The argument for digital strategy in a consumer-facing world

The New York Times has a piece about how the Obama campaign has been executing an intelligent, targeted social networking strategy to bring more voters into its fold, and succeeding remarkably. This may be a rather obvious fact but the truth is that today no person or entity that has its ultimate aim as getting more people to back them (if an individual, like Obama) or promote them (if a company/brand) can afford to ignore the importance of social networking and having a digital strategy of some sort.

If you are an artist, for example, it will be useful to start a blog and have a Facebook or MySpace page to speak about your work and interact with your fans. You can also send email newsletters to them to publicize new work and ensure that your name stays in their minds. People have a very short attention span these days because there are so many things when they step outside that clamour for their attention, so the mere power of recall will be a very useful tool to have as the world moves forward. Artists and musicians didn’t have such widespread options to get more business for themselves even five years ago – you can read about the experiences of my friend, fellow Tuttle Club member and musician Steve Lawson here – and if you feel that as an artist you don’t get enough recognition, then make sure it’s not because of your own shortcomings in the online sphere.

It is old news now that many companies are Web 2.0 savvy and have a Twitter account in addition to a blog and perhaps a Facebook or MySpace page, if they are that involved. Some, of course, aren’t. I recently spoke to some people who work with PR firms, who said that some of the companies that were approaching them as clients had no idea what social media was or how it could help them. Those are the people who are late to the party, and if they don’t buck up now, they will soon be too far behind to catch up. The traditional forms of advertising can only take a brand so far today. I can’t put it better than this piece from Wired (emphasis in bold mine):

“The future of media is the future of advertising; the future of advertising is the future of media. The fundamental difference, however, is that the design philosophies of digital media will exert a greater influence on traditional advertising than traditional advertising will hold over the design philosophies of the digerati. In other words, tomorrow’s soft-ads are going to reflect the values of the Net more than tomorrow’s Net will evolve into a digital regurgitation of today’s advertising.”

At the end of the day, however, a digital strategy will only be useful if you have a product that people want, and that works well. If the Mac was not a viable alternative to machines that run Microsoft and offered only its sleek good looks, then no amount of ads would have helped it sell. (The way it’s going, for example, it looks like the Macbook Air may not be as successful as its original Mac brother even though it has a nice ad to bolster it, because users are beginning to feel the lack of basics like a DVD drive). So if Obama wins in November, it will not be just because he is perceived as a viable alternative to Clinton and McCain, or even because of his brilliant online presence. It will be because he is a candidate that people truly believe will deliver the goods (and he better!).

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