A few years ago the website was viewed as ‘the destination‘ to drive traffic to. Digital strategy success was measured in unique visitor volumes and average time on site. The whole digital strategy ball game was about getting as much traffic as possible to a website, and search marketing was the hot strategy to do it. If you knew your stuff, you had a fully optimized Search Engine Marketing campaign and your website was SEO’ed to the hilt.

How times change. Whilst SEM and SEO are still important, they aren’t the only digital strategy components we need to worry about.

Brands and their communities are popping up everywhere online.

With the advent of social media, there’s so much conversation about a brand that happens beyond the website that there’s a risk of not being aware of opportunities and threats to the brand if focus is limited to the website. A community may experience and join in a conversation about a brand online through a vast array of different channels, like comments in social media, general community reviews and links in blog articles. There’s a community out there that’s passionate about stationery, shoes, coffee orpretty much anything.

What’s critical now is to ensure that a brand is where its community is, wherever that is online, and not just on the brand website. Every time someone talks about a brand, or industry, there’s an opportunity to join the conversation, add value and establish a direct relationship with that community member. This is true for well-known brands as well as small operations. Whether the brand has a community in the millions or the hundreds, it should still be engaging with them wherever they are.

Customers are living, breathing people who live (at least a little bit) offline.

A website-centric strategy fails to acknowledge the full customer experience, both on and offline. Customers (and potential customers) interact with a brand through many digital channels – the website, social media, mobile and web apps and email to name just a few. And beyond the virtual world they may actually interact with a brand through in-store experiences, too.

A strong digital strategy is one that holds the customer at its centre, and builds a consistent experience both on and offline to foster an ongoing customer relationship. An interaction with a sales person in-store should be as consistent with the brand as a Twitter post or email message. More than that, an integrated digital strategy should understand the role that each of these channels plays for customers at a granular level. Which customers have started following the brand or tweeting with it on Twitter? Who prefers to receive emails? Who is responsive to geo-targeted special offers?

Starbucks is the poster child of such an approach. Admittedly, they have a dedicated social media team for their global brand, but they are applying the same principles that anyone can apply, no matter what sort of business they’re in. The lynch pin is to develop an integrated digital strategy that fosters a community wherever customers are on the web or on the street, and not just on a brand website.

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