Top 10 Steps in Creating Great Digital Signage Networks

digitalsignagenetwork-globe-0713The focus of this series “Power of Content” is to help people with content strategies and how they relate to digital signage. It is, however, important to understand that there are strategic steps that need to be followed when building a new network from the ground up. The top 10 basic steps for network success include the following:

1. Strategic Planning

Understanding why one wants to launch a digital signage network in the first place takes one down a path of discovery that leads to new ideas and strategic thinking about what are the business, marketing and communications goals for the network. One also needs to identify who owns what. It’s best to complete this before you consider a content management system ISV, media player or display vendor.

The best process is to interview the key players and understand their vision for the network, what they want the network to accomplish, their expectations for ROI and ROO, and the omni-channel media relationship. This reinforces business goals, sales campaigns or other more subjective objectives. Starting from the beginning will also help marketers identify responsible decision makers who will help guide or provide the digital content. They can be internal to your organization—from executives to different brand owners—or external (partners or agencies, for example). Understanding who else is involved is important to planning,implementation and the ability to put into action a digital signage campaign in a timely and cost effective fashion.

2. Establish the Type of Network

In last month’s article, I wrote about the three types of networks: Point of Transit, Point of Wait and Point of Sale. Once one understands why these networks are different and what type of content should be playing on them, then one can begin to think how to program the network and maximize ROI and ROO.

3. Content Relevance and Audience Research

It is amazing how many companies decide to skip this step. At this point of the journey, most are so eager to get their network up and running that they stop at step 2 and go to step 5. Understanding the audience is critical to effective messaging. Several things to consider here are behavioral attitudes, demographics, number of monthly visits, time in the venue, day parting, the relationship to other media and social networks and most importantly how to create an emotional connection.

4. Network Guidelines and Content Creation

Would you drive across the country without your GPS turned on? The Network Guideline document is your GPS for creating content on your network. This will establish the type of formats you will accept, the overarching look and feel, the ID of the network (think CBS vs. NBC). This will also show the details of where the screens are going to be located, naming conventions for content files, fonts and colors used, and media mapping to other types of social and media networks. Once this document is established, then one can begin the content creation process based on this map.

5. Choosing the Right Technology

OK, now we get to the fun part — choosing the right technology that will accomplish the goals and objectives from the first four steps. It’s not meant to say that one shouldn’t consider the technology early on and have it in the back of one’s mind, but start with the objectives of the network and let that drive the technology requirements.

I’ll leave this to those who know best… for me it’s all about the content.

6. Programming the Network

So, what does it mean to “program the network?” There are two areas of programming;
a) Establish the cadence to the programing, the refresh, day parting and connection to other screens aka mobile
b) Physically using the CMS software to ingest the content and create the playlist or the interactive experience.

7. Pilot Roll-out Measurement of the Pilot

Anytime one launches a new network, one must pace the project by the results. First, in some projects there may be one more step involved called the Proof of Concept (POC). And in today’s digital experience, new concepts and special interactive experiences require the POC for the technology and application development. After the POC, then a limited pilot is established with strict guidelines to reach the ROI and ROO of the project. Measuring the results are critical and using Anonymous Video Analytics (AVA) and other established measurements will surprise every one during the pilot. Quantify your goals before the pilot and if met, the roll out follows.

8. Roll out the Network

For those who understand that this can be a huge undertaking depending upon size of the network, it takes tremendous planning, resources and a command center to roll out large scale networks. Underestimating this step can cause major problems and setbacks along the way. The good news is the content is ready and the plan is in place.

9. Measure the Entire Network

Again, measurement is key. Getting the results from the pilot is a great start, but the infield data coming back from the network will allow one to see trends, change up content, and understand the geographical and demographic challenges that may crop up. This information is critical to insuring the ongoing success of one’s digital signage network.

10. Continuous Content Creation and Refinement and Measurement

And now “Feeding the Monster.” If you planned well and have your map for creating great content and you have refined the content strategy based on the pilot results then you are on your way. But a word of caution: We are always “On Air” now, folks. keith-Maximidia2010_KK-Head-Shot-lrge-0613This is a broadcast extension of the brand and not one consumer cares about all the hard work and technology that is now driving your network. The only thing that they care about is the experience they have and what’s on that screen… relevant, compelling and timely!

Author and speaker Keith Kelsen, chief visionary at 5th Screen, is considered one of the leading experts on digital media. More information about his book, Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage – Content Strategies for the 5th Screen, published by Focal Press, can be found on the book’s companion website at Reach him at or on Twitter @Kkelsen.