To Market Digitally, You Need to Be a Digital Consumer


By Drew McLellan

When you work in digital marketing, perusing (and gleaning inspiration from) social platforms comes with the territory. But when even a tech columnist for the New York Times admits he needs a break from his phone — and from social media in general — participating online can suddenly feel like a draining experience.

Some marketers combat digital fatigue by only knowing enough intellectually to get by. But today, you have to be a proper digital consumer to market online.

When digital marketer Duane Melius joined me on a recent episode of my podcast, we agreed: While it’s possible to survive with a surface-level understanding of social media, you won’t get far without actively participating. Whether you’re a digital native or a Baby Boomer, you have to be online personally to find new, creative ways to reach consumers. Otherwise, you’re just doing what everyone else is doing — and you’re not standing out.

Thus, the most important investment an agency can make is leveling up its team’s digital know-how.

Turning Your Team Into Digital Natives

Today, clients are chomping at the bit for more opportunities in digital. The best way to get there? Ensure everyone in your agency can speak the digital language, no matter his or her role. But what can agencies do to guarantee their teams are participating in digital, even if it does create some undue anxiety? Here are three tips for creating a digital-friendly workplace:

1. Encourage cross-training

As a digital media professional, you already know the importance of being digitally savvy. But the rest of your team needs to catch up. The best way to do that is cross-training. In fact, 45 percent of companies cross-train their employees to help them learn skills not directly related to their jobs, according to a 2018 report from the Society for Human Resource Management.

Find members of your staff interested in taking on new challenges, and encourage them to spend a set amount of time working within the digital team. This type of career development also creates a core digital team that can build its own competency — one that can share its knowledge with other departments.

2. Start with the lowest-hanging fruit

Even when you’re taking a break from social at home, you still need to be up-to-date on social channels at work. So where do you start? Identify your clients most likely to be receptive to new digital strategies and campaigns (aka your lowest-hanging fruit), and begin working on real-world scenarios to sell them on beneficial digital products and services.

Look at clients’ target markets and determine where they live online. Once you know where their audience is spending its time, build a digital strategy that allows you to dive deep into one social channel at a time.

3. Allow room for exploration

While it’s important to work with one or two social channels for a client’s campaign, that still leaves you with some gaps in knowledge, especially if you’re unplugging at home. To combat this, create time for digital exploration.

Allow space for social surfing — even if it’s just 30 minutes. There are new social platforms popping up all the time, so it’s good to get an idea of what they are and how they function. Plus, these are a great place to learn what’s trending for clients. Watching how these platforms launch and test new ideas will also help you establish an innovative culture with a constant pulse on your clients’ customers.

Even if you’re personally taking a break from social media, you can still be enthusiastic about digital channels at work. And by spreading the digital joy to other parts of your agency, it no longer has to solely fall on your shoulders. Simply tap into your teammates’ desires by providing the structure and support to explore. Then, get out of the way, and watch innovation blossom.

About the Author

Drew McLellan is the CEO of Agency Management Institute, serving 250-plus agencies to help the owners build profitable agencies that evolve and scale.


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