Five Pillars to Digital Domination

You would have to be living in a cave or comatose for the last decade or so to realize that digital has revolutionized the world. The number of industries that have transformed and are transforming can be summed simply by the idea that “anything that can be digitized will be”. Paper – books and magazines – Sound – music and radio – Visual – pictures and movies. All kinds of content is digital. Rightly so. It’s far more efficient. Imagine how books were printed and sold. Now I can type one out on a word application and have it published instantly on innumerable platforms, market it to the world using channels that I own. Nothing new here!

So what’s this blog about. This blog is about domination in the digital world. Whoever you are, whatever you do if you are not embracing this world, tou are going to lose because you are competing with a generation that was born this way (thank you Lady Gaga!). They are the “digital natives”. They were born like you and I were born with electricity. We can’t imagine life without electricity. They can’t imagine a life without the internet. You had to go to your nearest public library to do research for your project at school, this generation just google’s it! Want to see one baby from this tribe. Check this video out! You can’t pinch and zoom this magazine! Get out! Yup this is not you! You are a digital immigrant.

Regardless of whether you are a native or an immigrant. The real question is “What are you doing about it?” Since this post assumes you are a cave man (sorry!) I am covering all points for the sake of hierarchy. From the basic to the advanced. Here are my two bits and I am no expert but I do hope you find this hierarchy useful since I know so many who haven’t quite yet started and don’t feel the need to do so, at least as individuals.

Pillar #1: Existence

Remember the famous adage “I think therefore I am,” well that still counts but now the world cares more about something else, “I tweet therefore I am”. The ubiquity of digital channels means your absence brings your existence into question. Seriously, you might as well just jump off the ledge…or (phew!) simply start with the key channels where you just need to be. Don’t care to. Not motivated. Think it’s all meh. Think again. The World is Flat. This is power. The kind of tools and technologies that are available today are so powerful and empowering that it would be a pity if you are not making us of all this power that is available to you. The influence you can have on the world is unfathomable. Remember not too long ago power lay with governments. The kings, the dictators, the generals, the presidents of the world. Then another power rose. The power of corporations. Just look at the cash reserves of Apple. They are more powerful than many nations today. Their revenues are greater than the GDP of many countries. Now because of these tools we have entered the era of the individual. Think Arab Spring, despite all the curbs and cuts brought about by the people in power. The Flat World won. The tools and technologies available to the common man are easy and ubiquitous that eventually they prevailed. Of course pinning it all to technology would be too simplistic but it was certainly the key enabler. And all you need to do is setup a twitter account and you will be on your way!

Pillar #2: Validation

Who remembers Faisal Shahzad? The suspect for the averted bombing in New York at Times Square. Well I don’t know about you but this guy in the pic below certainly does. Probably will for the rest of his life. Why? Because his life has been ruined just because this guy shared a name with the wrong Faisal Shahzad. Some news site picked his pic up from his Facebook account and plastered it all over. Before you know it this Faisal Shahzad became world famous. This mistake from one over enthusiastic journalist will haunt him for the rest of his life. So what’s the point? Validation. Creating and managing your online profiles distinctly and clearly gives you validation. Taking this bit lightly can sometimes lead to serious damage as we can see in the case of Faisal Shahzad. So go on fill your LinkedIn as accurately as you can. It’s not enough to just exist. You have to do a decent job at it to ensure something like this doesn’t happen. Of course this is an extreme case but an important lesson on the need for validation no doubt.

 Pillar #3: Knowledge

Now that the basics are covered. Let’s get down to some serious business. The third pillar is crucial. Someone beautifully said it. “The illiterate in the 21st century are not the ones who can’t read or write but they are the ones who can’t learn, unlearn and relearn”. This quote says it all about knowledge seeking in the 21st century and what better way to do it than on the internet. Remember the good old encyclopedia. The benchmark of encyclopedia – the britannica has 20,000 pages across all it’s volumes, updated maybe once a year and covers about half a million topics. The wikipedia on the other hand has over 80 million pages, is updated instantly on some topics and gets a billion pages views per month. It has 8 times more topics than the Britannica. Talk about scale. The question you may ask at this point is why do I need to have digital profile to gain all this knowledge. I could pretty much get access to everything I need anonymously so why bother? Here’s why!

