Smart Kids (& Marketers) Never Get Bored


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.

Your Comments

  • Gil Reich

    “Pretend that you’re smart, I know it’s a stretch.” OK, so that’s where you’re snark comes from. But it’s a good snark, a snark that pushes people to be their best. Great post, completely agree.

  • netmeg

    I don’t use (or recommend) social media because it’s easy. I use (or recommend) it because I find this particular type of challenge and creative opportunity to be FUN. Always did – even in the old days, before we called it “social media” (ork ork). And it’s a lot easier to be effective when you’re enjoying what you’re doing.

    What you say is true for any task, job or career. If you’re bored with it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it, because it’s a solid bet ur doin it rong.

    I like complicated jigsaw puzzles too. I think they require some of the same personality and skill sets.

  • Jey Pandian

    Well written. The first half of the post struck a chord with me, my parents did the same with me and my brother. The second half of the post, is easy for me to relate to as well. Some time ago, Aaron responded to me off Twitter and said something alone the lines of: “A dead SEO = SEO who stops learning .” I couldn’t agree more.

    I agree with you when you say you like it better when everything is harder because; yes, it does force people to become more creative and helps foster a thinking out-of-the-box mindset.

    I’ve always believed that someone with a hunger for knowledge and a willingness to work hard will see “obstacles as challenges not roadblocks” (great words) and as an opportunity to learn more and become better at their craft.

    Props again for a well written article from a former lurker. :)

    • Lisa Barone

      Totally agree with you. If you’re bored with it, it’s because you’re stuck doing what everyone else is and not playing with things on your own. To me, that sounds like a personal problem. :)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and not being a lurker anymore! :)

  • Tim Staines

    It’s evolution, plain and simple . . . survival of the fittest. Personally, I’m happy people think “it” is too hard or too much work, especially when “it” is what I’m doing for a living. I’m not leaving the “it” business any time soon. It changes every day and makes itself more difficult for new entrants to do well. It puts me in higher demand BECAUSE it evolves. Without “it” being harder than it was before, there would be no survival of the fittest.

    Bing on the “it” evolution!

    My mom did the same thing to my sister and I, by the way, she had a big-ass-bell she would ring when it was time for us to come home in the evenings.

  • Jill Whalen

    All I wanna know is what did you do for lunch? Did Mom at least throw some sandwiches out the back door come noon time? ;)

    • Lisa Barone

      Yeah, there’d usually be some food left outside and we knew to wander back by the house around then. Wow…this is starting to sound like I was a neglected child. I swear I wasn’t! We had three meals a day and were bathed when we came home covered in mud. Honest.

      • netmeg

        You got bathed? We had to strip before we were allowed in the house, and she hosed us off in the back yard. Seriously. We were three doors up from a fraternity with a biggest sand pile on the planet (plus a nearby hose) and we made sand castles we could crawl into – with real MOATS!

  • Randy S

    Maybe I’m still in the “Honeymoon” phase (I’ve only been in the biz for about 4 1/2 months) but I definitely do not get bored. I do get overwhelmed at the sheer scope of what needs to be done. But that’s a major reason why I signed on in the first place.

    If you (not you, Lisa, i’m speaking to the whiners!) are unwilling or unable to adapt and change and work really hard and be challenged, etc. why did you get into one of the fastest changing industries in the first place? Just seems strange to me.

  • Rebecca Jesson

    This is a great post, thank you. I think in my low moments the feeling I have is is fear that I’m not doing things “right”. Your post reminds me that using Social Media for marketing is not an exact science and some things work for one audience but not for another, the key is to be honest, brave and to keep trying and tracking ;p

  • Elizabeth

    Ahhhhhhhhh – great post! I am so tired of hearing grown adults whine about how hard things are. Lets just roll up our sleeves and get to work!


  • Megan Strand

    Love this post – so many great points on fostering creativity and reinforces my own parenting strategy (get outside and find something fun to do!).

    Makes me think a bit about Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin, and his point that our educational system is producing “cogs”, mindlessly following orders because someone tells us to. Similarly, in our society where media occupies so much of our personal and family time, I suspect this contributes to us losing that creative edge as well.

    Your “throwing rocks at the window” analogy is also fabulous. As marketers, we often depend too much on shiny tools and then wonder why our “strategy” is falling flat. Perhaps it’s because we didn’t have an engaging strategy to begin with – in this age of new, shiny, better – we have to constantly remind ourselves that they’re just tools. Just because you have a new hammer doesn’t mean you can construct a house.

    We used another of your blog posts as reference in our podcast “The Naked Marketers” – it was my first introduction to your writing. I’ll undoubtedly be visiting regularly!

    Thanks for (another) smart and relevant post.

    • Lisa Barone

      Awesome comment. It could be it’s own post.

