Author - Rachel Everett

The Keys to Driving Successful Digital Transformation

The terms “Digital Workplace” and “Digital Transformation” swirl so prominently in the corporate air these days that it is hard to go a day without hearing them, if not inhaling them. In a recent study conducted by IDG Research for Unisys, nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents stated that it is “highly important” for their organizations to implement digital business over the next 12 months by substantially modifying their technology as well as their IT processes and resources. The survey identified five key priority areas: mobile application development, cloud deployment, social media, data science, and security.

Digital business transformation requires an experimental mindset that is inclusive of the entire business—marketing, sales, services, IT, R&D, and customer and partner communities. Unfortunately, many companies still cling to a vertically oriented, bureaucratic, hierarchical system of operations and governance, essentially the calcified spine of an operational model that once propelled progress but now erects roadblocks to change. Large companies therefore lack the single most important attribute required for successful digital transformation: adaptability. I believe that a lateral, rather than vertical, orientation must form the basis of a new business model that ignites creativity instead of inhibiting it. I will explore aspects of this model in detail below. First, however, let’s examine the central elements of successful digital transformation.

Keys to Digital Transformation:

1. Make Customer Experience (CX) the top driver of digital transformation. Digital Transformation analyst Brian Solis notes that, “Companies that don’t grasp or internalize the customer journey are obstructed from seeing its potential for optimization and innovation.” In far too many cases, IT and marketing departments still influence technology investments without fully understanding customer behaviors and expectations. Customer experience should be a top driver of digital transformation, and organizations should map their processes to the customer journey, rather than, in essence, asking customers to alter their behaviors to fit an existing corporate process.

a. Understand that evolving customer behaviors and preferences are the primary catalyst for change. Customer expectations and behaviors are dynamic. Effective digital transformation is impossible without an understanding of the changing preferences of existing customers and the new ways of thinking that potential customers bring to the table. Businesses must therefore invest in smart applications combined with artificial intelligence, including deep learning, machine learning, and proactive and prescriptive analytics. It is also advisable to include marketing automation technologies that integrate with both services and sales lines-of-business for improved understanding of customer behaviors.

b. Map out the journey of new, connected customers. Twenty-first century connected customers differ in fundamental ways from customers of the past. It is critical to gather information on their unique attitudes, behaviors, and experiences. IDG Research found that 71% of executives describe the number one challenge their organizations face as understanding the behavior and impact of new customers. Yet only half (54%) of survey respondents have completely mapped out the customer journey. Without such a map, it is impossible to implement truly customer-centric changes that improve the overall customer experience.

c. Familiarize yourself with mobile data and the challenges it embodies. Become more familiar with the challenges inherent in mobile data, and deploy this intelligence to drive digital transformation.

d. Respect and improve the mobile customer journey. “Mobile is just the beginning of disruption in the customer journey,” Solis notes. “With the runway for disruptive technologies still ahead (e.g., wearables, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality), companies will need a resilient infrastructure that adapts to not only mobile’s ‘micro-moments,’ but also the impact of all these trends and new devices over time.” Any effective digital transformation strategy has mobile technology as a centerpiece.

2. Focus on the top three digital transformation initiatives:

  • Accelerating innovation
  • Modernizing IT infrastructure with increased agility, flexibility, management, and security
  • Improving operational agility to more rapidly adapt to change

3. Recognize that CMOs and CEOs continue to lead digital transformation. As digitally savvy leaders, CMOs and CEOs must accept personal responsibility for the progress of digital transformation, and must rise to the challenge of leading their companies into the 21st century.

4. Create formalized, cross-functional digital department workgroups. Of the 81% of companies with digital departments, only 40% have a formalized cross-functional workgroup. This deficiency directly impedes the development of a laterally oriented structure that fosters innovation. Create a strong group of four to five full-time employees that focus on digital transformation.

5. Embrace digital transformation efforts and eliminate “fear of disruption.” According to Solis, “Another top challenge facing digital transformation is the very thing that governs the course of business: a culture that is pervasively risk-averse (63%). Boards, shareholders, and stakeholders want to make improvements and increase profitability but are often unwilling to examine and change the governance in place today.” Understand that disruption helps create new customers, products and markets. Embracing disruption spurs future growth.

