David Meerman Scott is the author of ten books including The New Rules of Marketing and PR, which has sold more than 350,000 copies and been translated into 25 languages and released in the 5th edition in October 2015. David is a world-renowned speaker and expert on social media and digital marketing.
A 15-year journey in marketing
Since his first book came out over 15 years ago, the landscape has changed a lot.
“Just a couple of years ago, I used to talk to people and they were still skeptical. They were still reluctant. They were still putting most of their money or all of their money into offline marketing, offline advertising, and offline public relations.”
Nowadays, most people understand that online marketing is real and that they can benefit in many ways by engaging across digital platforms. While the channels have changed over the years, the basics of marketing, the ideas and strategies, stay the same.
“Nothing really changes. It is about understanding your buyers and then creating great content on the web that reaches them. That’s what it’s all about. That has not changed ever since I started writing about these ideas 15 years ago. What’s most interesting to me is it’s now become mainstream.”
“More recently, images have become much more important. Tools to share content like Instagram and Slideshare have become more important. Everybody understands now that you need to do it. That used not to be an assumption that people had. They used to be more reluctant to do these things.”
Any time a company was advertising, they were trying to sell products and services. Naturally people wanted to do the exact same thing on their online channels but it just doesn’t work.
The new rules online: The 85-10-5 Rule
In his books and on his blog, David advocates focusing on making content discoverable online and encouraging users to share. While priorities may change, online channels are complementary to the existing marketing mix, not substitutes.
“I don’t think advertising is going to go away. I think there’s always going to be room for smart advertising. But it’s not necessarily the place that every business should lead from. Many businesses should be leading from online first, offline second. Especially most large businesses, but also many small ones are still working on the old playbook of what worked 10 and 20 years ago. They’re either reluctant or fearful to make changes or just the status quo is such that it’s not in their best interest to make changes.”
Even among the companies embracing online media, many apply the wrong mindset. Social media are not equivalent to a sales agent, but are much more like a friendly conversation. Companies tend to focus too much on talking about what their company does which turns out to be very inefficient.
“The biggest mistake I see is that companies talk way too much about their own products and services. I see it again and again. I think that mistake comes from the old mentality of advertising. Any time a company was advertising, they were trying to sell products and services. Naturally people wanted to do the exact same thing on their online channels but it just doesn’t work.”
“I have a rule that I like to talk about. It’s the 85-10-5 Rule. If you have a following of people on a social network or an email list, 85% of what you do should be engaging with your audience. On Twitter for example, that means you reply to people, you follow people, you comment to people. You’re engaged with your audience in a two-way manner.”
“You should focus on creating your own content 10% of the time. What I mean by that is doing a video and sharing that with my followers on Twitter, creating a blog post and share that with my followers or create a photography and put that on Instagram. That’s original content.”
“Only 5% or less should be you trying to sell something. That rule works for most organizations and most businesses. I think it also works for politicians. Online channels are not just for selling, but if you use it cleverly, it can be a selling channel too. You have to spend the vast majority of your effort on being helpful and being part of a community and then you earn the right and respect to be able to talk about what your company does or offer a product or service at the right time.”
It’s a huge mistake to believe that you have to do everything. You know people thinking that they have to be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all these other local services.
How can companies go wrong with social media?
Being too hard on the selling is not the only mistake companies make. Sometimes, companies or organizations underestimate the impact of social media. The Boston bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics is a great example.
“A bunch of community leaders in Boston were doing traditional marketing to get the 2024 Olympics to the city. They hired expensive consultants and advertising agencies. They built a typical advertising-focused kind of website and their Twitter feed was almost exclusively a broadcast of the things that they wanted to talk about.”
In the end, the bid for the Olympics was cancelled. A group called No Boston Olympics were fighting against getting the Olympics to Boston as they didn’t want to have the extra traffic and disruption and didn’t want the city to spend all the extra money on the Olympics.
“It was a handful of people who organized the resistance. They did their efforts all by themselves with almost no money. They spent only 14 thousand dollars whereas the Olympic committee spent millions and millions of dollars. The small group were very clever at using their Twitter feed and hashtags. They were very clever at using real time communications to get the word out. In the end, they won. A couple of people with a Twitter feed defeated these huge advertising agencies, consulting firms, and millions and millions of dollars.”
“I wanted the Olympics to be here. I was very hopeful that the Olympics would come and I’m disappointed that they’re not. In the end, the organizers screwed up. They went with an old playbook and the opposition went with a modern one.”
[EDIT: David wrote a great blog post on the bid for the Olympics, which you can read here]
The future of marketing and PR
Digital marketing is about understanding your buyers and creating great content on the web to reach and engage with them. That’s not going to change according to David – at least as far as he can see into the future.
