Let’s Talk Taglines In Sports

The start of every season is full of newness in the marketing world. Teams have new communication priorities. Hype videos are rolled out. Hashtag emojis are unveiled. And in general, there’s a slew of amazing new creative and concepts.

One thing that always comes up at the start of every new season is the idea of  taglines for teams. To slogan or not to slogan, that is the question?

It’s an interesting debate. And while many seem to like the idea of taglines for teams (as the poll above shows), it can be hard to execute on them. All too often taglines are used, abused and aimless. When so many taglines serve little purpose or change every year, the message becomes muddled.

I believe though, that taglines for teams can be extremely impactful. We’re lucky to work in an industry where people have a deep emotional connection with our brands. Teams have the ability to tell a story, evoke emotion and have people take action. If a message is done right, it matters a lot to the consumer (yes, meaning fans will actually use them).

Taglines have the ability to provide more purpose and focus to a team’s content and creative. They help tie a bow around the story. They can rally a community. But, they need more depth than “just a tagline”.  Taglines must be rooted in insight, strategy and a concept. And, that concept needs to be brought to life across multiple channels and executions. 

The key for taglines to work is to nix the idea that a slogan is just a slogan. If your slogan is only used for your hashtag emoji and nothing else, it serves no purpose. In order for a tagline/slogan to be successful, it needs to have several key ingredients:

A tagline must have a purpose.
The best taglines are deeply rooted in the team’s character, their values, their brand message. It should be ownable. Essentially, your tagline must be rooted in insight on your brand, your fans and what makes you unique.

It  should be simple (and catchy).
We all know attention spans today are short. A strong tagline is simple, easy to understand and something with potential to catch on. 

A tagline should be evergreen.
The best taglines are ones that can stand the test of time. And in order for taglines to stand the test of time, they must be multi-dimensional so the story can evolve. Just Do It is a perfect example of this; it’s broad-reaching enough to evolve with the narrative of Nike over the years.

And, connected to the larger work.
More than anything, a tagline is less about the actual tagline and more about the work that surrounds it. A great tagline is only as great as the work that is done to bring it to life. The execution matters, a lot. 

A tagline must be more than something fans see in one hype video at the start of a season. It must be part of brand messaging, creative and the design aesthetic. It’s about all channels, working together, on all cylinders. It’s about an integrated marketing plan.

Brand narrative > tagline. 
What we’re talking about is a larger campaign and brand narrative. A slogan is the simple external-facing message. The sharp point. What makes a tagline impactful for teams is when everything ladders back to that broader idea. Think more than a slogan, checking a box and walking away. Think holistically and give them a reason for being.

If your team is looking to rally around a tagline, a campaign, a big idea, it’s important to put the work to paper. Integrated marketing campaigns don’t magically come together. They take a lot of focus and disciplined work. 

If your looking to embark on this journey, below is a high-level look at how an outline might come together. Please note this is a high-level outline that will vary based on the exact work, the team, etc. And, of course, it needs a lot more detail:

Chapter 1 – The Foundation

The foundation outlines what the campaign is set out to do, keeping the broader organization in mind. This is where you give a sense of purpose to the work. Below are a few things to think about including as you work through the foundation:

The Vision.
A simple, hard-hitting statement on what the vision is for the campaign.

The Goals
What are the goals of this campaign? Are you trying to tell a stronger brand story? Do you want to rally your community of fans? Typically, the goals outlined are more broad-based.

This is the statement of what you want to accomplish — and it is measurable. So, for example, at the end of the day you want to increase engagement with your fan base. Make this statement to the point and measurable.

A campaign without key performance indicators is an aimless plan. It’s imperative to put to paper what success looks like. Period.

You can’t build a plan without understanding who you’re talking to. As part of the foundation, it’s important to put to paper your target consumer. And remember, this isn’t demographics alone. It’s also psychographic. Define their attitude, lifestyle and interests – beyond sport.

Chapter 2 – The Concept

Now that the foundation has been laid, the second chapter is all about the concept. This should set the tone for how you got to the concept (so, essentially pulling key information from your brief and insights) before laying out the actual concept.

