Monday, July 30, 2007

figuring out digital

Liquid communication [via planning from the outside] - flowing through media and around people rather than at them.

I've been thinking about digital lately > what is it about this medium that is so catchy? And no, the answer isn't social networking. Social networking is just one opportunity of many that that digital sphere makes possible.

At Influx, Ed Cotton says, "Brands seem so enamored with their own self importance and insist on building social network destinations, but is that what consumers want?"

No one really understands digital movement: how consumers/people/users navigate this evolving space. It's hard to put your finger on > why exactly I click on the links I do or rather how I map my way online. Let's think about it: The nature/DNA of the net is to provide information. Information can either validate or provoke. The nature of communications strategy is to find a way into a consumer's mind. Entering the digital sphere, a strategy needs to inspire the creative packaging of information targeted to an identified audience. Now, the hard part is figuring out where this audience is.

Cotton suggests hiring ethnographers to help us here > good idea. But let's think about our own internet usage: the sites we visit are innumerable and fluctuate on a daily basis. What holds us to certain sites is their ability to educate and engage. A site earns its goldstar if we bookmark it or add it to our toolbar. This can be a digital goal, but the strategy for achieving it needs to address communication in liquid form, as I'm inspired to do from Mark Lewis.


ashley.brown said...

Hi Erin,

The subject you've discussed here in terms of understanding the digital space and the best way to engage with audiences is a fundamental consideration for both planners and more importantly brands (and their budgets) as they try to work out why digital media is such a phenomenal medium and secondly how they can harness it to their advantage.

It's interesting you mention that social networking is not the answer when it comes to explaining why digital is so catchy; however in the current status quo I believe in many ways it is the answer.

In my opinion social networking emanates many of the important elements of the digital arena, and with sites such as Facebook opening itself up to user created applications/widgets, social networking is embracing all the core elements of Web 2.0 as well.

I think the 'Holy Grail' for digital planners is to work out what combination of digital media should be put on a plan so that maximum attention and consequently engagement is achieved by the user/consumer.

I see Facebook’s organic growth develop in such a way that (as long as it doesn't get shut down!!) it will soon become a one stop shop for all of one's social media needs. This will be achieved by the continued collaboration with established web properties such as Trip Advisor and Flikr.

Your point about engagement is key for a planner in the current digital space. I think as more people become internet savvy they are increasingly less susceptible to traditional display media. As a result it is the planner’s job to think of creative ways to engage the audience. You mention the need to 'package' a product in a creative way which is evident in the many excellent viral campaigns that are out there. 'Creative packaging' however can back fire if a brand is trying to position itself in a social network where they are leaving themselves open to attack from all sides if they do not respect the unspoken etiquette that is involved in this environment. I think the 'creative packaging' that is involved if brands are looking for engagement here, is a much more honest approach that pulls rather than pushes the consumer into engaging with the brand.

I believe it is possible for brands to both educate and engage, but perhaps using a social network to experiment with this is a risky strategy. On the flipside however, if the creativity can strike the right balance between engagement and passiveness then communicating with users where they feel safe and secure such as a social network, could be the best place for promoting a suitable brand and it’s product.

Greg said...

Digital seems to be a bit of a buzzword more than it has been in for some time.

I'm in a bit of a disagreement with Ashley.

Being the dork I am, I always scoffed and laughed as old world economy tried to translate to online models; subscriptions, pay content, control. People looking to get rich online always had hookie ideas, "I'll build websites for people!". Being the Business 2.0 guy I was, the most applicable thing a can honestly say about the internet is why pay for something you can get free?

The boom of mass storage and bandwidth really allowed the so-called Web 2.0, so service oriented sites like the ever popular social networking services, picture hosting and so forth could storage Petabytes of useless crap.

Packaging isn't what sells a site, there have been plenty o' social sites prior, its just the functionality. Previous services Trev used had Myspaceish features, but just weren't quite the same. Myspace allowed users to muck up their personal pages more, and virtually unlimited photos post pictures. Facebook tracked college classes, which made its entire reason for being. Facebook wasn't packaged better, (although its much more aesthetically pleasing) it provided a service.

I had an argument about a teacher freshman year, being arrogant as I was content won out of design. I had a crappy PSX cheats site that literally was getting 100,000 unique visitors monthly. There were other sites that had prettier and better laid out sites. My site just had the content and the good fortune of a prominent Yahoo listing (everyone forgets pre-Google days before it was an adjective).

So its service/content over design as I see it. There isn't enough time usually to brand without providing anything. Internet trends move at lightning speed and its still most online trends start at root by a small upstart only to be purchased down the road.

I question how far the web 2.0 pandemic can be stretched as people only have so much time to participate and people only have so much tolerance for amateurs. The great fuel of this whole thing is essentially people really fucking love to talk about themselves and everyone else to listen. Bring that into a nice business model that isn't like anything else out there (not a half assed social network site) in some original way, and you have the next potential internet trend.

And for a bit of irony, this is the same guy looking at uDub's visual communication major.

Daniel Mejia said...

Hi Erin, thanks for your comment over my blog. I found yours very interesting, definetly a good conversation is going on around here.

You don´t look as many other junior planners I have found around the plannersphere, your thoughts are really well constructed and very insightful. You have the spark...

I´ll keep reading your feed and be sure that I´ll love to exchange some thoughts with you.