What’s a digital strategist? Part One.

At breakfast with a friend a few days ago, we started talking about the type of work I do for my clients. And how the term “digital strategist” is vague, confusing and, oftentimes, misunderstood. I understand many people don’t yet know what this means. Like all jargon, it’s a good shortcut if you’ve heard the long version. Here’s the long version:

I don’t want to try to speak for all of my peeps because there are both similarities and differences in the nuances of our work. Do a LinkedIn search for “digital strategist” and you’ll see what I mean. Holy pages and pages of results, Batman.

A digital strategist is one who provides digital strategy. (Duh.) So, let’s talk about this within the context of our work.

Digital strategists look for ways to make your company’s marketing more effective online. We live at the intersection of you and your audiences – to navigate the place of what they want and what you need them to have.

People ask me, “Do you build websites?” Well, kinda. Our role is critical to creating an effective site. But, we don’t build them. That’s what programmers/developers do. In many circumstances – not all – we consider your website your online hub. Your home base. The place where you can go deep with a customer by providing product information, hefty content and ways to interact with your brand. The key here is to build a site to give your audiences what they need. Not what we – or you – think they need.

The strategist’s job is to gather data to understand what your audiences want from your site and gently push back against your opinion of what they want. (You should always hire a strategist who will push back with good rationale. That means they’re working for your customer’s best interest.) We create a framework for your site (often called an “information architecture”) to let your audiences easily do the tasks we know they want to complete on your site. (Because we gathered data, remember?) We define which content (copy, images, video, etc.) should go where and what should like to what. We also build in calls to action (CTAs) – download this paper, fill out this form, etc. to start building engagement with your audiences beyond “they came to our site and we’re watching the traffic volume increase.”

Once we’ve defined the structure, we move into site design. This is so very important. Stellar web designers are those who know where to put visual content on your pages to help guide your customer’s eye to the content we know they want. I won’t go into details of design here, cause that’s the designer’s job. I’m a strategist, remember?

If your site is your home base and we have it all ready for company, we need to invite people over. In Part Two of this topic, we’ll discuss some of the places you can find your audiences online – search and social are two – and how you can help them want to get to know you better.