The Digital Disruption Survival Guide

Get prepared to navigate and lead through never-ending digital marketing shifts with resilience and strategy.

Stop, Drop, and Roll

January 2018: Social media managers throughout the world sat on their couches with half-melted, completely untouched bowls of ice cream, as Facebook announced what would be sweeping, powerful reforms to the algorithm to prioritize posts that sparked conversations and interactions with other people. In short, business pages were being downranked. Hard.

Social Media Managers rallied their teams, leaders emerged, and we collectively shook off what ended up being one of the most impactful algorithm changes of all time, finding new ways to build brands, grow communities, and engage in meaningful conversations.

Also 2018: The infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal occurs, and the once powerful Ads Manager sees half of its tools evaporate the moment that Facebook Execs had their cheeks hit the chairs in front of Congress.

Media buyers rallied their teams, leaders emerged, and we collectively shook off what ended up being one of the most impactful platform changes of all time, finding new ways to target audiences, get into feeds, and generate profit for brands.

Digital Marketing Continues to Flux

2021: iOS 14.5 + 14.6 release, and CMO’s once drunk on sweet, sweet perfectly attributable data being fed to them by their media buyers suddenly realize that the data tastes a little different. Sweeping privacy changes hit social media platforms like a rocket, and everything we knew about audience building, audience targeting, and attribution changes nearly overnight as people opt out of being tracked by their social media platforms.

Media buyers rallied their teams, leaders emerged, and, well, we’re still working on this one.

Each of these situations was viewed digitally as catastrophic, and while we could make a case for the iOS updates maybe actually fitting that mold, in every situation new voices rose from the noise to lead digital marketers globally into the uncertain, new era in front of us.

We didn’t choose calm, easy career fields. Digital Marketing is tumultuous, with constant algorithm changes (70 since Facebook alone launched), platform changes (RIP Vine), and preferred types of creative (did you see Reels get down ranked) making us feel like a bunch of tennis balls in a dryer.

So, when one of those moments hits – and more are going to come – what are you going to do?

WELLWhat Are You Going To Do?

Are you going to join the people putting on their “THE END IS NEAR” sandwich board signs and tin foil hats? Are you going to get angry? Are you going to lash out? Are you going to be negative and let yourself spiral while everything you’ve been working on is taken away?

First, don’t be a crazy person. No one wants to see your response to all of this and wonder what weird stuff you’ve probably got in your basement freezer. Second, take a deep breath. Check your posture. Drink some water and fist-bump that cat. There’s some important perspective you’ve gotta get here before we solve this.

Rome wasn’t built in a day… but it also didn’t fall apart in a day.

Success and failure are slow processes. Even with sweeping algorithm changes and overnight switches to everything we’ve known dear, businesses don’t usually start shutting their doors and partaking in massive layoffs the immediate next day. When the big changes hit, here’s what you do:

1. Dig into your toolbox.

Take a deep, deep look at each asset at your disposal. These might include your page audiences, email lists, top fans, and social media influencers under contract, but also your data aggregators, audience data tools, and analytics software. 

Also, while we don’t consider people as tools, do take a look at the strengths of your team. When every other tool fails, good people with great skills will save you every time. See who isn’t panicking, see who is already on Twitter looking for new strategies, and see who is already more worried about lunch. We like those people. Go find those people.

Understand how these people and assets are going to be impacted by whatever change. Where is the potential opportunity? Where are the weak spots? Who do I have that can make this easy for myself, my team, and my company?

2. Run into the fire.

If there is an actual fire, please do not actually run into it. We’re talking about proverbial fires, here. When the metaphorical digital poo hits the metaphorical digital fan, the ones that embrace the chaos and seek new paths forward are usually the ones that are still around when everything settles down.

When women’s apparel brand Knix – already known for their powerful and awe-worthy direct-to-consumer strategies – saw a unique opportunity in the moments when brick-and-mortar mainstays were shutting down in record numbers, offering up virtual styling and off-season warehouse sales to boost their numbers and prime them for a new round of funding in 2021. 

3. Lend your voice to the other people leading with some type of integrity.

In every moment of chaos you can always find leaders doing the next right thing. Digitally, look to your communities and find those people. Seek out the voices that are still inspiring people even when long-known strategies are going out the window, data is harder to trust, and platforms are a little less stable.

When iOS 14.5 launched and our latest struggles officially began after years of build up, digital marketers and content marketing agencies looked to people like Nik Sharma, Andrew Foxwell, Dara Denney, and Savannah Sanchez to stand up, hold their heads high, and bring forth the new strategies for success.

Here’s a few last things to remember as you set forth into your new reality: 

  1. Set an example: Your actions should reflect you as a generally kickass individual and you should always strive to act in a way that is consistent with those principles.
  2. Be honest: With yourself, your team, and your stakeholders. You’re going to make some mistakes – own up to them, and take responsibility for the consequences.
  3. Build trust: Be consistent in your actions, follow through on your promises, and treat people with respect.
  4. Go do it: You can spend a lot of time planning, but spend an equal amount of time actually doing. Just go do it.
  5. Make ethical decisions: Skip the shortcuts and put in the effort. When the dust settles and the ‘new normal’ is established, people will remember who tried to skip the line and throw people under the bus on the way to the front.

Whew – that’s a lot. This article was pretty dire and definitely looked at each digital change as being catastrophic. In most cases, that’s not the reality. We’re also usually gifted with knowing about big changes long before they go into effect. However, when big changes do happen (looking at you third-party data), there is almost always chaos anyway. Change is hard, and people don’t like change. Be prepared for those moments.

When bad things happen, be the one good thing.