Q&A: Sarah Van Heirseele, VP of digital at Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide

Sarah Van Heirseele, VP of digital at Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide, explains why social media is in her blood and why apps are declining.

Q: What is the best way to communicate with and market to digital natives versus so-called digital immigrants?

A: We typically take a step back at the beginning to really understand who our target audience is and do different research to determine age, gender, where they live and their habits regarding media consumption, then we can make sure that when we put together our communication plan, [so that] it’s something they will respond to and be familiar with. Digital immigrants tend to be more skeptical of digital advertising. For digital natives, technology just comes more naturally because they grew up with it and it’s always been a part of them.

Q: Do you think there’s a disconnect between marketers’ appetite for using new technology in their campaigns and what consumers are actually looking for?

A: I think there is because marketers want to be on-trend and when we see what’s coming we definitely get excited, but those things might not resonate with consumers quite yet. You can’t ask consumers to do too many things or add too many steps to the process. By overcomplicating things like that, you might be spending more time educating the consumer about what to do rather than engaging them.

Q: You’ve said that in the future, mobile sites will become more prevalent while the popularity of or need for apps will decline. Why do you think that is?

A: I am notorious for saying that and I absolutely stand behind it. Smartphone users download less than 75 apps altogether and they use even less than half of them. Apps, if done right, absolutely have a place, but in our technology-filled world, from a development perspective, you can create almost the same experience that will work across every mobile platform and they can all exist on the same mobile website without the extra step of having to download an app — and you can maintain it in real time.

Q: Do you have any tips for how to effectively harness the deluge of digital data available to marketers today?

A: We typically sit with the client up front and ask them what they’re most interested in. Doing that really helps them prioritize and gives me an idea of what they want to learn. It’s a helpful filter. Everyone cares about Facebook fan numbers, but what they should really care about is how many people are seeing a post and engaging with it. It’s good to take a step back.

Q: You’re very active on Twitter (@Sarah-VanDigital). How does one live socially online while also maintaining a healthy split between that and one’s real life interactions?

A: I look at Twitter and Facebook as totally separate things. Facebook is more for my personal life and Twitter is more of a professional tool where I learn and do research and where I connect with peers … I’m not checking into every location I’m at in a day, but I do add little insights about my life … Regardless of whether or not this was my job, though, I would use both tools. Social media is just in my blood and I love it.

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