A Parallel Universe in the Clouds


ADOTAS – A long time ago — in what now seems like it must have been a galaxy far, far away — small and midsized business owners could get away with ignoring the Internet and social media. Without a website or a Facebook profile, they could still find success. They could boost their bottom lines through word of mouth, quality and physical exposure to the people in their immediate surroundings — fail whale be damned.

These days, though, quality is measured in “likes,” referrals come tied to hashtags and your best customer is a mayor nobody ever voted for.

The Internet was born as an avenue for A-to-B communication. Person A said “hello.” Person B said “hello” back. As it matured, it became what was aptly named “the Web”: a two-dimensional network of documents and data, like news articles, stat sheets and encyclopedic entries.

While what we tend to think of as “social media” is relatively new, it was email that truly gave the first hints of “social” to the Internet—particularly in the early ’90s, when free Web-based email providers were making email ubiquitous enough to take the place of mailed letters (at least for personal communication). We take it for granted today, but consider how revolutionary it was that company web sites began to be shared instantly, from coast to coast, and without the expense of a stamp or long-distance phone call.

The Internet’s evolution was thus spurred not only by a demand that it become bigger and faster, but also for it to be more complex, more real. That is to say, more like the world in which we physically live, work and play. Wrap your head around that, and you’ll understand why “social media” is such a drastic change from the data dump of Web sites and closed-loop communications the Internet used to be.

By popular demand — and perhaps by some degree of necessity — the Internet became a place not for interconnected data, but rather for interconnected people, places and things. Identity, more so than communication, is what makes social media social.

Still don’t get it? Consider the terms in which you think of your life on the Internet these days. Do you look for information about a place, or do you look for the place itself? Do you tell people “I have a profile on Facebook which contains information about me,” or do you tell them that you, yourself, are “on Facebook”?

You no longer refer to the Internet or merely seek out information there. You reside there. Where you were once an occasional visitor, you now have a permanent, traceable identity. Like it or not, you and your company have been forced into a parallel universe of sorts, and business happens in both. You should think of your company’s and brand’s virtual existence as being every bit as “real” as their brick-and-mortar one.

For Everything, a Time, a Place and a File Format

Every trade has its tools — and unless you’re in the hermit business, at least some of those tools are designed for marketing tasks. The more marketing tools you have in your arsenal, the more jobs you’re prepared to tackle.

What all that new media means with regards to your digital assets is that each asset needs to be optimized for all the different media on which you must be present. An asset is no longer an asset. An asset is actually dozens of assets. A single photo must actually be many photos if it’s going to be tweeted, liked, favorited, broadcast and printed.

And so as your digital asset library grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage, store, protect and sift through. Think about it: you probably have trouble finding your own personal files. Do you know — off the top of your head — where all your company’s files are? Do you know how they’re organized? Could you tell the difference between different versions of a document without opening them up and comparing them?

Chances are that your answers to most (if not all) of those questions was “no.” If that was the case, you’re not alone. It’s because it’s so difficult to keep track of that sort of thing that digital asset management systems exist.

Plenty of organizations out there understand the value of this software: from Adidas’ Sports Licensing Division to UNICEF, people who know messaging know that neither our brains nor our personal computers are wired to meet the specific needs of marketers’ digital assets. Digital asset management systems, on the other hand, are built to handle things like taxonomy, version tracking, categorization, permissions and on-the-fly file conversion—all so marketers can focus on what matters most: the message.

DAM and Your Bottom Line

A whitepaper titled “I know what you didn’t do last summer… and other reasons to invest in digital asset management systems” estimates that the value of the average digital asset is about $600. An organization with 1,000 digital assets (a conservative number) should therefore be able to estimate the total value of its digital assets at roughly $600,000.

Now, if this were $600,000 worth of any other kind of assets (computers, cars, food, movies, whatever) you can bet that there would be security around it. You would want to know where it was. At all times.

For whatever reason, we don’t fear accidental deletion, file corruption, or lax digital security quite as much — even though it’s probably easier for the wrong person to leave your building with a $600 photo than with a $600 PC.

Not to mention how easy these assets can be to lose accidentally. Imagine losing an asset– an image that captured an important event, like a new brand launch or a gala event. Or both. This lost asset wasn’t simply a file. It was history. It came with the promise of use in print, video and social media. And it’s gone.

Its loss has an immediate negative value. It’s $600 gone. Irretrievable. Irreproducible.

If you don’t have a DAM system in place, it’s time you started treating your digital assets as having the value they do.

Evolving Media Are Adding to Your Assets’ Potential

The Web isn’t done evolving, but its future is (at least to some degree) tethered to its past. Developers probably won’t wake up tomorrow and decide to build a media landscape that disregards all existing file formats and programming standards.

And yet the media landscape does change quickly. Whether it’s things as simple as new image dimensions to use on an emerging social network or optimization of your video content for both Flash and HTML5, your assets need to be as nimble as your strategy.

Firms are always looking for ways to cut down on waste. Here’s an easy first step: Find out what kind of time your marketing team spends on creating CDs, changing file formats, regulating permission to files, delivering files to affiliates, and other digital asset management activities. Then shop around and find out how much of those tasks could be done in a flash by DAM technology.



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