In order to fix these habits, we need to ask some tough questions, but that’s where the biggest bad habit kicks in: in many cases, we don’t even know what we’re doing wrong, because our industry still avoids asking tough questions. Tough questions are uncomfortable. We’re afraid we won’t know the answer, or even worse, the answer won’t be what we want to hear.
Early on in my career, I was a beat reporter for a newspaper in a small town in Montana, covering the local minor league baseball team.
After the first game I ever covered, I wandered down to the home team clubhouse to interview the manager. He’d been ejected in the 7th inning, and stormed off the field with third base under his arm. I was both excited and terrified to meet him.
After the game, I timidly walked through the locker room to his desk, where he was pounding a tallboy of light beer. I stumbled over statistics and tossed him softball questions because I didn’t know how to ask real ones yet. At the end of it, he said something to me that I’ll never forget:
You’ve wanted to ask me why I took that base since you walked in here. If you can’t ask the question, how are you supposed to tell the story?
Over the years I spent in the newspaper and radio industries, I got pretty good at interviews, mostly because I learned how to work a very specific question into every one of them:
“Why did you do that?”
This question is the key to understanding anything — as a journalist, as a marketer, and as a person. As a marketer, this is the key to optimization in any situation.
The problem is that we don’t ask this question of ourselves. Just like my first interview in that dirty locker room office, we look for the easy way out.
The Social Marketing Questions We’re Not Asking
As digital marketers with tons of data at our fingertips, most of us already spend more time asking “why did I do that?” and “why did that work?” of our various campaigns and programs, but it’s much harder to take a step back and ask that of your broader messaging and strategy.
“Why is this our goal?” or “Why are we talking about this?” or “If marketing’s goal is X, why is social’s Y?”
These questions are all challenging, but the last one is critical.
In 2016, social media is widely considered a marketing function, but because it’s a younger industry without standards, it isn’t held to the same level of accountability as other channels. If your other marketing teams are focused on driving a specific result, it’s important to ask why social isn’t. There may be a good answer, but it shouldn’t be “Because we can’t attribute success in that area to social” or “I don’t understand how we can drive value there.”
We’ve gotten too comfortable with the little bit of autonomy we’ve been given as social marketers. We need to start thinking like marketers and stop building our programs in a vacuum. It will be uncomfortable, but if we don’t make social a critical component of our marketing department, no one else will, either.
Breaking the Habit
How do you think like a marketer? You start by aligning social with the rest of the marketing team.
In our new guide, “The Social Metrics Map,” we give you a clear path and the tools needed to align social with the correct stage of the buyer’s journey, the tactics associated with the buyer’s journey, and the metrics you should measure. This should be done with the input of other marketing stakeholders; social isn’t a standalone channel anymore.
This is only the first step. Once you’ve outlined where social can contribute, you need to:
A. Start contributing B. Communicate regularly with other marketing stakeholders C. Hold yourself accountable for success and failure
As the Head of Marketing Communications at Simply Measured and generally delightful person, my job is to use data to tell stories to the internet that help the internet get better at telling stories...You're welcome internet.
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