In my five years in digital media, I’ve seen many dismal websites, ineptly created social media accounts, and embarrassingly bad posts – even from marketing firms who ought to know better. Our job at D. Cohn Communications, obviously, is to try and help businesses fix these problems. The sticky point is that many businesses don’t realize just how disappointing their digital media is and don’t even realize they need help. “Disappointing to whom?” you may ask. Disappointing to their customers and potential customers – the only people who matter. Those people are looking for magic, and we’re giving them boring.
The Usual Questions
I give talks regularly about digital media, and the questions are inevitably the same. The questions come from business owners and employees who have been tasked with managing digital marketing which they’re absolutely unqualified to do. They ask things like: “Which platforms should I be on?” “When is the best time to post?” “How many posts a day should I make?” “What should I post about?” “How do I run a contest on platform X?” “How do I get rid of a bad review?” “Do I have to pay to reach my customers?” and so forth.
These are all good questions. You can ask an expert, or find all the answers with a quick Google search. They are, however, not the most important factors in a digital marketing campaign. You can learn all the best practices in the world, but your digital marketing is not going to work for you if your digital media is blah. If your post is boring, it’s not going to matter what time of day you post it; no one is going to care. If your post is irrelevant to your followers, you can pay to boost it, but you won’t see a return on that investment. I’m very sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but just making posts on a regular basis isn’t going to be enough to have a successful digital marketing campaign – you also need magic.
What do I mean by that?
Artist and author Jessica Hagy creates pithy diagrams to illustrate seemingly simple concepts that turn out to be more complicated upon second look. One of my favorites delineates the difference between “Your comfort zone” and “Where the magic happens.” The point being that nothing amazing is going to come out of keeping yourself safe, and this is true across all of our efforts in life, not just digital marketing. But it does apply to digital marketing as well, and it applies to all of us creating it, from the solo business owner trying to manage her own social media, to me, to large marketing firms that serve global clients. We must get out of our comfort zones if we’re going to have truly inspired digital marketing.
“I don’t need inspired,” I hear you saying. “I just need effective.” Not true. Inspired=effective. All of us are aware of the sheer noise that we’re exposed to every day. The Internet and cell phones have made advertising ubiquitous and inescapable. You can’t snap off the tv or go to the kitchen for a sandwich during a commercial any more. If you’re online in any way, if you’re on social media, you’re going to see advertising. To make our marketing efforts pay off, we need to stand out among the crowd.
What Does Magic Look Like?
All businesses with social media accounts are creating advertising every single day whether they pay to boost their posts or not. Think about all the accounts you follow that aren’t friends’ accounts. Your favorite pizza place, the local dog shelter, @Stranger_Things on Twitter, @Beyonce on Instagram—every account that isn’t a personal account is advertising. These accounts are constantly creating advertising with every post, and you are often digesting it happily – sharing, commenting, liking, pinning. What makes the most popular social media accounts popular is how entertaining they are. They aren’t dry. They aren’t boring. They aren’t merely informative. They’re inspired and inspiring. They tap into our emotions. But to do that, you have to get creative. You have to get out of your comfort zone. You have to put in thought and effort. I’m going to hazard a guess that Beyonce didn’t feel 100% comfortable stripping down to her undies and exposing her pregnant belly, but boy was that photograph magical and quirky and a little weird — and it set the world on fire. It’s the most beloved Instagram post to date. (Ok, maybe I’m projecting here. Maybe she was just fine with it.)
Set Beyonce aside though. Not all of us can be Beyonce. Instead, think of the business accounts you follow on social media (and make no mistake – Beyonce’s is a business account). Think of your favorite restaurant. Think of your favorite shop. What are their posts like? What do they take pictures of? Are they good photos or grainy or blurry? What are they taking videos of when they go live or post a Story on Instagram? Is it dull or is it intriguing?
If you want to see REAL results from your digital marketing tools, you simply must get creative. You must add some magic of your own to get magical results. It’s easy to get mired down in the routine of digital marketing. It’s hard to be creative day after day, but it’s worth the effort. We all could stand to get a little more creative – myself included. To do that, ironically, you need to plan and practice.
Creativity is sometimes spontaneous, but ask anyone in a creative profession, and they’ll tell you a lot of thought, practice, and work goes into their products. The same is true for marketing. You need to think long and hard about who your customers are and what they like before making a post. What excites them? What emotions do you want to make them feel? What posts can you create that will make them respond? Write down some ideas. Try them out. See what works. Try again. Just because you’re not a marketer or an artist doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Get out of your comfort zone, get a little wild, and try something new and magical. With consistency and time, your efforts will pay off with a larger, more loyal, and more active fan base.