The Stake
The stake is really owning what this campaign is set out to do. It’s essentially another reminder for the group on what you are setting out to accomplish. For example, are you setting out to reclaim the relationship with your fans? Or, are you ready to own the story around your team?

The Insights + Landscape
Every good campaign is rooted in insights around the brand, the mission, the competitive landscape, etc. And, it all starts with a brief. Before jumping into the actual campaign concept, take the time to lay out the insights leveraged to come up with the concept. Essentially, what inspired this campaign?

The Opportunity / White Space
Out of all the insights, what is the biggest opportunity to own? What can your team own that is unique? This should be a quick overview of the white space discovered throughout the process. 

The Big Idea
This is the campaign idea in 90 seconds or less. Simple and to the point (and yes, the tagline is often included in this).

The Concept Manifesto
The manifesto is the more in-depth idea around the campaign. It sets the mood and the tone for what the campaign is and gives a strong visual the concept.

Voice + Tone
Voice and tone are so important in a brand campaign. What emotions are you trying to convey? Set guidelines for what the campaign is and is not so the right message and emotions are evoked.

Communications Hierarchy
Less art, more instruction. The communications hierarchy should identify the external communications points of the campaign. Yes, this would include how the tagline fits into the overall picture. It’s a guide for how the campaign is articulated in real life.

Visual Identity
Your visual language is important. This is the place where swipes of inspiration set the mood for the look and feel. It’s an important piece that can impact the entire tone of the work. Make sure the visual identity is rooted in insights around the campaign.

Chapter 3 – The Ideas + Tactics

Now that the foundation is laid, it’s time to get into the fun stuff. The ideas! The final chapter lays out how you’ll actually bring the campaign to life. Here is an example of what might be included (and yes, you’ll need a lot of details):

Guiding Principles 
It’s always helpful to have a guide that level sets how the campaign should come to life. This isn’t a set of hard fast rules per say, but it does help reiterate the philosophies and ideas of the campaign. For example, a guiding principle could be to “lead with emotion”.

Hero Content Pieces
All good campaigns (or taglines) need hero pieces that set the foundation for what the campaign is all about. These are developed early on with the campaign concept.

Ancillary Creative
From there, it’s important to think about how the ethos of the campaign can come to life through other content. A strong concept with be multi-dimensional and should have the ability to be infused throughout messaging and creative concepts well beyond the hero pieces. Make sure creative is molded for the platform; this shouldn’t be a one-size-fits all.

Channel Tactics + Executions
In addition to creative and concepts, it’s important to think about other tactics that can help bring the campaign (and tagline) to life. Whether it’sa Snapchat filter, hashtag emoji or a fan-engagement play, these tactics play an important role in hammering the message home.

Distribution + Media Plan
You can’t have a content strategy without a distribution strategy. Make sure you think about your distribution plan, well beyond the organic piece.

Always, Map Back 
And, as a reminder, make sure the everything maps back to the larger picture: The campaign concept.

Long story short, I think taglines have their place in sports as long as there is a purpose. They aren’t necessary or mandatory. It’s up to every team to understand their objectives and priorities:

Christi makes a great point. Every team’s approach and strategy is different. It’s important to understand your why. 

If you do decide that a tagline is the right route for your team, make sure you do the foundational work. What are you trying to convey? How does the work map back to the larger picture?  A tagline is only as good as the concept and the work that surrounds it. But if done right, it can be extremely powerful.

What are your thoughts about taglines for teams? Yay or nay? I would love to hear your thoughts below!

The NFL Hype Is Real

It’s officially football season, which also means is officially hype season. And, it’s my favorite time of the year for inspiration. So many teams start the year through an emotional lens with their hype videos. This videos set the foundation of what this season and their team is all about. The emotional lens makes for powerful content. 

Here’s the thing: Marketing in sports is not about covering the team. It’s about bringing the brand to life. It’s about the highs, the lows, the hope, the energy and the connection between the team, the community, the fans. Teams need to tell these stories.

For inspiration, I’ve curated a collection of some of the strongest hype videos from the start of the NFL season. These pieces show the power in creating a narrative that goes well beyond the scores. Enjoy:

Carolina Panthers – Midfield Logo Unveil 

The Panthers could have easily produced a standard field prep video to unveil their midfield logo. But instead, the Panthers wove together the story of why this logo and their team is bigger than football. It’s about their brand, their fans and all that it stands for. The emotion in this one will bring you chills.

