We all love a good browse through the internet. So it comes as no surprise that Internet use has been on the increase in recent years, with a record high of 3.58 billion internet users worldwide this past year (statista.com 2017). Smartphones lend explanation to sky rocketing internet use, having given people more convenience to use the internet throughout the day – we have only to think of ourselves, and how frequently we check our own smartphones!
The web has been called “the most important communication revolution in human history” (Meerman, 2013, p26). With that in mind it’s hard to believe that “50% of businesses don’t have an integrated Digital Marketing Strategy” (Smartinsights.com). So, it seems there may be some kind of phobia around having or creating a digital presence for businesses. But, never fear! There is nothing to be afraid of, as you’ll see while we walk through this beginners guide on getting started on creating a digital strategy.
What is a digital strategy?
We can think about a digital strategy as “a series of actions” carried out to achieve “particular objectives” using technology as an asset to allow for new business avenue or maintain a “competitive edge” (Mithas and Henry, 2010, p4). This might be, for instance, to generate more visits to your site and further brand awareness.
Why is a digital strategy so important?
As we’ve discussed, the world is becoming more and more digitized, so it’s more relevant than ever that your organization has an online presence and is visible to the online world (Preece, 2001 p4). Besides this, there are so many benefits to a digital strategy…
- Cost effective – reduces overhead fees (McGinnity, 2016), we can look to Amazon for reference, who have eliminated the costs of running individual stores in varying locations
- Delivers “relevant messages more precisely” (Plummer et al, 2007, p7) to costumers through gathering behavioural data – for example, how long they interact with a product, clicks, logins and time spent on a site (Plummer et al, 2007 p7)
- Allows for further market research (Li and Bernoff, 2011, p34) – for example, through building communities to listen to, and helps in influencing target audiences.
- “If you’re not on the internet, you don’t exist!” (Preece, 2001, p6)
With more and more people flocking to the web, digital strategy is ever more important. As Li and Bernoff (2011) point out, there is a “social trend” wherein people are using technologies “to get the things they need from one another rather than traditional institutions like corporations” (p33), this might be through sites like EBay, Etsy or Amazon. So, it’s vital that organizations attempt to intercept this trend and develop a solid plan (Chaffey and Smith 2013, p6).
But where do I start?
A great start to understanding strategy is an article by “Michael E.Porter – What is Strategy”. Once you’ve given that a read, we’re ready to move onto the planning process: Chaffey and Smith (2013, p25) have set out 6 stages which can help us keep on track with the planning process. When selecting your objectives, Chaffey and Smith have supplied some additional tips. Think about the “5s’s”:
- Sell – “using the internet as a sales tool”
- Serve – “using the internet as a customer- service tool”
- Speak – “using the internet as a communication tool”
- Save – “using the internet for cost reduction”
- sizzle – “using the internet as a brand- building tool”
(Chaffey and Smith, 2013, p43)
Exploring Digital Strategy
Creating social media accounts such as a Facebook and Twitter pages are some great first steps to take once you have considered the above plan. It may help in giving a more perceived value to your organization, with many organizations using social media in order to “build advocates” and “engage with communities” (Waddington, 2012, p61)
it’s important to remember that while a digital strategy carried out on social media can be a great way to measure success, it’s not without its potential issues. It can damage a company’s reputation (Chaffey, 2013, p267); we only have to think of the gaffs made by Dove (2017) and McDonalds (2017). Have a read through some of the Do’s and Don’ts of Social media and how to handle your accounts. It may help you avoid some nasty backlash!
You should also consider constructing/redesigning your website; this can be used as a direct one-way communication method. It’s important, at this point, that you position your site properly; who do you want to talk to? And how can you reflect this in usability/content/design of your site (Drayton, 2007, p155). This will insure success in your websites reach, and will allow you to monitor website traffic and impressions (Plummer et al, 2007, p41). Here are some tips to get you started with your website: 5 Steps to Designing A Great Company Website.
Once you’ve given all the above ideas some thought and narrowed it down, be sure to focus to make sure it turns out a success. While the digital word may seem overwhelming and challenging, it can really boost your organization and place you on the map, so to speak. Give it a go, it’s a learning process, we’re all constantly developing our skills in the fast paced digital world. You never know, you might enjoy it! The exciting digital world gives us a chance to connect with people, explore and develop. Welcome the challenge.
Griana Fox is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/griana-fox-a7561a11b, and on Facebook @ Griana Fox.