Stop Trying to Hack Your Digital Marketing (Please!)

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Lately, I've been feeling bombarded with Facebook ads that implore me to sign up for webinars teaching me "How to Become a Millionaire in 4 Months" and new, bot-like Twitter followers who promise to teach me how to "Gain a Thousand Followers While You Sleep!"

Do you see this stuff everywhere, too? (They're not just targeting me, are they? Paranoia sets in...)

If you're anything like me, you're simultaneously curious about what advice these folks have, and also pretty incredulous about their claims.

Most of the times my eyes gloss over, like the cute puppy above. But when my curiosity gets the better of me, I'll admit it, sometimes I do break down and I fill out that opt-in form to receive their freebie. I mean, I like to not be a total pessimist, so I give the benefit of the doubt and see if there's valuable information to be gleaned. I'm all for some useful tips, tricks, and shortcuts.

The problem with tips, tricks, and shortcuts is that we're a bit addicted to both the explicit and implicit promises they make -- the biggest one being that you can take the work out of working (or working out of work) and transform your business overnight.

The most predatory promisers often rely on questionable hacks to grow your social media following, email list, or website traffic in very short periods of time. A lot of their methods feel pretty gross. Things like this:

  • Follow a ton of people just so they'll follow you back, and then promptly unfollow them. Maybe even follow and unfollow them again and again, so you stay fresh in their minds.

Ew. It makes me so sad that people do this and call it "strategy," because it's very fake and can even become a little creepy. I've received this type of attention since I started this blog, especially on Instagram and Twitter (ironically, I'm sure it will happen when I share this post). From my own experience, I say this Please don't be the type of person who follows other people just to get their attention; it's disingenuous, and while it might gain you some followers in the short term, it'll also gain you a bunch of irritated people who will remember you for it.

Instead, here's a not-gross idea: Follow people who jive with your work, your aesthetic, your ethics, your ideas, your mission, your vision, your values, etc. Give your loyalty to those from whom you learn new things and are inspired or entertained. Engage with them. Be their friend and their fan. Start a dialogue and you'll naturally show your own value.

Here's another icky move:

  • You notice that a certain topic is trending, so you hashtag it to high heaven all over your social platforms in order to attract attention to your accounts. Except you don't have anything valuable to contribute on the topic.

Blunt moment in 5, 4, 3, 2...: It's cheap and lazy and scavenge off of flash-in-the-pan trends. And if it's a sensitive topic you're posting about, it's also pretty crummy to leach off of that.

Here's a heartfelt approach: Focus on creating and sharing content that moves you, that you can stand behind, and that will help others. Pay attention to and think about what your ideal audience wants to hear about, not what's trending in any given corner of the web.

And one more no-no:

  • Tempt your new followers down a long and winding sales funnel of so-called content, but leave everything of value behind your paywall.

OK, I've never seen anyone explicitly say it like that. But I've certainly been taken on this ride. There are too many get-rich-quick "coaches" out there who never offer concrete advice but will try to woo you six ways to Sunday. Personally, if I can't take one tangible thing away from a webinar, a download, or an email series, I'm never going to become that person's customer. 

Try generosity instead: Offer your followers a piece of yourself and your expertise, at no cost. Give before you get. Go that little bit further than you have to. Be generous, prove yourself, and build trust. Stand out for not just delivering, but exceeding expectations.

So the next time you come across a supposed digital marketing hack and think, "That sounds too good to be true,"...well, you know how the saying goes. And if a marketing concept makes your skin crawl, listen to your instincts and leave it alone!

Building your business to have a strong digital backbone takes time. It helps not to sugar-coat the process and accept the inevitable fits and starts. Adopt a "slow but steady wins the race" mindset from the get-go. From there, with your feet grounded, you can stretch your arms to the sky.

Today's To-Do:

Consider some of the brands you loyally follow online. List a few out, just to make this exercise really concrete.

Think about when and how you became their follower. What won you over?

Now, why do you remain their follower? What appeals to you about their social media accounts, blog posts, or newsletters? In what ways do they engage with you, and how do you engage back?

From these examples, what lessons can you take to heart about how you want to approach your own digital marketing? Chose a set of words to describe those feelings and values. Come back to them when you feel yourself starting to lose sight of your intentions. 

My current words are AUTHENTIC (in my voice & values), HONEST (in my content), PATIENT (about my business's growth), and DOWN-TO-EARTH (about navigating the online world). How about you? I would love to hear yours in the comments below.

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