Digital Is Not A Niche

Digital is not a niche. As a role, as a strategy, as part of an organization. And, we need to stop thinking about it as such.

When I started my career early on, digital was more of a speciality. But with the shift in consumer behavior, those days of it living in a silo and hoping to be successful are long gone.

Think about it. The phone is the first thing consumers reach for in the morning, and it’s the last thing they put down at night. It’s the vehicle to reach your consumer, no matter the target.

But for all the talk about being digital first, we still have a long way to go. Brands need to stop treating it as a silo. We don’t need separate digital teams– we need digital teams embedded within the larger strategy. We need marketing leaders who are truly obsessed with consumer behavior online. And, are driving 360 marketing plans with digital top of mind.

Digital *is* the grounding force in a marketing strategy today. No, it doesn’t reflect all marketing, but everything else is now a specialty.

Breathe, Pause, Think

If you work in social and digital, this a reminder of how important it is to put your brand hat on. To take a deep breath, pause and think. It’s not only okay, it’s needed.

Social media can turn into the wild, wild west for a brand if not careful. A place where gimmicks are awarded and eyeballs viewed as successful. It’s a place where brands can lose their soul if the right thought is not given.

One of the challenges this industry faces is the pressure to be on, all the time. This pressure means we are constantly doing and not thinking. We push and pray without understanding why. In essence, social media becomes a playground for tactics. And then, everything turns into a sea of sameness.

But this pressure, it’s created by us. And we need to shake it off. Consumers are not asking us to post and push all the time. The world will continue if you stop and take a couple days for strategic planning. Consumers won’t lose their brand affinity if you don’t tweet for one day.

Here’s the thing. Social media is about the now, but it’s also about the brand. And brands don’t come to life without a vision, purpose and unique point-of-view. It’s critical to spend time thinking about what social media means for the brand at a higher level. The greater danger is not in pausing to plan. It’s in never planning and losing sight of you brand.

Good work isn’t easy. In fact, it’s tedious. And thinking about a brand strategy and how digital and social plays a role is no doubt an undertaking. But it’s the work that matters in making sure social plays the right role in an org.

So here’s my advice. Give yourself permission to step away from the tactics. Immerse yourself in the brand strategy. Identify focus. Create a plan. Then, once you’ve done that, focus on the tactics and execute well.

On Expanding Beyond Social

There was a time in my career when social was the end all be all. If you asked what I wanted to do long term, the answer was always “work in social”. After all, who doesn’t enjoy spending their days connecting with consumers on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook? There’s a lot of personal gratification that comes with it.

When I was at the NCAA though, I had a fantastic colleague and friend who would always push me—“Jess, it’s bigger than that”. At that point, I didn’t understand what he meant. But since he is someone I respect and admire, that advice stayed with me.

Fast forward to now. I’ve had a variety of experience from agency to the brand side. I’ve seen the struggles and values of working in social. I’ve reported into creative teams, marketing teams, PR teams and sales teams. I’ve been in orgs where social is siloed and orgs where it’s collaborative. I’ve seen social be successful, and at times, miss the mark.

After all these years, I now get that advice from my friend.

Social is a tiny piece of a much larger puzzle that can only be successful if it’s part of the big picture. You have to figure out how to turn the tweets and likes into ROl. You have to understand how it maps back to organizational goals. You have to drive results. It’s about marketing as a whole.

If you started your career in social, then you have a strong marketing foundation already. You have a knack for understanding content. You get what it means to be consumer-centric. You know how to tell a story that makes people pay attention. You are adaptable, willing to learn and often eager to push things forward.

But, moving up in social alone and taking on new roles isn’t always easy. There are a lot of entry level jobs, some middle manager jobs and true leadership roles are hard to find. Perhaps it’s because ROI is still hard to prove. Or, because rightly so, marketing as a whole should be driving it all.

So here’s that “ah-ha” moment. If you feel yourself at a fork in your career and you’re not sure where to go, don’t be afraid to take on an expanded marketing role. Your foundation in social is invaluable. And, a more general role should still touch social—after all, it’s a piece of a larger brand and digital strategy. An expanded role will open all kinds of new doors and challenges though. And, it will arm you with an even stronger skill set.

When thinking about a career path now, it’s extends beyond “working in social”. It’s the hope of one day being a CMO. Of helping brands and organizations tell their story holistically, while driving business goals. Companies need more brand marketers and leaders who can drive a 360 plan with digital in mind.

