Russian writer Leo Tolstoy famously wrote that all happy families are happy in exactly the same way, while unhappy families are all unhappy in their own ways.

I thought about this quote recently while carrying out the judging process for fDi’s Digital Marketing Awards, the results of which will be published in December.

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These awards are designed to highlight the investment promotion agencies (IPAs) that do the best job of promoting their locations through digital means. We looked at their websites and their social media profiles, and asked entrants about their strategies and plans. This is the first time fDi has done these rankings.

There were some surprises: we received an entry from Iran, but not from some of the more visible, supposedly more FDI-advanced locations in the Middle East. Canadian locations, meanwhile, seemed among the more enthusiastic about the exercise, and with good reason as on the whole they had very good offerings – including from a few provinces or cities that are not always top of global investors’ minds. Some of the best entries overall came from places that are not – or at least not yet – FDI big-hitters. Cities seem to perform better than countries in the digital marketplace, and have some of the best websites. Economic zones have websites that are not the most visually inspiring (you can only do so much with photos of industrial sites) but tend to be packed with useful information. I was impressed with the incentives calculator found on one.

In such a highly subjective judging exercise, making distinctions between the entrants is hard and it becomes trickier as one moves up the quality ladder. It is easy to discard the few that are very far below par, and slightly easy to separate those that are average from those that are excellent. Beyond that, it gets complicated. Like Tolstoy’s happy families, the excellent digital strategies are excellent in exactly the same way: attractive, informative, usable website; well-thought-out ideas on how to maximise online branding opportunities; firm embrace of, and clever use of, social media tools; and a generally creative, proactive approach to multimedia platforms. The space between the best is small.

I suspect corporate site selectors have the same problem. Once the shortlist of potential greenfield investment locations is drawn up, how to choose among them? On the one hand, it makes for a difficult decision, but on the other it suggests that if each of the locations on the shortlist is nearly equal then perhaps a bad decision cannot be made. For IPAs, the challenge of course is to get their pitch into the good pile – and stay well away from the pile that I marked for my own judging purposes as 'blah'. I won’t reveal which those were – but you can read about the winners in the next issue of fDi.

Courtney Fingar is the editor of fDi Magazine. Email: courtney.fingar@ft.com