Digital Literacy for Dummies

Shelter-in-place orders have pushed the global digital revolution into overdrive, and marketers are at the forefront of this change: as digital media has become the only customer-facing channel for communications for most brands, digital literacy has never been more important. 

Also known as media literacy, digital literacy is far from a new or novel concept. The conversation surrounding digital literacy has been ongoing for decades and, in the business world, online-savvy brands have consistently led the way in innovation and reach with consumers. 

Levels of Literacy

Indeed, the world has finally turned the page on a new digital chapter. Marketers, who are keen to keep pace, must make digital literacy a priority. Fortunately for some, not everyone knows what this means.

Take social media platform Facebook, for example. Basic Facebook literacy includes at least a basic knowledge of the following activities:

–       Creating a post

–       Finding other users’ posts

–       Getting the most out of Facebook’s algorithm

–       Understanding the motivations behind various users’ posts.

A more advanced knowledge of the Facebook platform, however, could look entirely different. Between scheduling posts and knowing to avoid spamming tactics, a learned social media manager of a Facebook page is a strategic advantage for any brand. 

Literacy Gaps and Messaging

Many internet users today simply do not have the tools to access an adequate level of digital literacy. Schools and families, for example, are consistently reaching out to demand comprehensive digital literacy education material, while computer skills classes have expanded beyond excel sheet management to include strategies to protect private information online.

For marketers operating in this gap, transparency is key. Consumer access to information remains high, but digital literacy has yet to keep up. As such, brands who show true dedication to transparency and accuracy will shore up stronger reputations in the long run. 

The Fake News Era

In the same way that marketing has moved online, so has most forms of journalism. Every major news outlet now boasts a plethora of social media pages, as do most government bodies. These developments have had major implications for marketers in 2020. 

For example, readers without a solid grounding in digital literacy may struggle to tell the difference between a sales post and news article. This is especially true if a post contains high-quality marketing content. Even so, if a well-disguised marketing post leads to some form of a payment page, consumers are likely to feel misled: brands must concentrate on striking a balance between being helpful and being transparent.

Consumers and marketers alike are dealing with the lack of a universal standard for digital literacy. Even so, marketing teams should not be content with scrambling to keep up; instead, the world of digital marketing must strive to be at the forefront of this ever-evolving marketplace. 

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5wpr, 2020 PR agency of the year.

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About Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals.

Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 200 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions.

Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR.

Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller.

A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities