You have a problem.  Some might call it a leadership blind spot. 

Digital Literacy For Leaders

#DigitalLiteracy is an essential skill for leaders in 2016. This is already the future Click To Tweet We live in an age where you can order food to your door with two taps on your smartphone.  Where you can see in real time where your cab is, and when it’s going to arrive at your door.  We can track flights so that we know the precise second our loved one lands at the airport. Retail stores can send you personalised messages in real time when you enter their stores based on your web browsing history on their site. We are connected 24/7 via something so small that it fits in our pockets. But many leaders are still hesitant to invest in improving their digital communications infrastructure.  If your website isn’t responsive, for example, it is virtually unusable on a smartphone.

If you are a leader in your organization, you may be experiencing this blindspot. You can not delegate your staff to fix, you must confront it head on. You, as the leader, need to understand the challenges, the opportunities and most importantly the risks of lack of action.  As a leader, it is your responsibility to remove the blinkers and take a deep dive into the digital revolution – your business is depending on you.


1. “Our audience is not online.” 

93% of Canadians are online, and 87% of Americans are online.  So unless your customers are living above the 57th parallel in a fly-in community, or are some of the poorest people in North America, then chances are they are online.

Twenty million Canadians have at least one active social media account and spend an average of 2 hours and 4 minutes on social networking every day. Every day. [1]

2. “Yes, but our customers are older and don’t shop online, this doesn’t apply to us!”

The Pew Centre’s 2014 report indicated that 88% of 50-64 year olds are active online, and 57% of those are 65+.  In addition, the Government of Canada reports that “Canadians aged 65 and older represent the fastest growing group of Internet users. Furthermore, among senior Internet users, approximately 70% go online every day.”  Yes, 70% of people aged 65 and above who are online, are active every day.

Baby boomers are the web’s largest user base.  Not millennials.  According to this report, Baby Boomers are comfortable with online transactions, and are diving into the world of mobile connectivity head first.

And even if you are not selling a product online, you still have the ability to communication online with this audience, build their understanding and trust of your brand and people.  When was the last time you bought something purely on the basis of a TV or radio advert?

And if that isn’t enough to convince you, lets look at the nonprofit sector, too.  This 2014 study reports that older donors are just as likely to give online as younger ones.  The same study measured online verses direct mail giving and found that over the course of 2010 to 2014, direct mail giving percentages dropped, and online giving increased for people aged 66+.

3. “We are on Facebook and Twitter, isn’t that enough?”

Nope.  Have you looked at why you are on those platforms?  Do you have any data that tells you that your core audience is active on these platforms?  Are people talking about anything related to your organization there?  Might there be a better platform to engage on?  If you sell a product, have you looked at the meteoric rise of visual social media, like Instagram and Pinterest?  Would video tell your story better than any Tweet can?

Basically, assuming that your organization’s presence on the two “major” platforms means you are ‘doing social media’, is incorrect.  Did you know, for example, that Instagram now has significantly more users than Twitter, and is now in fact the second most used social network?

It is time to challenge your assumptions!


4. “We are hiring a Digital Marketing Officer. Must be skilled in social media, SEO web development (HTML, Drupal, Ruby on Rails, CSS), database management, graphic design, print marketing and public relations.”

Please stop this.  These are all distinct skills.  A SEO expert has years of experience in search engine optimization (not database management).  An SEO expert is very unlikely to be able to devise and run sophisticated online marketing that compliment your traditional advertising.  A talented graphic designer is worth their weight in gold.  Why would that skill have anything to do with public relations?  If you want to see what we mean, check out some more “Stupid Nonprofit Job Descriptions” here.

We understand that you probably have a limited budget, but in asking for all of these skill sets in one person, you are seeking a Unicorn.  What you will end up with, is someone who has a very basic knowledge of some of these things, and who is willing to read some blogs on the other stuff and “give it a go.”  That got you to 2016, but to keep up, you will have to go further, and invest.

Invest correctly in the skills you need in-house, and outsource expertise in specific areas, like SEO.  A digital function that doesn’t have to be looked at daily, but should have monitoring and reporting.

Incorrect hiring is the #1 issue of the digital leadership blind spot. Click To Tweet After all, if you are digitally illiterate, how can you assess who is the correct person to take you forward?  How can you ensure that an unscrupulous agency doesn’t take advantage of your ignorance?  Hiring the wrong person or the wrong agency is a costly mistake.

We highly encourage you to download our checklist to find out what questions you should be asking, and what data you really need to make strategic leadership decisions.

p.s. If you are looking for our Nonprofit Leaders Checklist, click here.