Ultimate Google Ads Guide for SME’s: 3 steps to increase return on Ads spend

Eerik Beeton, MSc Digital Marketing Management student

Return on Advertising Spend
Increase return on Ads spend with these 3 steps!

There are a few reasons why your Google Ads might not work as well for your business as it seems to work for your competitors. Make sure you follow these three steps and you’re guaranteed to be more productive with your Google Ads.

Many businesses have struggled to make most out of their digital marketing efforts and have employed strategies where they use an external marketing agency to handle paid digital marketing. I’m here to suggest that outsourcing Pay Per Click and Cost Per Mille (PPC/CPM) is not sensible anymore in the 2020’s. Why would you pay someone else to do what you can do yourself?

To prove this to you, the next three steps in this blog will bring to your attention some issues around outsourcing your Google Ads and how to do it yourself to both save money and increase the effectiveness of your paid ads!

1. Exploit automation, lose that agency and save up to half of the cost

Historically, making your ads has been time-consuming and has required a lot of technical input from marketers to stay in top of the game. Year 2019 was the year of automation, this also changed how PPC works. Now your PPC can be automated with budget diversification and smart audience targeting, making the use of an agency inferior. I’m listing more handy tools throughout this blog so keep reading!

If you buy click-based advertising services (Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), a service provider will usually charge a 10-20% of the ad spend and a minimum monthly fee for their work. If your competitor advertises their services in-house for £300 per month and you outsource this service, then your advertising spend on Google AdWords is £150-200. This gives your competitor 30-50% higher advertising budget and an advantage.

As the average return on advertising pounds spend on google is 1 pound spent, 2 earned, you’re most likely giving your profits away using  a marketing agency.

2. Optimise and save up to 69% on your Ads

Understanding you Ad quality score can help you to create better campaigns and improve your digital marketing as a whole.

Poorly optimised Google Ads are a costly mistake, not only are they more expensive but they won’t get your business the leads they are after.  Once you get your Ads optimised, your Ad spend can be decreased by 69%.

Maybe the most important part of your Google Ads optimisation is that they need to be eligible for Google auctions. This means that your ads need to focus on a few strange terms like Quality Score, Maximum Bid and Ad rank. Ad rank is influenced by the maximum cost-per-click (CPC) you choose for your ad and your ad’s Quality Score. In the following, I will explain how you can create the best quality score for your ads.

To improve the quality score of your ads, focus on the following 4 strategies

  • Use keyword planning to increase relevance of your adds by making ad groups based on keywords
  • Optimise your ads for higher Click-through-Rate (CTR) by using focus keywords and Google Ads extensions, like call to actions and contact options.
  • Improve the quality of your landing page. This can be achieved by (re)targeting your ad and landing pages using long-tailed keywords or by using Dynamic advertising.
  • Be patient! Google’s algorithms will take more than a few days to improve the quality score of your Ads and being patient is the key to measure the improvements.

If reading pages of descriptions is not for you, I’ve also included a 4-minute video clip on the strategies for your convenience.

3. Set tracking and retarget customers to get 3x more leads

Retargeting Ads are 76% more likely to be clicked on than regular Display Ads. Therefore, building accurate conversion tracking is important for improving the results of your advertising. This is important as it will show how the customer actually behaved on the site.

Often, micro-conversions, such as referral browsing, shopping cart additions,, are ignored in tracking. However, they are essential metrics that tell about the quality of traffic and enable accurate re-marketing to visitors who completed a specific activity. This can also be used to track the performance of your paid advertising and to make changes accordingly. See the short video below on how to set you tracking!

The importance of setting conversion actions to help your customer tracking is essential; if you’re not sure how to do this here’s a link to a Google Ads article that explains it step by step.

Lastly, understanding the whole customer journey and to assess all the steps is important. By setting tracking and using retargeting can feed into 3 times more leads for your campaigns.

Future-proof your Google Ads revenue

Google has focused heavily on machine learning and keeps finessing the technology in order to deliver helpful and frictionless customer experience. There have been some setbacks in the technology and most of the features are not fully functioning for the SME’s, but this said: – The year 2020 will be the year to look out for improvements in:

Next big things in the early 2020’s

Google has focused heavily on machine learning and keeps finessing the technology in order to deliver helpful and frictionless customer experience. There has been some setbacks in the technology and most of the features are not fully functioning for the SME’s but this said: – The year 2020 will be the year to look out for improvements in:

Can technology fix your supply chain?