6. Create short-term plans for digital transformation: The digital world changes frequently. Create short-term plans for growth that leave room for updates and the inclusion of new technologies.

7. Create a multi-disciplinary digital transformation approach. Accelerate innovation by launching a formal “innovation center” to promote the testing and understanding of new technologies and the development of new solutions and services.

8. Combat internal barriers to progress and expand innovation by partnering with startups, investors, entrepreneurs, and universities. These partnerships accelerate the adoption of new technologies, shortening the timeline for digital transformation.

9. Exploit the combination of an innovation center, partnerships with startup ecosystems, and a focus on concept development and product innovation to boost digital transformation ROI. Create a plan that combines multiple areas and harnesses the strengths of each one. Improved cross-sector understanding will facilitate ongoing collaboration and ensure that every sector continuously tracks toward enterprise-wide digital transformation goals.

Implementation and the New Business Model

A recent Huffington Post article serves as a good reference on the six stages of digital transformation identified by Solis, and on how mature companies implement emerging technologies. Yet no matter the level of a company’s commitment to proceeding through those six stages by adopting the principles detailed above, adherence to a 20th-century business model will bring the most well-intentioned efforts at digital transformation to a grinding halt. A new, laterally oriented business model must underpin any digital transformation initiative if the potential ROI is to become a reality.

Social applications of digital technology offer a world of new possibilities for organizing and orchestrating work inside an enterprise. Whereas hierarchical communication structures tend to breed the very sort of toxic, manipulative corporate culture that has driven so many talented people away from large firms, cross-departmental social engagement fosters a spirit of collegial collaboration, boosting morale and productivity at once. Such a model promises to reshape the way executives and employees alike think about internal support functions, by focusing those functions on creating, maintaining, and improving the individual micro-services that form the heart of the organization’s operating platform.

From a management perspective, embedding rules, processes, and workflows in the platform itself is both simpler and more reliable than using manual control methods to enforce them. From a technology perspective, the organization can create an integrated, internal user experience layer that brings together what is usually at present just a collection of point solutions and off-the-shelf software. From the perspective of employees, this shift toward lateral integration cuts the puppet strings that control them from above, instead weaving processes and workflows into a supportive platform that becomes a stage on which to shine. Stage directions still provide guidance, but employees become actors with greater freedom to perform.

Benefits (ROI) and Challenges of Digital Transformation

Research has demonstrated that effective digital transformation realizes the types of ROI any C-suite or board appreciates…

  • Increased market share (41%) and increased customer revenue (30%).
  • Improved employee morale: 37% of respondents stated that second to increased market share, employee engagement was the next big return.

…but it will not happen overnight.

“Digital Darwinism favors those companies that invest in change,” Solis observes. However, he adds that, “Digital transformation isn’t easy though. Its true evolution takes time and resources, with benefits delivered in the long-term. This, to some, can represent deliberate moves away from delivering against quarterly returns. That’s the paradox of investing in digital transformation; it gives returns to those who treat it as a long-term investment versus those who expect immediate impact,” said Solis.

Measuring Outcomes

“Digital strategists must still rethink metrics to chart future development in new channels, experiences, content, and devices,” Solis explains. “Existing KPIs help validate early work in digital transformation. But often, measurement efforts are focused on measuring isolated efforts within each department/function. For example, only 22% of those surveyed cited having a content strategy in place that addresses customer needs at all journey stages, but content analytics are in the top five most important metrics measured. There is disconnect between strategy and measurement in digital transformation efforts.”

Therefore, once the new business model is implemented, exploiting the emergent cross-sector connectivity to develop metrics measuring all stages of the customer journey is crucial.

Measuring internal progress toward transformational goals is equally important, and equally difficult. An Enterprise Social Network (ESN), internal collaboration system, or social intranet is a powerful tool to address this challenge. The network can serve as a human sensor array to help guide improvements to the organization and its functions over time. Input must be sought from people at all organizational levels to identify the key capabilities the organization should possess in order to fulfill its strategic goals and respond to emerging threats and opportunities in its markets.

At the leadership level, these capabilities are typically broad and strategic; at the departmental level, they are often quite tactical; and, at the level of individual teams, they might consist mostly of simple tweaks or solutions to bureaucratic pain points. The ESN facilitates gathering these capability targets as agile user stories. Progress can subsequently be measured using a combination of available data (e.g. Social Network Analysis) and by querying the human sensor network, which will also contribute strategies to realize particular target capabilities.

