Overwhelmed by Digital? – Recent Survey

A recent survey found that digital marketers are feeling “overwhelmed”. Is this the case? Why is this the case? And what can be done about it?

overwhelmed1 overwhelmed2

First, lets examine the data as it was presented through the survey to ensure we are interpreting it correctly. The results are presented as a lovely infographic, – a display format that is a growing cliché but also problematic due to the manner in which the graphical presentation can further skew interpretation of data that may already be suspect. The first thing to look for is the “N” (number of participants surveyed or sample size) to determine statistical relevance. We need to see at least 300 or so participants to see real relevance (margin of error below about 5%). Unfortunately this survey does not appear to provide the N. Let’s assume the data is at least reflective of the opinions of some influential marketers and you can use your own experience as to whether you agree with their findings or not.

Are We “Overwhelmed”?

At BBS, “overwhelmed” might be a strong word for our feelings but we do constantly see that an amazing amount of new things happen in digital in a very short time. There are quite a few smart companies and smart people creating and sharing their work and it really is impossible to keep up with all of it in real time. In fact quite early in the world of digital (circa 1999), companies created dedicated research and competitive intelligence roles devoted solely to keeping up with digital development. Consultants continue to prosper and grow their businesses teaching their clients the skills that they themselves learned just last week. Things move faster in digital than is possible in many other media. We have to know where to look.

It’s all a Gaussian Blur

With this blur of motion and information, we would have to say that the first critical skill in the digital space is being able to decide where to focus the inherently limited time and talent that you have. Do you need to be chasing Snapchat tweens, re-Tweeting what Mylie Cyrus was doing last week, or working on your 8th Facebook app? We won’t make any assumptions about your business nor any direct recommendations here, but we have seen quite a bit of confusion about social media in general and the relative strengths and demographic targets (or perhaps another infographic) of each platform. We think social media is actually a likely culprit in the process of “digital overwhelmament” (or whatever you’d like to call this syndrome).

Who moved my status update about cheese?

The rate of change in digital is what we think is the core issue. Digital itself was a hard adjustment for many businesses and marketers. Email marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click, search engine marketing – these were all unsettling to a degree but have been around long enough now that they feel comfortable and familiar. Instragram, Pinterest, Tumblr and the 150 million blogs out there are less familiar in 2013. And the rate at which these new services pop up and catch fire is not abating. Think of how old MySpace feels (even though they are working on a comeback…). The history of online media is amazingly compressed even today. How can we mentally cope with the fact that something new seems to be available to us as marketers daily?

At BBS, we find that our clients who are most successful commit appropriately to the platforms for which they have sufficient resources. That means creating content, responding to customers, creating internal governance and messaging review bodies, really trying to be consistent and responsive. They realize they can’t boil the ocean. But they also experiment. They are constantly trying smaller projects in other venues and in new ways to stay with the curve if not ahead of it. They are smart enough to apply a strategy that allows for both solid support for the core of their market and investigative forays to see what else can be done. They can dial up or down the experiments as their resources and budgets allow. And they can buy the more experimental services aggressively to maximize the potential value in the non-core channels. Agencies love to push new boundaries and tell great stories. Both clients and agencies win when they can truly tout innovative approaches to real time marketing challenges. It is an investment on both sides that transcends the project dollar cost.

At BBS, we like to see our clients go from a potential “overwhelmed” state to a place where they can use the volatility of the digital medium to drive even better value-creation for their business. You may see a looming cloud but we think it may have a silver lining.

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