Pushing Content Without Strategy in the Digital Age

By John Zerio, Ph.D.

Social media gurus talk a lot about the how. They teach how to create buzz on Twitter, win friends on Facebook and boost search engine results on Google. These are the technical elements of digital marketing.

Organizations measure success by the exposure they generate. They count page views, followers, fans and comments. The more the better. But in the rush to push content online, many organizations never stop to consider their digital marketing strategy.

Are they creating the right relationships with the right people? Are their messages aligned with customer expectations? And do these messages reflect the organization’s true personality — so that hype matches reality when a Facebook friend or Twitter follower calls customer service or meets an agent in the field?

Quantity was king in 2010, but organizations that plow ahead in the new year without answering these fundamental questions will pay a price. A better approach for 2011 includes strategic thinking about digital marketing.

Conversations should start with the CEO, who gets paid to drive strategy and lead change.

The typical 2010 practice — which left social media activity to marketing and communications departments acting in isolation — is no longer good enough. Organizations need commitment from top to bottom.

Social media activity must occur at many different levels because organizations engage with customers, suppliers and community members at many different levels. CEOs and other leaders set the tone when they reach out to internal and external audiences with their own blogs, Tweets and status updates guided by organizational strategy.

We live in exciting times. Every person with Internet access has a voice, and every message has the potential to go viral. Global managers must adapt to these changes, which is partly why I launched a digital marketing course at Thunderbird in 2010. We cover many new topics in the classroom, but some things never change.

Organizations still need good products and services. They need technology and innovation. And they need understanding of their customers.

Assuming an organization has these three things, opportunities for competitive advantage will abound in 2011 as leaders integrate social media activity with overall strategy.

John Zerio, Ph.D., is an associate professor of global marketing at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona. He speaks English, Portuguese, Spanish and French, and has extensive experience as a consultant to multinational corporations in Brazil, Japan and Mexico. In 2010 he launched a Thunderbird course in digital marketing. He also leads the Thunderbird Brazil Winterim, “Sustainability in Action.”