“When I first started talking about these ideas back in 1995, there were only 20 or 30 million people on the internet. It was a very small number. Since then, almost all of humanity has gotten access to a device that’s connected to the internet. That’s absolutely incredible. For my prediction of the future, I think that there will be new tools. There will be new ways to reach people. But ultimately the strategies are the same and have been the same for quite a long time.”
“When I first started to talk about these ideas, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn did not exist. New tools constantly come out, change and morph and there’s different ways to reach buyers, but the basics of marketing stay the same.”
I never thought I would actually say this, but imagine 10 years ago that I’d be saying that a live video works just as well on a smartphone as it does on a computer screen—that’s radical!
The increase in number of devices and the different challenges they bring with them such as screen size and mobile internet connectivity is another important trend.
“Clearly for mobile devices, the screen is much smaller and sometimes it’s slower to load. Therefore, you just have to think about the way that you share content such that it can be optimized for that smaller screen. Many companies don’t adjust to the implications of the new devices even for simple things like making sure the site is optimized for mobile search engines and making sure to use images that are quick to load. Those things are important!”
“The other important thing to understand is how apps might be used in your favor. I mean I’m a huge fan of Instagram for example and I don’t really use it to sell anything. I just use it to share things that are interesting to me. That proves to be a valuable part of what I do and that’s something that only really exists on a smartphone. The app doesn’t work so well outside of the smartphone environment and there’s many examples of apps like that depending on what business you are in.”
The entire way the new devices are used should influence the way you engage with them – not just via apps. The visual nature of smartphones gives them an advantage in certain cases, but the old computer still has its forces too.
“On a computer you can get into long-form text-based content. Smartphone and tablets are much more visual media, but I think both work well for video. I never thought I would actually say this, but imagine 10 years ago that I’d be saying that a live video works just as well on a smartphone as it does on a computer screen—that’s radical!”
Today, it is about real time communication. It’s about what’s happening right now. That’s a really big difference.
“The idea of live streaming video and the ability to access existing video through sites like YouTube and others and see that instantly on your mobile phone practically anywhere you are is an incredibly radical concept. I mean if you would talk to me when I was 20 years old that one day I’d be able to do this, I would say, “You’re crazy. That’s never going to come, that’s too science fiction.” It was unreasonable to assume that I would have a device that as small as my iPhone that can display live videos.”
“In many ways, the future is here, right now. To my experience, most companies and most people – especially most marketers – haven’t captured the idea that these tools which are sitting in our pockets are absolutely unbelievably amazing and incredibly powerful. We need to understand how to tap them to be able to help grow our business.”
The future role of the CMO
With all these trends, the role of the marketing departments and CMOs will change drastically. Particularly the shift from a creative focus to a data-driven one will influence the direction of future marketers.
“It used to be that you had to understand advertising really well. It used to be that you had to be a creative type. I think that the CMO role has now changing that. You have to understand data and technology really, really well. Another thing that’s changing and very few people are talking about is that marketing used to be developing campaigns. I would create a marketing campaign for next week or next month or we would launch a new product next year.”
“Today, it is about real time communication. It’s about what’s happening right now. That’s a really big difference. As far as I’m concerned, there are very few CMOs that truly understand real time communications, because almost all CMOs are focused on campaign mode. They are focused on what they’re going to do tomorrow, next week, next month. They are not focused on what’s happening right now.”
Think about telling stories rather than trying to sell products. Nobody cares about your company or what you do, but they do care about themselves so you need to turn outward not inward.
David rounds off his view on the future of the CMO role with a few tips to younger marketers with CMO-aspirations. It’s quality over quantity and it’s important to put some thought into the projects before launching them. As you build your following, you’ll have to live with the consequences of what you start.
“We talked about maybe 10 different tools today. It’s a huge mistake to believe that you have to do everything. You know people thinking that they have to be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all these other local services. I have to do images, and I have to do videos, and I have to do blogging, and I have to do this and I have to do that. I don’t think that’s true. It’s probably better to select one, two or three and do those really well than to try to do everything.”
“Sometimes I started with some social network too quickly and made some mistakes. For example, I started my blog back in 2004 – eleven years ago. I didn’t spend enough time thinking about what the blog title should be and I ended up with a URL that I really don’t like but I can’t change it because all my followers are on that URL. Give a little thought before you actually go live with something, maybe try it out on a password protected mode first before you try it.”
“I would say it’s very important to not focus on yourself. Focus on the people you’re trying to reach. Think about telling stories rather than trying to sell products. Nobody cares about your company or what you do, but they do care about themselves so you need to turn outward not inward.”
Do you agree with David’s view on the future? If social media channels aren’t a sales channel, are they still worth the investment? Please leave your comment below.