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Let’s Stop Mixing Up Digital Advertising With Digital Marketing

I get into this fight all of the time.

When people talk to me about advertising agencies – especially ones that claim to be “fully integrated” – what I (still) hear is: digital advertising. Make no mistake about it, advertising is a juggernaut in the world of marketing, but it’s not everything. That’s the main gripe I have when people look at advertising agencies with digital capabilities, and try to compare them to a digital marketing agency. Here’s my theory on this (and it’s not perfect, there are variances and exceptions to every rule): An advertising agency (whether they have digital capabilities or not) are in the hammer and nail business. To an advertising agency (which would be the hammer), everything can be solved with an ad (which would be the nail) – and yes, to a hammer, everything does look like a nail. There is nothing wrong with that. Advertising is an essential component of a strong communications platform, and it is still a very efficient way for a brand to communicate a message to an audience. Brands can complain all they want about the diminishing returns on advertising, but this is a problem that gets exacerbated when lack of compelling creative meets a faltering scarcity model (too many channels and opportunities).

How does a digital marketing agency fit into this?

It depends on who you ask. We’ve been running Twist Image since 2000 (that’s 14 years, for those who do not want to do the math). And, for all of that time, we were never looking to solve a business challenge with an ad. We have always looked at the business challenge and tried to develop a solution that is based in the digital world. So, we’re looking to create products and/or services that can help a brand leapfrog both their competitors and the more traditional ways of connecting with consumers. From there, we build a framework for success (and, if you’re struggling to understand the difference between a framework and ROI, check out Avinash Kaushik‘s amazing article titled, See-Think-Do: A Content, Marketing, Measurement Business Framework). Once we have that product or service (and yes, that could be an e-commerce solution, a game, an app, social media initiatives, a website, etc…) and a framework for it, it becomes a question of communications. From the communications standpoint, we’re trying to leverage a healthy mix of paid, earned and owned models to help the brand to be successful.

Can you feel the difference?

Advertising is one component of the communications challenge. The reason this confusion is so prevalent in the marketing industry, is because we use media spend as the benchmark for some kind of marketing mix comprehension. Just today, eMarketer published the news item, Digital Ad Spending Worldwide to Hit $137.53 Billion in 2014. I thought it was a typo. From the article: “Spending on ads served to internet-connected devices including desktop and laptop computers, mobile phones and tablets will reach $137.53 billion this year, according to eMarketer’s latest estimates of worldwide paid media spending. Digital spend will be up 14.8% over 2013 levels, according to the forecast, and will make up just over one-quarter of all paid media spending worldwide. That’s up from about one-fifth of spending in 2012, and it is set to rise to nearly one-third of the total by the end of our forecast period, when advertisers around the world will invest $204.01 billion in digital.”

That’s a lot of bank.

Actually, that’s a misnomer. It’s a staggering amount of dollars. And, when marketers are pouring that kind of financial resources behind the paid media spending of brands, it’s easy to see how the distinction between advertising and marketing gets foggy. If you don’t think it’s staggering, just check out this chart: Internet Advertising Revenues Hit $7.3 Billion in Q1 ’11 from the IAB. I remember when the paid media spend was well under the one billion dollar level (I remember it so well, because I was selling online media back in 1999). Now, digital advertising spend is rivaling that of TV, and for one good reason: brands put the money where the consumers are. And, where do you think that the consumers are?

It’s about more than media.

When was the last time you read something about a brand and said to yourself, “you see… that is smart!” That my reaction when I read the AdWeek article, Why Johnson & Johnson Treasures BabyCenter’s Data. Moms and soon-to-be moms tend to like BabyCenter for information. That digital property is owned by Johnson & Johnson. Think about the business solution that J&J solved with this marketing solution. Think about the data capture that is happening on this site. And, ultimately, think about how they can leverage all of this information to better target both the advertising on this site (and even when J&J advertises on other mom-related sites). It’s staggering. It also demonstrates the massive chasm between digital advertising (the last mile of communicating the brand to the world) in comparison to the digital marketing work (develop a platform for moms, build a framework around it and push a communications platform to either get the message out or, in this case, even monetize it).

Don’t dismiss advertising.

It bears repeating: advertising is big, massive and growing (especially in the digital channels). Just look at those numbers: $137.53 billion in 2014. Still, advertising is but a subset of the communications platform which – in and of itself – is a component of a greater marketing good. Be floored by the media dollars that are being shifted to digital, but without a sound marketing platform that runs horizontally throughout the brand/organization, those messages will – for the most part – fall on deaf ears.

Still, digital continues to look healthy, growing and ever-evolving – even when we confuse the terms.

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Where Great Content Comes From

This could get gross. You have been warned.

Last week, I was lucky enough to have attended the TED conference. I’ve been going to this event since 2009. While most people can’t stop talking about how incredible the TED talks are (and yes, they are incredible), I wholly subscribe to the notion that they are but a small part of a much bigger (and more profound) experience. This year, one of the highlights was the return of Sarah Kay (you can watch her first TED talk below). Sarah was a part of the all-star stage, where famed TED speakers from events past got the chance to riff on what they have been up to since cranking million of views on YouTube and beyond. Kay was about to launch her latest book of poetry, No Matter The Wreckage. I know what you’re thinking at this point. You’re thinking that this is going to be some high brow blog post that you need to read with one pinky sticking out. Not the case. What makes Kay so awesome is her pragmatism. She’s all about getting everyone to try poetry. She’s about the democratization of poetry and spoken word, and encouraging young people to try it.

I’m a poet and I didn’t know it.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anything about poetry. In fact, the only thing that I may know less about than poetry is ballet. So, I’m not that cultured. I choose Metallica over Monet on any given Sunday. Still, I love the work of Sarah Kay. After talking about her new book, recent travels and the fame of being famous because of TED, the host asked her about the construct of poetry, her levels of concentration and the effort it takes to create a poem. As someone who creates content, this line of questioning is fascinating. How does a poet toil over their prose and decide which words should go where? Do you know what Sarah told the audience?…

“Poetry is like pooping. If there’s a poem inside of you, it needs to come out.” 

There’s brilliance in this thinking (and yes, it’s pretty hilarious). It’s not just about poetry either. That statement is as true for brands who are posting to Facebook or can’t figure out what to blog about, as it is to the art of crafting a poem. I did a real life LOL when she said this, because it jettisoned me back to the moment when I knew I had to write my second book, CTRL ALT Delete. I don’t work in isolation. Everything that I do, create and publish has a direct relationship with Twist Image. The whole purpose of my work is to help people become better in marketing and business, with the hopes that should they require a digital marketing agency that Twist Image would be top of mind. I don’t just decide to write a book. I sit down with my three other business partners and have a conversation about it. I remember telling them how excited I was about the concept and more. We then discussed if the timing was right, considering the growth trajectory of the agency or if the market conditions made sense for a second book. All fair questions, but the book needed to come out. I remember telling them that my water broke, and the baby was coming. Timing and perfect market conditions could not be factors at this point. I was in labor!

