In Praise Of Digital Hygiene

start pushing here

Imagine for a moment you meet someone on the street for the first time, they smile and you notice yellow stains—worse, perhaps they’re missing a few front teeth. You’re likely a bit distracted while engaged in conversation and wonder if they’ve neglected to ever follow basic oral hygiene. By all accounts your first impression is somewhat skewed.

I remember my dentist used to have this sinister looking poster on the wall that said “Ignore your teeth and they’ll go away“. Haha ok funny, but what a great analogy for the way some companies regard their level digital engagement with their target audience—often with pure neglect.

Let’s pretend for a moment a company’s presence in the digital space could be represented as one’s teeth. For example, one tooth represents a corporate Web site or hub, another could represent some form of mobile application, another a Facebook group, another for Twitter and so on (…you get the idea). What’s it going to look like when you smile? Am I going to cringe with fear or be pleasantly surprised to engage further in conversation?
While we’re on the topic, how do we prevent the onset of those nasty cavities?  Well, as my dentist always said: brush and floss daily. This is a no-brainer right?
So maybe the brushing and flossing are the conversations and digital interactions with consumers, which I’m guessing would need to occur on a frequent—if not daily—basis. If you subscribe to this theory then regular use of engagement platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will keep our brand identity and level of digital audience engagement sparkling fresh and clean!  Just like our dentists would preach: this needs to be done on a regular basis or we’ll be looking at some expensive dental implants further down the road.

In fact, in a recent clinical survey 4 out of 5 digital marketers recommended brands “check-in” with foursquare on a regular basis to engage consumers more effectively.

Seriously though, neglect these and other digital platforms and cavities will inevitably emerge. I really like Max Kalehoff’s take on establishing a strong level of digital engagement with an audience: “[on the Web] companies have the choice to engage intimately with customers, or instill a cold, faceless façade.” —too bad many companies still choose the latter.

Now let’s shift gears and start thinking about building some of these beautiful digital engagement assets. Ok, how about we roll with another oral hygiene concept (seems to be working so far).

Digital projects are like giant tubes of toothpaste.

If we could think of the creation of a new Web site, mobile application or individual digital component as a giant tube of toothpaste, we know from experience (and years of brushing) things are relatively open and easy in the beginning. It’s not until we reach the home stretch—the tail end of the digital pipeline—where things start to become challenging.

Fact: A digital/interactive project will always run smoother and we will ultimately get more out of the tube (our digital pipeline) if we apply pressure evenly and consistently throughout the entire length of the process, from initial concept through to final QA testing and client delivery. When I say ‘apply pressure evenly’, I’m referring to everything and anything that could improve our chances for a successful outcome.
Quite frankly, the digital production pipeline is complex and full of constantly evolving techniques.

Here’s another fact I’ve learned to appreciate over the years:

Web Developers are the unsung superheroes of digital marketing.

Without their experience and expertise that technology xyz-driven CMS back-end Web app coming down the pipe is just a black box quandary. Celebrate your dev talent and cherish their varied contributions.

On the other hand, let’s say we apply uneven pressure throughout the life of our digital project (e.g. not enough planning in the beginning, misallocating efforts towards the end) we potentially run the risk of wasting valuable time and resources. Remember, we want to get all that glorious toothpaste out!

Our worst-case scenario is the stuff that gets left behind. Think for a moment about a project nearing completion. Perhaps the objective is to extract that last little bit of precious toothpaste to brush our brand’s teeth before we can move on to a new tube—but due to unforeseen variables we’ve pushed the tube (our digital pipeline) unevenly early on and we’re now stuck going back to where we initially missed our first time through. Yikes! Not a good scenario!

I suppose the point I’m trying to make here is that it’s not just how we push but also where and when (i.e. how frequently) which can determine success or failure in the digital hygiene game.

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