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Executing a Digital Strategy

November 27th, 2009

dsSo you’ve started getting your strategy together, figured out who your audience is, where they live online and what your target metrics are. Now what? How do you go about actually getting your message to your customers, and more importantly, how do you engage them in a way that is relevant to them.

One of the most lucid examples of this process I’ve come across in my travels is a method called 2(MCE). That’s a geeky mathematical way of saying “Monitor, Measure, Create, Communicate, Engage, Empower.”

Monitor: First things first. You have to know what the current state of your brand is. At it’s simplest, it’s setting up Google Alerts to ping you whenever your brand (and probably, your competitors’ brands) are mentioned online. If you have the money and know-how, you can also use monitoring tools like BuzzMetrics or Radian6 to paint a better picture.

Know where you currently stand. Are you being mentioned in a positive or negative light? What are the key messages from your audience? What success stories can you build upon? What issues do you need to address? What are your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses?

If you have an MBA or have been in strategic planning sessions, you may recognize the above as a process similar to SWOT Analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths / Weaknesses / Opportunities / Threats . Strengths and Weaknesses are internal to your organization. Opportunities and Threats are external. Strengths + Opportunities = huge possibilities. Weaknesses + Threats = immediate action needed. Of course, SWOT is *much* more than that, but this is the jist of it.

This is also a great opportunity to find out where your audience lives online. What kinds of sites are generating the most content? What’s around the mentions of your brand? What is relevant to your audience? Does it jive with what you expected? If not… you may want to re-examine your assumptions.

Measure: Look again at the metrics you are going to track. How will you know when you’ve successfully executed your strategy. What measures need to tick up? What measures need to tick down? Establish your baseline. Know how you’re currently performing, otherwise you won’t be able to see any trends.

Another key point about measurement is establishing your timeframe. I recently had someone contact me via email asking how they could re-arrange the products they sell on their site to see a significant and measurable increase in sales within one month. I’m sure it’s possible, but I also think it would be either a fluke, or a short-term gain. To have a significant, long-term and measurable impact on sales via online channels, you have to take a significant and long-term approach to strategy. Quick fixes and quick measurements may lead to quick results, but perhaps at the cost of long term loyalty, trust and engagement.

Create: This is probably the most difficult part. Creating the content that your customers will find relevant. Hopefully, knowing what they already find relevant is helpful. Your research in the ‘Monitor’ step should give you a good indication of what kinds of sites and what kind of content elicits the responses from your customers you desire. Some possibilities (though these are just abstract examples):

There are many other types of content you could publish. It all comes out of your research earlier on.

Communicate: “If you build it… they will come.” Right? Umm, no. With billions and billions of web pages out there, how would anyone know that you have content specifically relevant to what they are looking for? You have to communicate that the content is there. Luckily, this step is easier that it sounds. You don’t have to take out thousands of ads on other sites, radio and tv spots. Not even word of mouth.

The easiest and most effective way it to go back to your monitoring homework, look at where your audience is, and meet them there. Make the URL of your site part of your signature. Post a link to your content on Twitter. Use a Facebook Fan Page to link to your content. Use the LinkedIn account of your employees (with their permission, of course) to broadcast your new, relevant content… and of course, engage your customers where they are. Which leads us to…

Engage: You know where they are and what they are talking about. Respond! If you see a question about your product or your industry, respond publicly. If you see positive mentions, thank the person publicly. If you see a negative comment, respond the the person publicly and humanly (i.e., not PR spin), and if you can, offer to make it right.

Make sure every response comes from a real, live human being with a real name and real account. Their signature should have their name, the company they work for (yours), their title, the web address, any any social media contact info from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

(Caveat: Others may argue with me, but I believe that the Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn account need to be the ‘professional’ accounts of these employees. If they choose to have a separate private account, that’s fine. But the Facebook and Twitter accounts that are linked in the sig to responses representing the company should not have anything that could put the company in a bad light.)

The ideal response to any of the above would be a short response, followed by a link back to your site to the relevant content that addresses the customer’s comment. If you make the text preceding the link and the text within the link relevant to what the issue is, you will have performed a better job of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) than any company you could pay to fiddle with keywords and tags.

Of course, if you don’t have content on your site that will address the issues and questions raised by your customers on other sites… CREATE IT! There’s free market research for you!

Empower: Now that you have driven users to your site, you don’t want them going away. You don’t want them going back to the original sites you found them to carry on the conversation. You want them to start congregating on your site, talking about your products and your services (and other company’s products and services) in a forum that you can monitor, measure and react to instantly… and with your logo on every page.

That means you have to provide the means to for users to continue the conversation. Forums, support areas, product information, and a list of *real* contacts for people to ask questions and receive responses. Empower users to engage with your company, evangelize your products and services, and eventually, even moderate the forums. If you want people to register (a great way to get a handle on demographics), give them a benefit.

DO NOT make people register just to post and engage. You will drive away too many potential users by throwing hurdles in the way. But a real benefit such as occasional sneak previews via email, or special coupon codes are just enough to get people to register.

There you have it. Taking a digital strategy, and using simple tools to figure out what to execute and how to drive visitors to your site. Good luck, and feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions:  silu.modi@digitalstrategist.ca

Categories: Strategy
  1. November 28th, 2009 at 12:49 | #1

    Great list of action items to help execute a digital strategy. Thank you for the shout out.

    Lauren Vargas
    Community Manager at Radian6

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