Maximizing Your Digital Presence

Written by Alex Zox

How often do you scroll through social media, stopping on what somehow sparks your attention? Personally, I find that a good “feed” consists of things that I am not necessarily expecting. I consider platforms like Instagram as curators for the things that I might like to learn about or as a quick visual feast of objects or ideas that come across quickly, a spontaneous stream of other people’s output and imagination. And my attention span is dependent on the content that I am looking at. I am pretty sure that I am not alone here.

Of course, there is the other side of Instagram that goes on in the background and that is the face of brands trying to sell you their wares. Solicitation in the age of social media has become even more essential with our lovely pandemic situation. The truth is, brands are competing with an individual’s feed, one that is specifically tailored by their particular personality and filled with choices that define them. Content is king and the opportunity for brands to get on the feed is amazing. This is a sort of golden age for brands. The trick is standing out and articulating what you are trying to say, so that it gets across effortlessly yet has enough originality behind it to be memorable. I do research on Instagram by taking note of what pops up, and I try to figure out why it’s in my feed (especially when it comes to brands). The fact is, randomness has nothing to do with it. Marketing on this platform is targeted and specific.

What is the main difference between something that is branded and something that is authentically branded? Look at it like this. Authenticity is something that is synonymous with the concept of being genuine, the real article. It relays an imaginative spark, an instant reflection where someone feels intrigued or compelled to search out more information. That is the goal and the trick. Over 75% of all U.S. businesses use Instagram. But you can bet this stat just got outdated by the current worldwide reality of COVID-19 and quarantine. Our resources have changed. Our concept of the internet as becoming more of an active process or a resource that connects people has burst to the surface.

For those that can learn to capitalize on social platforms, it has already meant huge wins. Some very lucky companies have seen their growth in the hundred percent zone and it’s not by happenstance. The companies that had already invested in digital, even if it is only having prepared a storefront and a logistical approach, have gained a huge advantage. Like Marshal McLuhan said, “the medium is the message” and “we shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” How very important it is to start to realize what great tools we have at our fingertips. Like it or not, our digital ways have become the new carriers and amplifiers of our potential, both successes and failures. For the foreseeable future, those who can marshal the resource of intelligence and imagination and broadcast successfully their individuality and authenticity stand to gain. But one thing is certain: the competition is fierce.

The one shot you have as a brand, whatever it is you are trying to sell, is that moment when people are sleepwalking through their feeds. Can you say something new, show something great, say something that is provocative? This is often the measure of your survival in the first place. But in electronic land, it is even more vital because social media has become so visually potent. Our eyes instantly move on unless something grabs them. The point here is to say that you must realize it is not enough for you to intend it to be; you must be intentional. You need to empower the moment and you probably need to find help. Think of it like this. As random as some content seems to be, there is an algorithm that responds to actions and determines what populates an individual’s feed. This is targeted stuff. So the more value you put into the content, the better chance it has to generate genuine hits.

It’s the dazzling, dizzying, digital universe. Every time you open and involve yourself in the world of the digital visual, it is an open-ended continuous onslaught of targeting. Yes, you are its target; we all are. But to take on the targeting is a gesture requiring a leap both in understanding what you are stepping into and stepping up from. Think about how much noise is already out there. If you don't find a way to push through every bell, whistle, and blinking light that lines the walls of the digital jungle, no one will notice you.

To be “sticky,” one must learn to use a set of options and tools that are always upgrading, and it’s not easy to keep up with social platforms as they are increasingly infatuated with reinventing the wheel. Keeping up with your own concerns as a brand is certainly enough. It comes down to constantly keeping abreast of what is new (and new again) or consulting the right resource. Just like music, when someone writes a hook that you cannot stop hearing, when you see something impactful, it stays with you. This is what we call “the automatic reflex of thinking with our eyes.” Everyone makes judgements based on what they see in the first few seconds. What message are you putting out there? What “hook” are you offering? The learning curve can be daunting, but as long as your story and your branding are authentic, then it is merely a matter of knowing how to navigate the digital waters.