeds. This allowed for promotional ads and posts to show up right where Facebook users were already reading, making the advertisements more prevalent and more likely to be seen and clicked on.
Today, social media is an essential tool for any digital marketer’s toolbox. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are important tools to properly leverage, and any digital marketer is expected to be a proficient social media manager in addition to an excellent marketer. Through careful management of social media profiles, businesses can reach more consumers than ever before, increasing their profitability and even drawing non-local customers to local brick and mortar storefronts, restaurants, and so forth.
Businesses that combine social media marketing with their traditional banner ads tend to fare better than those who ignore social media marketing. Businesses that wage effective social media campaigns are better able to keep their consumer base aware of happenings in their market, including product news and promotions.
Another important aspect of Internet marketing is reputation management. Businesses and their marketing agencies now need to pay close attention to reviews posted online at sites like Yelp, Google Local, and other online directories. Through careful management of these resources and attention to the reviews, marketers and business owners can discover problems their business might be experiencing, and address those problems. This has also opened up a growing business for online reputation repair experts, a more specialized form of digital marketing that focuses on repairing the damage done by poor online reviews and a subpar online presence.
Banner bars, today, are not as effective as they once were, so digital marketers must continually refine their offerings to achieve the best results. Who knows what the future of Internet marketing holds, with all of the twists and turns it has taken over the years, but right now it is important that social media marketing is one of the most influential means of reaching the marketplace.