Do you ever feel like you’re approaching your digital marketing without a map?

Welcome. Settle in and stay awhile. You’re in good company.

In working for years with nonprofits, I’m consistently amazed at the considerable time, energy, and smarts that organizations throw into their online marketing – via their websites, email marketing, social outreach, and online communities – without having an integrated view of the whole landscape in which their messages are moving.

Enter a little tool I call the Digital Roadmap.

The Digital Roadmap is your organization’s chance to get cartographic, by plotting on paper all the points of your online neighborhood. It’s an accounting of the ecosystem in which your organization presents itself, involving all of the properties, amenities, and public spaces that collectively shape public perception of your cause.

At the center of your digital roadmap is your homebase – the online location where your organization resides, the centerpiece of the neighborhood, from your vantage point. You’ll certainly have a main residence where you can be found (your primary website), which can be re-purposed as the context changes – much like your primary website gets repurposed for mobile, tablet, or desktop viewing. On your property, you might also have outbuildings, guesthouses, or community spaces that you control (in the digital world, these are your specialized properties like micro-, affiliate, advocacy, peer-to-peer, or campaign sites). You’re of course always trying to drive traffic here, to bring people into your spaces, and to lure them back again and again through the fabulous parties you host (a.k.a. your great content and campaigns).

Digital Roadmap

A Digital Roadmap: Homebases, Embassies, and Outposts (by Misty McLaughlin and Michael Chang)

 

Then come your embassies – the places that your organization has a presence, but which you do not wholly own or control. In your neighborhood, this might be the coffee shop where you work sometimes, the park where your kids play, the library, the grocery store. Such public spaces are where your neighbors natively spend time, like email, social media sites, and texting. Because people already inhabit these spaces, it’s often much easier to reach them there than to get them onto your home turf (your websites). Thus embassies are often the right places to do your relationship-building and –maintaining. For many of your relationships, this might be the only place you make contact regularly.

And finally, you’ve got your outposts: the places that you neither own nor control, but where your voice might occasionally show up; where other organizations’ voices are being heard; and where people are talking about you and your cause (bulletin boards, community social events, neighborhood association meetings). This, in my experience, is the most forgotten piece of the map – the network of partner and competitor sites, the web of content-sharing relationships, the guest posts and video appearances you do – that have a significant power to affect public opinion about your organization’s work and identity. These too are a part of your neighborhood.

You may be thinking: But we know all of these places natively. Of course we’re planning for how these channels intersect. My org rocks at multi-channel campaigning! And, of course, you may be right.

But no matter how great an understanding you’ve developed, if you can’t clearly see all of the possible touchpoints within one constellation, your organization lacks a cohesive, bird’s-eye view. Long before the Web, marketers sought to understand who, how, and where public perception was shaped. The digital universe has multiplied this movement, allowing organizations to both tune in more closely and to more powerfully influence the shape of public opinion.

Once you’ve mapped your organization’s presence in the multi-channel ecosystem, you can begin to see the potential. Perhaps there’s a part of the conversation you aren’t currently influencing, but should be. Perhaps other organizations’ homebases, embassies, and outposts are informing your supporters’ perceptions of your cause, instead of you. Perhaps you have the chance to more strategically move people in, out, among, and between the various parts of your neighborhood. Like the best urban planners, digital marketers are expert at shaping the digi-verse in order to move their messages, and move their people. To curate public spaces. To promote traffic flow. To avoid sprawl. To reach people in the places they’re most comfortable. To disrupt mis-information. To build community. To change the world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

From time to time, a guest blogger will appear on npENGAGE. Guest bloggers are industry experts contributing useful, relevant content to the conversation on npENGAGE. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, contact the editor.

Get nonprofit articles, best practice advice, fundraising ideas and invaluable industry reports and webinars delivered for free!