How to Develop Your Digital Strategy
Macala Wright is the head of digital innovation and strategy at Group Partners. She’s been featured in The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and Bloomberg Businessweek. You can follow her @Macala or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Constructing digital strategies on behalf of clients makes one thing clear: Clients are often confused about what digital strategy is and how to actually develop one.
When defining and developing strategy, marketers and agencies must ensure that their clients understand that strategy follows structure, it follows people, and it follows an idea. Second, they must make sure that clients get that profit and ROI are outcomes, not the strategy itself. If you’re wondering what developing such a strategy looks like, here are the key steps.
Plan and Assess
First you have to define what you’re hoping to achieve for your brand, product, or service. To get started, you must take stock of all aspects of a brand, and break this information down by location, age, and value. Felicia Sullivan who heads up innovation at Attention USA says you should start by analyzing the following five factors:
1. Presence: Measure of the brand’s social footprint
2. Influence: Branded message adoption
3. Perception: Emotional reaction to the brand
4. Virality: People organically participating in conversations
5. Resonance: Reaction to the overall conversation about the brand
Once you’ve assessed the brand’s current equity, you must segment your target customers. Customer segmentation allows marketers to connect social to all customer touch points and identify what motivates a brand’s core consumers in an omni-channel environment.
Create and Launch
After you have assessed your current position and taken stock of consumer sentiment and perception, it’s time to formulate your message. When formulating your message ask yourself:
1. What is the story telling my target customer?
2. Why does my target customer care about this story?
3. What sort of emotions does my story evoke?
4. How does my story connect to the emotional needs of my target customer?
5. How will that story incite action on behalf of my brand, product, and service?
The resulting narrative enables the use of social channels as a means to convey a product, service, or brand’s benefits. Brand stories are what drive interactions with our customers.
Choose the Right Platforms
During the creation phase, you’ll decide what platforms and technology makes sense to leverage in your digital strategy. It’s important to consider your audience, both in terms of age, geographic location, and lifestyle. As your target consumer base varies, technologies and social networks you utilize to reach them will vary, too.
Let’s say that you’re a retailer and based on your research and planning, you’ve discovered that YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and a variety of social retail oriented platforms such as Pinterest or Fancy will help your reach your brand’s target audience. You’ve also discovered that more than one third of the activity surrounding your brand is based on your target consumer’s mobile behavior. You’d want to define the experience that consumers will have with your brand’s products by channel, across multiple platforms, based on their behavior patterns. To do this, you must ask yourself:
1. How do my customers seek information about my product, service, or brand?
2. What social platforms do they favor?
3. What’s the purpose of the social platforms and technology we’ve chosen to use?
4. How do these mediums play into our mobile strategy?
5. What is going to differentiate me from my competitors?
Creating key performance indicators (KPIs) by channel, across platforms, is extremely important during this phase. In order to be able to estimate your brand’s expected return per channel — whether it is awareness, engagement or online sales — is extremely important as well. That said, be realistic in your expectations.
Engage and Cultivate
In order to be successful, you’re going to have to be consistent and realistic. By creating a consistent presence across major platforms, you’ll ensure that you’re on track to meet the KPIs you set for yourself in the development phases. Consistent execution includes the following steps:
1. Build an Engagement Timeline: Create a calendar that shows your brand’s marketing efforts across the channels you are leveraging in your marketing programs. Use it for benchmarks related to your digital strategy.
Jon Fahrner, CEO of Bumebox, a social engagement platform, suggests that brands ought to approach their communities with the goal to engage their personal lives and experience. He says, it’s very important to go with the grain of human behavior and not to invent social marketing gauntlets that put up walls, increase friction, and decrease participation.
In terms of engagement, if your digital strategy includes influencer outreach, services like Group High and Traackr will allow you to research bloggers and influencers related to your product, service, or brand based on that person’s individual relevance and resonance to your company online. Influencers are becoming a critical part of the digital market success as we move towards the new marketing models that make up social commerce and consumer experience.
Measure and Evaluate
The ultimate goal of engagement is to create a feedback loop that allows you to meet the goals you set forth in the strategy development phase. In order to be successful, you must continually evaluate and alter your digital strategy based on the information that you gain from your campaigns and digital initiatives. As marketers, it’s important that we measure everything.
Throughout every campaign, you must also utilize social listening tools to get insights into campaign performance, variances in brand health, and language cues that are indicative of purchase intent and overall brand performance.
Tools such as Spredfast, Radian 6 or Relevvant are key to monitoring your successes. If you’re looking for more cost-effective tools, then Sprout Social, Xaffo, and Tweetreach also provide social data.
These days, qualifying and quantifying the value of social media for your business isn’t rocket science. All it takes is a little investment of time in order to learn how to properly leverage tools at your disposal.
Continual evaluation of your strategy will ensure future effectiveness in your digital marketing efforts. Evaluations also provide information that will allow marketing and PR professionals within your company to better deliver results in future efforts.