How to become a digital native? A crash course in what you need to understand about the digital world
I’ve been working with computers for over 15 years. I started as a teenager playing around with simple little programs and figuring out what I could do with my computer.Back in the early 2000’s a guy called Marc Prenski gave a number to these people such as me that have grown up around technology. He named them “Digital natives”. Digital natives are those people that due to growing up surrounded by technology it’s something they are comfortable to work with, it’s something that is natural for them.When it comes to business, the advantage of being a digital native is that you are well placed to integrate the digital world to your benefit. And by the digital world, I mean the online space: websites, search engine optimisation, social media and so on.This article is my best attempt at crunching my 15 years of experience into a short crash course on digital.Note: This article has been written as a follow up to a presentation held for Click Digital Expo on "How to be a Digital Native". It covers all the key points and resources referenced on the night.
Websites – Your digital home page
The best place to start in the world of digital is your website. It is your digital home base. It is the place where you convert interest in your business into leads or transactions. All of your online and offline marketing should point to your website.What is important?
What is important to have on your website is a very clear and succinct explanation of your business and market position. This should ideally be 6 to 10 words in length. It needs to be this short because in the digital world, your competitors are at your customer's fingertips, you need them to understand what you do, or they are off to look at the business in their Google results. They are 10 seconds is all you have to make an impression.For example, “Exquisite bridesmaids dresses, made to order”. This tells us the product: bridesmaids dresses. The level of quality: exquisite. And a differentiating factor for the industry: made to order.If you are in the competitive industry, consider choosing something that other people aren't saying. Be unique, but also relate to something that people want.What is not important?
I’m saying this as a digital agency that builds higher quality websites, don’t overcapitalise on your website. Spend the money your business needs. Not the one that looks the prettiest. I've seen too many small businesses get distracted by the allure of bright and shiny website. Unless you are an industry leader or produce a premium quality product, just get something that is clean and professional. Cash is king, spend it prudently.
While your website is your home base, you have a number of tools available to you that you can use to drive interest in your business. The most commonly used tools are SEO, PPC, eDM, and social media. I’ll explain what all these mean below and what is important for you.
Everyone has seen the advertisements for “get your website on the first page of Google.” It makes sense for your business, the higher your website shows up on Google for different phrases, the more people are going to visit your website. The process of improving your Google ranking is called Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO.What is important?
SEO is a specialist area, and it’s most likely that you would engage a digital marketing company to help you with SEO. But there are a couple of things you can do in a business to improve your ranking.
What is not important?
- Content – Consider content to be “Google food”. The more content you have on your website, the higher Google will push your website up in the results. Consider what Google will see. If you have 1 website with a couple of sentences about “bridesmaids”, and another which has a 600-word article. Comparing the two, Google gives priority to the longer article that contains more relevant phrases and content than the shorter one. Write good content that is helpful, and add it to your website.
- Web links to your business – One of the big things Google figured out back when they started up is that the number of links to your website is a good indication of your credibility. Especially if the site linking to you cover a similar topic to your website. The more you can get other relevant websites pointing to your website, the better.
Don’t try and be cheap on SEO, especially if you are looking at getting someone overseas to do SEO for you. If you choose a company that follows bad practice – methods that are intended to trick Google in order to get a higher rank, Google will eventually find out, and you will be penalised. And there is no number to call Google to get your rank back.One important thing to understand with SEO, is that it’s a slow burning marketing. It can take many months before you start to see a result from your activities. Also, keep in mind that producing good quality content can also be time-consuming.
While SEO is slow burning, there is a way to get immediate traffic to your website: internet advertising. This is what you see at the top and side of your Google results. The way it works is that Google will charge you between 50 cents to $3 every time someone clicks on one of those links. It is called Pay Per Click, or PPC.What is important?