This simple framework provides a way to bring together all transformation actions within the organization, both those planned and those already underway, and to view them through a common lens of capability development.

Product Management Is Really Innovation Management

What is innovation? Innovation is not new.

Humans are creative by nature. Innovation is written into our DNA. We have our wits, not our strength or speed, to thank for the fact that we didn’t end up as just so much smooth-skinned lion food thousands of years ago.

When faced with challenges, we conceive innovative solutions that change the way we live our lives.

Driven by humanity’s intense need communicate, our ancestors innovated from pictures painted on cave walls to spoken language, then to written language, then from handwritten books to the printing press and newspapers, and on to radio and TV. The spiral of innovation has continued into the Internet age with the creation of electronic books, social media, and search engines that deliver information from all over the world at light speed.

Each step represented a significant improvement upon the previous solution.

Given that humans instinctively innovate, we have to ask the question, “Why do so many companies fail to do so?”

Innovation defined.

This definition is critical because the term is so often misused. Many organizational leaders use the word “innovation” simply to refer to anything new or different.

What is missing from this conception is that innovation is not simply change; it is change that creates value.

Daniel Scocco of the Innovation Zen blog writes, “The first confusion to dismiss is the difference between invention and innovation. The former refers to new concepts or products that derive from individual’s ideas or from scientific research. Innovation, on the other hand, represents the commercialization of the invention itself.”

From a business perspective, effective innovation changes the market by making possible the delivery of increased value to the customer, creating a competitive advantage for the organization.

Jim Andrew, author of Payback: Reaping the Rewards of Innovation, puts it more bluntly: Innovation is about making money.

Innovation occurs when:

  • A currently unsolved problem is solved, fundamentally changing the way that things are done
  • A new solution to a problem emerges that is significantly better than any previous solution, where “better” can be defined as faster, cheaper, easier to use, more reliable, etc.

Importantly, incremental improvements or feature enhancements devised to counter a capability from a competitor or to address a problem impacting product performance do NOT constitute meaningful innovation. This process does not result in significant leaps in product value.  

Products logically step through a gestational period within the organization, followed by an introduction period in the marketplace. The natural arc of a product’s lifecycle is from growth to maturity to eventually decline.

Companies that innovate extend the lifecycle of a product, essentially creating loops back to earlier points in the arc. A genuinely better version of the product can mean a return from maturity back to a growth stage or from decline back to maturity. The introduction of broadband connectivity, for example, dramatically extended the lifecycle of Internet access delivery, forestalling the maturity of the product by over a decade.

Companies that fail to keep pace with innovation see their products and even their reason for being dissolve into irrelevance. A company selling only dial-up Internet access simply would not be in business today.

IBM CEO Samuel J. Palmisano comments on the need for innovation: “The way you will thrive in this environment is by innovating—innovating in technologies, innovating in strategies, innovating in organization model.”

Lafley and Charan, authors of The Game Changer, argue that innovation puts companies on the offensive. Through innovation, companies create a step change in value for the market, thereby surpassing competitive threats.

For innovation to yield rewards, innovation programs cannot simply be laboratories for testing and launching new ideas in the hope that one of them takes flight in the marketplace. Such an approach is a costly exercise, akin to a gambler paying the ante for one poker hand after another, waiting endlessly for the day when he is dealt a royal flush.

There must be a method for identifying lucrative opportunities and a process for execution. The goals of innovation and product management are inherently aligned. Product managers launch and support products in a dynamic, competitive marketplace. For a product to be successful, it must deliver value to its users, value that no competing alternative can match.

A product delivers value to users when it:

  1. addresses a need, solves a problem, or meets an end goal; AND
  2. is delivered at a price point that convinces buyers they have received a fair exchange for their money.   

For a product to remain successful, it must continuously deliver unique value. Achieving this goal is not easy, as competitors constantly enter the market, giving buyers more choices at more prices. Profits therefore tend to be driven downwards over time. Product managers must always be searching for a competitive edge that they can exploit to combat this effect.

