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You want Digital Strategy? Then field a Full Team – The 11 Players of Digital Engagement

[ 1 ] August 12, 2011 |

I may have found my “global” sports gene as 2011 is the first year I have finally started to follow soccer seriously (or as my fanatical global cousins put it “Football”).

First the exciting Women’s World Cup and now the start of Premier League season (still angling for a favourite team – any suggestions?).

One of the first observations I’ve made about the sport is the importance of formations. It’s one of the biggest influences a coach can make on a game. How do you wage footie war by orchestrating a smart combination of defence, midfield and forwards? It’s a strategic conundrum. Do you field an offence-oriented 4-2-4 Brazilian formation, a more defensive German 3-6-1 formation or something in the middle like England’s 4-4-2 formations?

It got me thinking how blind many businesses are to the world of digital engagement … with a soccer twist. Like the smartest football coaches, as a business leader, you are not merely deploying individual players, but fielding a full squad of digital engagement tactics that work in concert with each other.

Now let’s bring this Beautiful Game metaphor into the digital realm and a term I hate – Social Media Strategy.  I love many of these gurus to death, but people who claim to be Social Media Strategists are akin to being Head of Goalie Strategy.  Perhaps valued, but a small part of the overall game (goaltenders only field 13 shots per game) and doesn’t mean squat in isolation if they can’t communicate with their defence or have a lazy midfield or talent-poor forwards. Let’s get real – you are tacticians, not strategists. You’re going to lose each time if you can’t manage or at least influence the entire field of play.

A couple weeks back, I suggested the eleven player world of Digital Engagement on Google +. Imminently redeployable, substitutable and rearrangeable – this is the full digital game, the real digital strategy suite!

Here’s the positional metaphors (with all-star players pictured that represent the emobdiment position for you soccer mad):


Left wingers – Social Media/Networks

The goofy left-footed players who are all about offence and getting their name out there (they usually wear the loudest coloured shoes).  They can be great counter attackers and change the tide of a game quickly. Like the ideal use of social media, they call attention to themselves but the best,  frequently support what other players are doing.

Strikers – Content/Incentives/Campaign Development (video/pictures/blogs/contests)

Content wins in a connected world, goals win in soccer (and strikers score the most goals). Strikers, like content, are the glamorous key finishers in generating offence, attention and fans (like home run hitters in baseball). They receive plenty of praise and celebrity but also have a lot of pressure on them to perform. Flashy, much talked about and prolific is their name of the game.

Right wingers – Influencer Outreach/Web Media/Advertising/Sponsorships

Right wingers have some of the best combination of speed and endurance of any player on the field.  Like finding new prospects, right wingers need to find open space to be found by others, they also need to be fast and skilled to feed strikers for opportunities and goals.


Left midfield – SEO

Wide left midfielders need to have strong off-the-ball intelligence.  Like SEO, although not the biggest part of the game (they usually have the ball for less than 2 minutes per game), left midfielders have to find ways to stay involved and be valuable to others.

Centre midfield – Community management/moderation

Like community managers, centre midfielders need to have superior vision and skill and play a variety of roles.  They are the creative playmakers and on good teams, most of offensive plays pivots on them and most of the competitive attacks are stopped by them before they start. They frequently have equal responsibilities on offence and defence and therefore expend more energy than any other in the digital game.

Right midfield – Mobile/App Development/Management

Similar to a left midfielder, they are some of the most technically gifted players on the field.  Like mobile/app development, their primary function is  offence (attracting new customers and attention). They play out on the periphery of a team’s attack.


Left fullback – Metrics/Analytics/Listening

Left fullbacks play wide out on the wings and prevent opposing players attacking or crossing the ball.  Like researchers and analysts, they prevent their teams from being outflanked and surprised.  Frequently in one-on-one situations, they need to have their eye always on the ball and help their teams attack at the right time.

Centre backs – Organizational Integration/Culture

They’re primary role is internal defence. Like Organizational Integration/Culture experts, centre backs tackle the big issues in front of them that impede success. They need to be brave and decisive and is one of the more physically demanding positions in the game. They need to be tall enough to intercept, block and tackle opposition from a variety of directions.

Sweeper – User Experience/Design

They are usually some of the fastest, albeit smaller players on the field and their value rests in sweeping up what’s left over from the defence and closing down gaps left by teammates.  Like user experience specialists, they need to read the game and where its going better than anybody else. This is the experienced and calm thinker and last line of defence of the team. In Italian , they are labelled libero – meaning free and in the digital case, free to make a wide span of suggestions.

Right fullback – CRM/eCommerce

The complement to the left fullback. Like CRM and ecommerce, left fullbacks need to act like a spider and cover off the flanks with long legs and lightning speed. You must sacrifice your offence for having great defence that works and is in the right position, every time,  all the time.

Goalkeeper – Hosting/Platform Software/the Cloud/Administration

You need to be reliable and cover up the rest of your team’s mistakes by stopping opponents from scoring. Like hosting services and platforms, you need to provide excellent and timely service. You are the backbone of the team frequently encouraging your teammates.

THE DIGITAL STRATEGISTS – The managing cast:

Coach – Digital Strategist/Web Architect

The Geppetto of the Team. They pull the strings and make the key strategic and tactical decisions. Beyond being the identified face of the team, they determine the style of play, tone and attitude of the entire team.

President – Executive Sponsor

The person ultimately responsible for what goes right and wrong with engagement. In companies, it can reside at the CEO level and at others at the executive team level (e.g. CMO, CIO or executive champion).

Trainer – Digital Training

People responsible for improving the conditioning, comfort level and well-being of the entire team.

So how about losing the job title SEO strategist or the field of discipline – content strategy, after all, if you’re not helping play the whole field, you’re likely not the strategist.

Feel free to drop us a line or a red card on hits, misses and offsides.

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