Marzena Reszka, lecturer, Staffordshire Business School

Everyone is talking about technology and how it can suit nearly everything. Wherever there is a problem, there is the promise of a technological solution, using some combination of artificial intelligence or machine learning, big data, automation, and the Internet of Things.

There’s no doubt that technology is set to have a big impact on every part of supply-chain operations, from planning to logistics. By focusing so much attention on digital solutions, however, companies may inadvertently be ensuring their failure. That’s because the technology-first approach ignores an inconvenient truth: the intensely human nature of the supply chain.

Technological optimists paint a bold picture of supply chains that are so highly digitized that the function itself disappears. They envision a world in which forecasting, planning, and execution are fully automated and seamlessly integrated, where systems adapt to solve problems and respond to changes in supply or demand without human intervention. Can this be achieved?  In the future such supply chains might eventually become a reality, but today’s digital solutions must be integrated into today’s supply chains which can be a challenge.

Today’s supply chains are wrestling with the same problems they have faced for decades: poor visibility, uncertainty, mistrust among functions and stakeholders, biased behaviours, misaligned incentives, and slow decision making. Can technology fix that?

Problems like these won’t be solved by algorithms. Worse, left unaddressed, they could destroy much of the potential value of other digital solutions. The most sophisticated demand forecasting system is of little use if commercial teams and production planners ignore its outputs. And the value chain may be impacted.

Recognizing the critical role of people doesn’t invalidate the use of supply chain technology.

However, technology for sure may support supply chain operations. It can provide more data, and new insights from existing data. It can automate previously manual tasks, such as with electronic order-taking or robotic warehouse automation. And may help organisations address the human problems, by enabling greater trust, better communication, and enhanced collaboration across the organization. But we are far away from the dream.


Bechtsis, D.; Tsolakis, N.; Vlachos, W.; Iakovou, E. (2017) . Sustainable supply chain management in the digitalisation era: The impact of Automated Guided Vehicles. h

Holmström, J. (2019). The digitalization of operations and supply chain management: Theoretical and methodological implications. Journal of operations management. https://doi-org.ezproxy.staffs.ac.uk/10.1002/joom.1073

LaBombard, M.; McArthur, S.;  Sankur, A.; Shah, K.; (2019). The Human side of digital supply chains. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/the-human-side-of-digital-supply-chains

Price, Ch. (2018). How can technology improve supply chain management? https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/intelligent-business/supply-chain-management/

MSc Digital Marketing Management students preparing for placement and connecting with the region

When we started the MSc in Digital Marketing Management (FT and PT available), we were determined that students would get credited work experience working with partners. To set up the placement there is a whole module dedicated to the preparation of the placement (which is three months long). Details of when and how to get involved are on our earlier blog here.

Charlotte Cunningham is working with Valentine Clays in Fenton. The placement will be focusing on a strategic digital marketing plan and improving their SEO performance of their main website, along creating website content for their sub-companies LoveClay and Art in Clay.

Charlotte Cunningham
Charlotte Cunningham

Eerik Beeton will be completing his placement with a Staffordshire local IT Company, CoRE Educational Ltd. During his placement Eerik will improve the SEO performance of the company’s e-commerce site selling refurbished IT.

Eerik Beeton
Eerik Beeton

Lewis Copeland is working with Hilton Garden Inn in Hanley on behalf of RBH Hospitality Management. The placement is focussed on developing and implementing a strategic social media plan for the opening of the new hotel.

Charlotte Gooding will be completing her project placement with City Stage Crews Ltd. The project will focus on implementing a digital marketing strategy due to the business currently not having one including creating a website for the business.

Charlotte Gooding
Charlotte Gooding

Sohnia Butt will be undertaking a project at The Mitchell Arts Centre in Hanley, Stoke on Trent. The project will focus around the social media marketing, email marketing and website revamp to increase sales with their target audience

Sohnia Butt
Sohnia Butt

Amber Mottershead will be completing her placement in her current employment at Stone Cricket Club. The placement will focus on developing and implementing an improved digital marketing strategy. This will include building a new website, monitoring the Google Analytics, developing a clear and consistent brand identity and managing multiple social media channels.

