Are rules set and permanent?
That's obviously not the case - especially when it comes to social media. I've recently been watching some of the discourse online and how many people struggle, because they feel that no one is giving them any hard and true answers as to how they should be doing things online. What these people fail to realize is that marketing using these digital channels is not a linear process and very much like a relationship. The dynamics at play call for very different strategies and tactics as you move from brand to brand. "You're not telling me what others in my industry have done to be successful?" is a common comment I see/hear.
Let's be raw for a minute...
If I explained to you how I managed to join with my business partners here at Twist Image and how we built the business to be successful, do you think it's a model that you could replicate? Look at Instagram. Do you think that's a model you can replicate? Here's the thing: in a world where you can now do almost anything in these digital channels, what makes you think that any kind of best practice is actually going to provide a semblance of success for your brand? Show me a successful story and I'll show you many exceptions with very few rules.
Should I follow you back?
A friend recently decided to get more active on Twitter. Because they have some visibility in the marketplace (they're a known entity in media), they asked whether or not they should follow everyone back on Twitter who is following them. Had you asked me this question when Twitter first started out, I would have said "yes!" Had you asked me this question two years ago, I would have said "no, follow back only those people that you find interesting." Being asked that question the other day, I was stumped. Why? Because the answer is yes, you should and no, you shouldn't and/or be very selective. If I look at three of my contemporaries: Gary Vaynerchuk, Amber Naslund and Mark W. Schaefer, I would say that the three of us have very similar business goals. We all use Twitter as a way to connect, provoke some thought leadership, all with the ultimate goal of getting clients to work with us. When I watch those three in Twitter action, none of them have/deploy the same strategies or techniques. We're all in the same industry and we all have the same business goals and we're all so fundamentally different at leveraging Twitter. And, most importantly, we all have very different followers with varying degrees of engagement.
Rules have become personal.
Do you remember when online marketers would tell you that you should never use the word "free" or use all caps in an email subject headline? The thought was that these emails would be relegated to the junk mail folder (or, even worse, be marked as spam). No more. The spammers have become so sophisticated, that they don't even use those techniques anymore, so the rules have changed. In fact, we regarded email as the future of direct marketing and we're currently seeing a very different kind of email marketing opportunity arise: one where it acts as a trigger to engage consumers to enact in different ways. More rules that are changing, evolving or becoming extinct.
Rails yes. Rules no.
Does this mean that everything is up in the air? No. There are rails. There are instances of blunders, foibles and big time idiotic moves that have highlighted the importance of knowing the rails: where they are and where they go, but that's about it. We can talk about everything from context and consistency to personalization and a certain humanness that are profound rails of what makes something work in the digital channels (and what makes other things die), but even knowing where the rails are (and keeping your hands on them as you walk down the path) is no guarantee of success.
Great, now what?
Why not go back and look at all of your digital marketing channels (website, mobile environment, search engine optimization, email marketing, social media, affiliate program, web analytics, etc...) and start looking through the "rules" you created to ensure success. Make a list of these rules. Then, do some quick online searches, attend some webinars or local conferences and see if any of your rules have changed, shifted or have been debunked.
The results will surprise you.