      I think MANY times the reason we fail is because we had no strategy to begin with. And that’s certainly the case with social media. People hop in thinking it just means Twittering or creating a Facebook page and then they fail when no one cares. Somehow that’s supposed to be the fault of social media and not because the creator simply had no idea what they were doing.

      Much of the reason people are getting bored is because they’re using these tool show they think they’re supposed to be used instead of how they COULD be used. When we all chase the same angle, things inevitably get boring and “harder” since there’s zero differentiation.

      • Jey Pandian

        Amen. Another reason why people fail is because they have not tested the waters nor have taken a swim regularly in Social Media. It’s one thing to have a Facebook account or a Twitter account or a YouTube account and another thing entirely to actively engage on these networks. Without engagement I don’t think it’s possible to figure out what drives engagement.

  • Ross Hudgens

    Social Media is Dead is the new SEO is Dead. Scoble, where are you?

  • Suzanne Vara


    I think our moms were trained together – never ever ever were we allowed inside in the summer (grew up in burbs of NJ). Even in the winter she would tell us (me and 2 sisters) to bundle up and get outside and play for a little bit. We did. We had to and we had to find things to do outside.

    If people are whining as it is harder than it was 2 years ago as they have been on easy street, then move over and let the rest of us who enjoy what we do and love the challenge of learning something new. I think it is something that is within us as some check out when the tough gets going whereas others fighter harder.

    I guess for some the social media honeymoon bliss is coming to an end. It was bound to happen as I am sure that if you pulled a list of the seo companies in 2003 and compared it to now, maybe less than half would still be here today.

    PS – we do become our mothers in some ways. My son is 5 and he even tells people that we are “outside people.” Unless we have a wind advisory, heat advisory or it is dark, you will find us outside.


  • Nick Nerbonne

    Bottom line: in SEO, social media, or any marketing activity for that matter, real effort will be rewarded and simply ‘doing it to be there’ will be quickly recognized and pushed aside by increasingly savvy users. If you do it right and put in the work, you’ll get results no matter how stiff the competition, IMO.

  • Kim Kolb

    Lisa, Wow.. My mom use to do the same thing to us. I think you bring up a great point. Somehow we managed to make a cardboard box or the high grass we called the woods seem fun.
    I think that Social Media has gotten more involved. More things are linked together, which we think make it easier, but sometimes it makes it harder. I think people get overwhelmed with the choices just as if your mom would have given you 10 things to do outside you would have had to make a choice. I don’t think people don’t give social media a chance, just like when we were first told to go outside, it took us a while to figure out what we could and couldn’t do and what our boundaries were. I agree that today’s social media does set the really or “smart” people as your mom says apart.
    Great post!

  • Amanda

    Your mother and my mother must have been raised in the same school. Nice to find another like-aged girl that played street hockey for hours!

    On a topical note, this article was fantastic, timely, and riddled with the simple truths most of us overlook in our nose-to-the-grindstone workdays. A declining client list or depreciatingly effective business strategy is an opportunity to rededicate your efforts to think outside the box.

    Anything else (e.g., calling something ‘dead’) is akin to throwing your hands up in the air and declaring “I quit” in your most annoying whinetastic tone.

  • Money Funk

    I agree, sometimes stepping back, a moment to breath, and find things outside the box can do wonders to refresh a situation/goal. Love your mom’s ideality. And its true, I used to keep myself plenty busy outside until the street lights came on and it was time to come in.

  • DJ Waldow

    Lisa –

    As I just tweeted, my “professional” crush on you just grew with this post. I’m looking forward to meeting you face to face sometime soon. Your snark, sarcasm, brutal honesty, and marketing savvy are unmatched.

    Your posts continue to make me smile, laugh … and THINK. Amen, right? My favorite line from this post (by far) is, “If you’re bored with what you’re doing, blame yourself instead of the tool.” I can’t recall the last time I was bored. Seriously. Well – not entirely true. Every time I get bored, I tend to find a new gig.

    Keep kicking ass…

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

  • Alison

    One of the things I hear myself saying often to my kids is, “There’s no such thing as bored.” It’s so true! Where I work, boredom is never an issue – but frustration is. It’s a similar type of issue. Instead of complaining about the tools or the processes, smart people find ways around the frustration and make things happen.

  • Matches Malone

    If you’re bored, you’re boring, I always say….

  • Barney Austen

    Hi Lisa. Really enjoyed this post and as a daddy, I agree that children always find something to do if they have to. The telly goes off, the playstation is removed and they are obliged to get creative – and it works.
    Same applies to social media marketing as well in my view. It can be as boring or as exciting as you want to make it. Like a child, the only limitation is imagination – which is limitless :) – so we need to get creative. I am still a newbie in this area, but every day is a learning curve and I’m really enjoying it.
    Thanks for sharing