Digital Congruence Vs. Herding Cats

As I often find myself, today I am sitting in the front of a grand ballroom listening to an industry friend explain the logic and wonders of a well-run digital marketing and social media program. And, as happens once a year, this is in a room of financial sector folks in New York. While I have seen this very congregation of marketers get more comfortable year-over-year with the matters being discussed, I am still struck by a thought: This stuff is flippin' scary. And it's not just my friend's signature style of blending in "South Park" snippets, liquor references, whacked clip art and Silent Bob quotations to make his points incisive; this stuff could freak anybody out.

It can be fright-show material even for those with stomachs of steel, thinking about getting serious about blended search marketing; deploying a real social media play; getting display media and the rest of the mix to cooperate and sing; reorganizing staff and hiring others; and properly measuring all of it.



Marketing success is often defined as confirmed consumer trust, transaction volume and profitability. So, in some sectors, there is a high emphasis on using digital as a customer service tool, with endless case studies on quick-footed crisis control through Twitter. But the picture is so much bigger than this.

At best, a blended, dialed-in digital marketing program is evolutionary and transformative. Everyone involved learns and gets better; progress happens. At worst, it's like herding cats. So many moving parts, so many parties involved. The daunted will think small.

So we ask ourselves: how can we develop something with cohesion that is dynamic and plays off itself, media by media, method by method, to drive our full set of goals? How do we make sure that within an integrated push, our messaging resonates and taps into consumer demand and influence, lighting the right sparks to propagate all our relationships in the marketplace?

Just Say No to Chaos. Create Some Order.

Staring up at the screen at a "digital marketing timeline" that makes a lot of sense to me  -- plotting when manager A is going to blog; when executive X is going to podcast; when Search campaign Z is going to traffic; when optimized press releases 1-3 will hit the wires -- I fight my vision of swarming cats. But, guess what? To get from wherever you are to this symphonic state of integrated marketing execution is not as abstract as it sounds. There are several specific areas that need to be covered. Some are big steps and might take time. But block out the cats and ponder these points:

Internal campaigning: This one may take some time. But progress on this landscape requires conversation, an ongoing internal dialogue that airs concerns, shares experience, educates and instills comfort -- or at least enough comfort -- over time. Favor talking over force-feeding.

Drive an environment of coordinated strategic planning: This is good old-fashioned silo-busting. Start early, with the right people at the table. Your own internal environment will flavor what shape this takes. In any scenario, plan to meet as a group early, as business objectives and marketing goals are translating to programs, media mix decisions are being made and creative briefs are being drafted.

Visualize a very simple master timeline: A wise woman in our space once remarked that integration was not just "synchronizing flights." This is utterly true. But, as long as you are religious about coordinated, collaborative strategic planning and program development, there is nothing wrong with a well-lit simple master timeline. Understand that program elements do not happen in isolation.

Move, pull or pool resources to support interests: Quite simply, you might have to move some money. Assuming you are maintaining the conversational tone I described above, this gets easier.

Commit to evaluating execution: As mentioned earlier, we all know about the "Social Media Obvious Stuff Playbook." But, as you launch your program, keep an eye on yourself. Check the execution against desired impact, influence and results.

Track, measure and layer results: OK, so this one is a little abstract. While it is important to keep several lenses at once -- Web analytics; social data; desired conversion activities; loyalty -- a layered view is important. As you identify your analytics solution, keep to one that allows you to compartmentalize but also merge your view.

Today, with so much of the social media conversation focusing on the new Consumer Super-Power, it is easy to get obsessed with role social media plays in reputation management. True enough, well-executed social media is a boon to tight customer service. But, that solo play is in fact a silo like any other silo. This blended digital business is a complex thing of many moving parts. Getting to congruence doesn't have to be scary. If you feel like you've barely got your arms around a herd of skittish cats, sleep on it. Try some of the operational measures mentioned here. Having your house in order goes a long way toward getting Tabby, Fritz and Cotton to jam to a rockin' digital symphony.

2 comments about "Digital Congruence Vs. Herding Cats".
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  1. Tim Mccormick from McCormick Fields, October 19, 2009 at 2:39 p.m.

    The aspect that I fear about social media
    is the manipulation of consumers.
    Just stop everyone, think about it.
    We are manipulating other people to do our bidding.
    To what? Improve their lives, or bend to our desires?
    Are we aiming to be an influence of control, or reason?
    Please use your consumer-media super-powers responsibly.
    Digital media discourse is sounding very mind control-ish.
    Maybe we should begin "herding" our "inner beasts" before
    we hurt the free will of others.

  2. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., October 20, 2009 at 5:50 p.m.

    Social media evolved as a way for online individuals to connect (socialize) with other online individuals. It wasn't created to make it easier for you to market Gatorade or sell cars - using it for these purposes (tho' I know I won't be able to talk you out of it) is in polar opposite to it's very nature. Bob wants to meet a big-boobed blonde - not a Chevy. Think about the fact that one of the latest and largest social media platforms doesn't allow you to send more than a few characters of text - no logos, annoying flash ads (click here to view video) and you'll start to get a clue. Just because it's free doesn't mean you have to "master" it, kitty.

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