Grace Thomson will be completing her placement with Staffordshire University in the Careers Team. Grace is focusing on implementing a social media strategy with an aim of increasing brand awareness. Grace is also working on increasing website traffic.

Grace Thomson
Grace Thomson

Leah Mahon will be completing her project placement at creative recruitment agency, The Candidate in Manchester. The project is focused on creating a content marketing/SEO and social media strategy to increase reach, particularly with client audiences.

Leah Mahon
Leah Mahon

Daniel O’Sullivan is now working for Port Vale Football Club he will be developing the strategic direction of the markerting plan.

Craig Holdcroft, will be completing his placement with The Donna Louise Trust, a charitable organisation located in Stoke On Trent. The initial plan will be to extend the digital reach of the charity with the aim to grow followers and charity engagement within the Staffordshire and South Cheshire area. 

Craig Holdcroft who will be working with the Donna Louise Trust
Craig Holdcroft

Keair Bailey will be developing the website and social media content for PeakMyRun

Jordan Hubble will be working with the Staffordshire University Student Union

Sophie Lawrence is working with Stoke City Football Club. The placement will entail content creation and SEO to display the impact and raise awareness of the Premier League Primary Stars Project.

More to be added as the placements are confirmed.

All of these students and course tutors Prof Jon Fairburn @ProfJonFairburn and Kat Taylor @kattayloruk will be attending the Digital City Festival in Manchester on Thursday 12th March if anyone wants to connect there.

Google Analytics – not just for major corporations?

Charlotte Gooding, MSc Digital Marketing Management student

Google Analytics is known as the Internet’s leading website statistic monitoring program and is free to use from Google. Thomas Young states that Google provide Analytics free to use as once a digital marketer can see the data, it will then lead to them working on getting more traffic to their website through Google AdWords; then bring revenue in for Google.

Why use Google Analytics?

There are many different reasons why digital marketers should be using Google Analytics. Over the last four years many more bloggers have been looking into the positive effects that Google Analytics can have on a business, many of these overlap one another with the opinions on the positivity that it has. For instance, both Tanya Austin and Paul Koks mentions that Google Analytics is useful in order to be able to segment your customer base. This feature allows you to see if part or all your market is niche; with this you can then use it to come up with marketing that will target that segment within your market. This all in mind Nate Shivar backs up these thoughts by explaining Google Analytics tracks it’s data using a unique tracking code; collects information on a user’s activities on the site.

Market Leaders

Within Google analytics market leaders are not as common as other sectors of the Digital Marketing, Think with Google mentions how there is still 62% of executives are still relying more on experience and advice compared to looking at the data to make decisions. This all being said for those who are market leaders with Google Analytics there is several things that they need to know to be able to stay as market leaders. Thomas Young states that many business leaders do not regularly review their webs statistics, and this is a big mistake. By doing so it can then lead to poor decision making and an inability to notice market share losses or other major key business trends as they are occurring in real time.

Looking at who the market leaders within Google Analytics isn’t just the only thing that is involved to also involves looking at the market share for Analytics to understand Google Analytics. As it currently stands Datnyze research found Google Analytics has the highest market share of 39.74%, whereas Facebook Analytics has a 6.44% market share. This shows how Google Analytics can indicate the segmentation for customers.

Google Analytics Current Trends

As it stands there are several trends within Google Analytics that marketers need to know about. Himanshu mentions how the Google analytics trends tool has been around for a while yet not many people know what it is let alone how it works. For those who like me didn’t have a clue what the trend tool was at first is used to notice trends within your analytics. It moves in one direction, for example, if the trend is moving upwards it is known as ‘uptrend’ whereas if it is moving downwards it is known as a ‘downtrend’. Dr. Hannah Vogel looks at using averages to be able to identify trends within Google Analytics. This would then allow you to be able to look at the average time spent on your site for instance or the average number of visits in a week.

What about future trends?

Image result for google analytics and facebook"

There are many predictions on what the future holds for Google Analytics. Joe Christopher mentions that even though the market is constantly changing it is important to make sure that you are aware of the current google analytics and in particular where they are currently heading; to also still be aware that it is constantly changing and can go in any direction with little warning. Louis Columbus mentions that 66% of digital advertising spend will go to Google search, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram; as a result, this will be the way that people are finding business’ so Google Analytics will be a massive part of helping to see the trends of business searching. Furthermore, he mentions how in North America where using data isn’t very common there will be a 47% increase on third party data for advertises.

