We live in a digital world. Everything from communicating with friends to ordering groceries can now be done online. It stands to reason that more businesses would want to enter the digital realm to stay relevant in the ever-changing world. Choosing tools that make running your business more convenient is a critical part of transitioning to the digital marketplace efficiently.
What do you know about digital asset management? If you’re a business owner, particularly a small business owner, it’s a tool that you should familiarize yourself with to streamline your marketing efforts. Digital asset management (DAM) can effectively add your company’s creative processes once you understand how it works.
Understand Digital Assets
Before delving into digital asset management, you must understand what constitutes a digital asset. Anything that is, or can be, stored and then shared digitally qualifies as a digital asset. So does any digital media that allows you to create or publish content digitally. Whether you only share the content within your company or share them publicly, the shareable content is a digital asset.
The scope of a digital asset is unlimited. Any document or media file you create within your organization can be considered a digital asset. Diagrams, blueprints, photos, videos, music, any file you can store on your digital device qualifies. Now, consider sharing those files; that’s where digital asset management comes into play.
What Is Digital Asset Management?
Digital asset management makes your media and other digital files easier to organize, making them easier to access or distribute. Photos, audio clips, videos, images, even the written word are creative elements that find their way into your digital files. If you’ve ever searched for a specific photo to add to your website only to be frustrated when you couldn’t find the exact file, you understand the need for digital asset management.
DAM software safely stores your digital media files until you’re ready to use them. At that point, you’ll find them organized in a way that makes them easy to use and share with your team or other people in your business community.
Are you curious to learn more about DAM software? A look at digital asset management history leads to some interesting facts.
The First DAM Solution
The first digital asset management system came into being in the mid-to-late 1990s. It was created out of CNN’s need to manage over 700,000 news clips. So they teamed with Silicone Graphics to create a system to fulfill their need. Later, Sony and IBM partnered with the news company to digitize and manage an additional 21 years of newsreels.
Out of a need to catalog news clips came the beginning of the programs that are now used routinely to facilitate collaboration among coworkers and separate companies. Digital asset management systems were born. Now, many businesses wouldn’t think of running without a DAM system in place.
First the News, Then…?
One of the early uses of digital asset management was actually in the field of higher learning. Colleges and universities began working with DAM systems in the 2000s. Their advertising and marketing teams used the accessibility of materials to help improve school images. Libraries at the schools could use a digital strategy for content to make research projects easier across various disciplines.
A library is an excellent example of a professional space that can use a digital asset management system to manage assets more efficiently. Research materials can be cataloged. Digital copies of media such as artwork or films can be stored effectively. People collaborating on classroom or professional development projects can share data efficiently.
Digital Asset Management Keeps Growing
Remember that 700,000 news clips CNN needed handling? That’s nothing compared to today’s digital asset management solutions. Now, systems can connect remote workers to team members, internal departments with each other, and external partners with the rest of the team. Everyone in the company can access all media, so they use the correct versions of creative media like logos.
Almost everyone, from the independent contractor to the large corporation, uses digital media for their workflow. Work-from-home positions and social media communications have grown. Digital asset management systems allow those people to share information and creative projects as well as work-related deliverables in a secure manner.
Private (Non-Business) Perspective
Most of us think nothing of uploading photos, videos, and even audio clips to social media. According to a statistic compiled by Social Pilot, as of 2017, there were 122 million users who uploaded content to Flickr, 500 million users active on Instagram, and over 1.79 billion Facebook users. Imagine storing all of those photos, videos, and audio in a bin in your attic. Digital Asset Management systems keep them digitally and organize them by the user, and even folders attributed to that user; in essence, the DAM system becomes a library, or attic, for the media files.
A digital asset management system gives the capability of sharing media files with anyone, anywhere. You can create links to your media and set them as either public or private. Attach an expiration date to a link for securely managing shared files.
Work More Efficiently and Consistently
Do you remember the days when you had to actually walk copy down the hall to the legal department for their stamp of approval? Or, when you had to rifle through endless files trying to find the company-approved image for one of your marketing campaigns? Those days are over. With DAM tools, you can coordinate with team members, access images, and get feedback quickly.
Collaboration among team members is easier with the ability to access files and media from one central location. Not only can team members collaborate efficiently, but also they will have access to the current brand-specified content which allows for consistency across the board.
Integration Is Key
An effective digital asset management system will integrate with your existing technology for a seamless operation. This is crucial for maintaining control of digital content. DAM software is a foundational tool that helps you evaluate your current content as well as maintain it.
