Break habits, break out, but don’t break bad on social media

It struck me this week that social media is not really a new thing anymore. I know it sounds obvious. We have been doing it for 12 years. But this year it feels like social media got serious.

Serious enough that it is changing the way we think, work and collaborate as marketers. The trouble is that the old way of working is now stretched to breaking point. Something has to give. We need to change. Change on a more fundamental basis.

And change starts with breaking the habits that are no longer worthy of keeping. It also means breaking out of a traditional marketing mind-set – without going too far (well not just yet). So here are my thoughts on the habits we need to break:

Break habits

Commit to social if you’re gonna be on social

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t have failed to notice that social media is now ubiquitous. The top companies that lead the way have integrated it into the everyday, the challenger brands are investing in catching-up. If you are still fiddling at the edges you have to take the leap and get in – if you want success.

And that means a focus on social as an integrated part of your activity. It includes

  • Investing in skilled, professional and seasoned resource
  • Moving beyond demographics and vanity metrics. Your measurement should include non-social measures and integrate with other channels
  • Don’t think brand and product and what you have to launch next month– think audience-first instead

Change comes from the inside

Breaking habits is more than process. Social has forced organisation to think in a more agile way. What I mean is that the big marketing launches and the months of planning no longer work in the digital world. Business need to have broad themes, know their messages and understand the peaks in interest. But they also need to flex, plan on the fly and be able to pivot the direction of a marketing initiative. Fast.

It also means the days of washing and rinsing assets through a hierarchy of approvals and sign-offs have ended. Marketing needs to empower its staff to get content to audiences. And when the audience wants it. Not on the brand timeline.

It is not just about empowering the marketing team. Social is the driver for turning all employees into advocates and marketing needs to bring down the walls of its discipline and drive that change across the business.

Break out

And breathe

The thing with all this always-on, agile stuff is not having the headspace to think. The danger is that you won’t learn. Not just learn from mistakes, but from success too. So put in rest stops. Take time to think, learn and, breathe.

The genius side effect of this change in learning is that you can experiment. Heck, you can even go wild and out there. So long as you measure, evaluate and take time to ask the most important question for marketers:


Yup, ‘why?’ is the most important question in this fast-paced world. From why are we doing this to why is this working? Then there is why does this happen or why not try. And finally the most liberating of questions ‘why not?’: Why not? is at the heart of innovation and it the future of marketing on social media.

Break out of the desktop

I know everyone talks about mobile marketing. And social is very, very mobile. The trouble is that most marketers work day-to-day on a laptops or desktop. Ever tried a week on mobile only? It’s a great way to walk in the shoes of your audience. Break out of the mind-set that keeps you away from really understanding the mobile world of your customers.

Think bigger

For years there has been almost a total focus on gaining followers. Admittedly this has been joined by a desire for likes and, (sigh), engagement. But if you refocus on delivering business tangible results you broaden your marketing from the audience you have to the audience you want to reach. Yes that might mean a rebalance between organic social posts and paid social advertising. But the results will also have greater impact.

Don’t break bad

According to urban dictionary “to break bad” (and “breaking bad” of course) is an American Southwest slang phrase meaning to challenge conventions, to defy authority and to skirt the edges of the law. There were lots more definitions, but they are a little inappropriate for this blog!

Thinking differently, changing old redundant habits is the way forward, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Going completely against the grain or leaving good practice behind is a mistake.  Keep the best of the marketing discipline we know and love. And don’t lean out so far in breaking those habits that you fall off the edge.

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