Atlanta Falcons – Welcome To Atlanta

In true Atlanta flavor, the Falcons enlisted Ludacris and Jermaine Dupri to put together a remake ‘Welcome to Atlanta’ that is sure to get fans hyped. I especially love the intersection of sport, music and culture. Plus this is creator-driven, unique, ownable and catchy as can be.

Philadelphia Eagles – Only the Beginning

The Eagles delivered hype like only the defending Super Bowl Champs can. This one needs no other commentary, just watch.

Cincinnati Bengals – Seize the Dey

Like the Falcons, the Bengals tapped an artist (Nappy Roots) to help celebrate football being back.  I absolutely love how they parallel fans and players prepping. Plus, this is a hype video that simply makes you feel good.

Dallas Cowboys – This Is Our Moment

The Dallas Cowboy’s hype video is a sort-of redemption video. It walks up to the tough year they had last year, but then moves forward to the moment now. And, I think acknowledging the struggle helps provide some tension and a strong narrative.

New England Patriots – Make Our Own Noise

This video, with its opening, is another great example of the power of tension. The Patriots know everyone loves to talk about Brady, his age, etc. For their team it just adds fuel to the fire; this video hints at that.

Baltimore Ravens – Greatness, Always More

The Ravens tap into the theme of Always More, which feels like a nod to Edgar Alan Poe’s Nevermore. I love the subtle nod to something so very Baltimore. The video is extremely well produced, so much that it feels like it could be a Nike or Under Armour video.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Men of Steel

The Steelers focus on four main points – history, family, tradition and steel. The focus on the pillars does a great job of bringing to life what the organization stands for. I also love the Pittsburgh flavor and the narration by Joe Manganiello.

Buffalo Bills – House of the Rising Sun

The Buffalo Bills made a Bills-inspired rendition of the classic song. It’s one of those music choices that it’s so different, it’s powerful.

Indianapolis Colts – Forged

The Colts video is well edited and has a nice blend of highlights and community/fan footage. The thematic plays into the Hoosier mentality of hard work and earning something.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Raise the Flag

This piece from the Buccaneers is another great example of going beyond a highlight reel to articulate what your organization stands for. It’s bigger than football. And when you watch this, you get a sense of that.

As these videos above show, an investment in emotional storytelling and content well beyond the scores is an investment in a team’s brand. And I really believe, it’s our job to champion the brand, the players and the organization.  More of this type of work, please. 

The Work Needs to Ladder Back

The start of every season in any sport is always one of my favorite times. There’s no better time for marketers to get inspiration. From stunning graphics packages to hype videos, teams and leagues go all out with their best of the best.

While all the content and creative is always amazing, sometimes it feels like we’re consuming missing pieces vs a puzzle that works together. Too often the content landscape feels like a bunch of one-off ideas combined. We have hashtags to promote teams. We have a hype video here and an emotional video there. We have graphics that stop us in our feeds. But, very rarely, do these things ladder back to a larger narrative and idea.

Think about it. In one single day, a team releases their hashflag for a season that’s focused on one message or something generic like their team name. An hour later, a hype video is released that channels another narrative. Then an epic graphic is dropped promoting 24 hours until game day with no unique message at all (like it could come from any team).

This might sound harsh, and I don’t mean it to. The work from teams every year is incredible. But I keep wondering, what if we approached our content strategy a little more diligently? What if we stopped using our channels as a dumping ground and truly gave ourselves permission to focus on what matters? What if our content mapped back to defining our brand and its values?

Our fans see so many messages today from every corner of the internet. If you work for a team, your channels aren’t the only entity covering it. From the league to the media to the fans themselves, plenty of people are sharing content around your team and its players. Your job isn’t just to cover the team; it’s to bring the brand to life.

What does your team stand for, beyond the scores? If you don’t have a sharp point on what your brand stands for – and a plan that ladders back to it– you are going to muddle the message. And, that does not leave a lasting impression. We must take the time to define our brand strategy, and then, create a plan that rallies around bringing that position to life.

