Marketing Community: Wake Up Or Die Trying

The following post is not really a rant, but it only represents what I, myself am thinking about this topic.

Is it just me, or is the online marketing community losing its edge?

When I started, things seemed to be different – I found engaging thoughts everywhere on the web. Blog posts that lead me in new directions. Ideas that questioned what I believed. Thoughts that had me thinking instead of complaining. Between 2010 and 2013, times were exciting. Content marketing gained popularity, social media marketing became mainstream and the combination of the two delivered the most cutting edge results for some.

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Everyone seemed to be trying something new. Everyone wanted to be different. Everyone challenged everyone. Everyone tried to excel, be innovative and creative.

Well, not everyone. Sure, there also was the crowd of mediocre marketers who only repeat proven tactics but never invent. But even those tried to appear creative.

Today, it seems that everyone tries to repeat what has worked for them before.

But who is innovating?

Ok, this is not entirely true – and at the end of this post, I will give you some examples of marketers writing blogs that still constantly challenge me and my line of thought. But recently I have found a lot of examples of something else, a marketing tactic that I would call…

The Pseudo-Challenge

What is a pseudo challenge?

(yes, I just made that up – if you like it, quote me on that 🙂 )

A pseudo challenge is when a marketing company decides to cash in on a trend that hasn’t fully formed yet by bringing oneself to the forefront of people promoting the trend – even if the argument is at least highly debatable, to say the least. By doing this, you only give the impression to challenge popular beliefs – while in fact you are only after the attention.

An example of such a trend would be bashing Facebook for lowering the organic reach of Fanpages. A recent example of a pseudo challenge we saw was the deletion of Copyblogger’s Facebook page. If you did not follow events, well here is what happened:

  1. Copyblogger deletes Facebook page.
  2. Copyblogger writes a long post about why they did that, claiming that Facebook simply does not work and quote an old viral video by Veritasium as evidence.
  3. Copyblogger cashes in by getting lots of social traffic, ironically especially from Facebook.

Why do I find this behavior questionable? Well, I don’t. I find it questionable that we – as the marketing community falls for it.

The video they quoted was old news – we’ve all seen it. It’s not completely irrelevant, because what it shows is actually a problem when marketing on Facebook, it is also not completely right, because there are ways around these problems and a marketer worth its salt should be able to work around it.

Also, they weren’t the first to do this. Eat 24 is guilty of the same marketing stunt, with similar success yet executed on a more humorous level and yet with more relevant data.

This is a Pseudo Challenge (and one that was executed perfectly). Facebook filtering the news feed is not news anymore. You can still market on Facebook. We marketers live by the rules that are set up by media companies. That’s just the way it is.

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Marketers Marketing Marketing to Marketers…

Does this headline even make sense? It does make sense grammatically – but does it make sense to market marketing to marketers?

But that is what the marketing community is doing right now.

And by marketing what we do to other marketers, we promote our solutions (nothing wrong with that) as the one and only correct solutions (a lot wrong with that). Back when I started, there was an open discussion. I was a nobody (in a lot of ways I still am) – yet the most influential people would discuss with me, publish my guest posts on their blogs, take my ideas seriously even if they disagreed.

I loved that and I miss that – has it completely disappeared?

Back then we had a marketing community that actively communicated and through the openness, we actually marketed ourselves to (potential) clients as a community.

Today, I have the impression that we have a pyramid – on top of it are a few influencers who are marketing themselves to other marketers. Speaking at conferences. But the 99% below them are those who actually have to work for clients – and while the 1%, at least, use the “Pseudo Challenge” to appear innovative, creative and modern, the 99% challenge nothing at all anymore.

Sure, they comment on blog posts, but where is their original thought?

How can they expect to be seen equal without bringing anything to the table themselves (the table means: the discussion)?

I admit that this image might be very clichèd – yet it helps to convey my point: We need real discussion again – disagreement with each other if you will. And we need that from anyone within the marketing community pyramid – not just the top level marketers.

Because these are still challenging times for marketers – Marketing is still changing on a daily basis.

Members Of The Marketing Community That I Find Are Exceptions To This General Observation

Is the marketing community losing its edge? When I started, things seemed to be different - I found engaging thoughts everywhere on the web.I promised to give you a few examples of marketers that I find are not guilty of these points, so here is a short list:

Jon Loomer

Jon is basically THE Facebook expert. If you are marketing on Facebook, then he is the guy you should read. His blog provides immense expertise on how to market on Facebook, which is highly advanced. I admit that I sometimes find that his blog is even hard to understand for me – but that is ok. His blog might be highly specialized, but it is also one of the most relevant marketing blogs I’ve ever seen.

Jon Loomer has also dissected Copyblogger’s marketing stunt mentioned above in a truly amazing post.

Mark Schaefer – Businesses Grow

Mark is kind of an odd guy in the marketing community – part elder statesman, part Agent Provocateur. He is one of the most accomplished social media marketers – yet he never shies away from using provocation. His initial post about Content Shock in the beginning of 2014 shocked the marketing community in a good way,  but all of his blog posts are worth reading, to say the least.

Jeff Bullas

Jeff is kind of the Uber-Blogger in the marketing world. On his highly accomplished blog, he and various guest writers publish daily. Sadly it seems that Jeff doesn’t post himself as often anymore. That really is sad, because when he does, he often leads me to new heights.

Glen on ViperChill

Glen is basically the new kid on the block – well kind of, as he has been around a while. He simply started early in his life. He is doing SEO and Affiliate Marketing work. And he is always honest. He brings honesty to a shady business like SEO (and if Google has a list of hated people I’m sure he is on it). He writes few but very long posts, and you can be sure to learn something new every time.