So, take a leap to a different role. Ask for a project outside of your job description. Know that it’s okay to move on from social (if you want)– and that you will thrive. One day you could be leading a team that’s driving the entire brand story, across all channels. That’s exciting.

Examples of Engaging Fans With Content

Social media marketers are often a little timid to ask fans to interact with their content. We tell fans when to cheer in-venue though, so why are we so shy about encouraging them to interact online?

Yes, it can feel gimmicky and forced to give instructions to fans asking them to click, comment and like. When done right though, calls-to-engagement can be a powerful rallying cry. They can catapult a great piece of content further, draw new fans in and build a stronger community. The key is to use them strategically, sparingly and creatively.

The good news is that you can get fans to engage with your brand and content, without it feeling desperate. You have to go beyond the surface. Tap into creative, visuals, emotion and unique platform hacks to get your fans and consumer to interact with your content.

Below are a few recent examples of teams who have engaged fans in interesting ways, whether through creative or platform tactics. All of them do a good job of prompting fans to take action and brining them into their content and community.

 

Sacramento Kings- #Winning On All Levels

In a brilliant off-season play, the @SacramentoKings leveraged Twitter’s polls and thread features to create a “choose your own adventure “game. Through the thread, fans get to make the decisions on how they would handle the final possession at a chance to win it all for the team. The result is a well-executed and unique fan engagement play that puts the story in fans’ hands.

The @SacramentoKings have also leveraged graphics to do a number associated play. In the example below, they created a graphic and associated all four of their draftees with a number(s). Fans become one of the new King additions based on the last number of their like. Not only did this prompt fans to like the photo, but it also prompted fans to comment who they got.

Which new 👑 did you get?

A post shared by Sacramento Kings (@sacramentokings) on

Both of these examples from the Kings draw fans into their content in a more personal way. They make fans feel a part of the story and that’s a powerful, powerful thing.

 

PGA Tour- Reaction Snaps

During the drama-filled Open, the @PGATour asked fans to send in their best reactions via Snap. The best of the best were featured on their Snapchat account. This is a great example of using UGC in a way that’s relevant to the platform. Snapchat is all about people and first hand POVS, so it’s only natural that people would share reactions there. Empower your fans to join your story—this is an easy example to execute.

 

ESPN- Design that Prompts

EPSN has been using graphics and design to prompt fans to comment. The creative execution below is strong, making it feel like a poll versus a tactic just to get comments. The post generated 23K comments (that’s way over their average engagement).

The lesson? Design can play a key role in promoting fans to engage. And, a little push every now and then to encourage them to take action never hurts.

Thoughts?

A post shared by espn (@espn) on

 

Suns- TBT

Make fans part of your publishing game! In a fun and easy TBT play, the @Suns asked for their fans to share their favorite memory. The @Suns, in return, found some of their favorites from the archive and shared them.

In conclusion, there are plenty of ways to get fans involved without it feeling like a gimmick. They want to be a part of the conversation and the community, so give them that extra confidence push.

What good examples have you seen from teams or leagues? Share below!

Why The “IF” Is Important

Warning! This post is a test + learn where I need your honest opinion, so apologies in advanced that it is so raw and unpolished. A new year means a new opportunity to grow, and one of the ways I thought I could stretch myself in 2017 is by testing a podcast.

Why a podcast? First, this blog is a labor of love and helps me keep up with the industry, but it doesn’t stretch myself in the traditional sense. As an introvert, writing comes natural to me. Public speaking, on the other hand, does not come as natural. And while a podcast isn’t technically public speaking, it will help me practice some of my weak points and definitely push me out of my comfort zone.

With a few pushes from friends in the industry, I’ve given thought to the the type of podcast format I would embark on. It would be quick hits, musings and conversations with others in the industry. The key is that it will be specifically made for those of us with short attention spans and not a ton of time. The goal is to have a podcast where everything is under 15 minutes AND will compliment the writing on this blog.

This is my first stab at what a podcast musing might be. This audio has not been edited in anyway and it would be packaged in a nice little podcast format (and potentially shared with writing that compliments it). Before I  go down the podcast route though, I’m curious if quick hits, conversations with people in the industry and musings of less than 15 minutes will add value here?

So, without further ado, enjoy this random test + musing on my favorite topic FOMO. Share below if you think a podcast would be a welcomed addition (that is more polished than this).