The Myths of Online Strategy

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What are the myths concerning digital / online strategy, and how are they affecting our ability to innovate?

I picked out seven of them as preparation for a presentation on Thursday. And added them below.

    Myth 1: Formats are predetermined

    In traditional media communication companies need to re-articulate their value proposition in order to fit into available formats. Online this mindset is obsolete; we tailor formats to best accommodate the company’s value proposition. Tom Himpe writes in his book Advertising Next:

    “Advertising’s hunger for impact explains the heavy usage of cliches and jokes throughout its history. The reason is simple: clichés allow immediate recognition and require little exposition; jokes are short and can get a point across very effectively. It is rare for advertisers to construct deeper, more meaningful stories, as time is simply not on their side” – Advertising Next, Tom Himpe

      To put it short: Digital offers both the flexibility in format, time and opportunity to build relationships that companies need in order to connect with people through a rich, deep, meaningful value proposition.

      Myth 2: The Internet is extremely complex

      The Internet is not complex; it’s the same. The same business challenges, the same customers, the same competitors and the same products (to a large extent). The problem arises when companies who should be thinking in terms of business challenges and opportunities start discussing the granularities of the digital platform – at a cost to discussing the strategy. (“we need to be on Facebook” rather than “we need to make sure every subscriber gets daily or weekly value from his subscription, we need to give them a reason never to leave …”).

      Myth 3: Brands are evil

      People don’t share stuff because they notice it; they share stuff because it’s valuable. Companies are experiencing that the change from buying attention in the traditional media landscape to earning attention through valuable content completely changes their role and motivation in their interaction and participation with customers. Brands now understand that the reward from offering genuine value is a much more valuable long-term strategy than buying short-term customer exposure. In order to achieve this, companies need to offer transparent, real and relevant value.

      Myth 4: It’s an information storage unit

      Online information can be stored in unlimited amounts. But the Internet in its current format is not a good place to read stuff, it is in fact the worst place to read stuff, both in regards to the illumination and size of the screen, the latter especially on smaller devices and the situations where it is used (increasing amounts of impatiens and immediacy). The Internet is more an actions platform, for doing stuff, for applications and tasks – something becoming clearer and clearer as we are moving into services and tools, away from the “searchable Internet”.

      Myth 5: It’s a direct sales platform

      Sure it is. It is an online store open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, available from anywhere in the world. But this is not the only important aspect of the Internet. Looking at how technology is being adopted and integrated into peoples’ lives, online is increasingly turning into a relationship platform. Which is a good thing as it supports to a far greater degree the idea that people are much more important owning and using a product than thinking about buying it.

      Myth 6: It’s about people

      It is, but remember that it’s first and foremost about you (the company) building a strategy to get what and where you want. Fresh research is finding that to many companies are investing in online activities based on peoples’ needs and wants, not their own business models. The result is that the online investment is being viewed as a cost, not a business advantage. And why would a company want to invest more money in something being perceived as a cost? If your digital strategy doesn’t offer new business opportunities it is destined to stagnate.

      Myth 7: Measure success with Google Analytics

      Google Analytics does a great job at measuring the distribution of people through a network. But the ease of measuring traffic also offers us the possible disservice of designing for the stuff that is easiest to track. In the words of Jon Steel:

        “I also think we should be angered by the accountability mindset that means we are making more and more decisions based on what can be measured rather than what’s really important.” – Jon Steel

      Google analytics only visualizes one set of values generated by the website – and unless your in the business of direct sales this is not the most important one.

      Image by: David Erickson

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