Interaction design

As consumers take the driving seat in the digital environment, consultancies need to up their game by recruiting and training staff with the right skill sets in order to help their clients exploit them opportunities presented by the social media revolution

Jim Hunter

Jim Hunter
Senior consultant
Become

Social media and social networking have become even more essential elements of the broader marketing and communications mix this year, settling the question of whether they were merely capricious trends or fundamental and revolutionary shifts in the way that we engage, communicate and do business.

We are living in a world where consumer behaviour and activity have changed enormously in a very short time, where peer advocacy and user-generated content increasingly rival corporate advertising, and where communication can be achieved instantly. Considering this, it is no surprise that businesses are beginning to invest seriously in the places where their products and services are discussed the most. However, it is becoming very clear that this is an entirely new way of connecting with audiences, with its own set of considerations that relate to engagement and influence.

The creative industries have always embraced innovation, encouraged change and challenged convention, so are more likely than other sectors to be moving at a similar pace to the technological advances driving these changes. Their challenge is to advise clients that may not be as naturally inclined as others towards digital and social media on how to make the best of the opportunities on offer.

Many established decision-makers are still trying to make sense of the digital world, the speed at which innovations are taking place and how to manage the wider business implications. Meanwhile, the so-called Generation Y is highly mobile, technically astute and perfectly in sync with these burgeoning digital environments, quick to spot the opportunities and turn them to their advantage. This generation gap could fast become a cultural dichotomy, which is why it has become so essential for social media to be properly integrated into strong marketing and communications strategies. Those artlessly invading and attempting to harness and commoditise these spaces have swiftly discovered that such a strategy doesn’t work. They are turning to the people who understand that this new-born digital knowledge needs to be blended with more traditional communication and creative skills to enable them to engage more successfully online.

Digital design consultancies and digital marketing groups are working very hard to galvanise these skills through educating and informing their more senior specialists in the ways of digital and developing their ‘digital natives’ into more rounded creatives. Although intrinsically digital, this generation of designers has yet to acquire deeper commercial awareness, and a more comprehensive combination of the broader communication and creative skills. They must learn about tone of voice, creating impactful visuals, strong writing and persuasive client management. All these skills will help them to achieve credibility and become really influential. The ability to create remarkable and relevant content remains very much at the heart of integrated strategy and, perhaps now more than ever, the fundamental principles of design, communication and brand guardianship need to be taught to show how an idea and a message is crafted, developed and ultimately delivered successfully across all platforms.

As companies continue to build their digital capabilities, the realisation that there is still an immense skills gap grows. At Become, we have been recruiting for digital roles this year that didn’t even exist 18 months ago and, as such, have had to work even more closely with our clients to define these roles, working out how they fit in with their existing framework and identifying, verifying and testing these relatively new skills.

Even more noticeably this year, there is a shortage of talent that combines real creative credibility with solid technical and digital expertise. Although many employers continue to compete for a limited skill set, others have had to completely rethink their recruitment strategy. We have seen a much greater demand for training, at all levels, in the past 12 months. This is really encouraging as it shows that most businesses are making a significant and long-term investment in digital.

As we collaborate with clients to set their digital recruitment agenda for the coming year, we are advising them to continue to build upon their established creative and communications skills, while at the same time equipping themselves with better technical knowledge and a much more in-depth understanding of how to interact and engage through these channels. The digital environments in which we now share information and ideas, form opinions and make recommendations have forced us to re-imagine how we connect with one another – and perhaps even more importantly, how we reach out to future generations who will not actively seek out products and services, the news or even the employment opportunities. The ones who now expect to be found.

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