Strategic Product Management should therefore be defined as the delivery and maintenance of products that, within their target market:

  • Deliver more value than the competition (user focus)
  • Create a sustainable competitive difference (buyer focus)
  • Generate ongoing benefit to the organization (organization focus)

Scott Berkum, author of The Myths of Innovation, deciphers why most companies are not innovating, noting that:

  • Teams don’t trust one another and hence collaboration is nonexistent
  • Managers are risk averse
  • Innovation is hard work and takes time

According to Berkum, “The main barriers to innovation are simple cultural things we overlook because we like to believe we’re so advanced. But mostly, we’re not.”

Robert Tercek, an innovation consultant, has also pinpointed key reasons for failure. He states that, “The physical environment needs to be conducive to innovating. An office space similar to a rabbit warren will not inspire innovation teams to think creatively.”

Tercek observes that a second reason why innovation fails is that the innovation team often lacks the authority to bring ideas to completion.

Thirdly, innovation fails because those innovating may lack the necessary skills to “sell” new concepts.

Poor product management is a barrier to successful innovation.

From a product management perspective, organizations may struggle to innovate because their product management teams focus on day-to-day minutia, failing to prioritize activities that deliver new solutions to the market.

The entire structure of product management in these organizations runs contrary to the goal of innovation. Product managers cannot perform strategic tasks if they are constantly loaded down with operational and maintenance activities. They cannot discover and understand emerging customer needs and problems. They do not have the opportunity to engage in conversations, ask questions, or even simply observe their customers.

This scenario is a consistent product management problem across many industries. Far too many organizations see product management as a support function to sales, marketing, and engineering. But product management should lead an organization rather than serving it.

Effective product management leads innovation.

Ideas can emerge from anywhere within an organization. Quantitative market research, contextual enquiry, qualitative market observations, and customer visits or complaints can all spawn new ways of thinking.

Importantly, these ideas must be collated and channeled through a review process to determine which have merit. A persistent point of failure in innovation is the inability to sift through a large pool of ideas and identify the ones that are worthy of development.

In our opinion, all ideas should be fed into a product management framework to assess and distill them, leading to eventual action on only the strongest ideas, turning them into profitable products.

A recent Nielsen study (June 2010) of the FMCG industry showed that successful innovators have precise new product development processes:

FMCG companies with rigid stage gates—decision points in the process where a new product idea must pass certain criteria to proceed forward—average 130 percent more new product revenue than companies with loose processes.

Idea Phase

During the ideation phase, product managers should use the market potential formula to:

  • Filter ideas to find those worth pursuing
  • Understand the financial rewards to be gained

To calculate the market potential for a product or service, determine the size of the market problem, the value of the problem to consumers, and the price or the duration over which consumers are willing to pay for the problem to be solved.

Product Strategy Phase

Once a promising idea has been identified, the next stage of the product delivery process involves elaborating on the idea, determining if the business has the capability to develop the idea, and refining projections of the financial return.

During the product strategy phase, the product manager should prepare:

  • A more detailed proposal of the idea
  • A business case to determine the idea’s capability to obtain some or all of the market potential, the costs of delivery, and the likely return on investment

No matter how creative an idea might be, if it will not deliver a return to the business, it is NOT an innovation and should be abandoned during this phase.

It is important to note that during the product strategy phase, the business case is conjectural, since the product idea is still in its infancy.

Product Planning Phase

During the product planning stage, the project management team further defines and assesses the target market’s need for the proposed idea. Seeing the idea through the eyes of a potential customer drives further crafting of the concept.

The product planning stage defines user requirements and sets the boundaries of the new product or service. A market requirements document is the resultant activity of this phase.

Product Definition Phase

During the product definition phase, product managers initiate one of the following activities in order to create a product requirements document that defines the features and functions of the product in detail:

  1. Develop an interactive, high fidelity prototype to test the product idea and to help finalize the requirements before development.
  2. Engage with a technical team to rapidly prototype the product idea and, consequently, discover and describe the rules governing creation of the product.
  3. Create low fidelity, paper mockups of the product to test the idea without exhausting technical resources, basing the product requirements document on the outcomes achieved with the mockups.

 

Activities within the product definition stage are NOT onerous. Without clear documentation of product requirements, an informed final go/no-go decision is impossible.

Final Words

At their cores, product management and innovation have the same goals. Both practices look to the market and to users for problems that are worth solving—problems that, when solved, will deliver value to the user and rewards for the business.

