Gary Ennis interview: Working Digital to get ROI
Gary has campaigned long and hard to show that digital is for every business and not just the larger firms. Now, with thanks to East Ayrshire Council, he is putting on a four-day event called Working Digital which aims to show how digital is for all - and what businesses can expect from doing it well.
He took time out from organising to answer a few questions about the event.
What made you think of Ayrshire for this event?
The credit for this needs to go to East Ayrshire Council. They wanted to bring such an event to East Ayrshire and have been running a number of smaller digital initiatives for the local businesses over recent years, including some very well attended social media workshops which we had the pleasure of being involved in.
Working Digital was them wanting to raise the bar, and bring together a number of high-calibre speakers normally reserved for Glasgow or London, into Ayrshire for the benefit of the local businesses, and ultimately the local economy.
What do you hope to get out of it?
First and foremost, we’ll get to do what we love the most – showing businesses the real value of embracing digital technologies and social media, and exciting them by demonstrating the business benefits to all of this. Working Digital is about much more than having a website or being on Facebook, it’s a complete shift in thinking and sets your business up to thrive in the digital age.
There's often been an accusation that Scottish businesses don't do digital. Is that the case?
Not true. We could all maybe do it a bit better.. maybe focus more of the business objectives, and more on the “why” – but Scotland is far from stagnant in the digital space.
We know this first hand from the 100’s of businesses we’ll work with in any one month, and while there are still some sceptics out there (which we love converting!) they are few and far between, with most of the attendees to our workshops etc embracing digital at some level, and wanting to take it further.
NSDesign have been on the go for more than a decade now. What big changes have you seen in the digital arena in that time?
It's been 15 interesting years! We jokingly make comparisons between NSDesign and Google – with Google founded just two months before NSDesign – “if only we’d got there first!”… Over that time there has certainly been a few landmark changes in the digital world. The search-domination by Google being one of them (I still yearn for the days of AltaVista!), and this won’t slow down as they push Google+ into being a realistic contender to battle Facebook.
The changing nature of advertising is another huge shift.. in as much as nobody clicks them any more, we don’t trust them and they just annoy people. Compare this to the attitude of “I buy this because my Friends like it” – and you see why the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are boosting ecommerce sales via “discovery marketing” and therefore the need for businesses to create content, not adverts.
In the social realm, things appear to have calmed down now. Do you think there's still room for innovation?
Social networks have certainly evolved.. remember mySpace and Bebo? Don’t go deleting those accounts just yet, as I’m certain both will make a bit of a comeback, maybe tailored to more niche sectors, but don’t count them out yet.
And then there’s the tech. I seriously don’t know anyone over the age of 16 who hasn’t got a smart-phone that’s considerably more powerful then the office computer of even just 5 years ago. The internet is in our pocket now – and that’s become the normal, and social media has rocketed as a result… and that’s before I even get started on Google Glass!!.... So yes – there’s ALWAYS room for innovation, but changing things just because we can is rarely the profitable thing to do. Changing things that 1 Billion+ people will go “wow” at – there’s your next facebook killer.
Do too many firms get hung up on ROI?
Some firms do absolutely. And I can sometimes see their point – especially if their usage of social media isn’t overly efficient, or they don’t really know what they’re doing or have a strategy behind it. Then they kind of need to justify the time and resource they are ploughing into social and often want to see and prove a financial return.
The truth is – you can measure financial ROI from your use of social if that’s what you want to do (integration with Analytics, and Goals, and Ecommerce makes it pretty black and white), but my question to many businesses is why get hung up on this, to the point that it begins to impact the quality of what they actually ‘do’ on their social channels.
One quote from the infamous Social Media guru Erik Qualman (making a special guest appearance at Working Digital) that we use all the time with clients is “how do you measure the ROI of the telephone?” – most people haven’t a clue how much money the phone on your desk made you.. because it rang, you picked it up, and over the day you helped people, chatted to friends, maybe actually made a direct sale, chased a few leads, and arranged some internal meetings with colleagues.
Few people can put an actual financial value on that – but everyone knows fine well, that if you took away the phone and therefore couldn’t do all those things, your business would be considerably worse off. Treat Social Media the same – it’s just the new phone! It’s just people wanting to talk to you.
What's the one useful link you can share with people that you think Working Digital attendees would like?
They’ve probably already seen it, as we show it all the time... it’s a YouTube video from Blendtec – a US company that make blenders.
Personally I love watching people’s faces as they view this – it ranges from bewilderment, to amazement, to hysterical laughter… some people ‘get it’ straight away, others need explaining. It’s advertising, but of the very best kind, and all businesses could learn from them. But Will it Blend… that is the question.
Interview by Craig McGill