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The Guiding Principles – How Online becomes Digital

Having grown up in a family of I.T. professionals and having seen them work, learn and evolve over many years gives one a deep understanding of how quickly technology can and does change.

It’s been said that now in 2008 /2009 humans beings have conversed nearly 38% more than any other time known to man. Why? Well, because social networking has become a fashion and if you’re not on Facebook, MySpace, MXit or Twitter then you are living in the dark ages.

Online has evolved and if online is your business then you are aware that this monster called the internet is no longer just about websites or mobile sites. The world is becoming Digital and where you had an Online campaign last year which was a website created to promote your brand, this year it would be called a digital campaign and would include a website, emailer, sms, ussd, rss, toolbars, widgets and the list could go on forever.

In changing times, businesses and its people need to change and adapt as well. You cannot be a part of a dying technology, because you will die too.

What adds to the incredible growth of digital is that it is a unique effective way of reaching your audience, especially if you have a trust-worthy brand. It is also worth mentioning that the global recession has also had it’s effect on the audience, which means they are more aware how they spend their money.

Which leads to me to the point of this entry; here are a few thoughts on why you should go digital:

  1. Tried – Tested – Failed – Sucess

The digital medium is about the only medium that allows you to “try” something without heavy consequences should it fail, and if it does fail, it can be tweaked and reworked until you get the formula right. Digital allows you to create safe enviroments to test and even test a campaign live and if it is not working, simily rework it.

  1. The Ad-on benefit

If your core business is not internet based, the digital realm provides you with great ad-on’s especially if you’re on tight budget. The amount of people using social networking as a full marketing package is growing by the second. Retailer’s, Banks and Broadcasters are all getting in on the action. If you’re a guy then you are probably part of the Markham Facebook group, if you listener to 94.7 Highveld Stereo then you might also be following them on Twitter and if you bank with FNB then you know that you can perform nearly all your banking from your cellphone, with tons of value added features, like avoiding the queue for a lotto ticket, you can buy from your cellphone.

  1. Participation

Media and Advertising in the past has always been one-sided, it was always a TV AD at you or a Radio AD giving you only one way to turn. Now in this day and age, people want to interact, they want to be a part of it. Do whatever you want to just make sure that it allows for the maximum amount of participation and at whatever cost avoid interaction that allows for only a few people.

  1. Think like your audience to please your client

This is an important point, and needs to be stressed! If you want to please your client, (either someone paying you to create a digital campaign or just yourself creating your own brands awareness) think like your audience. Do not limit yourself to just a website – think smarter, predict what your audience would do and interact with them in that way. It may not be a website. I repeat it may not be a website. Here is an example: If you want foreigners arriving in S.A. to be interested in what you have to offer, first go to the airport, its logical – that’s where they check in!

  1. Break the rules and thinking

You will not survive in this environment if you cannot push your limits. Companies tell you to work within boundaries and yes boundaries are needed, but be weary that you do not use boundaries as a scapegoat from learning and exploring. If you feel like you are in a comfort zone, then I assure you – you suck at what you do. Digital is not a sit down and relax place, it changes and moves every second of every day. When you are having Christmas lunch on 25 December at home, technology is still progressing. Take your mind off web pages and start seeing the web as an ever growing application. Facebook is an application not just a webpage. Break the rules and your thinking, but do it responsibly.

  1. Listen to your Audience / Analytics

Your audience does not have to speak to say something, most if not all companies use some kind of analytical system to learn about their audience. Knowledge is most powerful when it is applied. It is pointless knowing your audience does not like rock music and then you design a radio ad and use rock music in the background. Companies get so caught up in pleasing the client, that they forget that is it the audience who determines the success of your business and if your client would return for further advertising solutions from you!

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Research indicates that 60 of all website traffic is generated from a search engine and having been involved in the analytical information of more than 10 large and medium brands, I can tell you that the 60% figure is almost always right. So give a little thought to how Google and Yahoo and all the search engines rank you.

  1. Aesthetics

This should by now be grounded into your mind already. A user will determine if they like your website within 30 seconds of being on your website. This is way to little time for them to read your longs lines of text. Get creative and start thinking outside the box, while bandwidth may be a concern now, it will disappear in time, and when it does, will you be ready or will you till be sacrificing Quality for Quantity? It is better to have one amazing banner on Facebook (as an example) that 40 crap banners across the internet.

  1. Functionality

What makes one website better than the other? Functionality! All radio station websites have the same core design. They all tell you what song is playing, they all list their presenters, and they all have some competition or promotion. What sets one apart from the other is what they have to offer in functionality. The Internet is about creating an experience, one that causes your audience to return because of the amazing experience they have had.

Don’t be afraid to invest in good functionality, look at trends and predict what will become popular and use it. Current trends in Digital include ways of consolidating all your social networking to control it from one central point. On a mobile you can use Fring as a central place to chat to MSN, Skype, Gmail chat, Yahoo Chat and many others.

  1. Trust the experts

You want to bake a cake, ask the baker not the plumber. You want a shit hot digital campaign, ask the digital team not the finance department. You get the point – too often we go about doing exactly this, trust the expertise of a person who is not in the digital realm and then when the campaign fails, everyone is up in arms. Stop being stupid and understand that you do not know everything as I do not know everything.

Ask me a digital question and I will give you a digital answer – that’s what I do.

The above principles are exactly that – principles, the likihood of them changing is very high, just because this environment changes so often.

If you are a company then use this as a guide, build on it and ensure that is forms part of the culture of your online team. I would even go so far as to stay, stop calling them the Online Team or department and start calling them the Digital Team.

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  1. 14/09/2009 at 4:38 am

    Thanks much for this awesome entry.

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