social media wordle

Fixing Digital

Start with accepting things as they are.

Once upon a time I had a meeting with my CEO. It started like this…

“I need to figure out what is wrong with digital.”

What followed was an open and frank discussion about tactical things; staff, process, clients, etc., that may (or may not) have had an actual influence on the relative success or profitability of our digital projects. At the time, I was honoured that my opinion on the state of affairs was apparently valued.

I might have been a bit taken aback by the question. Now I realize that I handled it all wrong.

What I should have said is, “Digital is not broken. We just don’t know how to do it right... any more… yet.”

The truth is, it is usually our approach that is just not appropriate for the channels we are trying to use. Or we are underestimating the validity of a particular channel to certain audiences. We need to connect in the right context. Cracking that nut is the key.

So what is the way forward? In development we use rapid prototyping. Fail fast, fail often. In social channels this is scary. Failing publicly would have to be on the top five list of things never to do in marketing, right?

Think again.

If anyone tells you they know how to make a viral video, they are lying. Those things happen through trial and error. It’s a new world, and if you aren’t willing to try something new then guaranteed you’ll be stuck in an old pattern that isn’t working either. Or you can try new things, and see what happens.


Step one: Rephrase the question. Take the judgement out of it. Nothing is wrong with digital, Mr. CEO. You might not get Twitter or Snap chat, but just because it isn't relevant or useful to you, doesn’t mean that it cannot be a meaningful point of interaction for your brand.

Step two: Try it. Unfortunately, if you don’t even try to “get it” you won’t ever find a way to use these channels to your advantage. If you don’t have time to figure it out, then empower someone in your organization to try it out, with the freedom to fail… repeatedly…

Step three: Wait for it to bloom. Accepting that any positive interaction with your brand can build equity that might take time to quantify is a tough one. Don’t expect instant results. Nurturing, watering, and carefully curating the content and experience of your brand in on-line channels will ultimately pay off. Not every seed will germinate, but those that do will be fruitful.

Step four: Repeat. Keep at it, and stay tuned in.

Never has the rate of change been so rapid. Never has the generation gap grown so wide, so fast. Us slow old marketing geezers are finally just catching on to Facebook and Twitter and along comes Vine and Snap chat. (As you read this, some of you are already thinking Snap chat is so passé… my point exactly!) This rapid evolution of channels leaves us in the dust. Worse, they leave us trying the same tactics and approaches that worked before. And guess what? They fail. We fail.

In hockey if you don’t keep your head up, you’re likely to get a concussion. In basketball if you can’t look down court, you’ll never have the chance to throw an alley-oop. In golf, if you don’t keep your eye on the ball, it’s going in the rough.

In digital, if you don’t keep your head up (look for opportunities to connect), look down court (think about how a small connection can grow), and keep your eye on the ball (always make sure you’re contextual) all at the same time, you’ll just be posting someone else’s cat memes and hoping for a few likes to justify your corporate Facebook page… and wondering, “What is wrong with digital?”

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