38. Finding my digital strategy (final essay).

For those of us 20-somethings who have grown up in a digital world, much of it almost seems like second nature. Dial-up is a faint childhood memory and we’re now fluent in the ways of tweeting, liking statuses and Instagramming our photos to no end. Being born at the beginning of the digital age has definitely been beneficial. We learned as we grew. In the advertising world, however, digital is like a shiny new toy. The use of digital tools can be exhilarating, overwhelming and useful all at the same time. It’s a new and shiny world and many brands want to get their hands all over it. It’s like waking up on Christmas morning to presents of smartphones, mobile sites, social media, applications and more! While some brands have already nearly perfected their presence in the digital world, others are simply too excited by the possibilities to think straight. They dive in headfirst without a strategy. Digital might seem easy on the surface: Sign up for Facebook, sign up for Twitter, get an application for your brand or company, etc. But what do you do once the set up is done? More importantly, is there a place in digital for all brands? There are many important questions to ask before entering the digital world, and even more important steps to take after you’ve entered it. Going digital should solve a problem for a brand. It should help connect a brand with its fans. Advertising is all about solving business problems and connecting with the consumer – adding digital into the mix does not change the overall goal. Whatever the problem is that is being solved, it needs to always be the top priority and on everyone’s minds.

How does a brand take its first steps into the big world of digital? While I’ve grown up with and understand many of the tools of digital, I myself find the task of a brand engaging fans and being able to succeed in a digital world a bit daunting. Using digital and social media as one person is much different than using it as a brand. You can’t just post status updates about what you ate for breakfast.

I decided to collect my thoughts of digital in a fun way. I went through my class notes and put a star by any strategy, tip or idea that I found written down more than once, making a giant list as I went along. One tip even managed to accidentally make the list twice, perhaps only proving how important it is! Here’s the list in all its glory. I think it’s a list of advice to live by when working in the digital trade.

Here’s the picture version –

–       along with the typed version, for easy viewing.

 The “If Dave said it more than once, it must be important!” list.

The web is its own thing.

We need to learn how to create new markets.

Don’t forget other media. Add digital to the mix!

Web is people-powered.

Web is its own thing (again!).

What problem does it solve? –> Don’t supercede business problem.

The 5 (6?) Questions:
· What problem does it solve?
· Who will use this?
· Where will they use it?
· When will they use it?
· What is its value?
· How can we make it more meaningful?

The Venn diagram.

ENGAGE!

It’s about people! ❤

The 3 Ps à Pique Discovery, Provoke Engagement, Personalize Participation.

There’s no one answer. Look at the facts.

Learn. Define. Build. Test. And do it again!

Nothing new in digital.

Shouldn’t have to be taught digital. “How to” on an app? NOOOO.

Fail faster.

Customers are #1 competition.

Value to end user/customer –> always!

Work with your client. (What do they want?)

Web never sleeps.

Don’t be a follower.

WHY? WHY WHY WHY.

Have fun 😀

All these points were repeated, drawn out and explained multiple times during our nine weeks of class. We were even reminded of these tools and tips from guest speakers (ProdShow2012!) or when we did in-class group work, like brainstorming for a new smartphone application or trying to improve upon certain brands’ current digital presence. We took these tools to come up with disruptive ideas.

While all these points are extremely important, I’ve chosen a few of the ones that stand out in my mind as crucial for when a brand is creating a digital strategy. Before choosing these points, however, I rewound back to January when class first started. In my very first J460 blog post, I said that despite growing up in a digital era, I didn’t know much about how to use digital successfully in the advertising world. I then made a list of what I thought people wanted from their digital and mobile devices.

They want easy-accessibility (and fast).
They want correct information (and fast).
They want it to always work (quickly!).
They flip out if it doesn’t work (when they need it).
They want all their devices to work together (and fast).
…and of course they want it fast.

After 9 weeks of class, I don’t think I’d change much about these points; however, I would definitely add a few things that are important when thinking about digital strategy. With this in mind, I created my smaller and condensed version of the “If Dave said it more than twice, it must be important!” list. I found that many of the points on the list are related and can be combined into one point.

  1. What problem does it solve? Don’t supercede business problem.
  2. ENGAGE!
  3. Value to the end user/customer à always!
  4. Learn. Define. Build. Test. And do it again!
  5. Nothing new in digital.

