What Is DAM’s Role In Social Media?

Denzil Ford, who is a writer and content strategist for DAM vendor, MediaValet has contributed a feature article which we have published today: Snapshots Of The Past, Present & Future Of Social Media + DAM.  The item considers the role of DAM within social media and asks some questions about whether the technology aspects of the discussion are gaining too much prominence over the human elements.  The piece refers to an article about social media and DAM in DAM value chain series we ran a few years ago, with particular reference to the item about DAM and social media integration.

I should point out that recently MediaValet (along with WebDAM, Dropbox, Google Drive and a few others) were selected by social media management tool developer, Hootsuite as their initial digital asset repository integration partners but the article is not a thinly veiled advert for their services, it is a deeper and more considered debate and discussion item (as regular readers will be aware, we don’t do ‘infomercial’ style articles on DAM News).  I don’t entirely agree with all the points made by Denzil, although I do concur with many of them and many readers might regard her perspective as being one which they have an affinity with:

What I hope for here on the DAM News platform is to become part of more conversations amongst DAM professionals at all levels. Where are we now? Where have we been? And where are we going? There is a lot to be learned by continually contemplating the answers to those 3 questions. In this article, I’d like to post an update to DAM News’ last full-length discussion of social media + DAM from 2013 by briefly considering where we have been, where we are now, and where we might be going.” [Read More]

As she has asked to open a debate about this subject, I will oblige.  The key areas which I disagree with are towards the end of the article, but perhaps they are due to misunderstandings about the technology and the underlying trends which cause people to develop them in the first place (and quite possibly my own inability to explain myself adequately in the articles she refers to):

If modular flexibility in DAM technology is the future and microservices are inevitably going to take over, how is the resultant technology going to actually meet the needs of businesses practicing social media strategies? Can microservices develop to truly decrease risks in social media for business? Does this require AI and automation, essentially translating the “social” in social media into “computer program?” Computer program media? Alternatively, are the risks in social media even that important? We’ve all heard the phrase: “No publicity is bad publicity.” How many times has a critical tweet about your company’s post led you to search some other business, individual or event (read: brand)? Happens every day. (Happened at my company today!)” [Read More]

The original item where social media was discussed was the DAM value chain, which, in essence, is a supply chain for digital assets.  As I have mentioned in other articles, digital assets have intrinsic value (the asset binary data) and extrinsic value (metadata).  Supply chains add value to raw materials before they reach a consumer, so digital asset value chains incrementally increase the value of digital assets by introducing more metadata as assets pass through processing nodes on the supply chain.  Metadata enhances the versatility of digital assets, this is the same core concept that is used in nearly every other developed market for anything you care to mention, from cars through to food and even in service-based endeavours, like recruitment, teaching, legal services etc.  Supply chains develop because although initially enterprises try to realise everything themselves (because it seems to be more profitable than paying someone else to do it) before long this approach becomes uneconomic and they begin to understand that it is more cost-effective to focus on what they do best instead.  Organisations may also come to the view that they risk losing influence or market share by isolating themselves rather than participating in a wider ecosystem which could yield opportunities that were previously unavailable.  The news relating to Hootsuite which involved Denzil’s employer is an example of this same value-chain progression playing out.  It is important to grasp that DAMs can (and usually are) part of some other value chain as much as they have one of their own.

The concept under discussion is fundamentally a business one involving human beings, not technology.  Microservices are a software infrastructure innovation which can be put to use to implement a value chain, but they are not the same thing.  Microservices happens to be the technology that looks like it will become the toolset of choice to realise this concept, but something else might supersede them (and probably will, eventually).  Even when that happens, the value chain will persist precisely because consumer demand for greater flexibility, lower costs and faster speeds will assert itself in the form of unavoidable economic realities for those involved in a given market.  To give an example, although railways are no longer the major method to ship physical goods around any longer, people still need logistics services and will employ various modes of transport to realise that objective, including (but not limited to) railways.  The need remains even though the methods used wax and wane in their popularity.  While social media is implemented using a technological medium, it answers a basic human need: to communicate.  As such, I can’t see it disappearing even though the nature of it (and the platforms involved) may well evolve.

As a card-carrying AI sceptic, I absolutely agree with Denzil that real human beings, not automation instructions coded by computer programmers (aka ‘algortihms’) should have the primary role in deciding how digital assets are used in social media.  That is policy, however and as DAM professionals, while we all might think we know quite a bit about social media (and possibly related subjects like psychology and even HR) my current understanding of our role in all this is to develop efficient processes to implement that policy.    As to the real threat level of off-message social media usage, that is open to debate, but if I was asked to offer an opinion on this by a client, I might be minded to advise them that really they needed the services of a PR and/or social media management specialist to help them evaluate that question.  In the context of my role as a Digital Asset Management consultant, I could propose a number of strategies that would increase the likelihood that digital assets used by employees for social media purposes were more likely to be ones they would favour.  In addition, I might also suggest some basic (and imperfect) methods for tracking usage across social media channels which might help gain insights.  Quite a few vendors have had similar thoughts there are features to service those needs gradually emerging and this is why it was included in our original discussion of DAM value chains.

I suspect the real issue with social media and DAM is that other than ‘nudges’ to get employees to ‘do the right thing’ (and some rudimentary tracking)  it is quite difficult for the management element of DAM to offer much if users decide to deliberately misuse the tools provided – I should emphasise that this is a point Denzil makes in her piece for anyone who has not yet read it.  Even options like setting up dedicated catalogues of digital assets for social media use can’t prevent that.  If social media sites continue to strip embedded metadata then it also becomes difficult to identify what has happened to digital assets once they get introduced to social media platforms (via whatever means, approved or otherwise).  So the technology side of this is somewhat constrained from the off, even if you did plan something more ambitious in terms of controlling it.

To answer Denzil’s point, yes, I think the human aspect of this is more important than the technology and whether the risk/control aspect should get the level of interest that it does is questionable, but I am not asked for an opinion on that topic very often and based on discussions with other people on the sell-side of DAM (i.e. vendors, consultants etc) then neither are many others.  Even though they are restricted, the technology issues with DAM and social media have acquired greater prominence because the strategy (where the human element is considered more deeply) happens before most people involved in a DAM initiative are asked for an opinion.  In many ways, this is similar to the debate about DRM (Digital Rights Management) and DAM.  I think DRM might ultimately be pointless but if someone has a policy that mandates they implement it, you usually have to accede to their demands.

Considering that this sort of topic is likely to increasingly feature in DAM, not only in social media, but as alluded to above, DRM (and elsewhere too) this raises an interesting debate for people in DAM.  At what point should our remit stop and should DAM personnel be involved in deciding wider policy also?


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