 Alok Soni, looks at trends which will shape the future of data analytics. They mention how it is predicted that one future trend is machine intelligence and that the theory behind this prediction comes from theory and development of computer systems is to be able to perform tasks which would normally require human intelligence. The idea is that the system can learn the structure of being able to stream data, make predictions and detect anomalies. This would then mean that humans are able to spend more time marketing the ideas that machine intelligence comes up with. In addition, Alok Soni also predicts augmented reality explaining that it will enable better performances of organisations with the help of available data. Also mentioning how the development and growth of Googles Analytics will help to further boost this idea of a future trend.  Overall, there are many different predictions of the future of Google Analytics, but with how rapidly the industry is changing it is unsure as to what direction Google Analytics will take.

Just a rant about engagement

Dr. Jenny Gale, Senior Lecturer in HRM, Staffordshire Business School

Globally, employee engagement has been documented as low, particularly so in the UK, and we can debate about why this is so.  However, frustratingly for practitioners (and those academics who are interested), there is a distinct lack of agreement about what engagement is and isn’t, partly because it is a multi-faceted concept, incorporating attitudes and behaviours that are not easily captured within simple definitions.  Consequently, engagement has been distilled into sub-categories to reflect physical, cognitive, and emotional dimensions, along with different levels of engagement such as ‘engaged’, ‘not-engaged’ and its opposite ‘disengagement’ (see Gallup 2006).  Then it might have a lot to do with employees’ personalities, or issues around what it is that they are supposed to be engaged with (such as work tasks and organisational goals) and/or who (managers, senior managers, colleagues, customers, etc.).  You can also find lots of free articles and blogs on how to improve engagement or, if you are feeling flushed, engage a consultancy firm on a lucrative contract.  You can also learn all about the ‘myths’ of engagement – you can take your pick about how many ‘myths’ there are (three, four, five, twelve, etc.) 

Despite all this noise about engagement, it is difficult to nail down. It is frustratingly nebulous because no-one can agree what it is, although we think we know it when we see it.  We might observe how someone goes about their job – putting in extra hours, ‘going the extra mile’, engaging in ‘discretionary behaviour’, demonstrating a high level of commitment, motivation, and high levels of performance, ‘living the brand’, ‘walking the walk’, etc.  All these are supposed to mean an employee is ‘engaged’.  On the other hand, they might just be working their socks off because they are afraid of losing their job or being over-looked for promotion.

All this has implications about whether we are ‘doing engagement right’ in terms of policy and practice.  Engagement surveys, for example, are supposed to provide employers with vital information about levels of engagement and the kind of things that either promote it or prevent it.  The key point about these surveys is to act on the information in order to avoid it becoming a ‘tick-box’ exercise, frustrating employees in the process.  ACAS once stated that engagement can potentially drive business success, providing it is genuinely sought and understood, rather than just about driving the intensification of work in disguise.

Finally, there is a view that engagement is an obsession that fails to produce lasting results because employee engagement isn’t really ‘a thing’ at all but another management fad, stimulated in part by the MacLeod Review, a government commissioned study in 2009.  Personally, I’m not convinced engagement is ‘a thing’, at least not in a way that really matters.  There are positive examples of what engagement has been argued to achieve, of course.  Maplin is an interesting one – once held up as a shining example of the link between engagement and business success.  Too bad it has since disappeared from the High Street!  Was employee engagement ever really the problem? Or the answer?

I confess that the more I read about employee engagement, the more confused I get.  What I am less confused about, though, is ‘good employee relations’ and the good old- fashioned principles that underpin it – trust, fairness, integrity, transparency, equality, equity, etc.  While these principles are arguably part of the engagement discourse, the pre-occupation with ‘engagement’ as a term and what it is and isn’t distracts from what really is important.  Instead of trying to increase employee engagement, what about simplifying things and putting trust and fairness centre stage?  Trust and fairness incorporate many aspects of human decency, respect and integrity and it would be nice to see new life breathed into these words in the workplace.  Engagement?  That is much less of ‘a thing’ in my book.

Funnelling In or Funnelling Out… Is The Marketing Funnel Effective?

Charlotte Cunningham, MSc Digital Marketing Management student

One of the key areas to running a successful business is to ensure you understand the customer’s buying journey. The traditional marketing funnel has gone which has now been replaced by AIDA.