Pay per click works on the same search terms as normal Google results. So, pick your keywords carefully. For example, if you want to promote plumbing services choosing “plumbing” may result in you getting people who are looking at plumbing as a career or plumbing equipment. Be specific, the more specific, the better.What is not important?
While you can turn on PPC on a moment's notice, ease into it. Test different ads and keywords to see what works for you. Google will take your money for that click no matter whether they are qualified or relevant to your business. PPC can be a fast way to spend a lot of money, quickly!
One of the most under-appreciated means of digital marketing is one of the simplest, emails. In digital using email to communicate with your target market are called Electronic Direct Marketing, or eDM’s. The reason eDM’s work so well is that the reason these people are on your list is that they have already registered some kind of interest for your business. So you are working with a qualified audience.What is important?
While you have a qualified email list, it doesn't mean you have permission to send emails when you like. You risk quickly annoying your potential customers if you send emails anything more than once every couple of weeks. Construct an email that informs, or is relates to something new like a promotion.What is not important?
Like your website, you don’t need your eDM's to look too fancy, just create something that gets your point across and looks professional. There are tools like Vision 6, Campaign Monitor, or Mail Chimp that have basic templates you can fill out to send an effective eDM.
There is a lot to be said about Social Media - it’s an evolving beast. I’ll just focus on the basics which are that social media is a great channel to have a dialogue with your customers. This is a great way to manage feedback and refine your product offering based on what people are telling you they want.What is important?
A good start is to have a basic understanding of each of the social media channels and how they are used:
What is not important?
- Facebook – This is the social platform most people are hooked into. It is probably also the platform most oriented toward commercial use. Most all business can do something on Facebook. Post a couple of times a week.
- Linked in – This is your professional network, rather than a connection to your clients. Linked in has a more professional tone than Facebook.
- Twitter – Twitter is the real-time information network. A message on Twitter can be considered to have a lifetime of hours. If you want to connect to what is happening right now, Twitter is the place to be.
- Instagram – Instagram is another real-time platform, but doesn't move at the same pace as Twitter. On Instagram, it’s all about capturing the moment.
- Pinterest – Pinterest is very similar to Instagram from an outsiders perspective, but they serve two very different purposes. Pinterest is your virtual pin board, people use Pinterest to save things for later, aspiration products and services work well here.
Unless you are a very large company, you don’t need to be doing something on every social media channel. Use the overview above to pick a couple of channels that are right for you.
So I’ve explained about some very powerful digital marketing tools that you can use to promote your business. But one of the best things about digital is that it gives you a fantastic capability to measure the results of your activities
.For traditional marketing activities like billboards or newspaper advertisements, it’s difficult to track how these things translate into a result. In digital marketing, you can set a fixed budget and have a website tracking tool that will tell you how many sales that budget made or leads were produced.A widely used and free tool that most digital agencies use is called Google Analytics or Analytics. Analytics tells you all kind of interesting things like:
What is important?
- The number of visitors to your website?
- What pages are the most popular?
- How have people come across your website?
Just make sure a tool like Google Analytics is installed on your website.What is not important?
If you dig into the Google Analytics system don’t get too caught up in all the reports, there are literally hundreds you can look at. Consider asking someone to install a Custom Dashboard into your Google Analytics. It will create a great overview of your business.You can find some dashboards that serve common needs here
How to be a digital native?
When I first started out as a teenager, there were two things that set me on the path to being a digital native - I was very curious
about how it worked, and I spent time
to try and understand it. These days, the information needed to get up to speed on how you can use digital for your business is widely available unlike when I started.If you are curious, and have the time I'd recommend any of the following:
- Take a course on digital on lynda.com
- Read blogs about digital marketing
- Start typing in digital marketing terms into Youtube, and watch - a lot of people record local events and upload them!
- Go to any local events in Brisbane, meet as many people as you can. Networx or Interactive Minds are regular events that have dozens of digital marketing experts at every event.
If you would us to explain further about digital natives, or had any feedback please feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected]