Individuals Are Running Circles Around Your Brand

Individuals are beating your entire marketing and PR department online.  Not by just a little – they’re running circles around it.

They’re…

All with far less effort and stress.

A majority of businesses just aren’t structured (or comfortable) with empowering team members to engage in value-oriented digital marketing activities.  Instead, they are tied up with superfluous approval processes, legal teams and meetings to over-polish every little detail.  Individuals just act, and that’s exactly what the web rewards.  This is devastatingly effective – marketing is not the same as it used to be, and your perfectly polished messages will never do as well as the messages that come from the soul of a real person.

Setting objectives and strategy is a requirement, don’t get me wrong: but my point is that good digital marketing is messy.

It’s messy to build links – you need to get creative, you need to combine multiple skill sets and wear many hats: technical, creative and even relationship building.

It’s messy to build a community – it has strategy and can have some structure, but needs the freedom to think outside the lines and improvise.  Most businesses love planning and hate improvisation.

It’s messy to be consistent with updating a blog – be structured and have an editorial calendar all you like, but at the end of the day the individual with passion, motivation and connections can soar above your entire team’s results.

It’s messy to continue a dialogue on Twitter – individuals can link or say anything they want and there are no repercussions.  And those people are far more interesting than any brands, or even employees of brands following strict rules.

It’s messy to network – not like an individual has to ask permission to build affinity with social media power users.  They just make the connections.

It’s messy to play with code – my friend David Malone, a java consultant in the Twin Cities, runs a social network he built from the ground up in his free time.  He tweaks the code and gets creative with it never worrying not about what others will think, only if users will dig the results.  For it, his development process is both agile and only focusing on what matters.

On the web, your brand is getting outmaneuvered not just by business competitors, but individuals.  The competitive landscape is different, you’re competing for attention amongst so much. Bloggers who are more creative than you get more traffic than your company blog.  No one misunderstands and shoots down their seemingly crazy (but in reality clever) linkbait.  Agile affiliate marketers are outranking your product website.  They are tweaking their sites to be more search friendly without asking permission and working with partners they’ve forged alliances with until late into the night.  Creative coders are making products out of passion that deliver on what people actually want, not wasting time creating superfluous mockups/versions to please different constituents.

There’s actually just one thing stopping your business from having an edge over competitors, and even those individuals currently running circles around your brand.  It’s your own business.  That’s because it is structured for a world that no longer exists.  Why not consider something radically different and stop letting individuals eat a free lunch on your market?

The simple fact is the web gives the power to the individual due to:

  • The the nature of digital interactions (improvisational, not planned)
  • The rewards of trying lots of things out, failing fast and moving on without batting an eye
  • Freedom to tinker
  • The fact that companies are obsessed with the idea of “best practices,” which is the antithesis of finding a formula that works for your unique situation
  • Fear inspired in organizational settings – fear is inhibiting
  • Fluidity of strategy
  • Ability for individuals to quickly reinvent themselves/their projects to fit the times and capitalize on opportunities
  • Personality and creativity infused with efforts
  • No management, just work

The amazing thing is companies willingly give up these advantages daily.  It’s not like there are rules saying you couldn’t be agile and restructure yourself in a way that makes sense with the technologies we have in 2010 and activate members of the workforce with passion.

On the other hand – if you’re an an artist, a marketing/PR professional or entrepreneur and not using this advantage for yourself: what are you waiting for?

Artists: build a following for yourself by giving out music free.  A creative commons license is the ultimate music promotion tool.  Where major labels fear filesharing, put it to your advantage to build subscribers and create true fans who you can later monetize.

Marketing and PR professionals: if you’re not blogging or creating your own web projects in your free time you’ll never have the insight of your peers .  I know you’re busy, but it’s absolutely possible (and worthwhile) to fit web projects into a busy life.

Entrepreneurs: disrupt the current players through marketing and communications more agile than existing companies.  In fact, make light of the fact they’re so slow to respond, highlight the absurdity of the current marketplace (and subtly shine the light to your idea instead).