I have been thinking a lot about learning and social media marketing lately (I am working on a series of white papers on this subject with some colleagues from P&G).
Today, marketers and ad agencies don’t have to stay on top of dramatically changing mediums to be successful. The key to success in most traditional advertising is understanding the consumer and having great creative based on meaningful insights. Let’s face it – the formula for great TV hasn’t changed much in a long time.
In digital, the key to success is different. It changes. All the time. What worked today might not work tomorrow. Unless you are immersed in the medium you won’t be successful. Reading a few trade publications won’t really help either.
Initially, you could easily game search by stuffing key words on your site and joining link exchanges or buying links. If you use those tactics today, they just won’t work. Google got smarter and changed it’s algorithms making them more complicated and harder to game.
Today, many search firms are relying on social (and creating great content) to drive links and long-tail search traffic to their sites. Today, google is harder to game (although I’m sure some SEO types will disagree). Even if you can game it, your success may be short lived once google catches on.
At Pubcon South Guy Kawasaki said in a keynote that SEO was witchcraft and the key to good search results is to create great content.
Two years ago, nobody was even talking about twitter. In the early days of twitter, you could win by showing up, and contests from brands were embraced and rewarded (that is what Zappos did). The rules were different. Auto-follow and DM Spam didn’t exist, and there were relatively few players, so it was easy for brands to stand out.
Now, it is much more difficult for brands to connect on twitter.
FaceBook Changed (again and again and again)
It seems that every week Facebook is changing something. They changed Groups vs. Fan Pages. They change how your news updates and status feeds work. They add new features all the time. They made apps (when I first joined there were no FaceBook apps). They changed privacy settings. They change the rules for brands. They added FaceBook ads.
MySpace Became Irrelevant Before Most Brands Got On-Board.
A few years ago EVERYONE was talking about MySpace… today nobody does. Sites can rise and fall quicker than you can create accounts, making it more important to stay up to speed. Remember a few years ago when people were investing in Second Life?
These are just a few examples of how digital quickly the rules and success criteria change in digital marketing. If your organization is not continuously learning, you’ll quickly be out of the game.
The second major trend it that…
Feedback Cycles are Shorter with Digital
With digital marketing results are almost instant. This means that marketers and agencies can get results from their campaigns relatively quickly. For example, with paper coupons it takes almost a year from the time the coupon is created to when complete redemption data is available. With Mobile Coupons the data is instant. You can view and adjust in real time based on results. When placing online display ads you can instantly see the clicks (and subsequent results) vs. waiting over a year to get (questionably accurate) marketing mix data back.
It isn’t just that the feedback cycles are shorter, but also that the ability to adjust is instant. Bad TV copy may never go off the air – either you realize it is bad only after sales suffer, or it is too expensive to change. Bad digital marketing has much lower production costs, and small changes can usually be made quickly.
Social Media (and digital marketing) Require Continuous Learning
It can be overwhelming, but the reality is that if you want to stay competitive in the digital environment you must have a continuous learning environment. The rules for TV and Print and how they are consumed has been relatively static for decades.
Digital changes every day. With this faster rate of change organizations must adopt a learning strategy. Marketers and agencies will have to learn quicker to stay relevant.