Where do babies come from?

I get where Sarah Kay is coming from. Sure, innocuous content like a tweet or Facebook status update doesn’t require that type of urge, but even a blog post (or article) should give the content creator that type of feeling. You need to have something to say! All too often, brands (and certain individuals) are just looking to fill up space, to be present, to not waste an impression, to not fall off of their consumer’s radar. That’s silly. That’s content for content’s sake, instead of content because there is something important that needs to be shared. As brands struggle to figure out the secret to creating compelling content in a world where everyone is a content producer, and the levels of saturation continue to rise and rise, it would be wise to pay attention to the words of Sarah Kay. We all need to make sure that whatever it is that we’re producing needs to come out. That’s good poop. Let’s try to stay away from the content that’s being created just for the sake of creating it.

That’s bad poop.

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The George Costanza Approach To Getting Things Done

Do the opposite.

Do you remember that Seinfeld episode when George Costanza decided to do everything the opposite of what he had done to date? Watch this:

Do the opposite.

I’m not telling you to do the opposite of everything you have done to date, but sometimes the best case scenario or the white paper or the certainty of an expert’s opinion could lead you down the wrong path. Case in point: at this time of the year, it’s almost impossible to not be inundated with content around how to have the best year ever. It could come in the form of productivity tips, New Year’s Resolutions, self-help books, perspectives on diet and exercise and beyond. You see this content in the mass media, on blogs (like this one), in tweets, motivational pictures on Instagram, specific Pinterest boards and more. As an infovore, it has been the bulk of content that I have seen (and been consuming) for the past little while. It’s hard not have some of this thinking seep into my own thinking around the type of year that I would like 2014 to be. One of the recurring themes that I have seen, heard and read is to ignore things like email, making phone calls and social media first thing in the day. Many great thinkers (and you can Google it), will tell you that the first thing that you should do once you get up and get your work day on, is to focus and spend and fixed and blocked time on the really important stuff. No email. No social media. No phone calls. Start your day by burying yourself in your work and block out everything else (even if you need technology like Freedom to do so!).

That one gave me pause.

I do the complete opposite. For me to have the energy to think about the big stuff (client strategies at Twist Image, pushing forward our business development plans at the agency or even writing a blog post), I need all of that little stuff off of my radar. Watching the inbox grow or even simple birthday wishes to friends on Facebook stack up over the course of the day, doesn’t help me focus on the big stuff. In fact, it has the opposite effect. Again, this is a personal thing (and, it could well be just me who feels this way), but knowing that my inbox has been sanitized and that I’ve done a quick review on social media tends to make me feel like I’m a little bit more informed as to what’s happening in the world, and that my communication for the day is (somewhat) complete. I’m no night owl, either. It’s not like I spend my whole day on email and social media praying for a few scant moments towards the end of the day to work on the bigger things, but I do prefer the feeling like I am (somewhat) up-to-speed and not falling behind on those little things. Also, those little things tend to inspire new thinking or spark and idea. They always do.

These experts.

These same experts also tell you to stay concentrated and not to shift from one window to another. So, if you are doing work, don’t hop over to Facebook or YouTube (even for a second). There is research that states it can take close to 25 minutes to get back into the groove of what you were doing, so it is a pure loss of efficiency (that most people don’t even realize). This may be true, but I find that those mental breaks often help me in finding the right words or different ways of thinking to add more color and perspective. I often need a lot of little breaks because I tend to work best in shorter spurts. As Seth Godin would say, “your mileage may vary.” 

Don’t play music. Play music.

People love to know how other people work. We tend to believe that how they work has some kind of correlation to the actual output. I’m not sure where I sit on that fence. There are days when music helps me write and there are days when anything but silence can throw off my concentration. There are days when I am fully concentrated and engaged, but the output of my ideas don’t seem to find the right flow… and then there’s the opposite as well. Again, this is less about process, superstition and other tactics. The thing is to find your own flow and be open to having that same flow find a new river, valley and waterfall to roll into (and that can happen daily). Currently, I am writing this blog post on a makeshift standing desk (that I made using a computer lap desk) with music is blasting along with it. I’m not sure how long I’ll last at a standing desk or be able to find the right words with this modern jazz blazing in the background. Today, it works. Tomorrow, it might not. What I do know is that sometimes doing the opposite of what every expert is telling you to do can create something magical (I guess, I’m also telling you to not believe everyone and everything you read and see… including me).

True innovation and creativity is about finding your own path and not trying to replicate what someone else has done (even if you define them as successful), simply because a process works for them.

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My 3 Words For 2014

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2014. What’s your plan?

I was never a fan of goal-setting… and even less of a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. For a long while, I was working within a framework called The Goal Cultivator courtesy of Dan Sullivan (aka The Strategic Coach). I felt like his perspective on goal cultivating versus goal setting was a new paradigm, and – in looking back at those initial exercises – it’s amazing to see how profound that experience was in shaping my present-day situation (special thanks to my dear friend, Barry Pascal, for introducing me to the work of The Strategic Coach). Every year, Chris Brogan (Trust Agents, The Impact Equation, etc…) does an exercise he calls, My 3 Words For The Year. Brogan explains it like this: “In an effort to tell bigger stories, I’ve found that the concept of three words allows me to think in more dimensions about what I want to do with my life and it lets me apply lots of tangible goals instead of what most people do when they focus on just a finite task. It’s a bit like turbo-charged goal planning.” He unveils how his process for coming up with his three words for the year and unveils them on January 1st of each new year.

Going public.

I’ve been doing this exercise ever since Brogan first introduced it. Each year, around December – without prompting – I find myself starting to think about my three words. The pressure is on. It’s a good pressure, but it’s pressure. All of us hope to do more, be more and achieve more. Nailing it down to three words is always a welcome challenge. This year, I have decided to make them public (as I did last year). Part of the work that I did within The Goal Cultivator program proved to me that “putting it out there” makes it real, tangible and easier to focus on. So, here’s goes everything…