The work can be so much more impactful if we take the time to understand the bigger picture. We should make a more conscious effort to move away from the one-offs. We need to move to a holistic view of our brand, our content, our channels, our communities. In the end, it’s work with a sharp point – and a reason for being — that will leave a lasting impression.

Leadership Huddle With Eric SanInocencio, Houston Texas

It’s time for another installment of Leadership Huddle, a new series on the blog where leaders in sport and beyond offer perspective on digital today. Some of the guests work directly in digital while others will be leaders outside of the space (but get the work and advocate for it).

This post features a conversation with Eric SanInocencio, the Senior Director of Digital Media and Strategy for the Houston Texans. Eric has been with the Texans for more than five years now. In his role he oversees and manages digital for the entire organize. Prior to the Texans, he spent time at the Southeastern Conference and Gulf South Conference.

Eric is someone whose career has “grown up” in digital. And, it was clear in our conversation that he gets it.  We talked for nearly an hour about everything ranging from getting buy-in across the organization to career growth. One of the biggest things that stood out to me about Eric’s leadership style is his ability to understand other people’s perspective. He doesn’t make assumptions about what people do and do not know. Instead, he takes the time to understand, listen and build bridges, all while advocating for the work of his team. There’s a lot to learn from his approach.

Below is the transcript of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for space and clarity. I hope you enjoy.

You’ve been at the Houston Texans for five years now. Can you talk about the overall focus and vision for digital?

We really focus on two things when it comes to digital. First, what can we do to over-index? We are a very young franchise (just over 15 fifteen years old) so name recognition and expanding our brand is still very important to us. That’s one of the main things for us; what is the sheer volume of how many people can we reach on all these different platforms?

I think we do a great job in Houston of owning this market. But for us, it’s about figuring out how we can expand our reach so people know about our organization, our players and what we’re about outside of that.

Secondarily, we’re focused on how we can leverage content to tell our story in the smartest and most efficient way possible. We are all in this space creating content and trying to connect with fans. But for us, we are trying to do that differently than everyone else. How can we find our niche?

I love your point about the franchise still being young. And, I think there is a real opportunity within that. How have you all gone about defining your voice and content pillars you want to hit to reach and attract new fans?

For us, we go in assuming that people don’t know a ton about our organization outside of its biggest stars. People may know about JJ Watt, but they may not know about the rest of the organization and other key players. If they don’t know about our organization and our other players, social might be the only touchpoint people have with us.

We ask the question, what can our content do to connect with people so they want to engage with us again? That’s our foundation. If social is the first interaction they have with us (outside of seeing JJ Watt in a commercial), what can we do to bring them into our brand? How can our content play a key role in inciting some kind of emotion that makes them want to come back?

That’s awesome. The top-level funnel piece (awareness) is a fun challenge to have. It lends itself to pushing your thinking a little more.

Without a doubt. And from a measurement standpoint, we all determine our own success. I try to caution people with ranking other teams and how they are doing because all of our imperatives are so different. It’s never really a level playing field. For example, access can be different or tone of voice from the organization can be different.

You have to hone in on what matters to the organization. We measure ourselves against what we feel is important to the org — and that’s not necessarily against other teams. What we are trying to shoot for is different than, let’s say the Cowboys, because we are a young franchise. That’s something we always wrestle with as we continue to tell our story.

It’s always interesting to hear how digital plays a role in so many facets of the business. Aside from the general awareness piece, can you talk about how your department works across the organization?

We are in a truly unique role in that we interact with every piece of the organization. That’s good for us because it allows us to have a ground-level view of what everyone is trying to accomplish. The goal for our team is to offer our expertise so that social and digital don’t become an afterthought in the planning process. 

The challenge we continue to work through is to make sure everyone understands it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer for every social or digital campaign. Sometimes we have to try and change the thinking a little bit. So “hey, that’s a great idea, but maybe we do it this way”. It’s about interjecting expertise when we can. For teammates, the big project they are working on is the most important thing they are doing at the moment. But for you (in digital), you might be helping with 20 other projects. You have to learn to prioritize and communicate what else is happening and if a message might get lost. That’s not always an easy conversation to have.

No, it’s not. And that’s something I’ve learned as I’ve matured in my career is that it’s not about saying “no” but saying “yes, and” or “yes, but”. If you say no all the time people will stop coming to you. It’s a fine balancing.

