The following blog is an abbreviated version of a more extensive whitepaper recently produced by Cella for The BOSS Group on social media and mobile design best practices and talent solutions for creative leaders. The complete whitepaper is available for download and our readers are invited to sign-up for the related webinar on October 26.

The way customers consume information is evolving. Staying connected has become equivalent to being online--being social while being mobile. With corporate leadership teams eager to jump into social media and mobile-app design, it's imperative for creative leaders to reinforce the importance of strategy and planning before execution.

The key to social media, be it on Facebook or Twitter or your corporate blog, is the word "social." Many companies jump in to the "media" part only, publishing Facebook fan pages and letting them stagnate or sending out the same branding messages through what they perceive as just another channel. They ignore the fact that "social" means interacting with others. Successful social-media efforts require listening and responding in addition to promoting. And it has to be ongoing. Deciding which, or how many, social-media avenues to pursue, as well as how you'd like them to interact with each other, will determine what talent and training to seek for your creative team.

Effective social media and mobile design require adapting your creative team or adding a few new roles as well as closely integrating creative with other departments, such as marketing, public relations, customer service, information technology (IT), and legal. Responding to consumers through social media takes more than writing good copy, for example, so teaming copywriters with customer service representatives can help ensure communication is not only well written but also personal. And training or partnering with legal ensures the personal communication also correctly represents the brand.

A quickly evolving piece of the social-media trend is mobile connectivity. Smart-phone sales keep trending upward, and more people are accessing the web, playing games, and keeping their lives organized through a device that fits easily in their pocket. Trying to appeal to the mobile masses can be technically and creatively challenging.

When designing a mobile app, understanding the users, their goals and needs, and how they prefer to achieve those goals helps ensure the resulting app is applicable and genuinely desired by consumers. Since your consumers are diverse, your creative team must diversify in order to satisfy the many different configurations mobile apps can take. Designing a mobile app requires IT specialists to develop for a variety of platforms, each of which can affect visual design choices. Partnering IT and creative, for example, can ensure the resulting app not only functions well but also takes advantage of each platform's unique visual design challenges and opportunities.

Digital media continues to grow quickly, and the flexibility of its definition and application can seem intimidating. That lack of rigidity, however, allows it to be incorporated with your business in a way that best suits the environment. Whether through bolstering existing skills with a more holistic view of digital-media solutions, creating specific social-media and mobile-app roles or departments, or bringing in new talent to round out current design expertise, each approach relies on collaboration at its core. For both pursuits--social and mobile--there are key steps and decision points that will help you ascertain what creative talent you need.

What your resulting team will look like is up to you (there's no one-size-fits-all formula), and to help you decide what creative talent to look or train for, and where to look, The BOSS Group is hosting a webinar October 26, 2010, for creative leaders who are seeking to enter the social-mobile realm. To join them and learn more about the best ways to creatively go social and mobile, sign-up for the webinar and download the whitepaper.

Kerry Ellis is a freelance writer and editor with ten years' experience in creative publishing. Having managed in-house editors and designers within a creative services organization, in addition to her experience as an editor and designer, has given her a holistic view of what it takes to launch successful products. From process and resource management, to content creation and refinement, to final delivery, her passion for research, writing, editing and design ensures she always delivers what the client needs.