My 3 Words For 2014

  1. Lose. I hate to lose. We all hate to lose. You will hear people say that all of the greats have lost more often than they have won. I still want to “win.” Badly. In 2014, I’m going to think deeply about the moments when things don’t work out the way I had hoped or wished for. I’m going to try to get through the mourning period quicker by forecasting the lessons of loss in a more pragmatic and less emotional way. Still, that’s one of the smaller reasons I chose “lose” as one of my words. In fact, I need to lose a lot of things in 2014. From a couple of pounds (who doesn’t need to lose that?) to the bad habits that I picked up last year of not reading enough books. This year, I’m going to lose many more tiny and nuanced changes I have had in my professional career and adjust them more than ever. “Lose” to me represents the same thinking as working with an editor (which, I sadly only get to do on bigger writing projects like a book or submitting a piece to the Harvard Business Review). I am going to do my best to lose and edit a lot of my current work tactics in an effort to “sharpen the sword” and gain more efficiency. Time to lose a bunch of stuff in 2014 that wasn’t working for me in 2013, and embrace the fact that to lose is a set-up shot for the rest of the game, when played well and accepted.
  2. Win. A long time ago, one of my business partners at Twist Image once told me that it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose every new business pitch, but rather that you keep on going. If you look, historically, at some of the greatest marketing agencies that our world has ever seen, it is not the ones that won the most pitches that have survived and thrived. It is the ones that became resilient and just kept on going (not winning over time, but winning enough to grow). Granted, this great piece of advice came from the same individual who often reminds me that they don’t get out of bed in the morning to “break even,” and this is the same individual who used to have a sign up in their old office that read: “Be brilliant. Be brief. Be gone.” The message is clear: we need to win more. Not that  I didn’t have enough “wins” in the past, and not that I don’t love to win, but winning more in the sense of crossing a symbolic finish line not by inching my hand across it, but with a smile and a sense of abundance. This is also about taking a moment to celebrate the good stuff too. It’s about doing enough training and practice, so that you don’t just get something done, but rather you feel like you have won at the task or effort. This notion of “win” can probably best be summed up by thinking about the title of Todd Henry‘s latest book on creativity titled, Die Empty. To me, winning will be about dying empty. Leaving it all out there and making sure that it was the best that I could do.
  3. Stop. I don’t stop often enough. To breathe. To play some electric bass. To read more. To look you in the eyes and have a meaningful conversation. To have breakfast with old friends. To go for a long and unplanned walk. To be “in the moment” instead of thinking about what’s coming next. This is a simple extension of what James Altucher would call “time traveling.” It’s something we all do. And we do it often. We stress over things that happened in the past, or we worry about what could potentially go wrong in the future and all this does is cause us worry, anxiety and damage in the present. We can’t control or do anything about our past or a future that does not yet exist, so we “time travel” instead of living in the present with purpose and mindfulness. Stop. 2014 will provide many more instances for me to stop. Yes, even to stop and smell the roses.

What three words will you focus on in 2014?

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Finding Your Creative Confidence

I used to play the bass.

Not the fish. The musical instrument. The electric bass, to be exact. It wasn’t just a hobby, either. I took it quite seriously. When I was much younger (around 14 years of age), I decided to forgo a summer vacation with my high school class to work in a warehouse packing make-up, just so I could afford my first electric bass (a new one… as I was already tinkering with a used one). I played throughout high school in multiple bands and even studied music in a post-secondary institution for several years. I wasn’t the next Jaco Pastorius, but I loved the four strings. I’ve always kept music floating around the house and office. Random acoustic guitars, some of my older basses and beyond. My favorite bass was a Spector NS2B that I got in the late eighties. I don’t even have a case for it anymore (no idea where that went), but it has followed me for close to two decades. I don’t play it much anymore… and I haven’t changed the strings in forever.

Then, I got embarrassed. 

We had our annual Twist Image holiday party a few weeks back and our amazing team pulled together a house party-theme for this year’s event. It was held in our Montreal office, featured local fare and a live house band. Two of my three business partners are musicians and they decided to jam. They (and some of the other team members) urged me to join them, but I couldn’t. I had not played in so long that I wasn’t even sure if I knew the notes (let alone the chops to do a simple walking bass line). I was mad at myself. Not because I didn’t jam with the boys, but because I wasn’t sure if I had lost my chops or my creative confidence. Can you forget how to play bass or is it as silly as thinking that you can forget how to speak if you’re silent for a really long time?

It’s all about creative confidence.

With the holiday break upon us, I blew the dust off of my Spector bass and started fiddling with it. Wouldn’t you know it, it didn’t take all that long until the feeling, fun and joy of playing the bass came back. It’s hard to play that bass and not smile… and, that’s when it hit me. Music is still a powerful, pervasive and creative force in my life, but sadly it’s one that I have not been nurturing. I brought the bass down to Steve’s Music Store for a tune-up. It turns out that my little patient may have died on the operating table (too many years of neglect), so I decided to buy a new electric bass (and I’ll keep the old one as a souvenir). I plan on taking some lessons… maybe even jam with some others at some point in the future (any takers? ;) .

This isn’t about New Year’s Resolutions.

The serendipity of life can be fascinating. In the process of reviving my interest in the electric bass and playing music, I just so happen to be reading the book, Creative Confidence, by IDEO‘s David Kelley and Tom Kelley. It’s a book based on the notion that all of us are creative. It’s what human beings are, but we suppress or disguise our creativity. The Kelley brothers think of creativity as “using your imagination to create something new in the world,” and they are passionate about empathy (when you understand your fellow human being) as one of the major gateways to gaining that creative confidence. They’re also passionate about the fact that all of us – no matter how mundane our jobs may be – have been creative (and that we should be doing more of it). Now, along with reading Creative Confidence, I also found myself on YouTube, randomly watching videos from some of the bass players that influenced my love of the instrument when I was younger. It’s not an exhaustive list, but Victor Wooten holds a coveted spot on that list. As I was grazing through some of his instructional and performance clips, I came across a TEDx talk that he gave at TEDxGabriolaIsland  in March of this year. As a long-time TEDster, I felt my world’s colliding again. Wooten’s talk is titled, Music As A Language, and it stopped me dead in my tracks. Beyond his passion to teach music and play music, Wooten touches on so many important themes in this 18 minute talk.

You don’t have to love the electric bass to love this line of thinking.

It doesn’t matter if you are a musician or not, please watch Victor Wooten’s talk. His lessons about life, success, creativity, learning, passion, permission and smiling are profound. I promise. I’m going to smile a lot more in the office, when I write these blog posts, when I speak on stage and in everything that I do. I think you will too…

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How To Run The Best Day Possible

How much of your business day is spent focused on the things that really matter?

Almost a decade ago, I came across the thinking of Dan Sullivan (also known as The Strategic Coach). Those who know the infamous Strategic Coach Program speak about it with a reverence unlike any other type of mastermind-like initiative that I have come across. I have friends (who are successful beyond most of our wildest imaginations) that attribute their success directly to their involvement in Sullivan’s program. While I never took the formal course, I have devoured countless hours of audio programs and books from The Strategic Coach. One concept, Unique Ability, is something I still think about frequently. In the formative days of Twist Image, I spent a good deal of time attempting to self-define my own unique abilities and, in doing so, ensuring that I was aligned with people (either business partners, team members or clients) who had their own sets of unique abilities that were the traits and skills that I lacked. In its simplest form, I wanted to ensure that I could spend my time working on my unique abilities while others were spending their time doing the same thing. Of course, it’s not perfect and we all find ourselves doing tasks and projects that we have to trudge through, but consciously knowing when you’re doing the work that you were meant to do (or not doing it) is core to better understanding if you are running your best day possible rather than having the day run you.

Step 1: What is your unique ability? How much time are you focused on it during the work day?

