Sort Your Digital Presence Out!

This post stems from a conversation I had with Ed Lee tonight (we agreed). Before anyone gets all upset, I’m a big advocate of social media… in the right situations… with the right foundations. This post is about those foundations.

Signpost

Ever been in a meeting with a colleague, friend or client who has an idea or business, has a basic web presence, and wants to use social media to enhance that presence? What’s your reaction?

I’ve encountered this a few times over the last few years. My initial reaction to those conversations is fairly consistent. Something like:

“It’s great that you’re considering adding social media to your media mix. We’d love to help you with that. However, while we’re planning that, you might be better off spending your time and money strengthening your existing digital presence.”

Here’s the thing – social media has the potential to be powerful, if used in the right situation, in the right way, with the right other tools. However, given that social media tactics occur largely online, if they’re successful they’re likely to drive people to your website. It may not be the end goal (which might be feet through the door of your physical store), but it’s a likely step along the way.

If your digital marketing isn’t up to scratch, your social media investment could be largely wasted.

Rather than (or, long-term, in addition to) fostering or developing an online community, I would rather we help a company to bring its main website up to scratch; to sort out their search engine optimization (SEO); or perhaps develop a useful email marketing program.

I would rather they invest money in the unglamorous foundation now rather than try, and fail, to turn things on their head with a social media program that drives people to a 1990’s-esque brochureware website. Fortunately, I work at a company with people who are talented at both social media and “traditional” digital marketing, so we have that option.

Of course, while this is happening, we have the opportunity to listen and learn about the conversations that are occurring online, and to plan an effective approach using some of these new tools about which I write so frequently.

Foundations first, then experimentation.

What do you think?

  • I don’t see it as an either/or proposition, at least not exclusively.

    Drawing on my own experience in my current position, I came on board when our association’s website was archaic. No CMS, confusing and scattered navigation and brutal design. Obviously the first priority was, as you say, to modernize the existing digital presence. However, part of that included rolling out some tools we’d consider part of SM (podcasts and RSS, for example).

    One thing we’re all guilty of (advocates and novices alike) is getting hung up on terms. Social media vs. traditional tools, for example. Frankly, who cares whether something is a social tool or not? If it meets a need, use it.

  • I agree with you. Social media has to fit into existing marketing strategies. It can’t become THE solution on its own. That smacks of panic to me.

  • Great post, Dave.

    As the cliche states, common sense is not that common. Too often, companies are quick to order the hardwood and granite counter tops before the concrete is dry.

    km

  • People are often so concerned about being left behind when it comes to ‘new marketing concepts’ that they forget to do the boring legwork. My concern is in the case of a one person small business where they are trying to do it all for low cost and by the time they get the boring stuff up and running, they’re already behind the times. Things are changing so fast that alliances need to be forged so that entrepreneurs can help each other stay ahead of the wave.

  • Oddly enough, I discussed the issue of how social media fits within your advertising strategy this morning. http://tinyurl.com/d7wfvz.

    When deploying social media, it is useful to consider what you call “fishbowl.” The goal is to target your audience within that fishbowl, not just swim in the fishbowl itself.

    I believe that a targeted conversation with your customers can build stronger relationships—but social media is only one part of the marketing plan. Just as you would coordinate radio, print, and television; you must coordinate your social media conversation with those other traditional mediums as well.

  • You make a very good point, Dave (you too, Ed…). There has to be a solid foundation.

    It feels like the recession has caused many people to examine their businesses from a fresh perspective. And as a result, more of them are asking about social media. While this may be an opportunity to hasten adoption, we can’t shy away from a solid (and appropriate) strategy.

  • Diana

    Dear Dave,

    This is a very interesting posting! As a PR student, I am being taught about the importance of using social media as part of organizational communication strategies. Social media seems to be the desired topic of conversation in the industry.

    I have to agree with you. Traditional digital marketing sets the foundation for an organization’s social media development. Websites are essential for the consistent communication of company values, goals and functions. An effective website creates a space for social media users to learn more about an organization. It can give them something to talk about.

    I think there is a dependent relationship between the two. Engaging in social media is becoming more and more useful, but it has to be in combination with digital marketing tools such as a company website. Ideally, both should be developed to complement each other.

    I take your point. Establishing a strong website presence before trying to foster an online community is pertinent. However, as social media grows, we see that this alone will not suffice.

  • This is so true–especially with many of our clients. Why work at social media to get people to your site if it isn’t appealing or a place customers find value in? Building an online marketing plan with social media in mind is more useful. Because we are a small consultancy that mainly focuses on Social Media, we go after businesses that already have somewhat of a decent online presence with an SEO and online marketing strategy. Social Media is only a part of the whole online strategy.

  • Talia Freilich

    I think this is a great post and a very interesting topic, especially as PR student learning about about the growing importance and usefulness of social media.
    As someone just getting into the industry, I think it is very important to know about the traditional ways of digital marketing as a benchmark to start from. From there we can choose to use other social media tools in addition to the basics, such as a strong website. In part, because I think that using traditional digital marketing is still key to touch audiences that may not otherwise use social media. I believe that a company’s online presence must start with a strong website, otherwise we may just get lost in the social media mix.

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  • Dave and Ed, I feel like you’re both inside my head. I work in the digital side of an international charity. It feels like all to often people are quick to jump onto the social media bandwagon without thinking about the whole experience. Social media is a lot about credibility and if you’re missing that on the back end then it’s likely to fail no matter how much time and energy is invested.

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