“An institution’s internet presence is the sum of all of the actions that the different players carry out on different parts of the web. Internet strategy does not end with the design of the official website. The digital environment needs to be managed.” This concludes and sums up the Network society: management and monitoring presentation that Genís Roca offered in March to nearly a hundred professionals from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia, UOC), as part of the working sessions with the Student Services Area and the Student Incorporation and Monitoring Area.
It was made clear in the session that brand presence on the internet can only be managed if there is a strategy in place that takes into account an organisation’s own activity on the web and its digital environment: other institutions and individuals who maintain and share web presence linked to our own.
There is now the possibility for anyone’s opinion about a brand to appear on the first page of Google’s search results when we look for information. This means we have to reflect on the fact that an organisation’s digital identity is not based on the messages it sends out. Instead, its web presence is the sum of its own activities and those generated in relation to it on the internet by other institutions and individuals in a range of settings and formats.
An organisation’s digital identity is built by what is said about it on the web, in the digital press, in blogs and on social networks. Thus, organisations need a web presence model and strategy that encompasses what they do, but also what the other players on the internet do in this respect.
Managing digital identity means managing complexity. It requires the designing of a web presence model that takes into account a range of possible scenarios. Specifically, according to Genís Roca’s model, we need to pay attention to the nine variables resulting from the intersection of the sources of activities on the internet (own, other and shared) and the owner of the platform where this activity takes place (which again can be own, other or shared).
This web presence paradigm involves both what is taking place in our domain and that taking place beyond this. It highlights the complex combination of our own and others’ actions taking place in each of these settings. Management of all this is what is involved in managing our identity on the web and this is why organisations have People, Information and Technology.
Managing an organisation’s web presence means managing People, Information and Technology and what happens when these intersect: attitudes, tools and skills.
With respect to attitudes, organisations have to be able to adapt and balance the way businesses and technologies are understood by pre-1970s generations (a minority with great decision-making powers and most of the positions of responsibility) and the way businesses and technologies are understood by the new generations (a growing majority that is skilled and knowledgeable in the web, but underrepresented in the organisation’s power structure).
In terms of tools, the web is rich in open environments, collaborative sites, platforms for communication and discussion, solutions for sharing documents or jointly managing projects. An organisation has to know what tools can provide value and make the most of their being available, flexible and free.
Finally, as far as skills are concerned, an organisation has to focus on knowing how to find, read and listen on the web. These monitoring tasks require the prioritising of what needs to be found on the internet so as to ensure that the most appropriate search methods and environments are used in each case to retrieve relevant results.
To read on the internet, an organisation has to take advantage of the features offered by RSS and be able to order, or even customise, the diverse range of sources of information offered by the web so as to retrieve the most pertinent and up-to-date information in their areas of interest.
To listen to the web, an organisation has to be aware of what is being said about it globally. It needs to track its appearances in the headlines and know which blogs are talking about it and which sites aren’t. It has to monitor trends and search habits on the web, links and any mentions in the blogosphere, the web conversations that are most closely linked to its aims, and its position (and that of the competition) in the internet’s benchmark rankings.
In short, an organisation’s web presence management is the result of managing people’s attitudes in terms of the potential offered by social information systems and technology, exploiting certain online tools to help meet objectives and the skills needed to listen and develop appropriately on the web.