Digital Strategy: Your 5 Homework Assignments

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Getting started with your company’s digital strategy and marketing can be daunting. In fact, most companies make it seem downright impossible.

Fortunately, this is usually just the case of trying to do too much too soon.

Take it slow — one step at a time. Once you get the cycle down, you’ll be able to blow through it quickly and easily.

But nothing starts off as second natured. You need to incorporate digital strategy and marketing into your daily routine.

Below are five homework assignments that will help you form the core of any digital strategy.

Assignment #1: Define your Industry, Niche, Sub-Niches and Topics

Digital marketing is all about top-of-mind recall. When someone thinks about sporting goods, you want to think about you and your sporting goods store.

When someone wants personal injury advice, you want them to think of your firm.

Unfortunately, becoming a recognized personal injury expert in the crowded Internet world is difficult.

Instead, you need to focus on a lower level. In the case of personal injury, your industry is the Legal Industry. Your niche is personal injury. However, you should further break this down into slip and falls, car accident and worker’s comp, for example.

But we’re still not facing stiff competition.

Instead, we need to go one level deeper.

Each sub-niche can be broken into topics: How to pick the right attorney after you’ve been in a car accident. Five warning signs of a bad car accident attorney. The first thing you need to do after a car accident.

Now we’re getting into more manageable chunks.

By building your credibility and perceived expertise on these topics, your audience naturally will begin to associate you as an expert on the sub-niche encompassing those topics.

Once you’ve established yourself as a sub-niche expert, you can begin covering more global topics on that sub-niche and begin working on topics under a different sub niche.

Once you’ve established yourself in a number of sub-niches, you can move to niches and finally focus on becoming an industry expert.

Just don’t be surprised when CNN is emailing you to come on their program.

Your first homework assignment is just to sit down and spell out your industry, all of its niches, all of its niches’ sub niches and many of its sub niches’ topics (there’s no way you’ll get all of them).

Assignment #2: Pick a Topic

This is an easy one.

Now that you have your expertise tree laid out, you need to pick a topic on which to begin your digital strategy.

Pick one that you’re really excited about, but keep in mind, you’ll only get better the more you do.

Assignment #3: Research your Topic

Great. Now that you’ve picked your topic, you need to answer these questions:

Who’s already an expert in this micro-niche?
What do people find interesting or want to know about this micro-niche?

So, this assignment is a two-parter.

Find three experts on your topic (online). And fill out some information about them, including:

  • Facebook Account
  • Twitter Name
  • Blog/Website URL
  • Brief summary of how you feel they’re doing. Are they having online success? What do they do that’s useful or resonates with their audience

Find three websites where people are talking about this niche. Things to look for:

  • Twitter Hashtags
  • Facebook Groups
  • Facebook Pages
  • Blogs (http://www.google.com/blogsearch)
  • Forums/Discussion Board (http://groups.google.com/, http://answers.yahoo.com/, http://groups.yahoo.com/)

Assignment #4: Cultivate Sources

Once you’ve found your experts, it’s time to reach out to them. Send them an email. Leave a comment on their blog. Introduce yourself on LinkedIn.

Start forming relationships with these influencers.

Assignment #5: Engage

OK. So you’ve been lurking for a while, but now it’s time to get in on the action.

You’re not quite ready to start producing your own content.

First, you need to interact with others’ content and mingle with your audience.

This is called listening.

Don’t assume that, because you know what your audience likes in the real world, you know what it likes in the Internet world.

Get on Facebook. Get on Twitter. Go read some blogs and message boards on your topic.

What’s the discussion about? Answer that question, and you’ll be well on your way.

About Cody Swann

Cody Swann is an entrepreneur, developer, strategist, banged up ex-football walk-on, retired body builder and former journalist born and raised in South Florida. He currently splits his time between his hometown of Stuart, FL and Los Angeles, CA. Cody founded Gunner Technology, a highly sought after digital agency, specializing in helping companies maximize profits through custom web development, technology efficiencies, social media strategy and search engine marketing. As a manager and developer at ESPN for nearly six years, Cody led development and vision for two of ESPN’s most popular online features: Sports Scoreboards and GameCasts. Additionally Cody oversaw all aspects of MyESPN and ESPN’s social network, ESPN Fan Profiles. Cody worked with Technology, Editorial, Sales, Marketing and relevant business stakeholders to mold ESPN’s social media strategy, develop custom applications for it and execute it. Under his direction, ESPN successfully ported large portions of its core product from a proprietary Java stack to an open source Ruby on Rails stack, capable of standing up and performing under the tremendous load world's most popular sports site delivers. Cody began forging his technological knowledge more than 10 years ago, developing and designing websites in college. His development work has included web development, web design, content writing, digital photography and digital video production for award-winning sites like Gainesville.com, GatorSports.com and ESPN.com. He has helped set digital strategy and direction for companies in the New York Times Regional Newspaper group, ESPN, ABC and Disney. He is a recognized expert in web development, social media strategy, search engine optimization, conversion optimization, analytics tracking and business planning. He has worked with large interactive media companies to small and medium sized businesses. Cody motivates and inspires creative teams to deliver superb, polished work under tight deadlines.

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