The 7 Deadly Sins of Digital Marketing

shutterstock 158000444 zhuan huan 01


Oh boy, this is going to be a bit of a rant. But it's necessary. Again and again, I meet marketers who commit one or more of these deadly sins of digital marketing. So let's get right to the point.


1) Advertising before laying the foundations

Every single company out there seems to be hiring a PPC manager and start splurging millions on ads, before their website is optimized, their UX updated, and their content strategy in place. There are even websites without https, websites which don't display on mobile, and websites without proper landing pages, which are being advertised with massive budgets. It's just frustrating.

You should always start with basic on-site SEO. This is such a common mistake I wrote a whole separate article about it: 7 crucial things you must do before spending money on digital ads

Laying the foundations means a lot more, of course, like having a good user experience on the website you are advertising. What's the point of spending money on ads when people leave as soon as soon as they see your ridiculous checkout procedure?


2) Marketing without a strategy

Everyone can post stuff online. A post here, a video there, a well-filmed interview... but without a funnel, a call-to-action, a strategy behind it, all that work is just wasted. At the end of the quarter, your boss is going to ask you to justify all the time and money spent and you will not know what to say. 

Doing digital marketing, especially social media marketing, without a clear strategy and measurable outcomes is just a waste of time. Deploying a strategy is not rocket science; you just need to answer the simple question: what's the goal? What do we want people to do when they reach our site? Once we collect the data, what do we want to do with it? See my article "Inbound Marketing Explained".  


3) Creating crappy content 

Content marketing is about offering value to customers. So stop sharing your product specs on LinkedIn. Your job as a content marketer is not to post ads three times a day on every platform; your job is to engage with customers.

There is a reason Facebook has an algorithm that punishes ad-style content, and there is a reason that organic reach on Facebook has fallen to around 2%. The reason is that too many marketers produce useless spam rather than valuable, informative content. 

As marketers, our currency is not likes and shares, but the actual attention of the customer.


4) Making inferences from your personal experience

About that algorithm: it serves up content that Facebook thinks you may like. That means your feed is tailored to you. That means what you see, isn't the whole picture.

Let's say you work for a machinery company making hydraulic presses, but your personal hobbies are surfing and marathon running. Now, if you start using your private account to do your company's Facebook marketing, you won't see anything relevant to hydraulic presses. You will see surfing and running content. Thus you will miss out on the competition, industry news, inspiring posts relevant to your industry etc.

This is a crude example, but too many marketers judge and evaluate - and thus prioritize - platforms based on entirely private experiences. Just because you are not on LinkedIn doesn't mean your potential clients are. Just because your Twitter feed is full of kittens doesn't mean dentists aren't on Twitter. Look at the available platforms objectively; use data and industry insights, not your personal whim.


Your personal experience also extends to country and culture

Let's call this culture blindness. You can't do Facebook in China, because it's banned. Most marketers get this kind of hard barrier. But that doesn't keep American companies trying to engage with Asia on Twitter (nobody uses that platform here for business), or Asian companies ignoring Twitter when trying to reach European or US consumers. 

No one in Asia likes Snapchat. No one in Europe uses Line. Almost every country has a different preferred platform and platform behavior. Some countries use Facebook for commercial content, others see it primarily as a private platform. UK customers are much more easily enraged when they see commercial Facebook content.

US and Indian companies like to schedule phone calls at first contact. That is anathema in many Asian countries. I don't want to speak to you on the phone before I have even had a chance to check out your website. The list is endless. 

Just because the digital platforms are global, that does not mean that every country or culture uses the platforms in the same way. 


5) Spamming people on messenger tools

The majority of people use messaging tools like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, or Line, for their intended purpose: personal messaging. Yet in the last few months, we are seeing a massive increase in corporate spam through private messaging accounts. Spammers are ruining the entire digital experience for everyone. Spamming and mistargeting are definite no-nos. That's not 'marketing', just just 'being annoying'.

Spamming people, in general, is always a bad idea. If you send me a link request on LinkedIn and 2 minutes later I get your business proposition in the inbox, or worse, a phone call trying to sell me the latest software tool, your business is dead to me. Cold calling and spamming are offensive, period. 

Digital marketing is about trust.

People follow you or your page because they derive value from the relationship and trust your advice or like your content. They trust you. If you break that trust by offending them with spam, you are not a good marketer. 


6) Stealing other people's content

I am not saying you can't use other people's content, but you need to engage with them. Ask them. Tag them. We have guest posts on our website, and we use other people's photos on our Instagram. But we ask for permission, we engage, and we try to create a win-win situation. If we use your content, your followers might increase too. We will link back. We will tag you. We will leverage the power of user-generated content, not steal your stuff without asking.

The main reason why using other people's content is bad has nothing to do with the law; I am not going to tell you what's legally allowed in your country. Marketers have to realize that the main reason why you shouldn't do it is that you will be punished by algorithms. Google and Facebook algorithms are already so smart, they know when and where an image appeared first and by whom it was posted.

If your entire digital marketing strategy consists of unoriginal content taken from other people's accounts, the mighty algorithms will punish you. Cross posting, guest posting, sharing other people's content is okay - but it cannot be the mainstay of your digital strategy. 

And that brings us to the last, and some say gravest, sin:


7) Ignoring your audience! 

I get it, we are all busy. I don't have time to respond to every comment on Facebook and LinkedIn. A certain, reasonable, amount of automation is fine. But if you continuously ignore your audience, you will lose out.

Facebook loves pages that respond to messages within a few hours. As all the major platforms are trying to battle bots, spam, and automation, this will become even more evident. One of our clients set up a customers support for the US on Twitter. They check messages (at most!) once a week. You know: if you don't have the resources then don't bother. Better not to offer a channel than to build one and then ignore it. You are just annoying your potential customers. 

Answer questions posted on your Facebook page! Nothing is worse than a page full of customer rants. It is perfectly obvious, but even the biggest brands are making this mistake. Engaging means answering complaints, not deleting them. It means responding in an meaningful way, not spamming with automated bots.

If you don't have the resources to create a positive experience for people following your page, then don't do it. Everyone misses a comment once in a while. but if you are completely unresponsive, people will just get annoyed and unfollow you.