Real-Time Learning. Curation. Community

Twitter. Live Event. Hashtag. Enough said. I have personally experienced real-time learning on Twitter by following the Cannes Lions seminars hashtag on Twitter and I can say that the experience is phenomenal. The depth of experience at least for Cannes Lions has been exceptional. Besides being able to follow multiple seminars at the same time in the hashtag feed. You get a sense of the crowd, the feedback, the pictures, even down to what was served during the breaks. You get it all. The after parties the morning coffees. Everything. Of course it can take a painstaking effort at times to follow so closely but one time I felt I was there. As a I engaged and retweeted the best of tweets I got some people asking me if I was actually there at the event. And herein lies the key point. What you get on a network like Twitter is not only an opportunity to learn real-time but as you retweet, you curate the event for anyone else following the hashtag adding value to the community. As a result not only have you increased your knowledge but you have grown your community as well. This is not possible without an active digital presence whereby you are not only consuming content but curating and engaging with like-minded individuals.

 Pillar #4: Networking

Now you are are moving up the hierarchy. You are learning and engaging. This is the step where you move up from a beginner level to a someone who is using social media to deliver significant impact to whatever you are doing – from promoting your business to your ideas. This is the stage to consolidate and focus. The goal here is to take your random community building initiatives a step further. This is about organizing your followers and contacts to focusing on building a network. How? Each network has it’s own ways of doing so. Twitter allows you to do so using lists. Following people with similar interests, professionals who tweet content around specific areas relevant to you. They are the ones to follow and add to that respective list. The thing with lists is that you can focus on a certain interest area and interact more with relevant audiences depending on what you are promoting or aspiring to be known for. For example, if I aspire to be known in the telecom circles I need to build a list with experts from that field. Engage with them, learn from them, retweet their content, participate in their twitter chats. Sometimes these relationships extend further, to an invite for a speaking opportunity being part of their community on another social network or sometimes simply leading to a LinkedIn connection. As you know 90% of Fortune 500 companies are hiring people using LinkedIn so if you got a CMO or a CSO of company engaging with you then I guess you are one step closer to being considered for that job you are aspiring to get. Speaking of LinkedIn it is no doubt the king of professional networking but it is more targeted to lead generation or active job seeking in my opinion. With their influencer content it has become a learning platform but I end up more on Twitter or Feedly then just on LinkedIn to gain knowledge. But I guess that just me. In either case, following all those pillars makes this one easier and more natural because now you have a point of view…well sort of!

 Pillar #5: Leadership

Why sort of…because everything you have done to this point is curation of content which is not always easy. Finding the right stuff consistently to a point of being recognized as a sector expert is easier said than done. However the final pillar to attain digital leadership is getting into the domain of creation. Here you need to get down to contribute more than just a tweet. This is when you make a call to either create your own blog, a YouTube channel if you are more comfortable talking than writing or simply using the publishing platforms of existing social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook. I personally decided to go the blog route. It allows more customization, ownership and freedom. It is hard work promoting it and getting traction but that’s a topic for another post. The point simply here is that at this level the focus is more on creation than on consumption or curation. The hierarchy of thought leadership has it’s own levels. From simple blogging to public speaking, sharing content on SlideShare to even writing an ebook. Doing any of those requires a serious commitment but with the democratization of publishing tools there is no reason why one cannot commit themselves to a domain leadership of something that matters to them.

So there you have it…the Five Pillars of Digital Domination as I see it. Feel free to comment your thoughts below. I’d love to hear your POV on what works for you.

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