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Most of you won’t read this article until the end. I don’t take it personally. It’s not because I’m a bad writer (I’m hardly any good!) nor is the topic boring (how can anything related to the killer combo of business and digital be boring?).
The reason is that we’re very different creatures than what we were a decade or two ago.
And we became who we are – disrupted-having-lower-than-the-dead-sea-attention-span because digital changed everything.
It changed everything for us as individuals and it changed everything for us as brand owners and promoters.
What (very disturbingly) hasn’t changed?
Human psychology - including - the human resistance to change.
So although we have made the transition personally (how many times have you used your mobile/laptop/tablet/e-reader/digital assistant/digital pencil/pen drive… today?), as professionals, we’re much slower in adapting.
The struggle is real.
The transition from an “offline” world where brands managed “one-offs” where once the billboard, magazine, newspaper, radio and TV ads are down, the campaign is over to a world where your brand is 24-7-365 “out there”, exposed is - to say the least - overwhelming.
But that’s no excuse.
That’s why, today (are you still reading?) I’m going to try and share some of my experience managing (successfully, I hope!) hundreds of brands’ FB/IG/IN/Gg/Email and other accounts since 2009.
Trends are nice to have but here’s the most important thing (by far)
Sounds simple? It is, but one of the most challenging aspects of digital I encountered is that brands don’t stick to it. They don’t make a strategy for Google Display, the teams “forget” to update the brand’s Facebook page, the managers think it’s just too easy and let the most inexperienced person in the company take over the content marketing, social media, email, search, display and community management (seriously?).
As if it’s not important enough.
Joining the latest trend of “the 10 years challenge” or coolest profile pic trend is nice to have but in the long run, that is not what will determine how people perceive your brand digitally.
People – your target audience (or, if you'd like – your community) expect you to be out there, all the time.
And don’t get me wrong, it’s not just being there that would do the trick – you still need to be creative, fun, social (on social) and most importantly - strategic in your digital communication.
Don’t treat your Facebook page like your own, where you can post whenever you want and that’s legit. It’s your brand’s page so, treat it like any other important business aspect – make a plan, including KPIs.
For social for example - figure out what are your marketing messages, which balance to set between fun posts and sales oriented ones, what would be the tone of voice and how many times should you post in a way that will keep consistency but won’t exhaust your audience. What reach do you want to achieve, how much traffic do you want to drive to the website, how many leads will resonate with your sales objectives.
Your latest A4 ad? Don’t just resize it into a display banner. Display banners appear in a completely different environment. Only if you plan and think about it in advance, you’ll see it.
The Internet doesn’t forget
Now that the strategy part has been said, and as you know very well - execution is everything. Treat every piece of content you produce digitally like it’s the most expensive billboard in the middle of the highway.
It sounds funny to say but so many brands treat digital as a second best platform – “in any case the life of a digital ad is a few days or weeks best case”. Even if that’s correct - it’s your brand at stake here. Most probably that more people see it online than offline + don’t forget that the Internet doesn’t as well.
On second thought (I’m full of contradictions, aren’t we all?) giving the job to the most inexperienced person in the company is not an entirely bad idea. Young inexperienced people understand the platforms better than you (it’s me who’s old, not you), they adapt faster to new platforms or changes on existing ones and therefore – they are amazing potential candidates to be able to disrupt your communication. They come with a fresh mind, born in a generation that has seen so many revolutions in its short lifetime.
And why is that important? Because having a strategy and being consistent are one thing, but staying relevant will strengthen and push your brand forward at the same time (plus help you avoid embarrassing situations).
Just keep in mind that they need your support - resources, training, acknowledgement.
It’s a cocktail, not a beer
Managing your brand digitally will also mean that you must mix the content you produce. Not only across channels (Display, Search, Social, Email and others) but also within the channels themselves.
Different display banners – visuals, copy, dimensions.
Variety of types of ads on social – image, link (carousel or one image), video, lead, messenger…
Several approaches to email – with images or without, 2 links or 7 links, subject lines with emoji vs. without, personalization – who and when.
Blogs - long form or short form? With images, videos, links?
These were just a few examples of how you can make a content cocktail and by that not only fundamentally dive into each platform but also understand what works better for your brand.
Show me the money
One of the best things that happened to us as brand promoters is that we don’t have to be walking in the dark. Each platform, campaign or ad can be measured to the impression level. Then - optimized in a way to keep the good things and get rid of the bad things. Digital campaign managers and analysts should be the new best friends of the creative team.
