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Why I Say “Digital First”

Digital First

I’ve worked within many disciplines of marketing. Each and every one has merit, all depending on what the brand is setting out to accomplish through marketing.

It’s not a contest, but many professionals sure are trying to make it into one.

When I decided to focus 100% on digital, the majority of my peers in the traditional advertising and public relations industry tried to convince me that I’d better set my mind to making my transition a temporary one.

Why?

Because they were convinced that traditional marketing would catch up, and when it (meaning they) did, my specific line of business (“digital marketing”), wouldn’t be considered a separate discipline for more than a couple of years.

“Enjoy it while it lasts,” they said.

The Digital Gap Is Increasing

Now, depending on where you’d place the starting marker, I’d say we’re well over five years into the complete professionalisation of digital marketing. And traditional marketers… hasn’t really caught up yet. In fact, more often, they aren’t even close. Instead, the gap is wider than ever.

And this is quite in order; digital marketing is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. As soon as you stumble upon something new, yet another endless abyss of potential knowledge opens up under your feet.

A few examples from the top of my head:

  1. Multiple consumer touchpoints. The constantly emerging complexity of inbound and outbound SEO, SEM and SMO and what happens when penguins and Google authorships re-writes all known maps.
  2. Tracking consumer behaviour. Big data acquisition and statistical social media analysis, cross-referenced to the vast seas of internally generated data sets.
  3. Branded journalism. The challenges with producing multimedia communication fast, cheap and how to seed it.
  4. Online retention and loyalty. The explosive importance of inbound marketing in general and content marketing in particular.
  5. New media logic. A whole new body of knowledge on how to work with influencers who aren’t driven by reporting someone else’s news. And being relevant in a time when everyone has access to their own printing presses.
  6. Permission marketing. The mechanics of e-commerce fuelled by list-building and socially sparked email send-outs, a complete and total shift from chronological to event-based communication cycles.
  7. In-depth testing. The fascinating and never-ending science that is on-site conversion, with everything from eye-movement analysis and A/B-testing to advanced social psychology insights driving how we optimise online communication.
  8. Marketing-as-a-Service). Moving from “marketing as fireworks” to MaaS (Marketing as a Service).
  9. The Money Web. How the Hippie Web is quickly being replaced by a more exclusive and transactional Money Web.
  10. Cross-functional teams. Working closely together with coders, programmers, art directors, interaction designers and big data engineers, incorporating them into the strategic communication process.

This Is The New Business Unusual

Now, I hate to say it, but traditional marketing doesn’t just “absorb” all of this during business as usual. This is, to paraphrase Henriette Weber, business unusual. And, so what is in fact happening?

Boom. Instead of seeing digital marketing specialists disappear, they constantly get better positions within companies. and they start new innovative agencies.

Boom. I’ve helped several start-ups to recruit marketing specialists. And what main competence do they want for their first hire? Digital marketing specialists, hands down.

Boom. If you’re doing a campaign today, who does company want to establish the strategy? More and more, digital. Why?

Because, if you look at the simplified model below, if it works in digital, it’s easy to make it work elsewhere as well. Digital is the best representation of how communication flows through a society that we have to date.

socialmedia

Because digital is what moves people’s perception of the world the fastest. It has taken over as our primary outlet for both information absorption and multi-level dialogue.

So, what does all of this mean?

Digital First

As I said, it’s not a contest. All types of marketing has merit; it all comes down to what you’re trying to achieve. But in case you haven’t noticed—digital marketing is not a fad.

Remember that the day your Head of Marketing knows more about digital than anyone else in the Marketing Department, because that’s simply why she or he got the job in the first place. Or, remember that the day your traditional marketing agency is being sold to a powerful international network of digital agencies.

It was never about what role digital marketing should play in traditional marketing. It was always the other way around.

Some related reading:

http://gigaom.com/2012/10/09/digital-first-isnt-an-option-for-media-its-the-only-way-forward/
http://www.guardian.co.uk/gnm-press-office/guardian-news-media-digital-first-organisation
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/jan/21/financial-times-digital-first
http://buzzmachine.com/2011/09/07/digital-first-indeed/
http://jxpaton.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/digital-first-the-next-step/
http://gigaom.com/2011/11/21/the-future-of-news-and-why-digital-first-matters/
http://gigaom.com/2010/12/02/for-newspapers-the-future-is-now-digital-must-be-first/
http://www.inma.org/blogs/integrated-advertising-sales/post.cfm/so-what-soes-digital-first-really-mean

Image credit: Infocux Technologies

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PS. You want to download a secret workbook on how to create social media strategies in a few easy-to-implement steps? Based on my expertise from being a PR professional and a digital strategist for 10+ years, I’ve put together a free guide that will take you to the process of creating a social media strategy, step by step, action by action. Learn more here.

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The Writer:

As the author of Doctor Spin, Jerry's passionate about online promotion, persuasion and public relations. Outside of blogging, he runs the specialist PR agency, Spin Factory, as well as the national e-learning academy, PR of Sweden. Jerry lives in Stockholm with his wife Lisah and his son Jack. Click here to subscribe to Jerry's updates!

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