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Talk About Expectations

I consult on a lot of really amazing creative ideas that are future thinking and often insouciant towards current technological feasibility. These are good fun when working with clients well versed in the digital landscape. But, today I am not talking to those clients. I am also not talking to my digitally savvy counterparts or my fellow UX practitioners – although I encourage you all to read.

Today, I am talking to the poor account executive on her first digital assignment for her digital-virgin brand. Or the new-to-digital client who is looking at lots of cool ideas but can’t ladder up to what to do first, next or at all.

So from the bottom of my heart, here is what I wish we all commonly understood about being “in digital.”

Digital doesn’t matter. Expectations do.

Wait?! It’s true. Listen.

I believe that we all have a certain set of core expectations when it comes to digital and how we interact with brands.

In priority order:

We expect information to be free and readily available: this may seem obvious but I have seen client teams go round after round on a consumer paying to download a PDF because of a miscommunication over printing costs. Not. A. Joke.

We expect brands to be everywhere: If I am not able to reach you when I am ready, wherever I am – you don’t exist. Consumers are sick of branded websites not being navigable on their mobile devices or websites being broken, not optimized for their browser or just plain out-of-date. And now, thanks to social networks, they are more able and likely than ever to call you out publicly when they don’t like something.

We expect communities to exist: Brands need to understand that the party started, and you’re welcome to join when you’re ready – but we aren’t holding dinner. Social media has enabled more public discourse than ever imaginable in the traditional advertising world. We have to admit that people are already talking – we are just choosing not to join them.

We expect to have the ability to share information in the networks that we currently belong to: Even if you get through the social media gauntlet with your brand from a corporate communications, public relations, and legal standpoint – it doesn’t end there — you do still have to do something with it or it will be stale, old and irrelevant – not words you ever want associated with your brand. Social breathes, and it doesn’t wait for approval.

Now this isn’t science or anything – but hopefully it is a way to filter quickly to what matters when your brand is starting to dip the big toe into the digital space.

And for easy reference, here is each of the above expectations restated as a digital directive for brands:

  • Provide messaging that is: in proper context & across relevant channels
  • Enable the free and easy exchange of information
  • Support individual contribution of content and discourse
  • Host and contribute to shared experiences that join like-minds

What did Confucius say about sharpening our tools?

To really start in digital, a brand needs to start by forgetting the shiny objects being thrown at them daily and instead do a hard-core assessment of where they sit against these core expectations.

I truly believe that to be successful in digital, brands must meet the above expectations before they can hope to exceed them.