Back when content marketing was just getting its sea legs, crafting a message for your website or blog was a simple affair. Write a couple of paragraphs, give it a great headline, and call it a day. Now creating good content requires a toolbox of digital paraphernalia like images, videos, slide-decks, infographics, animation, and music to go along with the written word. A good digital asset management system (DAM) is crucial to managing, storing, and serving all the visual and textual collateral associated with your content and marketing strategies. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of DAM solutions available on the market today. Many cater to large corporations or academic environments with specialized storage and access needs but there are some lightweight options aimed at organizations that simply need a place to park assets.
Cloud or on-site?
While it’s tempting to just throw everything into Dropbox or Google Docs, that may not be your best option. Free or very low-cost cloud storage is handy but recent security concerns with SaaS file-sharing and collaboration services suggest that maybe this option isn’t ready for prime time just yet. If all your company needs is a way to move assets around between team members or remote workers, Dropbox or Google Docs might meet your needs just fine. You don’t want to store important, sensitive, or irreplaceable content in the cloud, but it’s fine as a temporary place to put stock photos or as a way to juggle large video files that are difficult to email. That’s not to say cloud-based platforms aren’t worth considering. They don’t require an IT staff to manage, just a point person (or two) to get in touch with the vendor if something goes awry. They’re also infinitely extensible and can easily keep pace with the growth of your company. Since on-site DAM systems don’t rely on an internet connection or cloud syncing, they often perform faster than their SaaS-based counterparts. Assuming you have loss-prevention policies to protect your data, on-site DAMs can offer greater protection from random, large-scale security breaches. On the other hand, they usually require keeping an IT pro on hand to make sure things run smoothly.
What to look for in a DAM system
Which ever route you choose, make sure the DAM option you select includes:
- Strong permission functions that enable different departments to manage information independently of each other. Sales should be able to post and edit product images while marketers and content writers need a place to house visuals for blog posts and social media. Version control tools help keep busy teams from overwriting each others changes and make it easy to determine the chain of custody for important files.
- Collaboration tools mean teams can stop emailing docs, videos, and images to each other for discussion and approval. Basic options are good for simple file sharing but companies can also get fancy with editing, chat, and intranet tools.
- Mobile optimization features help you seamlessly mirror the customer website experience across computers, smartphones, and tablets. Images and videos sometimes have different display requirements according to the type of device on which they will be viewed. A good DAM provides tools that make quick work of optimizing visual content across all platforms.
- Excellent methods for search and retrieval. Searching through mounds of digital files for just the right visual is about as much fun as sorting socks. Your DAM should make search and retrieval a quick and painless process, serving you up the files you need without forcing you to spend hours clicking through everything you’ve ever stored in the system.
A strong digital asset management system can spell the difference between an acceptable marketing strategy and a stellar one. Consider an example from the Content Marketing Institute about Oreo’s field goal with its “dunk in the dark” tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout. “What’s not as well reported with that particular story is that there were 18 months of planning and careful digital management that went into that overnight success,” says CMI. “As Lisa Mann, Senior Vice President of the brand said last year, ‘the marketing, legal and agency teams had already established a pattern of rhythms that enabled them to capitalize on the blackout incident in real time. It