My personal assistant is a total lifesaver. That’s a lie. I don’t have a personal assistant, EA or anything of the like. I tend to my schedule so that my business day can be best maneuvered. This surprises many people, but a successful day won’t happen unless you plan for it. If I control my schedule (and this even includes booking flights for business trips), I control my day. More social meetings happen prior to work (nothing quite like a good/early networking breakfast) or at lunch (to break up the day with something a little more social). Most news consumption, emails and inspiration comes in the morning hours as well, and I tend to write at night. When I am not being booked into client meetings during the day, I will often schedule myself into blocks of time for things like business development, new presentation development and more. I save phone calls for drives to and from the office or in-between meetings on the go. While my day-to-day is never strictly regimented or formulaic, there is a flow that I have created (and that I control) to ensure that the maximum amount of time when I am feeling most business inspired (usually between 7:30 am – 5:30 pm) is being optimized as much as possible.

Step 2: Control your schedule. Control your day.

Beyond the schedule, you have to run, hustle (shout-out to Gary Vaynerchuk who practically owns a trademark on that term) and ship (shout-out to Seth Godin) as much as you can with each and every passing moment. While this could me misconstrued as the ramblings of a workaholic, it is not. Those that know me (and my way of thinking) know how I feel about work/life balance (and, in case you don’t, this might help: The End Of Work-Life Balance or check out my latest book, CTRL ALT Delete). If we are going to spend time away from our loved ones for work, we have to make those moments count. Letting the days, weeks, months and years drift away is a waste. Your ability to accumulate any sense of wealth happens within a very short time span (usually you early thirties to late forties). We also can’t predict the future or what will come, so a sense of urgency is critical. I love how Steven Pressfield calls anything that takes us away from doing the work that we were meant to do the “resistance” (for more on that, check out his amazing book, The War Of Art). Just today, he wrote an article titled, Managing Your Day, that stated: “You have to run your day. You can’t let your day run you. You must roll out of bed each morning with an unshakeable focus and intention. Your novel, your start-up, your movie. That’s your day. That’s why you’re here. You can’t yield to distractions and temptations. You must be like the Blues Brothers. You’re on a mission from God. Who is in charge of your day? You are!” As much as I attempt to be in charge of my day, this was a great wake-up call.

Step 3: Put your butt where your heart wants to be.

That was one of the great lines that Pressfield told Oprah in a recent interview. So many people have aspirations, dreams and other unfilled thoughts. Some of those are delusional, but a lot of them are more than achievable. As human beings we struggle with going after what the heart wants. There is no doubt that it’s not easy, that it appears scary, and that there is always some semblance of risk. That is for you – as an individual – to measure and interpret. When you read the stories of those we consider successful, more often than not, there was a moment (or two) when they went for it. More often than not, these individuals were resilient. They did not go after their dreams with a reckless disregard, but rather a well-thought out, planned strategy. It went deeper than a simple belief and dug even deeper than those who rejected them or could not align with their views. This resilience is critical. With that, they also understood timing (some pre-meditated, while others got lucky). One of the best books (and it’s a small one) on this topic is called The Dip by Seth Godin. It’s a little book with a massive idea about when to stop (or to keep on going). 

Step 4: Be resilient (in everything that you do… and that includes knowing when to quit).

Get out there. I’m sure Steven Pressfield will shake his head at this one, but I believe that you can’t just be head-down in the work. You have to get out there and meet as many people as possible. Some of the biggest challenges that we face in business have already been solved by our peers. Some of the biggest opportunities to get your business on track or pointed in the right direction may be by meeting the right people. Don’t spend your days and nights out there networking, but plan to network a few times a week. Adopt a “giver’s gain” mindset to this (be helpful and resourceful to others first) and watch the luck stack up in your serendipity bank account. Think about industry associations, the local chamber of commerce, mastermind groups and more. Schedule the events in, prepare before you enter the room, and do your best to provide value first with no expectation of reciprocation.

Step 5: Network by being helpful to others first. 

The most successful people that I know planned for success (believe it or not). Failure is a part of this journey. Nothing is (ever) guaranteed. Still, if you focus on your unique ability, control your schedule, put your butt where heart wants to be, act with resilience and be as helpful to others as possible, you just may find your days filled with joy, growth and success instead of just letting another moment pass you by as you countdown to another weekend.

Your turn: how have you managed to run your best day possible?

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What Keeps The Chief Marketing Officer Awake At Night? – Part 3

Is Gartner right about Chief Marketing Officers spending more on IT than the Chief Information Officer in the coming years?

A very senior Chief Marketing Officer at one of the largest telecommunications companies in North America leaned over my shoulder after someone mentioned the famed Gartner report at an event, and sighed, “if I hear about this report one more time, I am going to blow a gasket.” Still, it is hard to argue that every business is now a digital business. We’re not just talking about the availability of that much more consumer information or data to help brands make better decisions and connect more powerfully with their consumers (you can read more about that in the last installment: What Keeps The Chief Marketing Officer Awake At Night? – Part 2), we’re talking about the actual infrastructure of the marketing department and what keeps it humming along.  

Are marketers still scared of technology? 

When we started Twist Image in 2000, the vision was to help the marketing community understand and embrace the power of the Internet. The timing was – somewhat – precarious. Back then, if the brand even had a website, it was being developed, handled and maintained by the IT department. As the commercialization of the Internet increased and brands began to understand the power of e-commerce, online ordering, social media and more, the best-in-class players extradited the website from the clutches of IT, but a lot had to happen for this to work. Back in 2000, it was common for marketing professionals to be scared of technology and the IT department (that being said, there are many marketers who still have their collective heads stuck in the sand), and the IT department didn’t trust the marketers with the technology (that being said, there are many IT pros who still don’t, and think we’re mucking it up pretty good). Fast forward to this date and things have improved, but we still have a vast chasm that needs to be collapsed.

Can we get the CMO and CIO to shack up?

You probably won’t find a CIO who doesn’t think that they need better alignment with the CMO, and the feeling from the marketers is mutual. As data and analytics take a more predominant role in business decisions, marketers are going to face a world where IT (both hardware and software) to operationalize the department of marketing is going to hit some exponential growth curves.  

The strategic partnership between marketing and IT.

Here’s what we know: the social layer of technology is still running at full bore. Brands are diving deeper and deeper in the realms of digital marketing, and we are seeing the media dollars continue to shift (especially as mobile ramps up on advertising). From the TechCrunch news item, Digital Ads Will Be 22% Of All U.S. Ad Spend In 2013, Mobile Ads 3.7%; Total Global Ad Spend In 2013 $503B, on September 30th, 2013: “mobile is growing seven times faster than desktop Internet spend, with mobile ads growing by 77% in 2013, 56% in 2014 and 48% in 2015., driven by the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets. Globally, internet advertising will grow at an average of 10% a year.” Marketing departments are going to soon push beyond the data and media component as newer needs arise. Currently, we are seeing strong investment in technology companies that specialize in contextual marketing solutions. The wealth of information that provides marketing context now extends well past things like simple location. Because of smartphones and tablets, the ability to understand environment, emotion, culture and economic factors is here. Wearable technology and the Internet of things is only going to push this further. Yes, we have ten billion-plus wireless connected devices today, but it’s looking like that number will triple by 2020 to over thirty billion devices (more on that here: 10BN+ Wirelessly Connected Devices Today, 30BN+ In 2020′s ‘Internet Of Everything’, Says ABI Research). If everything that can be plugged in or has a battery is also online, just imagine the technology infrastructure that brands will require to better connect messages and products to their consumers?