I think #1 is the most important point, not only in digital, but for anything a brand or business is considering. Make sure to always ask why. It would be a waste of time and money to dive into something without understanding why you’re doing it. In class, we learned about brands who come to an agency and say, “We want a website! And a Facebook page!” When some of them were asked why, their answers were generally something like, “Because! Everyone is on Facebook.” This answer IS NOT solving a problem.

Organizations like Portland’s Urban Airship understand the importance of problem solving. Urban Airship’s specialty is in-app push notifications for smartphones. Earlier this term, I was lucky enough to get the chance to go visit their office with the University of Oregon’s Ad Society. After almost constantly hearing “What problem does it solve?” in multiple advertising classes, I was happy to hear Urban Airship employees reciting the exact same thing. When they’re creating a strategy for in-app activity, they’re always thinking about the application’s current problem, along with what the consumer will be using the application for.

While the importance of mobile is not something on my list, it is definitely worth talking about. As the use of mobile increases, it’s becoming more important for brands to look at how fans are able to interact with them through their mobile devices. As I mentioned in my list from my first blog post, people want to be able to access information easily and quickly. A complicated application or mobile site isn’t good for anyone. Like this article mentions, “the future of mobile is the future of everything.” While most people in the United States don’t use their phone as their main computer (yet), many people in foreign countries do. This is an extremely important idea, especially for international brands, to keep in mind when developing a digital brand strategy. How will your customers be able to interact with you digitally if you don’t have a decent mobile site?

Brands and agencies alike need to always be thinking about the consumer, not only when developing a mobile strategy. The web and all things digital are people-powered, not brand-powered. When a brand decides to join a social media site, such as Facebook or Twitter, it needs to understand that consumers aren’t sitting around waiting on their own Facebook page, wishing and hoping for their favorite brand to get an account. People use social media to connect with other people, not brands. If a brand wants to succeed in social media, it needs to engage fans and give them something. Without value or something in return, fans won’t want to interact with a brand. It would be a waste of time. Before joining a social media site (or starting a website, or building an application), brands need to keep “The 5 Questions” in mind from the list: Who will use this? How will they find it? What problem does it solve? How can we make it better? What is the value? The value needs to be for the user/consumer, not the brand.

Even before digital, consumers were the most important part of the equation. Whether we like to admit it or not, the reason advertising exists is to sell a product. Without a consumer, who is going to buy it? Without fans and consumers, a brand will fade away on a social media site. This is why it’s so crucial to understand what your consumer is doing with their social media, i.e. sharing their own content/content from others, talking with friends, looking at photos, etc. To put it simply, they’re communicating with the world. Here’s a drawing to help explain.

The fact that people are using the web and social media to communicate shows that there is nothing new in digital. While digital brings new tools and technology to the world of advertising, the ideas behind it are no different than other media such as television and print. Older media is used for making a connection and engaging the fans. If done right, an ad will successfully communicate the brand’s message to the consumer. Using digital as a medium is exactly the same. It’s just a little faster and a lot more transparent. Because it’s so transparent, a brand can’t hide behind digital. If a brand doesn’t follow through with a promise or acts in a way that doesn’t resonate with its brand values, fans will discover it almost immediately.

Being at the end of this 9-week crash course in digital, I’m walking away with a greater appreciation for brands that do digital flawlessly. Entering the digital world is easy. Succeeding in it, however, is not as easy. After about 27 hours of lectures, guest speakers, in-class workshops and a little ranting, I can say that I understand strategy for digital much more clearly than I did at the beginning of January. I’d like to end with my own attempt at a digital brand strategy, created from everything I’ve learned this term.

Digital brand strategy:

Why are you here? Before jumping into digital, this is the most important question you should be asking yourself. If your brand doesn’t have a problem to solve, you might be better off staying out of the digital realm. If you do have a problem, you should try and solve it by being disruptive. Don’t slightly alter your company/brand. Disrupt it! By being disruptive, you’ll catch the attention of prospective customers. Engage them and give them something they want. Give them something of value. This is how prospective customers become returning, loyal customers. Remember: The web is people-powered, not brand-powered. If, somewhere along the road to building a happy customer relationship, the customer becomes unhappy, listen to them. Customers are your #1 competitor in the digital realm. They can take to social media and rip your brand to pieces. If enough of them are complaining, it probably isn’t without reason. Learn from what they’re saying. Define what the new problem is. Build something to fix it and test it out. It’s okay to fail, but do it fast. Continue this process until you’ve solved the problem, all the while keeping in mind that (while it provides new tools) there is nothing new in digital.

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