Getting used to ambiguity in the world of digital marketing
Merging the Personal & Professional
Last week, I wrote (post: Virtually Real) about the existential challenge for brand marketers to live with a whole assortment of ambiguities. These ambiguities center on the blurred line between the virtual and the real, otherwise known as the online and the offline. With increasing frequency, you will say "did we meet on [ Facebook ] social media, or did we meet in real life, before?" I would tend to believe this question might become stiff competition for the statement that one hears so often: the coincidence of "it's such a small world." Similarly, for marketers, customers will no longer remember whether they discovered the brand or product via the internet (banner, forum, social media...) or the "real" traditional communication channels (ad, mag, dinner party...).
Meanwhile, another zone of confusion that is clearly different, but related to the off- and online existence, and that has serious implications on our lifestyles, is the blurred line between the personal and professional life.
For digital marketers, they face the challenge of sorting out, on a personal level, how to manage their own time, replying to a fan's comment on the brand fan page and finding the time to answer a Facebook message from a "real" friend (much less deal with all the emails).
4 factors driving the imbalance
The quest for work-life balance has been a relevant topic for several decades, behind the desirable notion that "I work to live" as opposed to "I live to work..." Today, the search for work-life balance is decidedly more difficult and rare because of a combination of 4 coincidental factors:
- the access and immediacy of the internet (high speed internet, 3G or 4G, wifi everywhere...),
- the constant connectivity (smartphones, internet of objectives),
- the fact that we are operating in a global 24/7 "world is flat" environment,
- and the economic pressures (which aren't likely to dissipate anytime soon)
Professional and personal lines forever blurred?
It is no wonder, then, that the border between professional and personal has blurred. Certainly, the acceptance levels for letting the personal cohabit in a professional sphere differs between cultures (country and corporate, that is). Many justifications include words to the effect: "it's just what we have to do ... to survive." But, just as the professional world can concretely aid us in the management of our personal lives (organization, communication skills, [family] management skills...), the personal life has enormous advantages to bring to the professional arena, not least of which is your attitude (or myndset
). So, whether it is the crossover between the on and offline or the personal and professional, there is a need to be at one of the ambiguity. It will also be worth explicitly finding ways to organize one's life in function of these ambiguities.
Social media marketing: a personal affair
Of all the reasons, there is one that leads me to believe most fervently that brands need to learn how to accept the personal sphere into the professional environment: It is the fact that the brand's client should be - de facto - at the center of the brand's preoccupations. And, for a brand (whether it is its brand marketer, digital marketing, customer service...) to know how to attract and interact with its client, the employee must learn to operate within and respect the personal sphere of the client. Specifically, when posting on the Facebook wall, which is by definition the exemplary hybrid media, navigating between the personal (with your friends in a "free" environment) and professional (pages that generate money for Facebook).
The personal in personality of the employee is key
In order for a brand's social media strategy to succeed, the first and most engaged player must be the employee (starting with the community manager). A personally motivated employee means having a corporate culture that treats the individual with respect, values that are congruent, provides rewards that make sense and opportunities to learn. The personality of an employee is vital in creating an engaging and authentic voice in the social media communications. These are the qualities that must be infused into a social media strategy
in order to generate a strong, meaningful and loyal customer fan base.
At its heart, the message of this post is that branding - inside and outside the company - must get more personal