If you’re engaged in the work of digital communications, think of this past year as one of discovery — and you as a Magellan, setting a course through still-murky and slightly mysterious waters. Mobile. Social. Review sites and blogs. And, of course the ever-present search engine that drives it all.
Believe it or not, there’s still much to discover. Even the captains of the ship — Google, Apple and Facebook — are forever tinkering and refining, finding ways to make more money by creating a better experience. That’s the beauty of digital — it is always about the experience. Not about the sell. Improve the result, get closer to what people want and your performance improves. Last year, I learned that digital communication — not marketing — is in fact an opportunity for each and every stage of business to benefit from that experience. Marketing is only one part — and may indeed be the smallest and least significant. It’s a part of a large, complex ecosystem empowered by the opportunity to reach people where they live, when they want to be spoken to and what they think of your enterprise. Smart companies can make people happy, learn from their mistakes, make better widgets and reach more people in a better way…all via digital channels.
My hope is that 2013 continues along the path set in 2012, that it becomes a year of integration within borders and across business lines, from strategic purpose to day-to-day activities. Search people need to work with social folks in leveraging Twitter. Site designers must become mobile designers and all absolutely, positively must share and collabroate across borders. At the same time, my hope is that professionals who work at digital aims do so with a healthy dose of skepticism. Put away the useless social media trick ponies like Klout, and ask hard questions about how your company can best utilize platforms like Pinterest and MySpace, among others. It pays to remember that we as marketing and communications professionals are welcomed guests on many of these spaces, there to fill a need and no more. If your mobile site doesn’t deliver a clean, prioritized experience — fix it. If your content doesn’t provide valuable information without the sales pitch — can it until it does.
If we just listen to what they tell us, it’s easy to give the people what they want. And once that happens, it’s possible to make digital live up to what it can be, a part of the total business — a two-way channel to leverage in the manufacture, sales and support of products and services.
Because that’s all it is — and as great as it is — at the same time.