I have seen many organizations that treat the Web, social media and mobile as three distinct entities. They develop social media strategies separately from web strategies, and as mobile becomes ubiquitous, mobile strategies are adding yet another layer. This separation is the wrong approach because customers expect a consistent online (and offline) experience. Moving forward, websites will become more social and everything will become mobile. Web, social and mobile need to be approached holistically. When I think about WEM (Web Engagement Management), I think about the need for a holistic digital paradigm.

A Holistic Digital Approach

The Internet continues to evolve, and we need to constantly re-access our approach. We need to embrace the transition from mass media to my media, from monologue to dialogue, from one-way broadcasting to true engagement. The people formerly known as the audience will expect nothing less. The definition of CMS needs to evolve from “content management” to “conversation management.” What’s exciting is that the tools are emerging to make this new approach a reality, but getting there won’t be easy.

Continue to Leverage Individual Strengths

One challenge in this holistic approach will be finding the balance between integrating the various communications channels while still leveraging their individual strengths. While we need consistent messaging across all channels, we also need to leverage their full potential, especially with mobile. No, the Web isn’t dead, but mobile is going to completely change the game and change it sooner than you think.

Adjusting to the New Normal

A second and larger challenge is organizational. In many ways, large organizations will have difficulty adjusting to the new normal, and how fast they adjust will be dependent on their organizational culture. As Charlene Li said in her great book, Open Leadership, “No matter how compelling a technology or potential relationship might be, in the face of an immovable mass called company culture, and without the right organization and leadership in place, any digital strategy will fail.”

I have used The Cluetrain Manifesto as my job manual since it was first published in 1999. One of my favorite takes from this seminal book is:

Companies have a tremendous urge to control communications. They create org charts to define who gets to do the talking. They issue policy statements: Only PR can talk to the press. Only investor relations can talk to the Journal. We can’t afford to muddy our message or dislocate our positioning. God knows what some disgruntled worker might tell valuable customers. So let’s set up a command hierarchy and station it in a hardened communications bunker. You might as well try to sew closed a fishing net.”

As I think about the many lessons in the Cluetrain, one idea that stands out is that everyone in an organization is involved with marketing and customer service, regardless of their job title. For WEM to truly work, it will require solutions that touch everyone across the entire organization, not just Mar/Comm, PR and IT.

And if you think that social media should be the responsibility of the marketing department and/or the customer service department, you are thinking about this all wrong. The wall between employees and customers must come down and the only way the new technologies will scale is getting everyone involved.

Should WEM Become DEM?

In closing, I’d like your help. When people ask me what I do for a living I tell them I am a web professional, but I’m not sure that “web” is the right term anymore. I tell people I make websites for a living, but that’s becoming a smaller part of my job each year. I spend an increasing percentage of time working on social media initiatives, and as I look to the future, I see myself spending the majority of my time on mobile.

For the past 15 years, I have had the word “web” in my job title, both in my work at the University at Buffalo and in my consulting work. I’m now wondering if the time has come to change this. Instead of “Director of Web Services,” should it be “Director of Digital Services”? Instead of saying my role is web strategy, should it be digital strategy? Should WEM become DEM (digital engagement management)? Is “digital” the right word? I’d love to know your thoughts.

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