I‘ve been involved in digital strategy for well over a decade. That ranged, in the early days, from advise on website content to , more recently, social media strategy. Digital strategy is as welcome by new companies wanting to start off on the right foot to companies who’ve spent fortunes in traditional media communications and want to “get into this whole Internet thing”.
What almost all of them think is that a digital strategist is going to translate tech-speak wizardry for them and solve their technology problem. While there is a certain amount of understanding of technology that is required, the main thrust of digital strategy isn’t about the technology itself, but of the people that use it.
Social Media has been a big driver of so-called “digital strategy”. For the last 20 years people have been launching websites based on their sales or corporate communications needs. Basically store fronts and brochures. Over the last few years there has been an explosion of different types of sites for entertainment, communication, sharing, learning, teaching, networking, aggregating, creation, etc. all focused on users, many created out of the desire to build something cool rather than against a corporate business goal. There are plenty of blogs about the upside and the downside of this model but the upshot is that 1.9 billion people are now using these sites. The thing is, the technology is nothing new. Sharing, media, content creation, etc. has been available for as long as the Internet has been open to the public. What has changed is the scale and simplicity of the technology and the consumption.
If no one was sharing photos, blogging, rating products, buying timeshare, distance learning, planning their wedding, etc. there would be no need for a digital strategy. Companies could rely on what they’ve always been good at: broadcasting their message. But, that is SO very 90s. Anyone doing business online has to understand How people are using technology, When they’re using it, Why they’re using it, What they’re using and they need to know Who these people are. This is the job of the Digital Strategist. This requires an understanding of psychology, sociology, basic human behavior, emotion, desires, and of course the latest cool gadgets. Think of Digital Strategists as Behavioral Technologists, Socio-Digital Engineers, Human Factors Planners.
I was recently asked what college classes most significantly assisted my ability to do my job (I once told a class of sophomore graphic designers that the most important skill they could learn in college was writing). The questioner was surprised when I said “psychology and acting”. Understanding of the “human condition” and both basic and complex human behaviors is key in understanding how to market to real people. Acting classes helped me learn how to get into the head of a character.
Image by ISayx3.