The humanization of technology.

Technology has removed technology from technology. Look no further than the iPad for proof of this. A simple button to turn on and it works like electricity (switch it, and it’s on… no boot up time). Also, no instruction manuals. These devices are as easy to use as plugging in a lamp and flipping the switch (just slide to unlock). Because we have arrived at this inflection point, it’s safe to say that everything from cloud computing, personalization and localization are going to become increasingly more relevant for marketers to pay attention to. What this leads to is a world of marketing automation (yes, more IT and technology). What sounds like more buzzwords and a means to scare the professional marketer, is really just another way to say this: if the CMO does not become increasingly adept at IT and technology, they will get left behind. These tools, services and applications aren’t just engines to push advertising conversion in a more positive direction, they are quickly become core tools of the marketing trade.

The technology can’t be stopped.

As the CIO’s role continues to evolve within the organization, the CMO must be deeply connected to the technological infrastructure that will be driving business results. It doesn’t take much more than some general sniffing around Google to see how profound and dramatic the infiltration of IT and technology in the marketing department has become… and how much more pervasive and important of a role it is going to play. The marketing function of an organization is a technology-driven one. That fate has been sealed. Now, we just need the marketers to accept, embrace it and work with it.

What does this mean for media and communications?

In the next post (in about two weeks time), we will look at how the Chief Marketing Officer is dealing with convergence, disintermediation and the massive shift from advertising as a means of producing revenue to a world of true business solutions (where advertising may just be one of the many mechanism that a brand will use to inform the public of something new and/or different). We will look at the transition to the one screen world (where the only screen that matters is the one that is in front of the consumer) to how CMOs have been at dealing with the signal to noise ratio in a world where content is both king and so easy to produce and distribute.

And, in case you missed it…

There are five core foundational reasons why the Chief Marketing Officer’s role within the organization is in such a fragile state. Over the next few months, we will deconstruct the following five areas that the Chief Marketing Officer must pay increased attention to, in order to figure out what the next decade of marketing will look like for businesses.

The five areas that Chief Marketing Officers need to pay attention to:

As always, please feel free to add your perspective below…

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The Failing State Of Content Marketing

Simply put: there is too much content in too many places.

While some may contend that the “cream always rises to the top,” when it comes to great content, there is another worthy argument that goes like this: there is too much cream and there are too many tops. Everyone is publishing – in text, images, audio and video. All of the time… and to the world. Of course, this is nothing new, and you will find instances when brands (think American Express and their Open Forum platform or what LinkedIn has done in recent months to become a top content provider with LinkedIn Today) are breaking the mold and busting through the immense amount of clutter, but the lessons about what works (and what’s just adding to the clutter) seem to be somewhat formulaic.

How do you make your content resonate? Here’s what the experts will tell you:

  1. Tell a great story.
  2. Tell that story in a new, fresh and interesting way.
  3. Tell that story in a quirky, weird, strange or random way.
  4. Tell that story in a way that will make them cry or feel deeply emotional.
  5. Tell that story in a timely way… be the first to uncover something new.
  6. Tell that story in a honest way.
  7. Tell that story in a shocking way.

That’s it. Easy. Right?

It’s true, that when you can nail the components of what makes a story come to life (and, if you’re struggling with this, make sure to read Joseph Campbell‘s The Hero With A Thousand Faces), you have a higher propensity for success. It’s also true that you don’t have to nail all seven components to have a hit on your hands (people have created stellar pieces of content using just one of the rules). Still, in a world of tweets, Snapchats and Facebook status updates that move faster than the ticker at the bottom of the screen while you’re watching CNN, getting any content to resonate is becoming increasingly more challenging. The half-life of content is a brutal beast in this day and age.

Why the content fails.

Some may point to the fact that the content is nothing more than marketing blather thinly veiled as genuine content, or that the vast majority of stuff we’re calling “content” is merely the publishing of a press release that has had its jargon surgically extracted by a former journalist. The truth has become bigger than what is being published. What the biggest publishers in the world tend to shy away from, when it comes to explaining how content becomes successful, is the distribution of it all.

If it’s good content, the content will be found. Not really.

This past week, MediaPost ran a great little news item titled, Failing Distribution Strategies Smother Great Content. The article is based on a recent Forrester report titled, Put Distribution At The Heart Of Content Marketing, that touches on this exact point: content needs proper distribution. More often than not, brands and their content marketing (or branded content, or blogging or whatever) leave that content within their own walled garden. The assumption is that people will come to them. The best publishers in the world make sure that the consumer can get their content on their own terms… on their preferred environments. Content without a deep and meaningful distribution strategy is never going to properly convert into anything for any brand. It’s painful for brands to hear this, but it’s true.

Plant your content seeds.

A personal story: I am often asked about why I chose to write two business books (Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete)? Why do I blog so frequently? Why do I contribute to Huffington Post? What about Harvard Business Review? And now, a spot on the radio every Monday morning? What’s the point? In a word: distribution. In order for my content to be effective (and the net result I am looking for is that our digital marketing agency, Twist Image, is easily recognized as a potential agency when brands think about their digital marketing needs), I need to ensure that our thinking is distributed far and wide and to different types of audiences in different states of circumstance. Does this mean that I will put this content everywhere? Absolutely not. I have spent a significant amount of time (over a decade) looking for new and interesting venues to put our thinking out, in order to increase the distribution. Traditional magazine publishers look at more than how much money they’re making from individual magazines and subscriptions by closely gauging increased circulation numbers and where those copies of the magazine are being sold. They are tinkering with growing distribution opportunities to maximize revenue potential.

The true success of content marketing.

If your brand is trying to identify why the content isn’t working, please take a much closer look at what the distribution strategy is of your content. You do have a distribution strategy for your content marketing platform, right? The sad reality is that many brands still struggle with a consistent editorial calendar and haven’t really thought all that much about what the distribution model looks like (and what it can become) beyond posting it on their own sites. I recently spent some time with an individual who has quickly risen the ranks to become one of the most beloved bloggers in the world. The strategy for success is more distribution that creation. They test things on Facebook, and then blow it out into a newsletter article if it gets traction on Facebook. Once they get the analytics from their email newsletter, they decide which pieces have done well enough to be blogged about. From their, this individual has a handful of very diverse third-party publishers interested in their content. What does this equate to? For every hour of writing a piece of content, they spend two to three hours working on the distribution of it – within their own channels and beyond. The frequency of publishing is reduced in order to spend more time on the distribution of it.