To be successful in achieving these goals, both product management and innovation require continuous effort, time, and a robust, repeatable process. If product management is effectively resourced and outwardly focused on understanding users and buyers in the marketplace, it can become a company’s engine room for innovation.

However, if product management is forced to focus on day-to-day operational activities, opportunities for innovation will seldom arise, and will be overlooked when they do.

Organizations that seek to deliver innovation to the market should therefore resource their product management teams to enable them to focus on emergent market opportunities and potentially disruptive market change.

 

About the Author

With almost twenty years of experience in program and product management, Rachel Everett has led and coordinated large product development efforts across a range of industries. Ms. Everett’s research focuses on customer-centric product design and development. She has written extensively on the topic and lectured at conferences and universities.

Beyond Twitter and Facebook: Other Social Media Platforms Organizations Can Use to Reach Customers

Social media strategies are more important than ever!  Beyond Facebook and Twitter, other platforms may be quite valuable in connecting with customers. Here are a few well worth considering:

  Instagram is a mobile photo & video-sharing service. Users take images or videos, apply digital filters, and share them on the application itself (and on a wide variety of social networking services). Although Instagram does not allow images and videos to have alternative text, users should provide a detailed caption explaining the image. Use Camel Case for multiple words within a hashtag.

  Yelp traditionally showcases crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses. However, as announced this month, GSA is encouraging agencies to launch their own Yelp pages in order to attain public feedback on their services. This could allow organizations to assess customer views of what’s working and what’s not––much more directly than other social platforms.

  LinkedIn focuses on professional contacts, and allows users to collaborate and share articles and ideas through its group message boards. Your LinkedIn profile name should be accompanied by a clear logo or image so users can distinguish you from others with a similar name or brand.

  Pinterest is a visual discovery tool where users create online “bulletin boards” of images, ideas, and videos. All Pinterest content is “pinned” to boards by outside sources. When pinning, it’s a good idea to include a description of your pin, and alert users if it is a picture [PIC], video, [VIDEO], audio file [AUDIO] , or GIF [GIF]). If your pin is not accessible or you didn’t actually create it, it’s important to leave a brief note on the pin making people aware of these limitations.

  Periscope streams live video to viewers who can add comments and questions. It was launched in March. A few organizations have already tested out Periscope: Treasury streamed Secretary Lew’s remarks on the new $10 bill;  The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History showcased their Dinosaur collection; and the Department of Justice broadcasted a Press Conference in Cleveland. While still in its infancy, this kind of technology can be used by agencies to give public access to inside experiences (such as facility tours, major events, interviews, Q&A’s, announcements,and press conferences).

  Reddit is a virtual bulletin board where users can post text, media, comments, and links. Though still more popular with tech-savvy groups, Reddit is becoming increasingly mainstream. The City of Austin took a chance on Reddit and found it was a great way to interact with citizens and drive up content views. Government organizations can use Reddit to host Q&A sessions, to promote events, or to drive co-collaboration with citizens.

  Vine is all about images, which are inherently captivating. (Many agencies have had success with Instagram for that reason.) Vine’s six second videos take images one step further, though. In many ways, Vines act like mini-ads, allowing organizations to promote their missions and work.  Air Force and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are two examples of organizations utilizing Vine in this way. Agencies can use Vine to provide a quick look into what they are doing, to remind people of an upcoming event, to offer public service announcements, or even to recruit.

 social-media

It is critical for agencies to focus their social media efforts, and to be aware of what platforms are out there. It’s an ever-growing field, and having a good strategy can make all the difference in reaching out effectively.

Social media provides a unique opportunity for government organizations to drive citizen engagement. For those interested in trying a new platform for your agency, we welcome your thoughts on how to best be heard.

Digital Marketing Tools to Reach and Retain Clients

Diverse People Connecting With Social Media

Diverse People Connecting With Social Media

Who doesn’t want to create and nurture new customer relationships? In welcoming these critical connections, digital marketing tools can help your team with focus and organization, division of labor, scheduling, and task automation.

Below, you will find a list of great tools. Happily, many of them are either free or very inexpensive. Just one more plus on the path to customer integration.