Elaborating on that a little more. How did you start getting buy-in with these other departments to give you a seat at the table? And then, as someone who leads a team, how do you help the team prioritize with all the different touchpoints you all are working through?

That’s probably the foundation of my job at this point. I think we got to the table by continuing to communicate the value of what we do and how important the value of what we do in this space.

For those of us who live and work in this industry, one of the issues we face is we don’t always communicate the work properly to others. We can’t assume that just because we are involved in digital/social 24-7 that others understand the nuances of what we are having to deal with. What we can really work on is to speak a more plain language in a way that other departments can understand. You have to focus on getting the point across.

If you continue to show that you’re willing to work and be a team player that’s helpful. But also, if you have some successes under your belt from working with teams, they’ll come back to you and your ability to influence the conversation only gets bigger. That’s really what we’re trying to work on from a communication standpoint.

It’s easy to get frustrated in the digital space because people don’t understand, but sometimes you have to take that extra step and make a correlation to something people are used to in their day-to-day. It helps make it click. Again, it all goes back to how we communicate.

Absolutely. And even for someone who is on social, using it personally is very different than using it from a business standpoint.

Shifting gears a bit. We desperately need true digital leadership leading teams. And what I mean by that, is people who have grown up in the space (like you) that understand how to structure the team and what growth looks like. 

So for us in the industry who are looking to move up and eventually get a seat at the executive table (eventually), what advice do you have?

You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I read a great quote about digital once: It’s like building a plane while flying it. So I think for a lot of people, and myself included, we’re used to having a task list, completing it and feeling that I’ve accomplished something today. That’s tough with digital because it’s a 24-7 beast. There isn’t going to be an opportunity for us to be on top of everything. There’s a lack of control when it comes to digital, so we have to be comfortable with that.

Also, I think part of it is the culture in general. Sports is pretty slow moving when you compare it to other areas of business. I think that’s because it has never had to be a ton innovative. I mean, we’re really lucky with the Texans. We have sold out every game in the history of our franchise and have a wait list of over 20,000 people. If I don’t post a single thing on digital, our gameday experience has been enough to keep people engaged with us. I think that’s where the hesitancy has been, right? Sports, for the most part, are successful companies by just putting out a product. Executives probably ask if we really need to disrupt at the speed in which you and I would maybe like to.

You mentioned the speed at which teams move, and I find it really interesting. Sometimes the thought process is if it’s not broken, why fix it? The one thing I always go back to, is it short-sighted of us to not be thinking about the future? The way that younger generations are consuming entertainment is going to change, especially with all the choices they have. We need to be prepared for that.

Talking about the future of digital, what excites you about digital and the role you see it playing?

It’s very interesting because part of our job is to have one foot in the future, but also have one foot in the present. I may not know specifically what is next, but I think whatever is going to be popular in digital is what is going to make us lazier.

Think about how far we’ve come. We don’t even have to go the grocery store or Blockbuster anymore. The ability for this generation to have everything on demand is crazy. And that behavior, attitude is not going away. I have two kids (7 and 5) and they literally get upset when they have to watch commercials. This is the learned behavior that we have.

When you look at how digital is going to be part of that and sport piggybacks off of that, a good rule of thumb is to always look at what makes us lazier. The more that technology can take care of consumers seems to be what it is all about. Mobile seat ordering is a small but good example of this in sport.

I love this and have never thought of it like that (the lazy angle). You’re spot on. People like and expect things in an instant today.

Going back to your point earlier in our conversation about focus. You’ve grown up in digital so you understand the evolution. Can you talk about what you’ve learned in managing teams and in hiring people?

What I have learned is how important it is to give the full 360 view of what’s going on in the department to everyone involved. I have to over communicate so our team understands the decision and the reason for it.

It’s important to talk through how the decision ladders back to the bigger picture. Sometimes that can be really hard because you are challenged in the moment and these decisions need to be made as quickly as possible, but I want the team to feel part of the conversation.

Even when I disagree with something, I try to sit down and explain why to the team. When I first started in this industry, people had a knee jerk reaction and would just say “take it down”. There was no discussion. But I try really hard to put myself in their shoes because I know what it feels like.