Great content means great distribution.

This isn’t just about tweeting about a new blog post or copying and pasting an article into a Facebook update (I am guilty as charged on this one). It’s about thinking of new ways to distribute your content and getting it to connect to a much broader audience. From the MediaPost article mentioned above: “Skinner, the author of ‘Put Distribution At The Heart Of Content Marketing,’ explains that placing too high a priority on content may help to close sales, but marketers miss the opportunity to reach a larger audience. The proof comes from a SAP Web content audit where the company discovered the content was only relevant to a minority of its target audience. After focusing more on distribution, SAP’s site grew to more than 200,000 unique visitors per month in 18 months.”

So, do you have a lot of great content and are you distributing it properly?

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10 Brand New Books That You Should Read

Suddenly, I don’t know where to start.

It’s like the brains of the world converged, had a meeting and decided to overwhelm us with a mass amount of brand new books to get our brains frothing. This is, without question, a tough time to figure out which brand new business book you should start with. My Kindle runneth over with books that must be consumed, contemplated and implemented. All of these books have either just come out (in the past month, or so) or will be coming out at any moment.

Go get your credit card. Here are 10 brand new business books that you should read (in alphabetical order): 

  1. The Authentic Swing – Notes From The Writing Of A First Novel by Steven Pressfield. I am an unabashed fan of Steve Pressfield. If you write or create anything and have not picked up his books, The War of Art and Do The Work, you are really missing out on something special. In this book, Pressfield walks you through how he came up with and wrote his smash bestseller, The Legend of Bagger Vance. The Authentic Swing arrived today, and odds are very strong that every other book on this list will be dropped down a notch until this one gets chewed up. Also of note, Pressfield will be appearing on Oprah‘s Super Soul Sunday series this coming Sunday. If you struggle with getting inspired, starting a project or getting to another level in your creative thinking, you don’t want to miss this book. Pressfield also launched a two-part online video series to promote The Authentic Swing that walks through his The Foolscap Method. Amazing stuff. Here’s a conversation we had back in 2011: SPOS #251 – Do The Work With Steven Pressfield.
  2. David And Goliath – Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. This is my current read. The book will be out on October 1st, 2013 and I am enjoying it immensely. If you’re not a fan of Gladwell, it is doubtful that this one will win you over. Personally, I like the way that he weaves research and academics with everyday people stories. I also like how he challenges the status quo with a different point of view. Insights, perspective and an amazing writing style makes this one a necessity for your book collection. Let’s face it, walking around with a Malcolm Gladwell book also makes you look smart and cool. Who doesn’t want that? ;)
  3. Die Empty – Unleash Your Best Work Every Day by Todd Henry. This is Todd Henry’s latest book. For my dollar, it is one of the best titled books on creativity to date. But, as you know, we never judge a book by its cover (or title). Thankfully, Henry fully delivers on this one. It’s a veritable page-turner of insights and new ways to think about how to soak the most creative juices out of your life. People seem to think that creativity is based on scarcity. Die Empty will help you better understand that it is a model of abundance. You just have to better understand how to harness it. This book comes out tomorrow, so don’t delay. Here’s a conversation we had back in 2011: SPOS #259 – Accidentally Creative With Todd Henry. Plus, look for an upcoming episode of Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast where we discuss Die Empty.
  4. Epic Content Marketing – How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less by Joe Pulizzi. In a world where everyone is talking about the merits of content marketing, Joe Pulizzi is one of the true, experienced voices in the space. I read an earlier draft of this book and was amazed by the depth of it. If you’re looking at how to bulk up your content marketing strategy, or where to get started, this is a great primer and is right up there with Content Rules. Here’s a conversation we had back in 2012: SPOS #289 – Content Marketing With Joe Pulizzi.
  5. Remote – Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. The guys from 37 Signals blazed the bestselling book lists with their opus, Rework. Now, they’re back with a book and topic that is near and dear to my heart. There are days when my office is my MacBook Air and iPhone, and there are days when my office is the physical space that we occupy at Twist Image. How would we build, design and market brands if we all worked remotely? I’m not sure it would be as successful. This probably isn’t a zero sum game, so I am curious to see how Jason and David tackle this issue as our work environment changes from day to day. This book comes out on October 29th. I don’t have it, yet. 
  6. Smarter Than You Think – How Technology Is Changing Our Minds For The Better by Clive Thompson. Another book that I bought, but have yet to tackle. Thompson’s articles in Wired Magazine are always amazing. There is a massive technology backlash underway. A lot of it stems from comments like Google is making us all dumber or that Wikipedia isn’t always perfectly correct, and we’re loosing our ability to learn because all of this technology and inter-connectedness. Thompson doesn’t agree, and he lays out his lucid reasoning in this important book. Personally, I can’t wait to dive in!
  7. Thinking In New Boxes – A New Paradigm For Business Creativity by Luc De Brabandere and Alan Iny. Don’t be fooled by the notion that these two Boston Consulting Group consultants would struggle with helping businesses to figure out new ways to be creative and innovative. This book reads like an instruction manual for businesses to review their own strategies and figure out how to out-innovate those who seek to disrupt their industries. It is well-researched and tells some amazing stories of brands that have discovered non-obvious but complimentary new business models and have managed to create a sustainable competitive advantage. I talked up the book with Alan Iny right here: SPOS #374 – Inside The Box Outside? Outside The Box? New Boxes With Alan Iny.
  8. Unlabel – Selling You Without Selling Out by Marc Ecko. I am still waiting on the physical version of this book from the fashion, pop culture and art icon. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ecko at a mastermind session earlier this year, and we recently took some time to discuss his latest project: this book. The conversation with him will be published this coming week on the Six Pixels podcast, but he is one person who understands (and can explain) what it means to build an authentic brand. Many people talk the talk, but Ecko walks the walk… time and time again. If you’re interested in brands and how they work, order a copy of Unbrand. This book comes out on October 1st.
  9. Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed by Alexis Ohanian. I have been hearing about this book for well over a year. Alexis and I share the same publisher and editor. I’m really curious to read this book (which also comes out on October 1st) from the co-founder of Reddit, Hipmunk and more. He’s a passionate startup guy and investor (deeply rooted with Y Combinator) and this book is all about using the Web for good. I’m fairly confident that this one will live up to its hype… if not, he’ll get mauled on Reddit. I doubt he will let that happen ;)
  10. The Year Without Pants – WordPress.com And The Future Of Work by Scott Berkun. This is another one that I have recently purchased and can’t wait to attack. Scott has written books on everything from productivity (Making Things Happen) to how to be a great public speaker (Confessions Of A Public Speaker). I’m excited to see where this journey leads. Berkun writes with a very fresh, direct and powerful style. He makes reading easy… and it’s a welcome break from some of the more laborious reads.

