What do you mean, Social and Digital are two different things?

Very often I hear business people – even marketers and technologists – using the words social and digital interchangeably.

This makes me cringe. It tells me people are not taking a holistic view and are missing the overall point (and therefore, the challenge/opportunity binary, as well).

It’s not their fault, obviously. The media seems not to differentiate them. There’s a dictionary’s worth of jargon being slung around by all manner of “experts” that further confuses things. The market is flooded with platforms, tools, and services all purporting to help you get a handle on a variety of different “social” and “digital” whatevers.

It’s no wonder people aren’t seeing the forest – they’re too busy being beaten about the head and neck with the trees.

Complicating matters is the fact that “social” is obviously a subset of “digital”. Those who take the time to think about it this far tend to leave it there; it’s easy for them to make this particular distinction, and they tend to think that the word “digital” is just short for “digital marketing”. That’s far from the truth. And it’s critically important that leaders and executives understand what’s really going on here.

Starbucks made waves recently, when it appointed its first ever Chief Digital Officer. Starbucks made one fellow CDO, and another fellow CIO. The CDO has a set of responsibilities, and they’re almost entirely externally-focused, and the CIO’s role is almost entirely internally-focused (which is a fairly traditional way of doing things – insofar as having a CDO is “traditional”). This is another case which helps perpetuate the stereotype that digital=marketing.

Gang, let’s be clear: “Digital” is short for “Digital Enterprise”. The whole damn enchilada. External AND internal.

Chris Brogan, of whom you may have heard, had an awesome post on Google+ the other day, which started a great conversation, which was part of what got me going on this topic.

He was, as he put it, “Thinking through the whole digital marketing and business ecosystem.” What the conversation made me realize was that he should have just said, “the whole digital business ecosystem.” Because that’s where we will be very soon, if we aren’t already there. In a few years just about all businesses will be digital businesses, or they won’t be in business at all.

Digital has ramifications for your employees and vendors, just as much as it has ramifications for your customers. At a leadership level, you have to have a strategy for how to become “the new digital enterprise” (this thing I’ve been talking about). This strategy needs to take into account both sides of digital business; at the bare minimum, on both sides, leaders need to be thinking about:

External Issues:

  • Digital Marketing Anchor (Website)
  • Content (Inbound) Marketing – firm blog, thought leadership posts on other blogs
  • Email (Outbound) Marketing – newsletters, etc. to lead people to your content
  • Social Media Marketing – content placement and conversation/engagement
  • Content/Story/Asset Development – expert design of materials to support the above
  • Community Engagement Portals / Virtual Customer Environments
  • Customer/Public Facing Mobile Platforms and associated content & sales programs

Internal Issues:

  • Social Media Governance – for “non-official” communications by employees
  • Internal Communications & Management Platforms (Intranet/ERP)
  • Enterprise Social Networks (Yammer, Chatter, SocialText, and the like)
  • Employee-Facing Mobile Platforms
  • Employee-Facing Desktop/Workflow Platforms
  • Knowledge Management & E-Learning Systems
  • CRM Platform (if separate from ERP) & integration

Obviously, at a large firm, all of this is probably too much for any one person to handle. Some of these things fit under the traditional idea of the CIO or CTO; some under the CMO, some under a Chief Knowledge Officer or Chief People Officer. But in the New Digital Enterprise, you can’t silo them off or break them out – because they are all interrelated.

Succeeding as a New Digital Enterprise, creating a strategy for these issues and aligning them with overall firm medium- and long-term objectives, will require unprecedented levels of collaboration, communication and trust at the highest levels of the organization.

Are we ready for this? Damn, kids, we’d better be, or the 2000-teens are going to be a rough decade.

Seth Cargiuolo

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