The fundamentals of the old and new marketing funnels are the same, however, the order and the tactics are completed in different ways. The old funnel was used to raise awareness around the new customer funnel and how to adapt to it. 

There are many tools that can be used to establish the customer journey, however, AIDA is today’s modern digital marketing funnel. 

AIDA is a well-known marketing model. It can be applied to everyday life of a business and is said to make a marketing communication plan affective. 

What does AIDA stand for? 

Awareness: creating brand awareness and association with a product or service. 

Interest: creating interest around a service or product that benefits it by increasing the interest that encourages the customer to find out more about it.

Desire: by creating an emotional connection between the brand, product or service can move the customer to from liking it to wanting it.

Action: This moves the potential customer to interact with the brand, or even make the purchase. 

HubSpot is a firm believer that AIDA is a proven framework, if AIDA is used within your content marketing, it will constantly engage, persuade and converts the watchers into buyers. 

Are businesses using the Customer Funnel to their advantage?

The marketing that is being used by Graze creates an emotional connection with their viewers, as they use the AIDA framework. They have a call to action on their website when potential customers want to find out more information, this can encourage them to purchase and complete the action stage. 

Aida has transformed digital marketing and digital marketing has transformed AIDA. However, Ralph Haberichsays that AIDA is too general, he says that it is outdated, there are apparently newer and better frameworks out there, such as RES and the 5 A’sRES is apparently the new marketing funnel… do you agree?

Are people ready for change?

Change happens all the time, making a change in the marketing strategy should not be seen as bad. Making a change in your approach to marketing, can be the new model RES. 

RES stands for Relevance, Engagement and Success. 

The relevance part is apparently better than the A in AIDA, as the customer is already intrigued by the product or service, the relevance will also give an organisation a better chance of knowing what to do to get the customers involved. 

The Engagement is key to create a powerful engagement the potential customers but having powerful engagement can set you above the competition. Engagement is meant to give more insights and power than the I and D in AIDA. 

Success, the success differentiates itself from AIDA as it doesn’t just stop at the customer purchasing the product, but also upselling and ad on selling makes it a success, which then increases profitability with these extra additional products.

What are the 5 A’s?

The 5A’s Framework stands for Aware, Appeal, Ask, Act and Advocate.

Aware: Consumers are passively aware of brands, their advertising and how it affects the influencers, friends and family.

Appeal: When consumers have seen the brands message/advert, they can create a connection to it, from just remembering what has been shown. If a brand is more memorable than another then consumers will forget previous brands. The consumers surroundings and peers have high influences the appeal of the brand. Which does relate to AIDA. 

Ask: This is the section where consumers want to find out more about the brand, whether it’s from friends and family or the media. Consumers connect with each other and build relationships which can either strengthen or weaken the brand appeal.

Act: Not only does this cover the purchasing stage, but also how the product or service is used and what happens after the purchase i.e. leave feedback, happy with your product? Try and sell similar products.

Advocate: This stage shows the loyalty that can become from making a purchase. Whether it’s a consumer repurchasing their product and referring them to a friend.

The pros and the cons of the different marketing funnel need to be determined by the organisation or marketer, to see what work best. The different marketing funnels will have benefits to every organisation, it’s whether the marketer decides to stick with what they know or adapt to a new marketing funnel. The choice is yours….

“Are The Services Enough”: The Issue of Service Quality in Higher Education

Dr Ijeoma Onwumere , Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School

How service quality affects students and its continuity has been a recent debate phenomenon in Higher Education Institutions (HEI). The way student perceived service quality has been a growing research interest in higher education (HE). Service quality includes all form of services rendered to student in HE which can be defined as a method of assessment that results from the evaluation of customer expectations with perception of performance; in other words, with regards to how customers really evaluate the services rendered.

Student perceptions of service, results from the comparison of expectations before service is received and the actual experience of that service. Therefore, the importance of service quality not only to HE but to all organisations cannot be neglected as it is regarded as a critical element of competitiveness through service superiority and differentiation. However, the question of what forms Service quality within the HE is a controversial one.

