Digital assets: Everything you need to know
Today, even most small businesses have a website — about 64 percent, as of 2019. That number is sure to rise, since between 70-80 percent of consumers research companies online before making a purchase. The business world is well into the digital age. Most modern businesses are essentially media businesses, actively creating content for their websites, their social media accounts, and their marketing campaigns.
All that digital content, plus some other documents and files behind the scenes, defines a broad category of files called “digital assets.”
Definition of a digital asset
Simply put, a digital asset is just a digital file that adds value to an organization. It can be a text document, a graphic, a logo, a file containing the full code of a website — digital assets live on computers or the cloud and are utilized by an organization for business purposes. This is a broad definition because this is a broad category.
Any given digital file is not necessarily a digital asset. Rather, there are three key features that define a digital asset.
First, it’s a digital file belonging to an individual or organization.
Second, it lives within a searchable digital infrastructure. It has specific characteristics (metadata) that enable discovery.
Third, it provides unique value to the individual or organization that owns it.
A text document on your hard drive containing simply your name, the name of your organization, and a relevant phone number is not a digital asset. A graphic file containing that information, formatted to be printed as a business card, is a digital asset; it’s uniquely valuable and can be sent out or printed and distributed to promote you and your organization.
Note: People also refer to cryptocurrencies — digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum — as digital assets. This article is not about cryptocurrencies or the “digital asset market,” it’s about digital assets in the file sense. However, with the recent rise in popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that utilize blockchain technology and smart contracts to manage digital ownership, it’s entirely possible that the use of this specific type of digital asset will become a common business practice. Read about that elsewhere.
The six types of digital assets
For most organizations, there are six relevant categories of digital assets. Some of these include subcategories, but it’s most useful to think of six primary types.
Photos and videos
Just about every kind of business uses photographs and videos, whether on social media, in marketing materials, or on websites. Few commercial photographers and videographers use film cameras these days — it’s all digital.
Let’s say you work in management for a basketball team. You can take an iPhone picture of some of your players practicing, and maybe you’ll share it as an Instagram story, but it’s probably not going to be useful in the long term. It’s not really a digital asset.
Now, let’s say you hire a professional photographer to come to a game. She takes hundreds of photos and submits a few dozen particularly good ones, which she’s edited for quality. You store these on your chosen platform, something like Air, and use them on your website, in emails, and all over social media. These are digital assets.
Graphic designs such as logos, business cards, and social media templates are uniquely valuable digital assets. It’s important to store them in a secure digital asset management system so the people who need to use them (like designers and marketers) can easily access them at any given time, from any given place.
This category is a great example of one defining aspect of digital assets: they’re reusable. They need to be accessible within an organized system for that very reason.
Powerpoints, slides, decks — whatever your organization calls them or uses to make them — this asset category is a crucial part of doing business in the digital age. A deck is just a digital presentation, usually organized in a series of horizontally formatted cards, usually used as part of a sales pitch. Creative agencies bidding for a client project might build a deck displaying examples of the work they plan to do, their potential budget breakdown, and so on.
Like quality photos or graphic designs, these can be reused, either in whole or in part. It’s important to have an archive of past decks to reference when creating future decks.
This is a large category that includes text documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, you name it. Example: a spreadsheet containing a record of all sales within a quarter, organized by product. This is an extremely useful, valuable document that would be referenced in all kinds of meetings and for planning future business strategy.
Another example: a PDF that contains an organization’s rules and guidelines; the company handbook. When kept in a central digital location, it’s easy for employees to reference it at any time or print out a copy for their own use.
This category is not too different from the photos and videos category. It includes any audio file with unique value to an organization. For example: a recording of an interview with a customer, meant to be transcribed and edited into a case study. Another example: audio recordings of company all-hands meetings.
This final digital asset category includes records of all code (HTML, Python, etc.) used to build websites, apps, and other computer programs. Organizations tend to store versions of code for both current and historical versions of their websites and apps using platforms like GitHub.
How to store, use, and share digital assets
So, if all these modern companies are constantly creating different types of digital assets, how do they manage them all? Using modern content management systems, of course. There are different subcategories of this software genre that serve different purposes — the most relevant type here is a digital asset management (DAM) platform.
Basically, DAM software provides an ecosystem for storing, organizing, and sharing digital assets. It’s that simple. Dropbox introduced people to the concept in the mid 2000s before Google Drive entered the market a few years later. Today, there are many different DAM solutions, including platforms like Bynder and Air.
If you’re looking for a way to store and manage all of your business’ digital content, you specifically need a platform like Air.
The foundational element of any DAM platform is storage. Air makes that easy. Seamlessly integrate with your existing storage solutions (whether local hard drives or cloud storage), then enjoy a clean, highly searchable interface. One of the main differentiating factors between competing DAM solutions is how they provide and allow users to customize asset taxonomy. Storage is great, but you have to be able to quickly navigate everything you’re storing!
“Taxonomy” is simply the scientific term for a system of classification or organization — Air allows you to create your own asset taxonomy through boards (Air’s version of folders), sub-boards, and custom fields. For when you’re just getting started (and beyond), the platform also includes pre-built organizational features.
You only have to upload an asset to Air once — it can live in as many boards as you like without taking up any more storage space. Create boards for each business purpose: product images, social media, and website. Create sub-boards within each: one for each specific product, one for each social media platform (and within that, one for each specific social media campaign), and one for each page of your website. Assign any one asset to multiple boards without using any more storage space.
With Air’s smart search capabilities, you never have to waste time sifting through boards looking for a specific file. A key component of digital assets is metadata, or data about data. Different file formats have different kinds of metadata. For example: a photo file might include information such as date created, photographer, filename, image content, colors, and so on.
Air’s search function leverages smart tags, image recognition, color recognition, and the user’s own custom tags. Any time you upload an asset, the platform scans it for colors and content (person, sitting, people, plant, animal, cat, etc.). With other platforms, the more assets you upload, the more confusing it can be to find specific files. Even if you don’t create a custom tagging system, Air’s built-in tagging function means you’ll always find what you need quickly.
Once you’ve populated your Air workspace with digital assets, you can start to use them. Uploading and downloading is incredibly easy. There are built-in feedback tools that make creative collaboration a breeze.
If you’re updating a particular digital asset (for example, a logo or an image destined for an Instagram post), you can collect different drafts in a single version stack. When you upload an item to a board that already has an item with the same name, you’re given the option of adding the new upload to the existing item in a version stack.
Thanks to a clean interface, precise searchability, and useful collaboration tools, using Air improves workflow and makes your job easier. The smooth user experience should be familiar to people who’ve used workflow software like Slack and Notion.
Sharing digital assets from Air is as simple as can be, whether you need to share a specific asset with internal or external collaborators (designers, agencies, clients) or actually publish a polished asset (to social media, your website, or as part of a sales pitch).
You can share an individual asset, a sub-board, or an entire board. Set permissions to to just view, or allow commenting, downloading, and uploading. Password-protect any shared asset if necessary. When you share a sub-board, people with the link get access to everything within that board (including sub-boards), but nothing above it (no parent board access). Also, Air’s share links never expire!
With an ever-growing list of features, a great user experience, and affordable, scalable pricing, Air is the best choice for creatives, marketers, and brand managers looking to better utilize their digital assets. If you’d like to give it a try, you can start today with 5GB of storage, at no cost, and get nearly every feature available to paid users. Sign up for free!