I had the opportunity this week to rub shoulders with some of the key figures in the digital media scene from Seattle and further afield at the in-nw 2013 conference (“Current and future landscape of social engagement”). I’m grateful to the team who run the University of Washington’s Master of Communication in Digital Media for allowing me to come along with them to the conference.
We heard some pretty impressive success stories from companies (Starbucks, Coca Cola, Toyota, EA Sports …) that have amassed millions of social media followers and developed new ways of engaging with their customers using digital tools. But, beyond the different examples of good practice, what struck me the most was the similarity in the dynamics that seem to be at play today across a wide range of sectors:
- Brands with their consumers and commercial partners
- Non-profit organizations with their funders and supporters
- Media outlets with their viewers, listeners and readers
- Sports teams with their fans and sponsors
- Political parties with their members and electors
- Governments with voters and the citizens they serve
Across all of these sectors, organizations increasingly see digital engagement as central to achieving their strategic objectives. Drawing from the presentations at in-nw 2013, here are ten key principles that seem to underpin successful digital engagement strategies:
- Be open (in the words of Chris Erb, VP of Brand Marketing at EA Sports, “… open the curtain and let people see who you are.”)
- Be honest (Steve Mallory, Director of Idea Startup at Edelman, advised organizations to win trust by telling their full story and not to leave out conflict, failures and tensions).
- Practice trans-media storytelling (find a core narrative that can be adapted across all of your offline and online platforms)
- Work with partners who can reinforce your key messages (Toyota established an interesting partnership with farmers markets and an outdoor clothing retailer to support the promotion of the Prius to active, environmentally aware families).
- Involve employees as ambassadors and spokespersons (both Toyota and Coca Cola have internal training programmes to encourage employees to use social media).
- Go mobile (for example, Starbucks has partnered with a company called Square to allow its customers to make purchases in its cafés using their smartphones and mobile devices).
- Use data about your target audiences’ preferences to provide messages and services tailored to their needs.
- Mainstream digital media throughout your organization, rather than regarding this as a specific function limited to one department.
- Use visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest to tell stories, and allow your audiences to interact and share their experiences via these platforms.
- Measure success by gathering and analyzing data on the impact of your digital media actions, as well as collecting stories about how digital media are helping your organization to achieve its business goals.
Which of these principles do you think is the most important? Are there other elements you would add to the list?