Services are not marginal activities but must be acknowledged as an intrinsic part of a society, which form an influential force in today’s global economic development. Owing to high financial GDP contribution by students in HE which leads to a progressive thriving economy in today’s competing environment. HEI are more concerned with and continuously seek to develop the quality of service of education that they provide to the student, firmly focusing on student centric mission, guaranteeing assurance of student satisfaction and quality provided. This is because students are now faced with eccentric challenges and fee-paying student (international student) like other consumers are now demanding attention to their student service and experience, greater value for money, and wanting their voice to be heard. More so, irrespective of high cost of fee, an institutional reputation can be improved by high performance of services.

Therefore, the need to understand how a student perceived the quality of service received is quite essential for every institution. The reason being that when HEI provide analyses and understand how student evaluate services, it may assist in attracting and retaining student. Higher education sectors need to improve their services, through consistent heightening of their service strength through quality teaching, innovative facilities, pastoral care, improved customer services in order to meet the needs, demands and expectations of their student and maintain student satisfaction.


Dehghan, A., Dugger, J., Dobrzykowski, D., & Balazs, A. (2014). The antecedents of student loyalty in online programs. International Journal of Educational Management, 28(1), 15-35. doi:10.1108/IJEM-01-2013-0007

Kärnä, S., & Julin, P. (2015). A framework for measuring student and staff satisfaction with university campus facilities. Quality Assurance in education, 23(1), 47-66

Sally, B. (2011). Bringing about positive change in the higher education student experience: a case study. Quality Assurance in education, 19(3), 195-207. doi:10.1108/09684881111158027

Sultan, P., & Wong, H. Y. (2012). Service Quality in a Higher Education Context: An Integrated Model (Received Emerald’s Award for Excellence 2013). Asia Pacific journal of marketing and logistics, 24(5), 755-784. 

Sultan, P., & Wong, H. Y. (2013). Antecedents and consequences of service quality in a higher education context: a qualitative research approach. Quality Assurance in education, 21(1), 70-95.

Teeroovengadum, V., Kamalanabhan, T., & Seebaluck, A. K. (2016). Measuring service quality in higher education: Development of a hierarchical model (HESQUAL). Quality Assurance in Education, 24(2), 244-258.

#NoFilter- How social media is changing the face of brand awareness

Lewis Copeland, MSc digital marketing management student

Today, social media presence is a must for businesses who are looking to expand. If you are not taking advantage of social media, you are missing out on a fast, inexpensive and effective way to reach half of the world’s population.  Of these social media users Sherpa Marketing found that more people follow brands on social media than follow celebrities. On Instagram alone 80% of people follow and engage with at least one brand.

According to research collected by We Are Social, there are 3.53 billion social media users in 2019 with the global total growing by 2.88 million since 2018. Mobile users remain the dominant force with  3.26 billion people using social media on mobile devices in January 2019- a growth of 297 million new users representing a year-on-year increase of more than 10%.

Image Source: We Are Social

Whilst the opportunities to utilise social media to expand into new and existing customer bases remains abundant true success is based on engaging with consumers, creating a strong relevant brand presence as well as informative content is imperative.

So what are the benefits of social media for building my brand?

With more than half of the world’s population using social media it is a great place to reach new and highly targeted new customers.  The notion that consumers only engage with brands they already know on social media, is a common misconception as  60% of Instagram users state that they have discovered new products on the platform.

As of January 2019 Instagram boasts 894.9 Million active users and compiles one of the highest audience engagement rates. Despite the impressive statistics for Instagram it is not an ideal marketing tool for every industry. Fashion, travel, beauty and brands with a more visual offering remain at the forefront of Instagram’s success. In order to capitalise on Instagram as a means of growing brand awareness all images must be clear and aesthetically pleasing.  The British Journal of Photography argues that although a positive tool, Instagram’s association with parent company Facebook puts all images at a risk of loss of ownership once posted onto the platform due Facebook using content and data to create revenue. Additionally Mike Marko notes that Instagram does not support a call to action clickable hyperlink in image captions which may cause consumers to deviate from gaining more awareness of products.

However, social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have long been used by brands as a means of showcasing and selling products.  Influencer Marketing Hub notes that Instagram has combatted the lack of support for hyperlinks by adding a shoppable post feature where consumers can simply press the shopping bag icon to be shown the prices of the items in each image with a call to action direct link to that exact product on the organisation’s website. Social commerce is well on it’s way to becoming a mainstream retail channel on bar with other mediums such as websites and offline stores.

