We Have Sinned

It's time to atone.

Some may appreciate the timing, as it coincides with yesterday's observance of Yom Kippur, Judaism's Day of Atonement, the climax of a period of repentance. Everyone has some sins to atone for, including marketers and agencies trying to engage consumers through social media. Today, we'll confess.

On the Day of Atonement, one of the most memorable prayers is a short confessional where a series of sins are listed alphabetically in Hebrew. It's unlikely anyone reciting the confessional has committed all such sins over the past year, but one recognizes that these sins have been committed. Some sins listed are so broad, such as scorning and sinning willfully, that most likely everyone will have committed them.

Below is our confessional, for marketers and agencies. Similar to the spirit of the liturgy, we haven't all committed all of these sins, but most of these transgressions should be familiar.

We Have Sinned

We have awkwardly applied metrics like click-through rates to social marketing programs when we could have found more appropriate ways to quantify results that aligned with our business objectives.

We have bribed consumers to be our friends without devising ways to connect with our real fans and sustain communication with them.

We have ceded control of our social programs to interns, or lawyers, or those who are not in the best position to be the faces and voices of our brands.

We have deceived ourselves, falling in love with our ideas without considering what would provide value for our target audience.

We have eavesdropped on consumers, instead of actually hearing them and listening to them.

We have failed to monitor social channels for discussions of our brands and competitors.

We have guessed at our target audience's interests and activities rather than conducting research that could have provided real answers.

We have hurried into the newest, most-buzzed-about social spaces without developing a strategy.

We have imitated when we could have innovated.

We have judged competitors harshly for making the same mistakes we made.

We have killed ideas that were spot on in favor of pet projects that we wanted for our portfolios.

We have lost consumers by organizing social architectures that were impossible to navigate coherently.

We have mismanaged social marketing by shoehorning it into someone's job description.

We have neglected to integrate social marketing with broader marketing programs.

We have overreached, hoping for content to go viral without investing in resources to properly create, distribute, and promote it.

We have partitioned our organizations so rigidly that we can't plan earned and paid media together.

We have quarreled over who should own social media in our organization.

We have repurposed creative and messaging from other channels when we should have adapted or created it for these social spaces.

We have shortchanged social marketing by planning campaigns instead of ongoing programs.

We have tuned out consumers' criticism when we could have engaged with them to better understand it, or we could have learned from it to ensure other consumers wouldn't have such problems in the future.

We have undervalued and underfunded social programs to such an extent that we have set them up for failure.

We have violated consumers' trust by not being fully transparent as to our identities and objectives.

We have wronged consumers by not respecting their privacy.

We have xenophobically avoided any forms of social media beyond the ones we use ourselves.

We have yelled when we could have conversed.

We have zigzagged between the path we knew was best and the path that was most convenient, even when we could have prevented our transgressions.

Acknowledging these sins is not the same as absolving ourselves of them, but it is the first step on the path to repentance. What we can hope and strive for us that next year, should our community as a whole revisit this confessional, the transgressions will seem more alien -- a memory of how we were and a sign of how far we've come.

What other sins must we atone for? Add your contributions to the confessional in the comments.
20 comments about "We Have Sinned ".
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  1. Gerard Mclean from Rivershark, Inc., September 29, 2009 at 10:29 a.m.

    That is a lot of sinning, but the biggest sin that is STILL being committed by MediaPost is no twitter link for the author! I love to RT this stuff, but nobody to credit and Googleing/Twitter searching is getting old. You link the blog and the about page, can;t you just stick the twitter account here as well??? Frustrating.

  2. John Peter Meng, September 29, 2009 at 10:38 a.m.

    Amen and amen. Well said.

  3. Jason Baer from Convince & Convert, September 29, 2009 at 10:39 a.m.

    Fantastic post. Although I have to say Gerard's comment above is perhaps my favorite part.

  4. Tim Tracey from, September 29, 2009 at 10:40 a.m.

    David - a great reminder - thanks.

    Re: "We have bribed consumers to be our friends without devising ways to connect with our real fans and sustain communication with them."

    This is powerful. Real customer loyalty unfailingly generates WOM. I agree it can't be faked.

    Tapping into this genuine loyalty instead of counterfeiting it - that's the future of social media marketing IMHO.

    - - T

  5. Tyler Lecompte from, September 29, 2009 at 10:53 a.m.

    I dont know if I have ever felt so sinful...thanks for another great post David.

  6. Sheldon Senzon from JMS Media, Inc., September 29, 2009 at 11:01 a.m.

    David, well done and very timely. And to think you managed the perfect acrostic as well. Good job atoning, hopefully 5,770 will be a better year for all.

  7. Frank Reed from Marketing Pilgrim, September 29, 2009 at 11:12 a.m.

    David - One of those rare "great posts" that mix entertainment with solid business information. Thanks and keep up the great work.

    Did I sin there? If so, please forgive me.

  8. Monica Bower from TERiX Computer Service, September 29, 2009 at 11:15 a.m.

    I think I'll go a step further and reword these into the 24 commandments. Fantastic considerations for everyone involved in these kinds of marketing efforts.

    And PS it's @dberkowitz.

  9. Steve Sarner from Tagged, September 29, 2009 at 11:21 a.m.

    We have limited all discussion and attention to those 2-3 social networks we personally use and see in the press daily and ignored millions of other people not in our own circles or darlings of the media.

    You know I had to add that... : )

    Excellent post - Frank Reed summed it up - excellent information written in a fun and entertaining manner.

  10. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, September 29, 2009 at 11:25 a.m.


    Sounds like you have read quite of few of my social media commentary! LOL Great post!


  11. Renee Mcgivern from Spark Plug Consulting, September 29, 2009 at 11:54 a.m.

    We have used social media jargon and lingo to feel cool and superior without helping people understand what it means for their lives and businesses.

  12. Les Blatt from Freelance New Media Person, September 29, 2009 at 12:31 p.m.

    Excellent. Wish I had had this list with me yesterday at services... ;-)

  13. Eric Melchor from Smart Digital Spending, September 29, 2009 at 3:20 p.m.

    Dave, sounds like you are losing sleep at night! lol. Good post.


  14. Steve Haar from Fanatically Digital, September 29, 2009 at 4:18 p.m.

    hmmm... sound a little like the early(ier) days of SEM.

  15. Stephen Schwartz from Vanguard Systems Inc., September 29, 2009 at 8:04 p.m.

    Gee, I've only been around the business for 35 years, but this sounds a lot like advertising.

  16. Nettie Hartsock from The Hartsock Agency, September 29, 2009 at 10:41 p.m.

    We have spent too much time congregating with one another as social media folks and too little time helping everyone understand the best usage of social media and how to apply the economy of social media effort for best return. We have not reminded our clients enough that social media is not a personal chia pet.

  17. John Ribbler from Media Pro, Inc., September 30, 2009 at 8:31 a.m.

    A belated Good Yom Tov, Berkowitz. But, McLean needs to stop kvetching about having to work his poor little fingers with a couple of extra clicks needed to share good content.

  18. Laurie Tema-lyn from Practical Imagination Enterprises, September 30, 2009 at 5:36 p.m.

    This is brilliant!

  19. Craig Elimeliah from Freedom + Partners, October 2, 2009 at 9:48 a.m.

    Brilliant! Well done. I sinned through my jealousy of your idea for this article.

  20. Kristin Thompson from RedShift, October 28, 2009 at 2:39 p.m.

    Really funny. Well played.

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