Digital doctor: stay one step ahead

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

Dear Cat,
Our digital activity is getting very messy. We’re doing a bit of this followed by a bit of that: Pinterest, our own YouTube channel, and a blog. We also have a Twitter account where we post office gossip, offers and company news – this baffles me, should our communication be wholly professional and cold, or include personal tweets too? My dilemma is that our small vocal ensemble ticks by on very limited staff resources and we are already overstretched by admin duties. I often feel that all these extra responsibilities are a waste of staff time. There seems to be the general thought in our company that anyone under 28 can use social media effectively, so often these tasks are given to university leavers and young people who can’t even make a cup of tea properly. Should we use existing staff, recruit a specialist or give these tasks to bright young interns? Just as we meet one new stepping stone, something else is launched! I can’t help but feel we are chasing our tails. I wonder if we’d be better off going back to print marketing?
Yours, a frustrated director.  


The perpetual change that is so inherent of the digital environment often makes organisations feel that they are constantly one step behind their peers. But fear not, underpinning your digital actions by clear, measurable and achievable business objectives will mean your organisation be well placed to adapt and evolve in the way that best suits your needs.

To begin, I’ll revert to your later question of ‘what is the difference between using social media and having a digital strategy?’ Social media is just one part of your digital strategy and is not necessarily relevant to every organisation. Your digital strategy is a comprehensive road map of how you aim to achieve your business objectives in the online space, which may incorporate any or all of the following: your website, organic search marketing, PPC, social media, email marketing, display advertising, affiliate marketing, online PR and apps.

An effective digital strategy will be built on a thorough understanding of your organisation and offering, your audiences, and your marketplace. This research will help to inform the type and format of content you should be producing online: who you should be targeting and where you should be targeting them; effective channels and campaigns; and the optimal timing, frequency and tone of communications.

Moreover, this data will help to inform you of the most valuable digital initiatives for your organisation, allowing you to make sensible investment decisions. It’s fine to be present across multiple channels and to adapt your character and approach on each to a degree, particularly because different channels lend themselves to different levels of formality. For example, LinkedIn is a predominantly professional network, whilst Facebook and Twitter are largely informal and best used to have online conversations and to make connections with your audiences.

However, there must be underlying values adhered to and every touch point must reflect the core qualities you wish to promote via your brand image. Moreover, your brand should ‘sing with one voice, but many tones’. Social media, such as your organisation’s Twitter profile, allow you to create more of a personality for your brand – bringing it to life.

This promotes a two-way dialogue and enables you to respond in real-time to customer feedback, rather than broadcasting and expecting people to listen to you. Therefore, it is not a bad thing to have people tweeting or joining the online conversation from personal profiles, as long as those acting on behalf of your organisation make it clear that they are doing so and adhere to guidelines as set out by your organisation. In fact, adding individuals’ voices to the conversation adds a certain authenticity and relatable quality to the dialogue. While encouraging the individual voices of your staff and audiences be heard is good, I’d advise against posting personal tweets / status updates from a company social media profile.

Your company profiles should always represent the voice of your organisation, and whilst this may be informal and approachable, it should still maintain a certain level of professionalism. Think before you post – is it relevant to my audiences? Is it appropriate? It’s a common misconception that youth and social media go hand-in-hand. In fact, a look at the usage statistics clearly suggests otherwise.

Facebook’s largest demographic are actually 25-34 year olds, not the often expected 18-24 year age range, and Twitter’s user demographic is fairly evenly spread across all adult age groups. What’s more, the majority of Pinterest and LinkedIn users are over 35. So appoint management of your social media accounts not based on age, but based on competence. Upskilling your existing staff to manage digital initiatives and channels is not only cost-effective but also helps to empower your employees to enhance their knowledge and progress their career.

As digital becomes increasingly ingrained in business strategy you do need to nurture internal digital expertise, and this may involve hiring new experienced digital experts, as well as investing in the skills of existing team members. When it comes to salary, this should always be based on learnings, experience (client side and agency side) and knowledge, and how this aligns with the role you are looking to fill. You can begin to get an idea by looking at job listings online for similar roles in similar organisations to yourself.

Another option is to find a partner agency to support your digital needs, but make sure whomever you choose truly understands the objectives, aspirations and underlying values of your organisation. My biggest piece of advice – invest the time and resources now into developing and implementing an effective digital strategy, which accommodates agility, responsiveness and flexibility. This is a long-term approach that will help to safeguard you against the constant fluctuations in consumer trends and advances in digital technology.

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.