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13 Odd Lessons from Digital Marketing

lessons from digital marketing

As a personal and professional blogger, social media advocate, and interested party in the evolution of content marketing, I thought I’d share a few paradoxical lessons I’ve learned throughout the past few years.

1. The Quality vs. Quantity Conundrum

Two factors determine the duration of time it takes to write a post or article: Length and value. The value is generated from the originality of the piece, and the length is just as obvious.

With a Google search you can see that most bloggers put quality over quantity 99 percent of the time. The odd thing is, the “better” a post the longer it takes to write, leading to gaps in your blog stream and more effort on your part.

It’s also peculiar that, in today’s Twitter age, most people prefer quick snippets of content compared to lengthy diatribes. In addition, more posts (quantity) leads to more awareness.

The takeaway? Write lots of sectionalized posts as well as you can and hope for the best.

2. Facebook Likes Are, Like, Absurd

Most companies that use digital marketing look at only a few numbers:

  • Shares
  • Comments
  • Likes
  • Website traffic

Since everything is interconnected, these numbers do accurately represent the effectiveness of every post (be it on Twitter or a blog). When it comes to Facebook likes, however, things get a bit trickier.

The likes on a branded Facebook page represent followers, people who approve of a business’ message and don’t mind seeing their content in newsfeed alongside their friends’ statuses. Unfortunately, the amount of likes a page has does not accurately represent the people who actually visit and interact with a page.

Why? Because it takes likes, shares, and comments to pop up on inattentive page fans’ newsfeeds. This is why so many businesses buy likes and ads.

At the end of the day, the quality of a Facebook post doesn’t matter if no one sees it.

3. Tacky Trend Tagging Traps Readers

For bloggers, one of the most useful tools (on WordPress, at least) are post tags. These are added so readers can easily locate posts on topics of their choice, like “marketing,” “blogging,” etc.

Tags are incredibly useful but often abused. For instance, a blogger writing about metal siding on barns could tag a blog with a celebrity name, sports team, or some other high-frequency tag that accidently captures readers. While this certainly does boost traffic, it’s a lie.

Popular tags are acceptable as long as they are relevant to the content.

4. Trend-Writing

Bouncing off of #3, lots of business bloggers (even non-writers) attempt to tie company events and updates into current trends. As a result, we see lots of this:

  • From a general contractor, “How my company could have rebuilt the Sochi Olympics.”
  • As a business blogger, “Why Product XYZ Could Help Regenerate Shia Labeouf’s Career.”
  • Or a marketing blog post: “Top 10 Blogging Tricks Taught by Mean Girls.”

The majority of the time these posts are shallow and obvious, though the occasional trend-piece can be extremely original and entertaining.

5. Twitter: The Polite Social Platform

Using Twitter personally and professionally, I’ve seen users use some quirky strategies to maximize shares, likes, and followers. Some companies will respond to every like or retweet to again appear on newsfeeds and say, “Hi! This guy liked my status.”

Will this gain you followers? Most likely. But really, how genuine is this strategy? On one level, this is pure engagement, however publicized. On the other hand, over-boasting can lead to overwhelmed and dropped followers who used to be interested in your Twitter handle.

6. Memes and Pop Photos

On Facebook more than anything, businesses will often pull in popular pictures with funny cats and other content to engage and entertain followers. Why? Because most things a company says is boring (unless it’s not).

Using memes and popular photos with celebrities and tragic events, like tags, work. They show that a company is interested in the world at large and connecting with followers. But, like blog tags, these photos need to be surrounded by original content that is relevant to the personality posting them.

7. Blog Comments: Coaxed, Crass, or Coached?

Smaller blogs might be lucky to get a comment or two per week. This is even the case for blogs that generate hundreds of views a week. Why? Because your commenting process is messy or simply because there’s nothing to comment on.

When comments do happen, it’s usually not to ask a question of the blogger. Most likely, comments mean:

  • A reader is complaining/trolling a post.
  • Readers link in their own sites and blogs to steal traffic.
  • They’re overseas televangelists selling weight-loss solutions.

Comments can be fun, especially when a huge conversation or healthy debate erupts from a blog post. How, then, do we handle them? Well, the key is to encourage caring readers to leave a comment. Lots of bloggers end posts with a question or ask readers to provide additional thoughts that are relevant to the content.

8. Names Are Everything

I would encourage any startup business to put “sign up and secure social media accounts and domain names” at the top of their to-do list. A brand name becomes the number one way people find and recognize you.

Unfortunately, so many names are already taken, in use, or inactive. Before setting out and changing your entire company’s name, consider finding a shorter, more memorable online brand tagline to use.

Warning: Even if you don’t plan on using Pinterest to promote your plumbing company, get the name. You never know who else might take it.

9. The “Hot New Thing”

The hot new thing in this case is any trend, rumor, or announcement you find on your everyday content marketing resource. This industry is unique because the news is curated and created by people like us down in the trenches. But like all media, some of it is blown out of proportion and falsified (unintentionally?) to generate notice.

If you have a digital marketing plan in place and it works, don’t change it until you have to. Just because “Matt Cutts said this or that” doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. (See: #3 and #4.)

For instance, guest posting has been in the death throes for years according to “experts” on social media. Does that mean it’s gone and doesn’t work? Of course not. It has simply changed and Google encourages guest posts to be non-promotional, original, and packed with high-quality content.

10. SEO: So ‘Effing Old

Writing for SEO’s sake is a terrible way to create meaningful content. The search engine optimization keyword debate has raged for years, and while it once reigned, today it’s all about the relevance of content.

Really — if you have to write a 500-word post using six keywords and three locations, could you make it sound authentic? No, because people (and Google) know what you’re trying to do. SEO is a dark poison that can ruin (and de-index) a website. It’s like nuclear energy and should only be handled by back-end developers using whitehat strategies.

11. Super Sharing

Tweeting that you blogged on your website about a new Pinterest account mentioned on Facebook is a bit overboard. Still, the super sharing craze is an iffy issue.

For one, sharing on social media is the best way to flash headlines and news to followers. Why not maximize the reach of a post or press release by using multiple platforms? Alternatively, oversharing (as mentioned prior) can lead to dropped or pissed off followers.

Moderation is key. When you have something important to share, make sure you aren’t just copy-pasting a tweet and link into Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. Create original taglines that relate to the audience on each one. Also: Space them out.

12. You Have To Do Everything

Digital marketing firms are businesses. They approach clients and offer a complete service package because the invoice amount rises with each platform they manage and each word they write. You can’t blame them, either.

This “do everything” approach is bait for businesses that don’t know what they’re doing or why their only Facebook followers are parents and best friends.

One thing I’ve learned is how to help people realize the services they do and do not need. Does your law firm really need a Tumblr? Why should your dentist office be on Instagram? Some platforms are bad fits for companies, and realizing this is the first step to killing digital marketing.

13. Originality Is the New Blasé 

Just about everything you could imagine posting, writing, or marketing has already been done. What makes a campaign great isn’t its originality (entirely), but that it one-ups the “copycats” already out there. People want to find the best answers to their questions and see well-formatted content — they don’t care if there are a thousand other links out there. The only one that matters is the one at the top.

(digital marketing lessons / shutterstock)

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