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.