Some others are coming soon as well…

Gary Vaynerchuk has his latest book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – How To Tell Your Story In A Noisy Social World on November 26th and Scott Stratten (Mr. Unmarketing) is set to launch, QR Codes Kill Kittens: How to Alienate Customers, Dishearten Employees, and Drive Your Business into the Ground on October 7th. I am sure that there are other gems that I have missed.

So, what brand new books are you waiting on?

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For The Love Of Words

There are people who are true magicians.

Not parlor tricks. Not those who try to fool others. Individuals who have ideas and can create stories out of thin air. Very compelling stories. While they walk among us, they work alone, for the most part. They are not collaborative in the work that they do. They toil, grapple, struggle and massage ideas into words in what is a solitary environment, with the hopes that others will feel the same way, share these words and build a community around these stories.

There is something very magical about words, writing and the writer.

Years ago, I considered a life of professional writing. A life where all of my financial outcomes would come from those who would be willing to pay for my words. Looking back, I resigned myself to the fact that it would be a hard life. This was long before the commercialization of the Internet and even longer before the advent of blogging and online publishing. By the time blogging platforms became popular, I had moved on from freelance journalism as my full-time profession. Today, there is no doubt that writing (and actually being paid to write) is a large component of my day, but it acts as an engine of business development and awareness for Twist Image. A way to demonstrate how digital channels offer new and fascinating business solutions to the brands of the world.

Still, the romance.

It’s hard not to dream of a point in my life when my day would begin by opening the patio doors that overlook a quiet lake. I could sit in a solarium, sipping a cafe au lait, listening to the quiet of the earth while reading a book. From there, a brisk walk in the morning air, a quick shower and then off into a study – filled with inspiring artifacts from our culture – to toil away at some words. It’s probably the same type of daydream that most who have the writing bug think about… Or a variation on a theme. It’s probably that kind of thinking that made me fall so madly and deeply in love with The Paris Review. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of reading fiction, but I have this fantasy of living a novelist’s life of toiling with the muse, while writing about life, business, technology and the marketing of things. It is in better understanding how these masters of words write and come up with their concoctions that made me fall in love with Writers At Work – a regular and popular feature of The Paris Review that is an in-depth exposé of the writer’s world. It focuses on their environment and thought process and, regardless of the affinity that you may (or may not) have for the feature’s wordsmith, it is always an education in the craft of writing words and an exploration into the creative life.

Watching the talking of writing.

Recently, Charlie Rose featured a segment on The Paris Review and their 60th anniversary. Whether you dream of renting an apartment in Paris to concoct the next great novel, or whether you are toiling away in a cubicle trying to write some B2B copy for an industrial valves company, you will get something out of this video. Whether or not you care as deeply for words or the writers that this group discusses, is somewhat irrelevant. Watch and listen. What you will see, are people who are trying to change how we think about writing. They’re trying to encourage us to read more. To discover something great that we may have not heard about. If that’s not profoundly linked to the work that you do, I’m not sure what is.

If you love words (or even if you don’t), you should watch this…

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Public Displays Of Affection (CTRL ALT Delete style)

If you’re interested in meeting, connecting and sharing…

I will be doing a few public appearances in the next few months to support the launch of my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete. If you are interested, I would love to connect and meet. I’m …

The New Resume

What are you able to disclose on an eight-and-a-half sheet of white paper?

I can’t imagine what it is like to apply for a job. I’ve chosen a very different professional life for myself. A lot of it was based in a world of vain ideologies (I wanted to wears jeans everyday or make my first million by the time I was nineteen or have a life where others wouldn’t be able to tell me what to do). Those didn’t work out in the allotted timeframe, but having simple dreams and goals is what keeps us going – day in and day out. In a quest to wear jeans and make my millions (and, for the record, as someone who is now a lot older and wiser than the punk who made those goals back in the day, those weren’t the best of goals to have), I’ve always had to succumb to things like looking for work in a newspaper, applying to jobs online and trolling the Internet job boards for something that matched my skills. None of that was easy and, in speaking to some peers, it’s still one of the most challenging things to do.

Making the case for social media.

It’s sometimes hard to believe that more people aren’t blogging or podcasting. It’s sometimes hard to believe that people still feel that Twitter is silly or that Instagram is a joke or that LinkedIn is just a space where headhunters and employers go to poach new talent. Take a step back and review this blog, my podcast, the books that I have written (Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete), the Twist Image website, my LinkedIn profile, my Twitter feed, my Facebook page and more. Who is Mitch Joel? What do you know about me? How relevant is my education at this point? How relevant is the work that I was doing prior to Twist Image? What kind of a resume can capture this information?

It’s not about me. It’s about you.

There is an ancient adage that goes like this: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time to plant a tree is today.” We live in miraculous times. Yes, times are tough (and getting tougher), but it’s still an amazing time to be alive. We’ve now seen multiple instances when individuals with a connected computer have turned an idea into a billion dollar business. We’ve no seen multiple instances of individuals using these connected digital channels to tell their story and, in doing so, build a micro empire (or if you’re the people who created TechCrunch, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Mashable or others, those be full-fledged media empires). Why are we still dinking around with traditional resumes?

Plant your tree.

Figure it out. In text, images, audio and video, you can now share who you are (who you really, really are) with the world on a real-time basis. Instead of a resume, why not be able to say, “this is my resume!” with a list of links that demonstrate how you think, how you collaborate, how you create, how you love, how you connect and how you add value? What could be more impressive that this? Resumes have transformed from these static white pages (that, as my dear friend, Jeffrey Gitomer, likes to say fit perfectly into a paper shredder) into three dimensional, real-time personas that live, breathe, share and connect. Nothing will impress more than an individual who has taken the time to craft and share their perspectives about either the industry that they serve or what inspires them (bonus points when the two are combined and interwoven).

Push that button.

Having a completed LinkedIn profile is par for the course. Sharing the occasional link on Twitter is something anybody can do. How about becoming an original? I’m not perfect. I’m working on it. You can tell. I make mistakes, I sometimes blog when I’m not in the best mood, and I often don’t follow what others would consider to be the best practices… but who cares? Publicly, my main goal is to add value to your life. To help you think about the work that you’re doing and (hopefully) to help you expand those boundaries. Privately, my main goal is to create a wealth of information and thinking that makes me indispensable to the industry, our clients and my peers. Like I said, it’s not perfect and I’m not always thrilled with the results, but I keep pushing on in the hopes that something resonates, clicks, pushes and provokes.

It’s a pleasure.

When people ask me for help in this arena (help with ideation, choosing a platform, personal brand positioning etc…), it’s usually surprising to them that I find all of this stuff a complete and total pleasure. I do. Most people see blogging, podcasting, tweeting or whatever as a task. As something on the to-do list. Something that must be done because they don’t know what success might look like without it. Don’t make this same mistake. Fine the type of publishing that gives you pleasure. Make it a part of your daily ritual. Have fun with it. The quirkier, the better. Ultimately, what you’ll uncover is something bigger than a resume. You’ll uncover who you truly are, and you’ll be amazed by how many people want to connect, share and be a part of everything that makes you such an interesting person. That’s something no resume can do.

