Baskin Dim Bulb branding advertising social media business strategy: The Digital Shakedown

The Digital Shakedown


Ever seen this slide, or something like it?  It’s usually filled with colorful logos and wacky names, purportedly portraying the crowded, utter confusion of the world of social media.  Sometimes it’s shown with another slide, most often a graph showing a line for consumer time spent with traditional media (trending down), and a line for "engagement" with things online (going upwards).

My bet is that you’ve seen these slides in a presentation from a digital agency or new media expert, during which you were told to do two things:

  • Be scared, and throw out every sensible expectation you ever had for marketing, and
  • Just do it, and buy some of that social media stuff

The closer probably included a few examples, or "case histories," of companies just like yours that did the same thing you’re about to do…i.e. got the same presentation, freaked out, and spent money on social media campaigns.  They did it because others had done it, and now it’s your turn.  Whatever you accomplish will be used to get the next client to succumb.

Sound familiar?

Next time one of these conversations approaches, I’d like to suggest another reaction: refuse the Digital Shakedown.

There’s no reason you have to do social media, or that you’re somehow an idiot Luddite because you aren’t spending lots of money on digital stuff.  There are infinitely important ideas to explore in social spaces, from product development and enterprise-wide performance management, to the changes in the ways consumers find, learn, adopt, and promote products and services.

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But you’ll never even touch any of that if you’re getting sold a digital marketing campaign from people who sell digital marketing campaigns for a living.  It’s like expecting to explore the vagaries of architectural history and lifestyle behavioral theory with a real estate broker.  No slight intended to either salesperson, but their ulterior motives tend to discount the agnosticism of their views.

So here are three suggestions for what you might want to tell them next time you’re subjected to one of those presentations:

  • Flip the telescope, and look at what your company is trying to accomplish, not start with what the social space offers.  If someone showed you an issue of, say, Town & Country, and told you that you had to educate and reconfigure your entire company so it could be represented in the magazine, you’d laugh them out of the room, right?  Come up with some clear business goals first (and "getting into the social space" doesn’t count).
  • Define the objectives in behaviors, not engagement (or some other made-up metric).  The rest of the company isn’t looking for you to redefine marketing; they want you to discover new ways to deliver the actions that matter to the business.  For every activity that you need to ask for more patience than usual, or squishier metrics that make the old measures for branding seem like an exact science, the more likely you’ve lost touch with this reality.  And you’ll risk your job once your associates figure out that your cheaper marketing spend didn’t produce anything close to actual sales.
  • Keep looking for negatives, not searching for positives.  There’s ample material claiming the benefits of social media. We all think it’s cool, and it certainly does have loads of promise.  Check.  Now try to talk yourself out of doing it.  Ask the presenters to poke holes.  What’s missing?  What doesn’t connect, or doesn’t completely make sense?  Get somebody outside of marketing involved in the conversation, both for perspective, and to keep you sober.
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"Hey, everybody’s doing it" is a rationale that convinced our weaker-constituted friends to start smoking in grade school.  Fear of being left out, and of being wrong, is powerful incentive to take action.

Don’t let yourself get bullied, or dazzled by busy slides.  Ask tough questions at the next presentation.

Resist the Digital Shakedown.

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