Digital Marketing Lessons

I get asked this question a lot. What are my biggest digital marketing lessons learned? I could probably write a book on lessons — the school of hard knocks.

First let me discuss the context of digital marketing. The digital world is changing very rapidly. Because of this rapid pace of change, digital marketing is all about experimentation and making mistakes. Experiments, especially experiments that don’t succeed, power innovation in the digital world and can power your marketing.

Digital marketing starts with experiments. You try something, maybe something you read or someone told you about. Did the experiment work or not? If it did, you do more. If it didn’t, you need to think about what you learned. For example, one of my experiments was using Facebook to deliver discount coupons. That would have worked on many platforms, but it didn’t for my target market. I concluded that Facebook users don’t want to be sold to (e.g., given a discount coupon.) They prefer instead to be entertained on Facebook.

Let me focus on what the most important, and common, lessons I’ve learned about digital marketing:

  • Act like a human on social media.
  • Be a professional when someone gives you negative feedback.
  • Digital shouldn’t be your only marketing channel.
  • Don’t try to master more than one social media platform at a time.
  • Consistent marketing equates to success.

Act like a human on social media

Most — maybe all — business owners, when they first use social media for business, just talk about their wonderful organization. These types of social conversations come across as one-sided, which eventually their fan base will tire of.

Social media is just that — social. Folks in social media want to be informed or entertained. They want to engage with another human, not a “business.”

You may or may not know how to be comfortable being “human” in social media. What should you talk about? The simple answer is to let your social media community tell you through their social media feedback. Do they like sports? Try a post about sports and see how they respond. Do moms like to have pictures of their kids posted (with permission) on your business social media page? Post a kid picture and see how the moms react. Content experimentation, like in these two examples, is critical. You will not know what types of content posts will work until you try different things.

While I can’t predict exactly what type of content posts will work for your business, I can assure you with 100 percent certainty that you need to act “human.” So, drop the formality, let your hair down, and have some fun. Your fans will appreciate your focus on them, which will be good for you and your brand image.

Be a professional when someone gives you negative feedback

This lesson is critical and fortunately I’ve learned this lesson through other’s mistakes rather than my own.

Social media has an amplifying effect. Everything you say or do in social media is available for the world to see. If something good happens, many people will see it. Likewise, negative things will be exposed to that same, very large audience.

Every business will receive negative feedback in social media! It’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality. You, as the business owner, have two ways to respond to negative feedback. You can either be professional or not.

There are many well-documented guides on how to professionally respond to negative feedback. I suggest you study those how-to guides carefully and thoughtfully.

But to make a stark point, let me share an example of how not to respond to negative feedback.

A customer leaves a one-star Facebook rating of a business. This rating contains a detailed description of what happened, so the feedback is warranted. It’s natural for a business owner to freak out over this type of review. In response to this one-star review, the business owner writes in great detail about how this feedback must be wrong because he has such a wonderful staff. After essentially telling the customer that their feedback was wrong, the business owner finds the Facebook page for his customer’s business and rates the customer’s business one star out of spite. The business owner then retaliates. Guess what — months later, that Facebook interaction is one of the first reviews you see.

Remember, the world can see all of your business social media interactions. You can either react as a professional or, if you don’t, the world will see you as a jerk. No one wants to do business with a jerk.

Digital shouldn’t be your only marketing channel

Maybe you’ll never fall into the trap that I did. My whole career has been digital, so naturally I see the world through a digital filter. It’s not bad, but it is a bias.

When I first opened my businesses, I assumed naively that the best and only way to reach my customers and potential customers was through digital channels.

No marketing channel, whether it’s digital, newspaper, radio or TV is a perfect medium. You’ll only reach a portion of your target market. Each channel also has its own strengths and weaknesses. By focusing solely on digital, I was fully reliant on the digital strengths and weaknesses of each platform. Like with your investment portfolio, diversification across multiple investment options (and marketing channels) enables you to leverage the multiple strengths, which offset the overall weaknesses. You need to diversity your marketing portfolio.

Don’t try to master more than one social platform at a time

Call me crazy, but business owners are busy people.

A wise person once told me, “You only need one good social media that works for you.”

Think about this from a practical perspective. Most business owners complain about the workload required to learn one social media platform. The workload of learning two platforms would most likely be overwhelming. You could decide to outsource your social media so workload wouldn’t be that big of issue, but budget might be. Do you have the budget to pay someone to give you a social media presence on multiple platforms?

Wouldn’t it be better to just find the best one for your business based on your target market, then get really good at using that platform? With your social platform, it’s okay to be a one-trick pony. Your workload will thank you!

Consistent marketing equates to success.

This is a “Marketing 101” learning. To be successful with marketing, you need to practice consistency. This concept applies to digital as well as traditional marketing.

Practice all of your marketing weekly or on some fixed frequency. Your business growth from marketing every week will be based on the current week’s efforts, plus the cumulative effect from all your prior week’s efforts. Stop marketing for an extended period and your marketing will lose the ability to cumulatively build on the prior week’s efforts. This is very similar to how the time value of money helps grow your investment portfolio.

For your digital marketing, be engaged with your social media presence on a regular basis. Stay present and have an ongoing set of conversations with your loyal social media following. Be there to react if someone posts an unfortunate negative review. Just pay attention.

I know this is easy to state, but hard to put into practice — carve out of your busy workload a fixed time every week to work on the digital aspect of your business.

In conclusion

Lessons learned can be a painful lesson. We can’t avoid making mistakes. But I prefer to learn from other people’s mistakes. It frees up time for me to make some new ones.