Digital Marketing: Radical Mutation or the Same Wolf In Different Garb?
THE DYNAMIC DUO OF DIATRIBE RIDES AGAIN...
Preface: When Jim Murray and I first conspired to co-author this series, we saw it as a not-so-literary experiment. Well, we're now in our third year and on our 33rd installment.
Along the way, we've developed a reputation for not pussyfooting around sensitive subjects or avoiding sensitive toes. Indeed, "politically correct" is not found in our vocabulary.
That said, we also endeavor to remain faithful to the idea that these exchanges are not just about us and our idiosyncratic ideas, but more importantly about the exchange with you, our readers. So, we once again invite you to join the conversation.
PHIL: In our last installment, HSHS Vol. 32, Jimbo, we collectively ragged a bit on “digital marketers” and the BS they so often spread in the gullibly fertile fields of Social Media.
Looking back at that, I’m feeling sort of “let down” by the lack of a real edge in what we said. For the jibes and jabs last time seemed more like shadow boxing than genuine verbal fisticuffs.
Consequently, I propose to try again… if you’re up for it.
First point. Digital marketers are fond of telling us all how “different” marketing is these days. But I just don’t see it.
It seems to me that the principles and objectives of marketing haven’t changed, only the medium has. Providing value in content (now dubbed “Content Marketing”) isn’t fundamentally different from what transpires in print magazines or TV programs. The marketer provides or supports the delivery of content-value in the hope of gaining an audience for his or her marketing message.
Moreover, the implicit short-term objective in magazine and TV marketing is to encourage the audience to return time and time again to be provided with additional content-value. The goal being to eventually convert the audience to sales prospects.
Not all that much new in that… except perhaps the fact that the digital medium facilitates rapid interactive feedback and exchange.
Second point. A veritable tsunami of marketing advice appears on Social Media — on LinkedIn, beBee, and elsewhere. However, nearly all of it concentrates on the manipulation of the medium, the digital tools, whilst in practice, universally ignoring the core principles of marketing. A prime example is, in my view, the beBee Brand Ambassador affiliate marketing program.
This was recently reinforced for me by a friendly comment made by beBee Brand Ambassador, Jan Barbosa, when he responded to an equally kind comment by Brand Ambassador, Bill Stankiewicz. The conversation was about generating engagement.
Bill: “I agree with Lada [Prkic] here: The heroes of social media engagement are Ali Annani and Phil Friedman.”
Jan: “… Phil Friedman … cross-pollinates the beBee ethos across all social platforms !!! ….”
Bill’s and Jan’s kind comments intentionally or unintentionally raise, I think, a critical point about marketing, digital or otherwise. Namely, that you don’t market to yourself — or even primarily to your already-converted customers and “hometown fans.” Which is what I see being done most, if not all of the time in the beBee Brand Ambassador program.
Now, as a marketing guru and beBee Brand Ambassador, are you going to tell me I’m wrong?
JIM: Hmmm. As a marketer with more than 40 years experience, I am pretty much constantly offended at what passes for marketing online.
And there are two very good reasons for this. Context and experience. The people who do the vast majority of online marketing have no sense of what came before and the true thing you said, which was that nothing about marketing has really changed except the tools.
These people are, from an overall marketing perspective, basically clueless, and it shows. If they have any sort of clue the ROI for digital marketing would be tracking much higher than a measly 1% for people outside of the retail sector.
As for beBee’s brand ambassador program, I can understand why I was named one. I have been doing a ton of ‘old school’ advertising, and I have been making that shit available to all the other ambassadors. But from what I have been able to discern, very few people are actually using it. I even had somebody complain about it one time, which made me laugh.
Of course, neither you nor I or anyone except the people at beBee really have access to the posts of all the ambassadors. So I might be full of shit here. But I don’t really think I am.
BeBee itself, however, is using a fair bit of it and using it on LI and Twitter where it needs to be used, so that’s a good thing and part of what keeps me active in this area. Maybe not enough of a good thing, but what the hell.
I never really understood the criteria for brand ambassador selection, but at a certain point, you’re really motoring along on faith.
I was happy to provide as much ammo as I could afford to, time-wise, when I first got to beBee. But I am a little less inclined less inclined these days, mainly because the user in me has not really seen a spike in the quality of posting. And the marketer in me cautions me about being too gung-ho in that regard.
The other thing I haven’t really perceived yet is what I call the light at the end of the tunnel, where all the relationship-building actually turns into real business relationships. This, of course, might be premature, but at the same time it plays to the skeptic in me.
Having said all that, you end up right back in the standard ‘marathon, not a sprint’ bullshit and all the other lame-ass digital marketing mantras.
You and I have discussed this before. I think there is a huge hole in the digital business marketplace for a true networking entity. I don’t think beBee was necessarily designed to be that thing, although you and I both believe it would not be a bad way to go. I don’t think LinkedIn can pull it off because the only stuff they care about is recruitment and HR.
So where does that take you?
Well if the social media side of my marketing is a kind of waiting game and I’m not one who enjoys hanging around waiting, it takes me (and my very smart partner in crime, Charlene Norman) right back to the real world. Networking and looking for the elusive ‘guy who knows a guy’. And you know what? Those guys are out there, with brains that can be picked for the price of a Starbuck’s latte. Especially if the person who is inviting them is a good looking blonde. LOL.
Besides Donald Trump, I don’t really hate anything anymore. Do I wish beBee was more of a true business site? Yeah. Do I wish LinkedIn was more of a true networking site? Yeah. Do I really give a shit anymore about the stuff I can’t change? Naaa.
In answer to your title question. I think digital marketing is a mutation without any evolutionary value. I also think it’s mostly a scam, perpetrated on a bunch of people with very little in the way of experience with digital media, by a bunch of well-organized scammers with very little actual marketing experience.