Despite these challenges Instagram remains a significant leader in building brand awareness. For example when Absolut Vodka ran an Instagram campaign to promote a limited edition spark bottle the company achieved a 5 point lift in brand awareness through short video clips highlighting their new bottle. However a key point to note with this campaign was that Absolut is an already well established brand with a significant social media following from the offset so instant results of the same magnitude cannot be expected for a business who is yet to have such a social media presence. In light of this, the application of developing brand awareness shows to be a misleading term. For Absolute this process consisted more of reminding consumers of the brand as opposed to growing the actual awareness due to the already large customer base. However, for SME’s building brand awareness would be more likely to produce significant results. Given this information the term building brand awareness should be used with caution as it is only likely to be effective for smaller organisations.

 Image Source: Big Commerce

How can social media improve digital marketing?

A strong social media presence is a key component in a successful digital marketing strategy. It is essential for the platforms to become humanised to form meaningful relationship moments by introducing consumers to the people who make up the business and how customers are benefiting from using your products allowing consumers to connect with the brand on a personal level. However, an air of caution is advised when growing a brand presence on social media as consumers may initially struggle to connect with the brand. A UK study from Trinity Mirror Solutions found that more than half of adults do not trust a brand fully until they see real proof that the brand is keeping it’s promise.  

Social media analytics can be used to leverage the reach of their posts, the click-through rate of the consumer journey and which segments are interacting with content the most frequently.  This information is particularly insightful as it allows for the content to be adapted in real time to target another key segment if the reach is falling short.

What are the future trends for social media moving into 2020:

The landscape of social media is constantly changing. Instagram is one of the largest social media networks and major changes implemented here can shape the social media landscape. One major change going into 2020 is the possibility of Instagram removing the likes features on posts.  If Instagram removes likes then brands won’t be able to measure the metrics of the direct impact of their campaigns as easily as they do now. This might encourage some brands to invest in Instagram Ads as they can easily track the ROI for those

TikTok – The Next Big Thing For Digital Marketing – But is it Right For YOUR Business?

Clare Bailey, MSc Digital Marketing Management student

TikTok has only been around for three years and, according to Sensortower, it has already amassed more than 1 BILLION downloads on the App Store and Google Play, making it the fastest growing social media platform to date.  

If you’ve ever been on TikTok you will know that it is downright funny, a bit cringy, very samey but, despite all this, you can’t stop scrolling!

So what makes TikTok so addictive and why are businesses already tapping into its success? Let’s find out.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social video app that allows users to share 15 or 30 second lip-sync, comedy & talent videos

The app was launched in 2017 by the Chinese developer Bytedance for markets outside of China after Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok) was launched the previous year.  Although they use the same software, to comply with Chinese censorship restrictions, they use different networks.

If you think TikTok looks a lot like musical.ly then you are spot on. TikTok merged with musical.ly last year to generate a much larger video community gaining access to the American market which previously belonged to musical.ly.

Who is TikTok’s target audience?

According to the Globalwebindex, TikTok has a ‘younger’ audience, with 41% of users aged between 16 – 24. This is no surprise considering Bytedance specifically targeted the under-18s from the very beginning. 

What are the main features of TikTok?

Video & Music

The most obvious use is watching or uploading video content, but what gives TikTok the edge is the sheer number of music downloads you can add to your video. 

When using TikTok, think of Facebook and Instagram where you can apply filters gifs, likes, comments and shares. In addition, don’t forget hashtags – you can check out trending hashtags on the discover page.

Challenges & Duets

Apart from trending hashtags TikTok uses Challenges where you are encouraged to create videos around a popular songs and theme tagging a certain hashtag, like #shoechange. As you can search hashtags these can go viral fast!  

Duets allow video to be placed beside another video that is watched simultaneously – this can be either your own content or placed along those of someone else.

Virtual coins

You can purchase in-app coins to reward your favourite creators on TikTok, which can be exchanged for digital gifts. According to Mobile Marketer,  ‘tipping’ is not advertised by TikTok and their focus seems to be more on selling ads.


Although TikTok won’t reveal how it’s algorithms work, this is what they have said:

“TikTok will quickly adapt to your taste to offer the most relevant, interesting, fun, quirky, head-turning videos that you’ll never want to stop watching,” 

What does that mean for business?

We all know that video SHOULD be at the forefront of your social media strategy and TikTok clearly ticks that box.