Let me stop here – there are more of these bloggers I adore, but these are my go to blogs lately.
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This article was proofread and edited by myself with the help of Grammarly. If you are blogging in English and cannot afford a professional editor, Try Grammarly Now! It rocks.

  • Art Zemon

    Nicely said. You have synthesized several ideas that have been bumbling aimlessly around in my head for quite awhile. I think that the “marketers marketing marketing to marketers” may be a bit of prideful navel-gazing, too. From personal experience, I know that it can be much easier to hang out in communities of like-minded folk than to go sell (or market) to potential new clients. The former is an ego boost; the latter is work.

    • TheSocialMarketers

      Art, thanks for stopping by! I completely agree – though discussion can be an ego boost as well imo – I get far greater kicks from an engaging discussion with possibly no agreement in the end. As long as a real discussion is happening I can learn something from it.

  • Matt Mader

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article and can empathize with a few points. The online marketing community has been cannibalistic since the late 90’s. We will never see that change, as someone will always proclaim to have a BBD to offer an agency or marketing entity that does something better than the next. The end clients have been far and few between as larger companies with the budgets available to truly innovate are tied into the agency thus leading the next tier to fight for their business and so on down the line. Innovation in the space has become driven by what the technology can do, not what can I make it do. I have been in and around online marketing for more than 15 years and success has been driven by taking the assets at hand, tangible or intellectual and creating the next best thing, instead R&D (Ripoff & Duplicate).

    • TheSocialMarketers

      Thank you – I guess being relatively new to the whole thing (4 years instead of 15) makes me view things differently, and possibly more naive. Got to promise myself to not give up though 🙂

      • Matt Mader

        Don’t ever give up, I have remained in the industry solely based on the fact I can create new ideas all the time, may not be able to implement right then but so what. The time or opportunity will show up when you least expect it and be ready to run with it, cause once the competition sees it R&D occurs.

        • Art Zemon

          Inbound marketing does seem to be a fascinating mix of new tech and old ideas. There is certainly nothing new about being helpful; I have run my businesses that way for decades. And I love the structured, repeatable, teachable ways to use technology to be helpful. It is hard work but, at the end of the day, I go home feeling satisfied, having had fun. You can’t ask for much more than that from a “job.”

          • TheSocialMarketers

            The jobs where you go home satisfied in the evening are always the best! 🙂

  • David Khim

    I definitely see where you’re coming from with this. I’ve thought about this on various occasions, the idea of meta marketing (i.e. marketing for marketers) and blogging for bloggers (a blog on how to blog).

    Of course there needs to be more people explaining how to do those things for industries where marketing and blogging are still relatively new, but I agree that we need more challenging.

    From my standpoint, I don’t feel like my knowledge is specialized enough to be able to think in the manner of challenging marketing practices or not. But I’m definitely working towards that.

  • Marie-Pier Rochon

    Love, love, love this rant/not-a-rant on the state of marketing. Since coming back to the game after a break of almost a year (travel & maternity leave), I had a strange feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Your words are what I was feeling, or at least, a part of it. Since my return, it really does feel like the majority of marketers out there do it for other marketers instead of helping other types businesses to find their customers and grow from there. I’d love to see more about marketers doing marketing for small businesses, or start-ups, or products, etc. Thanks for putting in words what I’d been thinking.

    • Andy Nihilate

      Agreed! And like you said, I’ve been picking up on the same vibes, but couldn’t quite put my finger on what changed. I just started as the Digital Marketing Manager at a (somewhat new) full-service marketing agency. Part of my new position entails recruiting new clients and blogging…and it’s hard to not fall into the trap of creating posts for other marketers, and cutting through the digital clutter to find great content. Nevermind trying to find new clients!

  • Jonathan Crowe

    Great points, Jonathan, but I really think this is a reaction to getting caught in the online echo chamber (easy to do and we’ve all been there/had similar reactions at some point). The trick might be to unplug from marketer-to-marketer tweets/blogs/conversations for a little while and put the focus back on interacting directly with customers and getting sh*t done. Does wonders for putting things back in perspective.

    The thing is, that’s exactly what many marketers out there are doing, but they don’t always have the biggest online representation. Many are still sharing the insights/lessons they’ve learned online, but less often. That’s because it’s not their top priority, and unlike consultants (no offense) and high-profile marketers focused on their personal brand, they’re not going to be out there promoting themselves like crazy 24/7.

    Once you become the type of marketer who lives on the conference circuit you start to develop a disconnect from what’s actually happening on the front lines. You give variations of the same presentation over and over again, and you don’t have access to new experiences to develop new ideas.

    Just because these people have the biggest mouthpieces and get the most real estate on your Twitter feed doesn’t mean no one is doing real, innovative marketing with “an edge” anymore. It’s just that the people who are can sometimes be harder to find because they’re heads down getting stuff done. I’m always trying to find these people, too, so thanks for your suggestions! Another person you should add to the list is Jesse Noyes at Kapost.

  • John Andrews

    Welcome to competition. As people saw others have success in the space, they jumped in and created their own models. As the space became more and more crowded, some thrived and some did not and the audience became a ton more sophisticated. Most marketers have a good sense of what social and digital success takes and many “gurus” have never actually put a program, product or campaign on the ground except their own promotion. Finally, the ‘noise’ became evident for many and the simply tuned out.

  • Bill Carroll

    The problem is there’s just too much stuff out there…too much “noise” and it’s hard to find the right ones to focus your attention on. How do you know who the real influencers are? Maybe another topic for another day.

  • Robbin Block

    Yes, the whole content game is pretty much a cluster-F. Media and tactics have changed, yet marketing plods on. Don’t let the big “mouthpieces” fool you.