Digital doctor: ballet meets Harlem Shake

IAM’s new digital advice columnist, Cat Leaver, answers your questions

Dear Cat,

I’m artistic director of a dance company looking at ways to advertise and promote our work. We’re a very traditional and serious company: should we be doing silly dances like the Harlem Shake on YouTube? Is it damaging to our image or can we be fun and irreverent online but serious elsewhere? I’m afraid that we may damage our reputation.  

Kind regards, AD

Fundamentally, I believe you should live by the rule ‘if you wouldn’t do it offline, don’t do it online’. Organisations need to start looking at their business objectives in a more holistic manner – with digital underpinning everything they do, rather than being an add-on or afterthought.

In today’s digital-centric environment content is at the heart of everything. In fact 61 per cent of consumers report they are more likely to purchase from, or engage with, an organisation that delivers customised and relevant content online.

If adding a bit of humour and light-hearted content supports your organisation’s brand image and goals then you should definitely make the most of digital channels to push out this type of content. However, if you wouldn’t dream of sending out pictures of your dance company doing the Harlem Shake in traditional media, ie direct mail or your brochure, then you should seriously consider what you aim to achieve by doing this online.

As with any marketing activity it is important to establish the objectives, KPIs (key performance indicators) and metrics of success behind every digital campaign and activity. Your digital strategy should be an integral part of your overall business strategy, integrating all marketing communications, activities and channels so that they all speak with ‘one voice’ and your audiences receive consistent messaging regardless of the touch points they have made use of to discover your brand.

So, ask yourself:

■ How does this fit in with my overall business strategy?
■ What objective will this help me to achieve and how?
■ Who am I trying to reach with this communication / activity?
■ Would my audiences engage with this type / format of content, ie is it relevant?
■ What channels are most efficient at reaching these audiences?
■ What are my desired outcomes and measurable targets?

Once you’ve taken the time to review the above points, it should be clear if any given activity or initiative is in line with your organisation’s aspirations and brand. Content creation and curation should be all about your audience. When creating any piece of content, think about what value your audience will gain from it – does it tap into their interests? Is it engaging? Is it relevant?

Just because fads like the Harlem Shake are hot trends at the moment, this doesn’t mean they would be effective for you. I would argue that this type of activity is unlikely to attract the types of audience you wish to reach, ie those who will convert into customers and long-term fans of your dance company. Therefore, in a best case scenario such an attempt could be a waste of your resources and time; in a worst case scenario it could be potentially detrimental to your brand.

Instead look at your own way of creating a unique buzz around your brand. Just because you are a ‘very traditional and serious company’ doesn’t mean you can’t use humour in a more sophisticated way to engage the attention of your audience.

However, remember that your actions represent the common values that corroborate your brand. How can you achieve this? Do a bit of research into what other types of content your audiences search for, share and enjoy. Look at the places they ‘hang out’ online and how they interact with others on these channels. All of this will provide you with an insight into the online behaviour of your target audience and highlight potential opportunities.

You can use Google’s Keyword Tool to analyse the search market around your offering and potential content; your site’s Analytics will show you which content users already engage with the most; social media insight tools will help you discover key trends and interests; and Google AdPlanner assists you in identifying other sites and content visited by your target demographic.

These are just some of the many tools you can use to gain a more thorough understanding of your online audiences in order to better hone the reach of your marketing. Moreover, the data is there – you just need to learn how to use it effectively.

Cat Leaver is marketing manager at Alienation Digital, which recently won Best Digital Agency 2013 at the ScotlandIs Digital Technology Awards. AD has offices in London and Glasgow, and a presence in Vancouver. 

Got a question for Cat? Email her direct or contact the IAM team and we’ll pass it on.