Everything is measurable, besides what’s not
I’m the biggest fan of performance campaigns. And I walk my talk. I’ve ran hundreds of CPA campaigns (the “crazy” idea of getting paid only for conversions). With performance campaigns you can’t pretend or hide behind anything.
Having said that, although I can’t quantify what has 4 years or 10 years of presence on popular digital platforms like Google and Facebook have given a local medium business, I’m quite sure that it is of very high value. And I’m not talking only about brand-strength-top-of-mind-tip-of-tongue value rather also right into the revenue kind of value.
I think it’s quite obvious to you, so without diving into it - digital can’t work alone. Performance campaigns exist only in the digital sphere but to build brands that last overtime, going only digital is risky.
Offline activities, feeling the pain of sales, understanding your clients by having a real conversation with them, and of course – traditional advertising, are the other parts that complete your digital efforts.
Oh and yes, building a brand to provide the best product and service will help you in the best marketing method ever invented – word of mouth.
One of the biggest fears of brands from “going out there” is the exposure – shaming, bad reviews, competitors’ posting negative comments… And the worse of all fears? A crisis.
A person posted a negative feedback about your product/service: a worm in the food, allergy to your cream, a technician that didn’t arrive 3 times, a rude sales rep in your showroom… and oh hell, it went viral. Everyone is talking about you, and it’s not sounding good.
I feel your pain but allow me (pleaseee!) to simplify the situation for you ☺
On Meta’s ecosystem: Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp there are more than 3.7 billion people altogether (as of February 2023).
The majority of these people are coming back to the platforms every single day. So… that conversation about your brand?
It will happen with you or without you.
The best way I know to end a crisis is to actually deal with it.
Other than that, digital doesn’t mean only negative feedback, you’d be surprised to know how much brand love you’re going to get once you’re out there.
How to talk to them
Adjustments to the different platforms are not optional. Instagram is not the same like Facebook not the same like Google (or Baidu!) and all of the above are very different from Pinterest and TikTok (formerly recognized as musical.ly).
What stays the same across all platforms is that users – people are the ones who will eventually encounter your content (and then decide whether they care about it or not).
So whatever makes people tick in the “real” world, whether it’s moving their hearts, makes them laugh, excites them, challenges or teases them – will do the same behind the screen (keyboard bullies don’t count).
Crucial and obvious but must be said: people don’t like to read so the visual is everything (at least as a stop-this-scrolling-and-look-at-me first interaction) in a noisy world like ours.
Who’s in charge?
That’s an easy question, no?
The brand managers, marketing executives and marketers of the company.
Hold on. Not so fast.
It’s true that they are responsible to spread the word of the digital world within their company BUT, too many times it’s the upper level of management that during quarterly meetings is talking about “innovation” and “creativity” but in the real everyday life putting endless sticks in their wheels. And unfortunately, without the senior management being on board and in the state of mind of transitioning the brand into these new times we’re living in, there’s only so much that they (we) can do.
Paraphrasing from people - “Can’t save brands from themselves”.
Innovation and technology
Big data, Data mining, Internet of Things, Artificial intelligence, Augmented reality, Virtual reality, Machine learning… Let’s be honest (only between you and me) - all these words give you an instant headache, don’t they?
We barely managed to wrap our heads around the fact that we have a super computer in our pocket that we can’t live without (but also didn’t exist just a bit over a decade and a half ago!), and we’re already bombarded with life-changing-science-fiction like technologies.
So to start with, disruptive technologies that radically change our behaviours take time to become of the mass. Bad habits die hard. That’s a (human) fact.
Then, whether you want it or not, something will replace Facebook and Snapchat (not sure about Google though ). New technologies will rise. “Old” platforms will fall.
Our desire to create something better all the time, in order to make our lives more comfortable, is not slowing down.
Innovative technologies keep coming at us. So what to do with this headache?
Understand. Embrace. Enjoy.
The best way I know to adjust (and do feel free to share with me other ways) happens in 3 stops:
At 1st phase you understand that the world will move on, with you or without you. If you want to stay on board, at 2nd phase you embrace the change as a constant thing and once that’s done, in the last phase you’ve learnt how to enjoy the challenges that this god damn complicated digital world brings with it.
When you come to think about it – isn’t it exciting to crack the “how to” of promoting your brand in a world that is yes, constantly changing, but also brings with it unprecedented possibilities?
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