I know this because I know a lot of these people and as marketers, they are clueless.
PHIL: Well done, Jimbob, we’re now getting around to really pissing off some people, not the least of whom are digital marketers.
Look, I know full well you did a lot of beBee marketing memes and “spots” (if that’s the right term) when you were first named a Brand Ambassador. I remember as well that for a long time I didn’t understand why more of your fellow Brand Ambassadors weren’t using them (or their form) to spread the word about beBee elsewhere on social media. But ultimately, I concluded that most beBee Brand Ambassadors didn’t really understand that one of the main functions — perhaps the main function — of an affiliate marketer is to market the brand with which they are affiliated.
Ironically, even though I am not a beBee Brand Ambassador, my personal marketing activities have, as Jan Barbosa pointed out, been concomitantly beneficial to beBee. Here’s why.
For more than a year now, I’ve been systematizing the publishing and distribution of my writing. My objective has been to market the ghost-writing and other marketing services I offer on a professional basis. The program I’ve been following goes like this.
I generally use the beBee Producer to publish an original article, then share it to LinkedIn as an update in the general feed. I also share or export a selection of articles to several other platforms including Google+ (where I can mount one or more series), Medium (which has a very strong import facility), and Thrive Global (which is staff edited and so free of the standard run-of-social-media noise).
The irony of the situation is that, because many of the articles shared out return the reader to the original post on beBee, those pieces do more to market beBee than all the pieces posted on beBee combined, yours and mine included.That’s not a boast. It’s a fact — a marketing fact.
Moreover, it’s a fact that’s relevant to just about everyone who publishes on beBee but shares the same material widely to other platforms. Yet, it’s a fact that appears to be missed by quite a few of those who are nominally beBee affiliate marketers.
In order to understand why what I’m doing helps beBee, you have to grasp not the hacks and tools of digital marketing — those are mechanical and can be implemented by a dumb bot — but rather the enduring core principles marketing. One of which is to get out in front of the market, not just talk over and over again to your existing customer base.
Something that most self-styled digital marketers don’t seem to understand is that talking you your existing customer base is not marketing. It’s part of an entirely different activity known, surprisingly, as “customer relations”.
As I think you and I agree, most so-called “digital marketers” don’t understand this because aren’t really marketers at all. In fact, they are better described as digital hackers — looking always to beat the system and gain exposure, sometimes for their clients but mostly for themselves.
As a result, many business people looking to retain marketing help don’t really get what they want, when they confuse digital marketing with marketing proper. And if that assertion doesn’t piss off enough people, maybe you’d better step in here.
JIM: While I was reading your last section, I was trying to put myself in the shoes of Juan and Javier and as they are trying to decide who would make a good brand ambassador for their baby.
I remember with every notification of a new bunch asking myself if any of these people knew anything about marketing. I mean, unless they are card-carrying marketers, it’s really kind of hard to tell.
But as time went by and I kept a bit of a count on how many people were sending me quotes to use for one of my meme series, and how many other people indicated to me that they were sharing my memes and posts, it became clear to me that while these people may have been able to exert some influence with their posts talking up beBee, that maybe they were just ignoring a lot of the advice I was dispensing…most importantly taking advantage of beBee’s sharing tools and getting the word out to other places. (Sorry for the long sentence.)
And the fact that this site is still hovering around the same number of users that it had when we first started posting here almost two years ago, really points out the incredible amount of uphill work involved with building a social media site into even a small ‘b’ behemoth.
I don’t know what all this means. But what I do know is that you’re dead on the money when you point out that digital marketers aren’t really marketers at all.
When Charlene and I started talking about how to build our business into something substantial, we realized two things. 1. That you had to have a consistent message and 2. That there was no way in hell that we were going to rely on social media, SEO, or any other form of digital media to build our business. To reinforce it, yes. And we are doing that with our blogging and various forms of intelligent and informative promotion. But for us, there is and never will be, any substitute for face-to-face contact. Period.
But the social media site and the digital marketers who promote them keep on coming. And the users keep on looking for some magic digital button that they can press or some magic post they can write that will make the world realize they cannot live without them.
Right now, at best, social media sites like LI, Facebook and beBee are very good places to have a discussion and maybe even to get yourself known.
Maybe someday they’ll be more valuable than that. Time will tell. And hope springs eternal, or so I’m told.
PHIL: Okay, that really was a mouthful, Jimbo. But good, not in the least because you’re likely to attract most of the hate mail we’ll get this time.
I’m not sure, though, that I agree with you on the question of whether social media is a useful tool (avenue) for marketing B2B services. My problem with that assertion is that I’ve been modestly successful at securing marine-industry consulting gigs by way of inbound contacts initiated on social media — LinkedIn in particular.
Granted, my experience in this respect does not controvert what you’re saying. For I do try mightily to maintain a consistent message. I do try consistently to move from an online written contact to at least telephone and Skype video conferencing with potential clients. And I don’t rely solely on social media, SEO, or other digital activity, but rather incorporate them as part of my marketing program.
Of course, I agree that the ideal situation is when one can meet face-to-face with a prospect. But to insist on that at all times would either add enormously to travel expenses or it would preclude dealing with clients who were not in one’s regional vicinity.
I think the point here is, again, the principles of good marketing don’t change; only the nature of the medium (the tools) and the area of the playing field. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
— Phil Friedman and Jim Murray
Author's Notes: If you found this interesting and would like to receive notifications of my writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee archive page. Better yet, you can arrange on that same page to follow my "blog" by email. As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.
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About me, Phil Friedman: With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation. In a previous life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic and philosophy at university.
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