Also, as with any social media site, uploading ad content couldn’t be more easy and it is no different for Tik Tok ads

You only have to scroll up to see that TikTok is now showing ads, which they started rolling out in January 2019. According to Ubermetrics, they are still being tested and TikTok haven’t officially launched them yet. 

Is it an effective Ad Platform?

DigiDay advised that TikTok is testing interest-based and pixel tracking to not only ensure it is an effective Ad platform, but also to prove it quickly.  But, because Ads are in their infancy, it is hard to predict if they are going to be effective or not.

TikTok is an extremely creative platform where users can produce highly entertaining videos, duets and challenges. It is very different from Facebook and Instagram so businesses hoping to repackage content from these platforms are not likely to do very well. To truly stand out on TikTok you must create relevant material that fits to the idea of story telling.

But how effective can Ads be?

#eyeslipsface is the most
viral campaign ever to run on TikTok attracting celebrities like Reece Witherspoon and Ellen to get on board unpaid!.

It amassed over 4 BILLION views and 3 MILLION user-generated videos, it spread organically onto only on TiKTok but also Instagram and Facebook. With media coverage in the likes of Vogue and Forbes.

So is TikTok right for your Business?

If you use TikTok in the right way, then you can introduce your business to a huge audience – but, is it right for you?  

If your target market is Gen Alfa or Gen Z then it definitely ticks the box. Having said that, don’t write it off if it’s not. Like any other social media platform, it will inevitably roll out to an older generation. The difference with TikTok is that it is full of fun, silly video content and your marketing strategy needs to reflect this, so you need to decide if that is right for your business.

Also, TikTok is still in its infancy so should you wait to leverage the platform until it hits mainstream?   Like with everything it all comes down to supply and demand and social media platforms are no different. While TikTok is relatively new it will be easier to attract organic reach for your business, but, as the platform gets more saturated it will inevitably go the same way as Facebook and Instagram.  As an early adopter you need to weigh up if it’s worth the risk!

So if you want a platform that isn’t already saturated then jump on the TikTok band waggon and get ahead of your competition.

As a final point, Douyin has a ‘face and object search’ to find people and sell products and, according to Garyvee, these features are expected to roll out to TikTok soon. 

Watch this space!

Contact details: LinkedIn

Staffordshire Business School – Research Profile

About Us

Staffordshire Business School aspires to be a leader in making a real impact on business and society through collaborative research and innovation. Our team of academics have successfully delivered many industry/business and government funded research projects and have extensive experience of leading large team projects including local, UK, EU and internationally funded projects. 

Many of our team members combine rich industry and practitioner experience with academic rigour in conducting world-leading research and generating social and economic impacts in a wide range of areas and fields. Our expertise includes but is not limited to the following research streams and clusters:

Business and Management

  • Human Resources Management
  • Labour Market, Employment Relations and Migration
  • Organisational Change and Development
  • Public Sector Management
  • Leadership and Management Learning
  • Corporate Governance and Firm Performance
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • International Business and International Management
  • Place Marketing and Branding
  • Consumer Behaviour and Health Marketing
  • SME Innovation
  • Merger and Acquisition
  • Strategic Management and Leadership
  • Financial Management
  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • LGBT Tourism and Family Tourism

Digital Transformation and Innovation

  • Digital business strategy
  • Digital marketing and social media
  • Esports business and management
  • Digital technology diffusion in the financial sector
  • Digital entrepreneurship

Smart Cities/Communities/Urban and Regional Development

  • Smart cities strategy
  • Analysis and Evaluation of Public Policy on Urban Development (i.e. health; social care; urban education)
  • Place Leadership
  • Welfare reform
  • Community engagement and social inclusion
  • Environmental issues and sustainability

Postgraduate Research

Our academics conduct empirical research and are actively publishing across a range of disciplines.  As such they have a long history and a successful track record of research supervision at both MPhil and Doctoral levels. We are excited to welcome you to join our postgraduate research student community.

To find out more about our team and their scholarly expertise, please visit: https://www.staffs.ac.uk/academic_depts/business/people/

Contact Us

For partnership and collaboration with us in industry-oriented projects in both public and private sectors, please contact Professor Fang Zhao – Associate Dean – Research and Enterprise at fang.zhao@staffs.ac.uk.

For enquiries about our MPhil or PhD program, please contact:

Staffordshire University Graduate School at graduateschool@staffs.ac.uk.