In my role at Limelight Networks as the Sr. Director of Marketing Strategy, I have been deeply involved recently in the company’s significant market pivot around digital presence management. As I participated in an internal assessment of our own digital presence (which I have been blogging about on the Limelight website) and had conversations with smart people, I came to realize what makes a successful digital presence.
And it might not be what you think.
As companies foray into the digital ecosystem, reaching new customers around the globe and, in general, helping to unite the world in a digital economy, they adopt tools and services that they think represent a fundamental change to their business. Facebook pages. Twitter feeds. Blogs. Digital marketing. “We are changing the way we do business,” they say. “Through our online store and social media efforts we will transform our company into a digital entity.” All that’s fine and dandy, but it’s really just a new paint job on an old car. In order for companies to be truly successful in the digital economy, to truly have an awesome digital presence, they must fundamentally transform. Digital must come first.
Before I qualify that last sentence, let me explain what it means to be digital.
Being digital means that real-time is a state of mind. The blog and twitter feeds are not just extensions of existing ways of thinking and doing. They are a way of thinking. They are a mode of being. Many companies reserve tweets, for example, to represent “meaningful” announcements such as the link to a new blog post or a product offering. But for those who are digital, Twitter represents an ongoing conversation. It’s not one tweet one day and another tweet another day. The same goes for Facebook, Reddit, blogs, and any other online service that supports bi-directional communication. Being digital is about actively starting and participating in the 24/7/365 conversations that permeate today’s global web.
Now, back to that sentence.
For business, putting digital first means that internal processes and ways of thinking must change to reflect the ongoing conversations that are part of beingdigital. Organizational units within companies must flatten. Cross-functional teams must rise. Because if there is a single “gatekeeper” of the conversation within a company (i.e., typically a marketing department) then the company hasn’t done anything to truly become digital. And what if the marketing department left? How would the company continue to participate in the conversations if no one else is truly digital?
Putting digital first then is less about building and enabling digital marketing campaigns and strategies as it is about changing the way companies see themselves and their role in the growing digital economy. And companies that embrace digital first will have an awesome digital presence as a result because the importance of the components that make up that presence will be on equal footing with traditional processes. The perspective on social media won’t be a “hey, we have to tweet some stuff about this new product.” The digital conversations about the product across web, blog, social media, and even large screen will be no different from newspaper clippings and press releases. But it’s important to understand that putting digital first isn’t about one medium over another. It’s not web vs. print. It’s about how the digital world is changing everything. Where we once talked about “messaging to customers”, being digital means “communicating with customers.”
Every company will have people who are already digital. They have personal blogs and twitter handles and are actively engaged both inside and outside of their industry in the ongoing flow of digital discourse around the world. They are agents of change and the “digital virus” they represent has the potential to change the fundamental nature of business until there is no distinction between online and offline, between real and digital.
Are you digital? Are you an agent of change? Has your company put digital first?
The answers to those questions may just determine the success of your company’s digital presence…and long-term viability.