I can always do better and get to know them as people and what’s going on in their lives. I want them to know I value them and what they do as a person that’s part of our team. And that’s another thing that really annoys me is people that say “my staff”. You don’t own anybody. It’s not my staff; it’s our staff. It minimizes somebody’s career into a piece of ownership over somebody. That’s never how I want to communicate. This is our staff. If we are going to build togetherness, I try to be in trenches as much as I can. Do you need my help? Can I jump in here?

I also think that mentality translates well to running a team account. It’s not about one person. It’s about the brand and the team that you work. And when you have that mentality that it’s our team and not one individual it builds a more cohesive environment and becomes about the brand and not one single person. That is sometimes hard to do.

Without a doubt. And I may disagree with 99% of the ideas that the team brings to me, but I want them to keep bringing them to me because the 1% may be something that’s a game changer.

As we get older, it’s hard for us to stay connected to what younger people are into it. We have to give them the freedom to try different things. I’m almost completely removed from the posting now. The process is important so we have a social voice template that we work off of so the team has an idea and understanding of what we’re trying to go for, but then they have the keys to go. If there is something that needs to involve me I’ll jump in and help. I think that’s important to give them the trust.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. As digital gets more visibility within organizations and as it becomes a more collective effort, how do we balance you autonomy with mapping back to the bigger picture?

On top of that, you also want to try to carve out some kind of life for yourself. If we are going to add a piece of work, I’m going to try and take something off. Nike has a great way of brainstorming in that they don’t start with the ideas themselves they start with the challenges. That is super smart because you spend all this time and create all this work, but in the end, if you are so bogged down with the amount you have to create, your productivity and creativity are going to go down. And then, you are going to just start doing things to get it done.

Switching to personal growth. And then, on a more personal level, what advice do you have for someone looking to move up?

You have to be comfortable putting the processes in place. It’s hard. I was a one-man band at the SEC and everything posted was by me. I got to the Texans and I was essentially a one-man team for a year and a half and now we have started to build this department up. And it’s really hard because there is a sense of pride when you send the tweet, but you have to take a step back from the tactical piece to grow as an individual.

You had a great tweet about what are people’s goals. And so many people in social/digital wanted to “do this” or “create this content series”. My answer was that I don’t want to be the person that pushes the button anymore. I want to be the person that oversees the entire setup. 

Your mindset changes when you get removed from the community management/execution piece. As you hand off the reigns, what you’re actually responsible for and how you view things is different. Being a little removed from the day-to-day has allowed me to see the bigger picture and how digital fits within that. And sometimes, that doesn’t equate to the perfect tweet. That’s a big piece to moving up.

YES. And again, I think that’s why it’s so important to have that leader who has been there and understand what growth looks like. Marketing is moving towards a trend where the CMO should have a digital-first mindset.

I always think about growth too. If there’s a community manager that’s been part of the team for two to three years and I don’t have a role that’s going to offer them upward mobility, I’m going to sit down and have a hard conversation that it’s time to move on. That’s out of respect for their career. The tactical piece is fun, but you eventually have to take on other things. It’s a really big challenge I’ve seen. There’s a lot of disgruntled voices about pay, growth, etc. but an organization is not going to keep you in the same role and just keep raising your salary. At some point, you have to take your career into your own hands.

I think too, we crave so much that admiration from our peers. If we aren’t featured in something or that top 100 list it’s such a personal thing to a lot of people that work in the business. That’s why we have to understand it’s bigger than that. It’s tough.

You are responsible as an individual for how your career grows. How do you prioritize promoting yourself or networking? It is going to become more valuable than ever, especially in the digital space. If people are going to give digital a seat at the table, they are going to need to feel comfortable with who that person is and that’s not happening on a resume. That’s happening with a conversation they have had with you or with a recommendation they got from someone they trust. It’s on us to continue to meet people and explain what we do.

Finally, for people who are looking to break into the industry, what advice do you have?

Make yourself more than a piece of paper. Take the extra step to make yourself known. Making yourself a person with goals and aspirations is important.

And secondly, you can get experience now. If you want to work in sports and you are in college, walk over to the SID office and ask if they need help. You could get the opportunity to run a team account. That’s tremendous because then you can show people that you’ve done the work. College is a great opportunity to learn.