But it starts with you. So… start.

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The New Face Of Content Marketing

How much content is too much content when it comes to a brand?

It’s a slippery slope for most brands when it comes to their engines of content creation. We live in a day and age when the term, “content marketing” stumbles out of a brand’s mouth almost as much as “big data” and “native advertising.” Woe the brand that is not creating, publishing and curating relevant content. Still, many brands struggle with their digital content. They struggle with everything from the strategy to the editorial content to the creation of it, and even the best places to publish and share it effectively. Many new media pundits will tell you that the brands that are moving the needle are enabling their success by having in-house newsrooms or former journalists on the payroll to help uncover the more interesting stories to tell, and how to get those stories to spread. Regardless, we also live in a day and age when the half-life of content is shorter than ever. In a river of tweets or a flood of a Facebook newsfeed, even the most interesting of content will last a few hours (maybe a day or so… if you’re lucky). This is further complicated by the fundamental nature of social media: which is the place where friends and acquaintances connect and not, necessarily, the ideal place for a brand to try to make some noise.

So, what’s a brand to do?

Gary Vaynerchuk has a platform (or two). He built his initial following by producing an irreverent wine tasting video podcast that he converted into a massive Twitter following (closing in on one million followers), two best-selling business books (Crush It and The Thank You Economy) with a third one on the way (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook), a lucrative speaking career and his ever-growing social media marketing agency, VaynerMedia. He responds to almost all of the inputs he gets (from tweeting to leaving comments on blogs) and created a tiny tempest in a teapot last week by declaring that he plans on, “tripling down” on content – because doubling down doesn’t begin to describe how important he thinks it is,” according to the Forbes article, Why Gary Vaynerchuk’s New Social Media Strategy Should Change The Way You Do Business. With that, he has also hired a social media content assistant to help him capture, create and nurture whatever is brewing under those eyebrows to keep the pace increasing. And, that’s where the tempest started brewing. Ford Motor Company‘s global head of social media, Scott Monty, responded with a blog post titled, The Last Thing The World Needs, citing this as more “digital clutter” in a world where individuals are struggling to capture anything and everything they already have in their feeds. What are these poor consumers going to do if every brand follows the Vaynerchuk strategy of tripling down? Will this push consumers to the breaking point? Will this have them running for the virtual doors at Facebook, Vine, Tumblr, Google + and beyond? 

In a word: no.

Some will find themselves having an internal dialogue about the classic “quality versus quantity” debate. In rebuttal to the pushback that Vaynerchuk’s comments received, he astutely asks, “why not both?” Why can’t brands create a lot of high quality content? Sure, some of this content will work and some will miss the mark. Not all attempts will result in a viral homerun, but we live in a real-time world, where individuals are increasingly looking for more context from their content. Content providers are going to have to play a very different game. A personal case study comes to mind. On May 21st, I published my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete. Along with a digital experience to compliment the launch of the book, my digital marketing agency, Twist Image, took the interesting stats and data from this experience and created a SlideShare titled, 25+ Mind Blowing Stats About Business Today – CTRL ALT Delete. Instead of simply tweeting and sharing the link throughout my online social spaces, I respectively shared some of the unique stats (which would be akin to Vaynerchuk’s tripling down theory). My impression was that this deluge of content would upset my online community, and that there would be some semblance of negative comments and pushback. Much to my surprise, the SlideShare quickly surpassed 100,000 views, and the amount of new followers and friends coupled with the retweets and shares sent my overall analytics through the roof. Yes, creating what Monty refers to as “digital clutter” seems to have been the most effective strategy to get the word out. How did this happen? People aren’t “on the ready” just because I decided to hit a publish button. The frequency of posting matched with the quality created a greater attention and focus on the message. It’s a tough lesson for new media thinkers to hear: traditional tactics like frequency and repetition work.

What we think vs. what is.

Those who follow Gary Vaynerchuk, respect him. They like him. They seem to want more. By creating more, he is not only appeasing his most heavy users, but he is also giving them (and those who don’t even follow him) additional opportunities to find out more, share his thinking and help him spread his own gospel. Tripling down on mediocre content helps nobody. Tripling down on relevancy, being contextual and adding value will always help a brand to expand its audience. Is this hard to scale? Absolutely. Will every brand get this right? Absolutely not. What Vaynerchuk (and other successful content creators) knows is this: the pulse of his audience. Through the years, the smartest content marketers are the ones who understand not only the pulse of their network, but how to pulse out that content in a way that is congruous with the audience. Vaynerchuk may be gambling by tripling down on his content creation, but while some may rightfully see it as clutter, my guess is that Vaynerchuk (and other successful content creators) will be analyzing the results and tweaking it until they uncover a formula that works better than their old one, which is a million times better than those who have no vision, no formula and are simply worried about the clutter that they’re creating.

What do you think? Is the future of content a tripling down effect?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Harvard Business Review. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:

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The Accidental Marketer

Sometimes, the biggest lessons in marketing come from the strangest places.

Selling a book is a lot of hard work. That’s the lesson I’m re-learning right now as CTRL ALT Delete enters into its second week of sales (re-learning, because I went through …

25+ Mind Blowing Stats About Business Today

The idea of rebooting seems to be scaring a lot of people.

While my new book, CTRL ALT Delete, came out only one week ago, I have been privileged to be getting a lot of media attention. In every interview, it seems like people are taking an anxious, n…

Staggering Stats And The New Reality

Have you seen the CTRL ALT Delete experience yet?

My latest book, CTRL ALT Delete, came out two days ago. In an attempt to create attention and interest, the team at Twist Image put together a very compelling story about business today. So far, the ex…

Supporting Those You Like – CTRL ALT Delete Comes Out Next Week

My new book, CTRL ALT Delete, comes out next week.

It took well-over six months of concentrated effort to write my second book, CTRL ALT Delete, which comes out on May 21st, 2013. The thing is this: you would have never known it or felt it. In that ti…

The Future of Media Is Beyond The Screen

Advertising traditionally serves a traditional purpose.

Television, radio, print, out-of-home, Internet and mobile devices all have components of advertising that acts, smells and feels the same. It either interrupts your content experience or wraps i…

In Defense Of TED

TED is the most important conference out there. TED is so much more than a conference.

News was announced this week that the annual TED conference would be moving from its current home in Long Beach, California to Vancouver, British Columbia. As a Can…

My 3 Words For 2013

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2013. What’s the plan?

I was never a fan of goal-setting… and even less of a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. For a long while, I was working within a framework called The Goal Cultivator courtesy of Dan Sullivan (aka The St…

How To Become An Idea Machine

Where do ideas come from?

If there were a magic formula or a way to both track and ensure that an idea makes it through your synapses into the real world, there would be gold in them there hills. What makes human life so fascinating (at least to me), …