Digital doctor: ask the expert

IAM’s new digital advice columnist, Cat Leaver, answers your questions

Dear Cat,

I’m an artist manager in charge of a small agency. I’ve just taken on an exciting young conductor and want to make sure a fun and inventive social media presence is an important part of her overall management. The trouble is, I don’t know how to use Instagram, let alone know the difference between a RT and a MT. Where do I begin? Should I tweet on behalf of my artist, or is her individual voice important in gathering followers, and in turn, listeners? What platforms should my artist be on? With limited resources and time, should I focus my energy on one or two rather than all of them?

AA

Firstly you need to ensure you have at least a basic understanding of the digital landscape. You certainly can’t manage someone else’s digital presence if you don’t understand the strategic decisions, channels, best practice and behind them yourself.

Begin by investing in you. Digital is not a fleeting movement, it is here to stay, so you need to make sure you’re part of it and not left behind. Set the time and resources aside to ensure you upskill. This should involve a combination of research into industry and consumer trends and professional training. Where possible bring people in around you whose strengths compliment areas in which you may lack.

There are a number of free online resources to help you upskill in the comfort of your own home or office, such as tutorial videos on YouTube, industry leading blogs and downloadable reports. Make the most of these to get to grips with the basics without having to shell out for expensive courses. For example, a few resources I utilise to keep on top of the constantly shifting digital environment are Econsultancy and author Avinash Kaushik’s reputable blog.

However, to take you beyond the basics and make sure you’re doing all the right things online, some introductory training can be hugely beneficial. Training is a cost-effective, immediate and future-friendly solution for transferring the necessary skills to you and your team. Nowadays, digital marketing is an essential part of the marketing toolkit and by grasping these skills you will open yourself and your organisation up to fantastic new opportunities to expand your audience and generate an engaged online community.

Professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) offer CPD courses in digital marketing to help you get to grips with the best practice, techniques and tools. These courses are reputable and informative but they come at a price. Alternatively, you can research digital agencies who you feel have a breadth of experience in digital marketing and strategy, as CPD training offered by agencies will tend to be more competitive in pricing and allow for more than one member of staff to attend. For example here at AD we charge half-a-day’s training at GBP337.50 (€393.83) – and you can bring up to five staff members for each tailored session.

Another option is distance learning. The Digital Marketing Institute offers professional diplomas and training in digital marketing in a number of formats to best suit your needs, such as full-time or part-time courses and online learning.

Social media presents an unparalleled platform for enhancing the personalisation, frequency and reach of communications, and so is the perfect channel to project your talented young conductor’s voice into the public domain.

However, if your conductor can’t commit to a consistent and engaging social media presence, then you will need to step in and support her. That said, a word of warning: acting on behalf of an individual user on social media (for example, tweeting for your conductor) always runs the risk of coming off as disingenuous and somewhat commercial, no matter how convincing you are at imitating the individual. People follow high-profile individuals, celebrities and influential characters on social media due to the perceived personal insight they gain into their lives. They wish to connect with people whose viewpoints and interests align with their own – and it’s from this connection they expect to ascertain value. By tweeting on someone’s behalf, you potentially dilute the experience. Your conductor’s unique and personable voice is what will make her stand apart and earn online ‘fans’. So, your job is to make the most of this and oversee management only where needed.

Initially, you must establish a snapshot of the digital landscape you wish to join. Benchmark the activity of those similar to you / your conductor to discover opportunities and find out who is saying what and where.This, as well as a review of Google Analytics and social media insights, will help you to identify which channels are most relevant to the audiences you wish to reach. It will also help you see where those with an existing interest in your conductor / market already ‘hang out’. This research process will also help inform you on all the latest ‘hot topics’ and conversations in which your conductor can become a valued participant.

It is important to avoid using social media simply to broadcast information. Instead these digital channels should be used to make unique and individual connections, build relationships and an online community, and partake in real-time, relevant conversations. Your conductor and you should share content that adds to existing and new conversations, without necessarily always relating directly to the conductor / your organisation (so avoiding always posting promotional or marketing messages).

With social media it is all about quality over quantity. So,don’t stretch yourself thin. Invest in a select number of channels (this may be just one) that engage your audiences efficiently and use them properly. Once you’ve selected where to build your conductor’s social media presence you need to maintain a proactive, responsive and up-to-date account in order to encourage ongoing interaction. There’s not much worse than visiting a social media account only to see sporadic activity or abandoned accounts – it suggests a lazy and disinterested demeanour – not a particularly attractive trait for a supposedly influential and respected public figure.

Cat Leaver is marketing manager at Alienation Digital, which recently won Best Digital Agency 2013 at the ScotlandIs Digital Technology Awards. AD has offices in London and Glasgow, and a presence in Vancouver. 

Got a question for Cat? Email her direct catriona.leaver@alienationdigital.co.uk or contact the IAM team and we’ll pass it on.

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