A big thank you to Eric SanInocencio for you his time and perspective. Connect with him: LinkedIn and Twitter. And, be sure to follow the Houston Texans across digital for some great inspiration.

If you enjoyed this conversation, be sure to read the others from this series: Graham Neff and Brendan Hannan

Social Media Musings

Lately, I’ve found myself obsessing over high-level things about the state of the digital/social industry. It’s less about how to activate on platforms x, y and z (though of course I always think about that) and more about fundamental challenges, issues or opportunities within the industry.  It’s an interesting time to work in digital. It’s starting to get its due. And with that, comes a whole new way in which we have to approach the work.

I decided to curate some of the topics that I’ve been mulling over a lot recently. This isn’t new material, but more of a curated collection of my musings on social lately.  I hope you find a point or two helpful or interesting:

Leaders must actively participate.
I’m a big believer that it’s time for organizations to invest in digital leadership whose careers grew up with it. But that aside, one thing I know for sure is that people leading digital teams must actively participate. Why? Because too often digital leadership is disconnected from the work.

I don’t mean that managers must be managing the accounts or literally tweeting. Nor do I mean that they must micromanage. But, I believe they need to actively participate with their team in conversations about the landscape, brainstorms sessions, best practices, etc. If you lead a digital team there’s an even bigger need for constant learning, constant evolution, constant pushing, constant education. You have to be engaged with the team to understand the changing dynamics, workflow, process, all the internal asks and the hiccups.

Too often digital leadership is disconnected from the work. They don’t know what it takes to do the job, how many hours their team is putting in (or on what) and the struggles that they face.

It’s imperative that digital leaders understand the tools, the work and the day-to-day of their team. We can’t continue to build out and invest in digital teams without leadership who has no idea about the work. Otherwise, we will continue to have leadership who struggles to advocate for it. Digital leaders must be actively present.

Creative talent matters.

The early days of social were a much simpler time in the creative space. Back then a text-only tweet was the main content play. Creative options are endless today from live video, GIFS, vertical video, etc. I look around and I’m blown away by the level of creativity and content out there now. It’s no longer enough to have a presence. It requires creative thinking and the ability to capture attention. Which, as we all know, is a hot commodity today

Because of this, building a strong digital team requires the ability to identify, recruit and retain creative talent. Creative drives so much of what we do now. There’s no ignoring that fact. For strategies to come to life, digital teams need creative people. Special talent, really. People with an energy to push boundaries, see things differently and take chances. But also, people who are open to feedback, understand the strategy and put the brand first.

If you’re leading a digital team, finding creative talent is more than half the battle. Make it a priority to keep up with the trends. Spend time discovering up and coming talent. And always, hire strong creatives & let them work their magic.

Consumer > platform.

We used to obsess constantly with platform changes and new tools in this industry. It was a bit of a frenzy considering the pace at which platforms changed. Every day there was something new in the space.

Today, the platform changes have slowed. Yes, algorithms and platforms are evolving, but the pace is different. And the slowing of pace helps us shift our thinking to the thing that really matters: consumer behavior. Understanding the platforms are key, yes. But understanding consumer behavior (like maybe a shift to more passive engagement) is even more crucial. Why? Because at the end of the daily consumption habits (what consumers want) should dictate our approaches, not “best” practices.

Consumption is more passive.
Speaking of consumer behavior, it’s time we pay serious attention to the actions people actually take on social and how they consume. I think more and more of social media is moving towards passive consumption. Think about it. Scroll, scroll, scroll. Tap, tap, tap. Who is really paying attention? And, we need to give pause to this for two reasons.

First, how do we not lose sight of the “social” part of social media? We have to think strategically about how we bring consumers and fans into the fold or community will dwindle. How do we generate true interactions, without being gimmicky? The “social” piece is what makes these tools so special. And, we can’t lose sight of that. Active > passive.

Second, does this shift to passive consumption mean we look at content success differently (for more top of funnel plays)? Engagement rates are so low for most brands. How do we decipher lack of interest (so broadcasting to an audience that’s not actually captive) vs changing behavior (maybe seeing and reading but not engaging)? We talk a lot about change in this industry, but it’s not just the platforms that change. It’s also consumer behavior. And I said before, it’s critical we obsess over that.

