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2011 Themes Edition: My ODE to Digital

Catching up on 2011 (… already)

The volume of activity with the Bottree blog has been quiet for the last few weeks. I apologize to all of those who thought I had fallen off the face of the planet, but a lot of changes were taking place with both Bottree and myself (Bill Wittur). Most of the changes represent clear opportunities for Bottree, but I also had to overcome several significant challenges that I’ll be sharing with you over the coming months.

Suffice to say, I’m back and we’re excited about sharing our prognostications about what will guide you and your organization as you wade into the digital world in 2011.

So What Is the ‘ODE to Digital’?

Of course, I’m fully aware that we’re already a couple of weeks into the New Year, but I still wanted to lay down what I think will be the recurring ‘themes’ in 2011. Quite simply, they can be summarized as an ODE to digital:

  • Open
  • Dialogue
  • Everywhere

OK … it’s nothing like Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy“, and it’s not like my volumes of detail that I’ve dedicted to predictions for the year in previous years (an article that I’ll have to revisit to see how I did), but I decided that this will be the year of trying to simplify things and making things as clear as possible.

Those who know me well know this is a pipe-dream, but I’ll try anyways!


Early in 2010, I had my ‘open’ moment. I started using open source tools and software and also started using cloud computing as an extension of open computing. Cloud computing is such a great way for people to store their data online, as well as do other things too. Most cloud applications seem to be portable and simple to use. This is normally because companies will use container management software (look at this resource here to learn more). This ensures the cloud application runs smoothly, making it much easier to use.

Midway through the year, I started a project called ‘What They Spend‘, an effort to explore the expense claims of Canadian MPs. The project is admittedly stalled, but I hope to return to it early in 2011 and complete the project (NOTE: volunteers who are talented and creative programmers are still sought for this project).

However, I think the lion’s share of the world’s population is still living in a closed environment. Early adopters like David Eaves are pushing the ‘open’ envelope, but my concern is that open is still something that has a lot of ‘why’ questions surrounding it as opposed to ‘how’ and ‘how soon’.

Actions like the FCC announcing a contest to develop apps using open data will no doubt accelerate the acceptance of open, but we’ve got an awful long way to go before ‘open’ is a household term that everyone comprehends, accepts and – most importantly – acts on.

Open is important because it makes the next component – dialogue – less painful.


Dialogue didn’t start with Facebook. The conversation has been going on since primitive times and even the digital conversation has been taking place for several decades.

That said, tools like Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and other social platforms will simplify the act of facilitating dialogue.

While we shy away from saying ‘thou must spray a thousand tweets per day’, we do recommend that all organizations let their people engage in dialogue.

So the question is ‘where’ and ‘how’. See next with ‘Everywhere’.


Once you’re digital, you’re on the way to being everywhere, but it is a challenge filling all of those last gaps in social and digital conversation. Should you sign up with DIGG or FriendFeed to make sure that your Tweets are being sent to the furthest reaches of the universe?

Sure. And no.

‘Everywhere’ becomes a function of your resources, doesn’t it?

‘Everywhere’ should become more of a progression as opposed to an absolute. The sooner people accept this idea, the sooner the stress level will be taken down about 50 notches.

Our recommendation is that you accept that ‘everywhere’ is a subjective term and that it ultimately belongs to the law of large numbers. This means you should have a presence with the most popular or most relevant engines.

Here’s our quick definition of ‘everywhere’:

  1. Google SEO – be sure that you’ve leveraged SEO best practices and your site is coming up with specific keyword searches relevant to your business or organization’s objectives. People might be spending more time with Facebook, but they’re almost always starting their web experience with Google. It’s extreme to say that not being there is akin to not existing, but it’s close.
  2. Google SEM – paid search helps ‘fill the gaps’ left by SEO. It’s also an extremely cost-effective way to test copy, messages, landing pages and even display formats.
  3. Social Pages – Facebook is the obvious leader in this field, but whatever you do, don’t abort your projects related to your own website just so you can shout at Facebook users that may only be barely interested in what you have to say. In our view, Twitter is very close to useless, but you may still want to have a few people in-house that customers can follow … just in case they want to get updates about your favourite ice cream.
  4. Social Advertising – I love social advertising because it takes ‘self-serve’ to the next level. I can invest as little or as much as I want and I have complete control over my campaigns. Facebook and LinkedIn are the social platforms that we recommend for advertising.
  5. Local Pages – Yelp, FourSquare, and Google Places are vital to stimulating the local conversation about your service, business, or organization. I was recently out of town and after being let down by advertisers in the local food guide, I jumped on to the mobile app for Yelp. Reviews made/broke my interest in a restaurant and I found myself adding to the mix.
  6. Mobile – Make sure that you have a mobile version of your site and that you have click-to-call with any SEM ads that you’re delivering. Again, these small features contributed to a night/day experience when searching for local services.
  7. Applications – Mobile apps are a bit of a stretch for most organizations, but they are increasingly vital to day-to-day digital activities for a growing audience. There are companies such as Expedition Co. that can help with the design and development aspect if required.

Starting is the Best Thing To Do

As always, I probably over-contributed to this piece by suggesting a lot of superfluous tactics and details, so the summary of the message is this: digital is about doing.

To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, it’s about starting and taking that one small step rather than a massive leap into the future. To put it another way, digital is an opportunity to learn in terms of small puzzle pieces, all of which slowly come together as an awesome picture.