As digital files increasingly become the norm rather than the exception, it is essential to have an effective digital asset management system. According to Harvard Business Review, firms have been investing in both IT and digitizing physical assets, so digital assets have doubled across the economy in recent years.
A good digital asset management tool will seamlessly integrate the most used creative programs, so transferring data from the creative program to the DAM goes smoothly. Standard program integrations allow collaborators to work more efficiently and effectively across projects.
An All-Access Pass
Collaboration in a business situation, especially in a creative industry, is key to success. With the appropriate digital asset management system in place, you will be able to share ideas, critiques, and completed files with anyone with access to the system. Even those who work from home can access and share files across any device with anyone, regardless of their physical location.
Compatibility across a network isn’t an issue as long as all personnel can run the digital asset management system programs. Because files are stored in the DAM, collaborators can use their preferred system as long as their system is compatible with the DAM.
Collaborators can share files of virtually any kind. Videos, audio clips, photos, even PDF files are compatible with DAM systems. When the team is ready to share their efforts, deliverables can be shared via public or private links for publication.
Cyclical Not Linear
If you wonder why digital asset management is such a crucial part of the business world (or private sector, for that matter), simply look at how digital assets are used. You may think digital assets have linear lifespans—create, manage, deliver, and done. That isn’t how it works. Digital assets are cyclical; once they are delivered, you should then track their effectiveness and choose which ones to reuse.
A good marketing strategy incorporates the data gathered from consumer interest metrics into future marketing techniques. Digital asset management organizes the data and keeps it accessible for future usage. Remembering the cyclical nature of digital assets will help marketing teams design campaigns that are effective in their niche.
Effectively managing digital assets gives your team the freedom to reimagine marketing strategies using existing copy. The ability to repurpose what has already been created saves money, time, and other resources. DAM systems provide a full picture of the available imagery and other content, so team members are not left reinventing the wheel, so to speak.
Three Levels of Digital Asset Management
As with any good business tool, digital asset management is not simply a set it and forget it tool. It evolves and grows. Think of it as digitally maturing as you implement the strategies. There are three levels of strategy maturity as identified by Earley.
- Risk mitigation and compliance: ensuring that assets meet all standards—governmental, industry, and regulatory. This is the stage addressing legal, copyright, and security issues. Platforms are not yet well established, but there may be a creative collaboration between members of the team.
- Asset management improvement: Systems integration is improved. Marketing and publishing processes for digital assets are better defined. Consumer-oriented metadata can be implemented to improve customer experiences.
- Effective use of analytics and information architecture: Track customer behavior and influence consumer opinion. Use data to predict trends and consumer preferences. Provide a personalized customer experience through sophisticated testing campaigns and social media assets.
Analyzing the data you collect regarding consumer behavior will help you adjust your processes and content to meet consumer wishes. Being consumer-centric will help you monetize your products and services.
Don’t Mess With MetaData
Metadata summarizes data’s basic information, making it easier to find and use specific data. A German photographer sued Facebook over the removal of metadata in 2016 and won. Initially, that means that Facebook had to follow German protocols regarding the use of metadata, but decisions such as this one by the German legal system have far-reaching effects. Leave the metadata intact, or you can be sued.
Similarly, beware of using copyrighted material or any material originally created by someone else without proper permission. Buzzfeed faced a lawsuit for publishing photos that someone else took, and the suit was worth over a million dollars. This is another area where DAM systems can protect you because everyone on your team will have access to approved digital media.
Plan for the Future of Your Digital Assets
We often forget exactly how much data we have shared or collected online in this digital age. Social media accounts, email accounts, business transactions, and creative pursuits all leave a digital impression. In February 2014, Wiggin and Dana published a blog post advising that people include their digital assets in their estate planning. They contended that they could be lost to our heirs if we didn’t plan for our digital assets.
Another contention regarding planning for digital assets is that someone attempting to access accounts—even with the correct passwords—could face fraud or privacy laws issues. It’s essential to ensure that digital assets are managed properly and can be accessed appropriately. Intellectual property and media such as family photographs can become inaccessible if we neglect to manage these things and plan for their dispensation.
Who Uses Digital Asset Management?
Digital Asset Management is beneficial to multiple professionals both within a business and outside the company. Here are a few of the people who will benefit from digital asset management implementation.
Graphic designers, photographers, artists, media specialists, and other creative minds will have access to branded content. They can also upload new creations for review by other people. After content review, it’s easy to distribute the content using the DAM. The DAM should be integrated with their favorite tools already part of the system when implemented correctly.
