Smart Kids (& Marketers) Never Get Bored

April 16, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Social Media

My mother had a rule for us as kids. If it was summer and still light out, we were not to be in the house. She would collect us out of bed at 9am, force us out onto the back lawn, lock the door and walk away. When we whined for our video games/TVs/electronics, she’d poke her head out the window to mock us. “Smart people can entertain themselves. They never get bored”, she’d say, “Pretend that you’re smart, I know it’s a stretch”.

And just like that we’d be left to amuse ourselves until dinner was ready. And we did.

Though I whined, I loved those summer. My parents house sits at the base of Blydenburgh Park on Smithtown, Long Island, with trails leading every which way. My brothers and I ran and we swam; we played soccer and baseball and street hockey; and we didn’t return until after dark, exhausted and covered in mud. And when we came home, my mother would congratulate us on our ability to find something to do and for not spending the day throwing rocks at her back door.

How does this apply to marketing?

So many of us are throwing rocks at the door instead of looking for something better. We complain about our current tools instead of finding ways to hack them or creating new ones that entertain our audiences in new ways.  We can’t see anything but what’s directly in front of us and we use our budgets to jump from one shiny idea to the next. Eventually we get bored and decide it’s the tool that’s “old” and “boring”, when in reality, it’s not.  We’re the ones that are boring.

This topic has been in my head ever since Search Engine Strategies NY. During that conference I was able to liveblog the PPC or SEO? session that took place. One of the questions that came up was that SEO is so much harder these days. We have personalization and real-time search to contend with. Everything’s changing and there’s more competition. With SEO being so “hard”, isn’t it smarter to take that money out of SEO and just focus on PPC instead? There’s more control there.

Rae was one of the speakers on that panel and cautioned that people NOT avoid SEO simply because it’s harder now than it was five years ago. Five years ago SEO was harder than it was a decade ago – imagine if you had abandoned ship and put all your money into PPC. Imagine how invisible your sites would be or how much you’d be paying monthly in order to “rank” amongst the ads.  Leaving SEO in 2003 because it started to get hard would have been akin to writing your own death sentence. But plenty of people did leave SEO. Those who stayed were forced to get more creative.

Earlier this week, social media’s Tamar Weinberg asked if social media was becoming boring. I have an incredible amount of professional respect for Tamar. She lives and breathes what she does and she’s been advocating social media for as long as anyone. But her post this week seems a bit defeated (she clarified in email she didn’t mean it that way and that she, herself, is not bored). The post lists off many of the gripes people have with social media and why, Tamar says, social media will end.  I noticed the gripe list she provided seemed to focus on one thing: Social media has gotten too hard.

Some sentiments she expressed:

  • Brands have to do more than just show up in order to be loved by customers.
  • Social media experts have to provide results instead of just talking about hypothetical rewards.
  • Creating relationships, listening and being accountable is too taxing on corporations.
  • Social media alone doesn’t work anymore, it needs to be paired up with a larger strategy.

No one will argue that social media was easier two years ago, just like no one can argue that SEO has become more competitive. To be fair, most things in your life were probably easier two years ago. It was easier to walk down the stairs, easier to pluck out the gray hairs, you didn’t have kids (or a spouse)– but you evolve, you get creative and you learn to be better than you were yesterday. That’s the point.

If you’re bored with what you’re doing, blame yourself instead of the tool. Maybe you need to take a step back, maybe you need to go do something else, or maybe you need to hop further in than ever and get your hands dirty again. But to write off SEO/social media/ PPC/ whatever because it’s “too hard” or because it requires “real work” seems both shortsighted and dangerous. That seems as dangerous as writing off search engine optimization in 2001 because it was harder than it was in 1998.  You”re not going to get anywhere by chasing fads. You get places by digging in when the sheep hop off the ship.

There are always going to be those that herald something “dead” simply because it now requires real work and accountability. Declaring something dead is often another way of saying you can’t keep up. I recommend you ignore those people. You can sit outside and throw rocks at the door lamenting about how things aren’t shiny anymore and how it’s all just too much work these days… or you can make something happen. I know Tamar’s the type to do the latter. I like to think I am, as well.

Good marketers don’t get bored, they get creative.

Personally, I like that everything is harder. It separates the real experts from the fake ones. It inspires better campaigns for clients. When the “same old tricks” don’t work, it gives you license to try a different path and to produce content and ideas that are head and shoulders better than what everyone else is doing, better than what YOU were doing two years ago. And that should be the point.

If you were in social media because it was easy and shiny, you were always doing it wrong and you were always setting yourself up to be replaced. If you were in social media to find new ways to market to people and more exciting ways to live out your brand, than the new challenges are just that – challenges. They’re not roadblocks.  They’re not reasons to hop to what’s trendy right now. Let the sheep flock. Let them get bored and let them move on.  Because it’s when things stop getting shiny that they usually get interesting.

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