Tools to Help Publish Content

To be successfully “found” by customers, great relationship development and a stellar reputation are critical. In addition, there’s no denying that written content can help, especially when published in the form of a blog. There are many tools to help you do just that. Here are some that we recommend:

  • WordPress: WordPress is one of the most important tools of digital marketing. This blogging platform can operate not only your blog, but your entire website. WordPress makes the process of publishing new content very easy for people within your organization. It also features thousands of “plug-ins” (the equivalent of apps for your blog) that allow you to customize your site in a numerous ways. WordPress is free, and can be downloaded atwww.WordPress.org/download. Remember, it’s preferable to install your blog within your website (i.e., www.yourcompany.com/blog), rather than through an external blogging service (i.e.,www.blogger.com/yourcompany).
  • Editorial Calendar for WordPress: Editorial Calendar is a WordPress plug-in (or app) that helps manage the posts for your WordPress blog in a calendar view. This free tool gives you a bird’s-eye view of the posts you and the team have in the queue, and when they will be released publicly. The tool also allows you to drag and drop posts from one day to another, and to edit posts on the fly. This plug-in can be downloaded at www.WordPress.org/plugins/editorial-calendar.
  • Google Drive: Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) helps you create lists, calendars, and content for your team to view, edit, and develop. With Google Drive, you can create online documents and spreadsheets and share them with others for group editing. It is a great tool for drafting blog posts, content calendars, or brainstorming. Google Drive is available for free atwww.google.com/drive.
  • HubSpot Blog Topic Generator: Do you struggle with the task of coming up with relevant blog post topics? HubSpot has created a helpful tool that turns keywords into blog post headlines. You can enter three nouns and the site will produce a handful of topics that you can use as blog post starters. You can use the tool for free atwww.hubspot.com/blog-topic-generator.
  • Evernote:  Evernote is a lifesaver for creating and sharing notes, lists, pictures, and virtually anything else you can imagine. It’s a great brainstorming and collaboration tool for use on a computer, smartphone, or tablet. You can create separate notebooks and tags that can be shared with others, and you can add ideas on the fly. When it’s time to write new blog posts, your ideas will be waiting for you in Evernote. Evernote offers both free and inexpensive paid versions at www.evernote.com. Its apps are available for free in the Apple and Android app stores.
  • Hemingway: The Hemingway app (www.hemingwayapp.com) helps turn lengthy prose into clear, reader-friendly language. You can paste blog posts into the app and receive instant suggestions for simplifying flowery language, word choice, and voice.

Social Media Tools

Once you start churning out blog posts, there are a number of tools available to help share them online, engage users, and monitor what customers are saying about your brand and competitors. Here are some worth experimenting with:

  • HootSuite: HootSuite is a tool that, among other things, helps manage multiple Twitter accounts and preschedule posts on various social networks. It offers free and paid versions atwww.hootsuite.com.
  • TweetDeck: TweetDeck (which is owned by Twitter) is similar to HootSuite, but also monitors Twitter for mentions of your brand, industry, or keywords that might signal a parachute moment for you. It can be accessed at www.tweetdeck.com
  • Bitly: Once you start sharing links online, it is important to shorten them and monitor their performance. Bitly (www.bitly.com) is a tool that helps you do just that. You can track how many times a link is accessed, in one convenient dashboard.
  • FollowerWonk: FollowerWonk is a tool that lets you dive deeply into your Twitter accounts and identify trends and users that can help amplify your message. It offers free and paid editions, and has some powerful reporting features at www.followerwonk.com.
  • Hashtags.org: This is a site that identifies and utilizes trending hashtags. Hashtags are words with the “#” symbol in front of them that allow users to communicate and connect around a topic, event, or concept. For example, entrepreneurs may include #startup within their tweet to connect with others who may also be using or viewing this term. Not surprisingly, the site’s URL is www.hashtags.org.
  • TweetAdder: This tool helps you zoom in on Twitter users who are connected to your brand’s topics. It helps monitor follower activity and identify users who can help grow your following and social reach. The tool is online at www.tweetadder.com.
  • JustReTweet: This site encourages its community of users to retweet relevant content from one another. While some may use a tool like this gratuitously, it may be helpful in connecting with Twitter members who are anxious to share your message with their followers. You can sign up at www.justretweet.com.

 

Tools to Help Gain Search Visitors

Along with tools for social sharing, there are a number of tools that can help you connect with search engines such as Google and Bing. Spending some time learning about and using these tools can help you position yourself to rank highly in search results when users search for your product or service.