Anyone within the company who is instrumental in shaping new content falls under the creative badge. These are the people who develop your brand. When they upload their content, everyone else in the company uses their content to build products and other content.
Sales and Marketing
Presentations are a large part of a sales and marketing team’s routine. The use of a DAM allows the professionals within the company to work together to create their next sales pitch easily. They have access to the current branded materials to use the correct materials consistently.
Alternatively, they can choose to collaborate elsewhere using their digital asset management system. They can pitch ideas to other advertising professionals by sharing files digitally rather than drawing large, cumbersome marketing plan previews.
IT and Legal
System maintenance, permissions for the use of resources, and other IT-related issues can be lessened by using a digital asset management system. Metadata management can be conducted efficiently. Customized configurations through integrated technologies also make an IT person’s job a little easier.
Legal teams find the ability to set expiration dates for programs an efficient way to avoid compliance issues. They also might find that data misuse is lessened by the effective use of a DAM system.
Many businesses find themselves using independent contractors in some capacity. With a digital asset management system in place, contractors can be granted access to assets they need to fulfill their contractor duties. Once they’ve been given access to pertinent information, the collaboration between the two entities can be much easier.
As the contractor completes their portion of the job, they can simply upload the information to the DAM for their collaborators to review and assess. Suggested edits can be added to the files in the DAM, and the team can continue their collaboration even when they are in separate locales.
Imagine if you will an advertising agency. The agency desperately wants to please a client, but they have too many clients to manage a meeting every time they complete a deliverable. This is where DAM systems can be beneficial. They can share their collective vision for the project.
Other agencies can benefit from the use of a digital asset management tool. A real estate agent, for example, must add pictures and descriptions to their current listing catalog. A DAM system can help them organize their listings for easy accessibility and for ease of sharing the listings with potential clients.
How Digital Asset Management Works
The initial step within the digital asset management system is the creation of the files. Before files are created, the DAM is already at work standardizing formats and preparing for encoding processes. Having a standardized format makes the retrieval process more straightforward.
After the creation is the encoding process. Files are identified and cataloged using metadata. The metadata helps group like files together, so they are more searchable.
Rule-driven workflow protocols are created which allow tasks and processes to be automated. Hand-in-hand with workflow protocols is version control processes. These processes ensure that workers only access the most recent, up-to-date version of the project. This helps to keep editing and revision intact across multiple platforms.
Permissions are established and granted to provide access only to those who need to work on or with the particular asset. Granting permissions is a built-in security measure against accidental file corruption, erasure, or theft. Internal audits are essential for discovering areas that need improvement. Regulatory officials may also conduct audits to ensure compliance with external rules and regulations.
Two Types of Digital Asset Management Services
What are the storage options for digital asset management services? There are two main options for DAM systems. One is cloud-based, and the other is on-site.
A cloud-based system doesn’t require any hardware or access to servers. It’s housed entirely on the cloud. Companies that need secure access from various locations may find cloud-based digital asset management beneficial. This option doesn’t have the added costs of maintenance or upgrades but does offer scalability.
Cloud-based DAM systems tend to be less expensive than those of on-site storage systems. A cloud-based system can be easily accessed from anywhere at any time. You don’t have to be near the office to use a cloud-based system; you simply need access to the internet.
Companies that need to guarantee their information security will likely choose an on-site digital asset management system. An on-site DAM is hosted on your own server. These types of digital asset management require added IT support as well as backup protocols and additional storage space.
On-site digital asset management systems require some up-front out-of-pocket costs because they require hardware installation. Companies using this kind of DAM service tend to have large IT departments that can handle routine maintenance. These types of DAM systems do require frequent maintenance and upgrades.
Digital asset management systems were born out of a need to catalog news clips, and it has grown into a valuable business solution. Companies use digital asset management programs to help organize creative content and brand-specific content. The systems help collaboration efforts work more efficiently.
Two types of digital asset management systems are widely used. A cloud-based system stores everything on the cloud rather than on internal servers. On-site storage is beneficial for companies that need more secure data storage.
The life of a digital asset is cyclical rather than linear. The process doesn’t stop with delivering a product. You must evaluate efficiency and relevance to determine if any portion of the work should be kept or if it all needs to be scrapped. This determination will help you remain relevant with your customers.
DAM systems help your business create content that reaches your customers effectively. Everyone working on a project has access to the same version of digital files, so there is consistency across the project creation. Collaboration between coworkers across departments is achieved with relatively little effort.
Those who need increased security can set permissions within the system to grant access only to specific individuals. These granted permissions help to protect against theft, among other things.
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