This one’s tricky. As a digital strategist, I ask myself this question all the time and have almost too much of a hard time explaining it when asked.
The truth is that digital strategy is fairly intangible.
It’s a combination of experience rooted in many different fields and it means balancing those fields to meet your goals.
To be a digital strategist is to be well versed, even at a high level, in both the social nature of our online world, as well as the technologies that power it – and I’m not just talking the websites our audiences use. Behind the scenes is a combination of software and hardware, the underlying technologies that let us build apps, create websites and ultimately make our online lives move. These technologies evolve before our eyes and whether it’s Responsive Design, HTML5 or the upcoming iPhone 5, knowing the emerging capabilities at your disposal is a key cog in the digital strategy machine, and a ticket to long-term planning for your clients.
How does a digital strategist begin? It starts with research, continues with, well, simply, thinking through the possibilities – all the way to the end. That means to the point that YOU the user interact with it, and yes, you are also a user. This is how we can truly feel comfortable that a digital idea is worth the investment we make in it.
You don’t create a Facebook page because you want to be on Facebook, you can’t just create an app because you want to reach mobile and you most definitely should not decide what you think people want. We are driven by data. The billions and billions of conversations online – comments, forums, blog posts, news, Tweets are our direct line into the pulse of nearly any audience – most particularly in healthcare, with the majority of internet users now discussing and researching their health info online. Along with the data, a sound digital strategy should compliment traditional communications efforts – whether they are press releases, article placements or print ads.
Frequently, I see the role of a digital strategist being defined within the confines of marketing. To me, this silo-ed definition diminishes the roles and responsibilities of a true digital strategist, which effectively span the fields of public relations, marketing and advertising all at once. Each field individually serves it’s own purpose, but all of these fields need to be coordinated under the direction of a digital strategist.
What is key is that a digital strategist must be capable of evolving as digital and social media trends/tools change, be cross-functional across the different fields of internal and external communication and be the red thread of connectivity between them all.
There are a whole bunch of articles written on this topic and I just wanted to note two things I’ve seen that I would dispute:
- Digital Strategy is not about laying out a plan and letting others execute. The strategist is just as much a part of the implementation of any initiative, as they are the planning strategy. We are the tie that binds a multi-disciplinary team together, which means we have our hands in everything from development to ongoing management. A digital strategist that does not think through, or is not invested in the implementation of a campaign, cannot be a true digital strategist. To truly create a successful campaign, commitment is paramount.
- Digital strategy is not just about “helping individuals and organizations achieve their marketing goals using digital media.” (Source; http://www.quora.com/What-does-a-digital-strategist-do); This one way approach will doom you in the social world. It’s not only what your clients want, but what your audience wants and needs.