  • Google Keyword Planner: Google offers a free tool that gives access to its database of search queries. This tool reveals which words are most often used by people who search for your product. If you are marketing fresh fruit, for example, this tool can help you determine how often users are searching for “organic fruit” versus “local produce.” Experiment with a few examples athttp://adwords.google.com/ko/KeywordPlanneer/Home.
  • Wordtracker: Wordtracker is a more focused, intensive version of Google Keyword Planner. It is an established, highly respected keyword research tool, and it’s available for a nominal monthly subscription fee. You can try some free queries and sign up atwww.wordtracker.com.
  • Raven: Raven is a comprehensive marketing platform with some powerful search engine marketing tools. It is very complex and worth the investment. It can be accessed at www.raventools.com.
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast: This plug-in can be installed within WordPress to ensure that blog posts are optimized for the proper keywords. The plug-in guides your writing and can alert you when your keywords are not properly placed in your post titles, body copy, or elsewhere. It can be freely downloaded atwww.yoast.com/WordPress/seo.

Tools for Measuring Results

Peter Drucker is famous for saying, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” When you make great investments in time and resources for digital marketing, it’s critical to keep tabs on what is working what isn’t (as well as track how well those efforts generate a return for your labor). The following tools can help you do just that.

  • Google Analytics: This free tool is a must for digital marketers. Offered by Google, it is a metrics tool that can be installed on your website. Google Analytics gauges the activity within your site. It can reveal hundreds of facts, including where and how your web visitors found your site, where they came from, how long they stayed, and what pages they viewed. Though there are others analytics tools available, this one is highly recommended. It’s also compatible with many other services, and simple to understand. It can be downloaded and installed at www.google.com/analytics.
  • Visual.ly Google Analytics Report: Visual.ly offers a great, ongoing service to help you visualize your analytics results. With all of the data that Google Analytics offers, this tool can help you digest some of its more important facets. You can sign up for free atwww.visual.ly/google-analytics-report.
  • Ducksboard: Ducksboard is a dashboard product that can help put metrics on a screen for team monitoring. It works on a computer screen, mobile device, or flat-screen television. It is affordable, and a free trial is available at www.ducksboard.com.
  • Statigram: Statigram is a platform-specific site that helps monitor your brand’s Instagram activity. It can show how popular your account’s posts are, and how your followers are growing. It can also provide a geographical distribution of their locations. It is available for free at www.statigr.am.
  • Klout: Klout is a tool that helps you measure your social influence by assigning each account a Klout score. Klout uses proprietary formulas to rate users, and help track progress. It works with accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and many more. Try it for free at www.klout.com.

Bridging Gaps With Wikis

File_000One great way to connect with the public is by building a Wiki. The word Wiki comes from the Hawaiian, meaning “quick”. And, that’s what a Wiki is: a fast and easy way to engage people. Specifically, it’s an online database that allows anyone to edit or add content. In creating a Wiki, you’re essentially inviting others to help take ownership of an issue. It’s democratic to the core. Everyone is on an equal playing field, and can suggest solutions that  might not have been considered.

Surely, you’ve heard of Wikipedia (an online crowd-sourced encyclopedia). The public is free to edit Wikipedia and update its web pages, allowing it to grow and change over time. Many other sites embrace the community like this, so Wikipedia is not the only game in town. Many are pop culture related, using the fans’ love of a property to create an ever-evolving online database.

Many Wikis are used for more practical reasons. The country of New Zealand, for example, posted its Police Act online in 2007, asking the public to make changes at will. At the end of a period of time, the administrators were able to gather those suggestions and determine which were viable.

Advantages of Wikis

Wiki is a tool that generates, by its very nature, a lot of support. It invites and allows people to feel vested in a project and create the end result. It also provides a lot of transparency, because the public can be actively involved in a program. Discussion pages track disputes and the exchange of ideas. As a plus, all the changes that are made are tracked automatically, minimizing the amount of work needed on your end.

Wikis can also be designed for use by a single organization. These internal Wikis are extremely efficient for sharing information in-house. Outsiders have no access, and the Wikis can be used in conjunction with other information-sharing apps. Viderity is able to help focus your efforts by creating and maintaining a Wiki that is tailored to your goals. Whether you’d like to open up a discussion publicly or internally, we can help make that happen–in the process, enriching your programs and opening the flow of communication.