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
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
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