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Social Media Digital Asset Distribution And The Politics Of DAM

by Ralph Windsor on December 18, 2012

As well hoovering up DAM vendors, it seems North Plains also have some time to pen one or two articles for the marketing trade press too.  This one written for Marketing Daily by their marketing Vice President,  Eric Courville caught my attention: Content, Channels, Consumers: How To Manage It All.

…it can be difficult for marketers to know the right piece of content to share with the right customers — especially now when many of them are grappling with the globalization of their brands while still providing localized and targeted interactions. They are creating the animated graphics, images and videos that are being retouched and reused in numerous locations across an organization. The inability to accurately manage this workflow properly can cost millions of dollars in rights management lawsuits, redundant work, unbillable time and weak brand reputation. As a result, brands are facing a serious challenge: how to accurately track, distribute and manage all their digital content.” [Read More]

The essence of the article is that the range of media distribution channels is growing at an exponential rate with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube et al being used to disseminate your company’s media.  As might expect, Eric’s solution to this is to go and get yourself a DAM system.  Probably (one of the many) his employer now owns too!

Although it’s not the DAM News style to be gushing about vendor articles (as a few astute readers may have observed!) on this occasion, I would need to agree with Eric.  It’s going to get very difficult to keep track of your media assets and where exactly they have been used.

As a consultant, I’ve encountered a few different clients who are now beginning to group their media into stuff they want the conventional media or their customers to consume and other less PR-friendly material they are not as keen on releasing.  The old argument used to be that if you don’t want the world to see an asset, then don’t upload it to a DAM.  That’s not an entirely bad policy, but it’s also beginning to sound quite a lot like security advice that if you don’t want your PC to get viruses etc then don’t connect it to the Internet.  That might have been reasonable 10-15 years ago but it’s not very practical in this day and age.  So it will be with DAM and social media also.

As ever with technology, yesterday’s solution is tomorrow’s problem (or opportunity if you prefer that perspective).  An issue I can foresee coming up soon is who and how you decide what is ‘social media safe’ and what needs to be locked up behind multiple levels of authentication.  This isn’t exclusively a vendor problem since their scope of responsibility will be providing you with the tools to manage and implement a media distribution policy, but there are further implications which might require development of enhanced features by them to meet your needs.

As the DAM user, your problem will be deciding the finer points of what should get access and the steps that need to be put in place to release assets into the social media environment.  If it’s too restrictive, your users will either not bother (and reduce your exposure to customers in this market as a consequence) or, more likely, they will find way to get around the security and do it anyway but in an unmanaged and potentially damaging fashion.  If it’s too lose then there is the potential for all sorts of unsavoury items to start leaking out into social media channels where they may get re-broadcast across the globe.

As anyone who has been involved in marketing or with marketing personnel is probably acutely aware, another complex area is dealing with hastily announced 180 degree changes in policy from up above too – with resulting required amendments in what is being disseminated and where.  To what extent you will be able to recall media once it has gone out into the social media world is hard to say, but it’s certainly likely you will need to be able to present an audit that shows precisely what channels have been used and when.  This means the metadata and permissions data your DAM retains about each asset is going to need to get more sophisticated to both allow the recording of these publication/release events including who did it and why.  As well as that, the usability features to allow you to get into this data quickly and generate reports rapidly will also become even more important.

The other issue in addition to what get pushed out to social media will be the nature of the assets also.  In most cases, it won’t just be raw unadulterated digital file, you may want things like watermarked logos that are prominent but not obtrusive, embedded metadata in XMP or IPTC etc with your copyright clearly retained, credits at the end of audio/visual media and a variety of other treatments.  These might be undesirable on regular assets that staff use for internal production purposes, but as part of the social media ‘sign off’ they should be applied and checked for prior to release.

As is common with most software, many people doing the implementation of it are likely to have over-rationalised the requirements and reduced it down to something which they think will cope with what marketing managers need but which may not measure up when you start using it for real.  To address this problem, senior marketing managers need to start thinking about how they might need to manage this on a far more industrialised scale than they may have been until now.  Similarly, vendors will need to see this coming and rather than being blasé about their existing capabilities and/or the ease with which they can add them, really look closely at whether they do come up to scratch or not then devise plans to address any shortcomings.

Social media is going to add an increasingly political dimension to Digital Asset Management, especially as the number of end users of DAM systems increases also.  If this is likely to impact your organisation (which in most cases it probably will) then it’s worth spending some time considering the implications and what you can do to maximise the benefit while limiting the potential risks.

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