Focus is key.
More than ever we need quality over quantity. Every action brands take online should be about adding value. In order to this, teams need focus, a strategic mindset and permission to not be everything to everyone.

It’s easy to get caught up in the pressures to be everywhere, all the time. The 24-7 nature can be exhausting and daunting. But I believe we’ve created a lot of these false pressures. Consumers don’t expect brands to be everything to them, so we have to stop internalizing false pressure and instead focus on purposeful and meaningful work.

Want your team to have focus? I firmly believe that leaders must set the tone in digital. You can read about my thoughts on it here.

Accountability is critical. 
Social media is no longer the tool handed over to the intern. Thanks to the maturation of ad tools, targeting and analytics, social media has become a lot more visible with organizations. There’s still a lot of work to do as far as getting buy-in within organizations, but I also believe we need to be accountable for how social media maps back to the larger business goals.

If you work in digital, it’s your responsibility to understand the larger organization and its goals, and then, figure out the role that digital/social can play. We can no longer complain about buy-in, advancement and investments if we are using the platforms just to play.

The tactical piece of social is the fun piece. I get it. It’s hard to pull yourself away from that. But if we want organizations to take social seriously, we have to move beyond the “tweeting to tweet” phase. 

Digital should finally have a seat at the big kid’s table. I agree with that. It’s no longer about retweets and likes alone, it’s a channel where brands and teams can drive revenue and true ROI. It’s our jobs to not get caught up in the bright and shiny vanity metrics. Focus on the actual business case.

The real beauty of digital is that it does not have to be a “this or that” when it comes to driving awareness/engagement or revenue. In a sense, you can have it all. Digital allows teams to focus on the full marketing funnel. If teams invest in a sound strategy, community management, creative and paid then they can drive awareness, engage and ultimately convert. For digital to get its due, we have to focus on all of this.

If you want your organization to continue to build out the team, it’s imperative you understand the organizational priorities and the priorities of your boss. Let’s say you report into a brand person who’s really eager about fan engagement, your job is to make sure your work maps back to that. If your boss is a revenue person and they’re focused on how are we driving revenue for the business, you have to focus on that.

Spend your time investing in a strategy that matters to the organization and executing on it. And then, make sure you advocate for the work so people understand how digital is helping to drive organizational success. Our jobs are about a lot more than likes and retweets. Demonstrate that.

Silos and solo ownership must go away.
Early in on social roles were very much a one-man show. I remember my first job. I set the strategy, made the “content”, defined success, managed the communities …. you get the point. And, I very much cringe at the silo nature of the work, but no really knew what social meant for organizations yet. Why put a lot of resources into something if you don’t truly understand the value?

This is no longer the case today. We understand that digital is the front door to organizations. Digital is marketing and marketing is digital. We know that digital can drive organizational results in a multiple of ways from revenue to brand awareness. It’s no longer something we do simply to check the box. It’s a critical component of a marketing org’s success. And as such, the work should be “we” vs “I”. Collaboration on all levels is needed.

Today we have to break down the silos within organizations and do away with the one-man teams (even one-man teams for managing the community). Digital teams must be embedded within the larger strategy. This helps us move away from the tactics and channels and focus on the why and what actually matters.

Additionally, a social presence should never be about one person and their voice. It’s imperative to build a team that contributes to the collective strategy. When you have a team contributing together to the voice of an account it makes it about the brand and not about one person (not to mention it makes the “always on” nature much more manageable).  

Long story short, silos and solo teams must go away to keep moving digital the right way. 

We have to get back to the basics.
If we break down silos and solos, it allows us to get back to the basics of a strong brand foundation. Too often social shifts us away from the overall picture. As digital’s role within an organization matures, we have to focus less on the platforms and more on the big idea. What are we trying to achieve? Believe it or not, social isn’t always the answer and we should be okay with that.

I still believe the core of good advertising is the same, but too many marketers today abuse the tools with no purpose. We must get back to the basics. Solve the challenge. Nail the big idea. Let’s find the solutions, not the tactics (blog on that here).

I’m curious. What’s been on your mind lately about the state of social? I would love to hear your thoughts, so please, leave a comment below!