My fondest, strongest memory of Labor Day is one I spent a few years ago with my college ex-boyfriend who I had just reconnected with. We were a force to be reckoned with in college, finding every and any way into the hottest events in South Beach, just a cab ride away from the University of Miami. We fell quickly and hard and were completely inseparable. He was going to med school and I was going to law school. Or so those were our plans. We broke up right before our trek to NYC together for med/law school, which resulted on me moving to the city by myself in the dead of winter.
Two years later, when I found myself back in South Florida, I had a feeling he was near. I was shocked to find out that he had moved to NYC a year after me, and just moved back to South Florida barely three weeks before me. I don’t know what you believe in, but from this relationship alone I can testify to the power of being connected to another being for life. After one drink together, we were back together.
Per our usual college selves, he insisted we meet his friends from his prestigious building in Brickell at Mansion for the Avicii show on Labor Day. Of course, his passion for EDM still lighting a fire within me, I didn’t refuse. I tucked myself into my most sparkly, short gold dress and the highest stilettos and we ate dinner at our usual Thai place. I ducked texts and calls from my neighbors and roommate who I had become super close with in the artsy community we lived in near Wynwood. They were begging me to join their own night of debauchery in the Design District and then at Twist, pissed I had reunited with my college boyfriend who was known to be aggressive towards me in the past. But that night I was only his, we were only ours. We were able to hide away the past two years of adulthood that almost killed us and believe we were college students again heading out for a night in South Beach.
Looking for parking in the sometimes sketchy neighborhoods around Collins Avenue, I was reminded of the last time we looked for parking in South Beach during my senior year at UM. We got in a fight right as we parked, and we fought so long that the battery died in the car and all of the clubs had closed. We had to beg a chef on his way home from work to call a towing company for us. We both laid the seats all the way back and road in the towed BMW the whole way to the service station because there was no room up front for us. By the time we caught a taxi back to UM, all was forgiven and we were already laughing about the absurdity of the night. We passed a car stalled out in the middle of the road a few car lengths from a green light on Alton Road. A woman was passed out (or dead) in the front seat. Completely unresponsive. I made my first call ever to 911 to report it.
He pulled me out of the past as we finally found a parking spot, surprisingly not too far from the club. I grabbed his arm as I always did on our nights out, and felt proud of the stylish (outfit picked by me, of course) boyfriend I reunited with. I was in awe. I thought I would never see him again when we last broke up, but here we were as if time had not passed at all.
As we approached the club, I took an IG photo to rub it in that I was finally going to see Avicii live. When we crossed the street, I sensed something was wrong. The guys who lived in his apartment building, who I had briefly met a few years before, said they could not get us in after all. If we were to get in, we would have to climb the cement wall and sneak in the workers’ entrance. I told him he couldn’t possibly be considering that, and he said that he had done it many times with the same guys before. I shook my head no.
As I looked up at the marquee with Avicii’s name so clearly labeled, I realized just how far we were from that pompous, naive college couple. After all, I had taken up yoga and meditation and strayed away from drinking for the most part in the last couple of years. My sister had also committed suicide a mere year prior, forcing a different, more holistic view of life upon me. He hadn’t gotten into med school like he thought, shattering his dreams for the time being, and his confidant, his grandfather who I knew well, had recently passed away. As much as we wanted to fade into the carefree people we were in college, staring at a club that we used to own, that we could no longer get in, humbled both of us.
When we got back to my place, my neighbors and roommate were at their own party. I sat on my bed, looking at him as though it might be the last time we ever see each other. He asked to take my computer and played this song: City of Dreams. Tears fell down my face as I resolved today with yesterday. As I found a way to resolve us now versus then, he sat down next to me and put his arms around me. We just let the song play again and again. It, somehow by the act of God, is still my favorite song of all time today.
We broke up two months later, vowing to never ever contact each other for the rest of our lives. But when I had to go through chemotherapy last year, we reconnected. God has a way of letting people know you need them. Today, we work hard to accept each other exactly as we are. He got into med school, but then never placed with a residency. This was hard for me to learn, as I had written most of his med school essays way-back-when. He will surrender to a business-management job in medicine. I chose to communicate with him through my creative blog, “Almost Everything,” and continued to climb the social/digital media ladder during the six years we didn’t speak to each other. Nearly 10 years post-college, we are finally learning that we cannot ignore the past decade. We both had incredible and not-so-incredible things happen to us, but we bless each moment we are able to connect at 3AM after something terrible (or great!) happens. Because somewhere, those creatively beautiful beings still inhabit each of us and crave that connection.
Why tell you all of this? Well, because you should probably know a bit about the influencer you keep following, right? Nah. But also because social media and digital marketing are kind of the same way. I see so many brands reacquainting themselves with social media or trying to acquaint themselves with both of them, failing to realize how quickly the digital media landscape is changing. I had the lovely experience of recently going through the interview process for senior jobs in digital marketing, and I was shocked at how many brands were still looking for an entry-level person to run their entire digital marketing program. WHAT?! I mean, this takes skills, people! And what is going to happen to these brands is that they are going to show up to the Avicii concert with their entry-level college grad and not be able to get in. Until they realize how this advanced and complex digital marketing monster has been born out of a small social media or website seed, they won’t be able to staff properly, nor create impactful integrated campaigns that really hit the customer where they are at. Until they accept the new digital marketing landscape and the relationship it craves, they will flounder in the past.
So, here are some things to think about as a brand as you transition from siloed thinking into integrated digital marketing:
I am creative, so this is obviously a sore point for me. In 2019, each and every brand graphic should match each and every other brand graphic. Period. This does not mean the same graphic is used on every platform, but it DOES mean that a version of it and a version of its copy is used on each and every platform. A consumer should be able to see your image on Facebook and then your ad on Instagram and then your Google ad and know exactly what brand they are coming from.
This is an easy miss by SO MANY brands. You should have unique URL parameters set up for each and every platform and online network and affiliate brand you work with. Your digital marketing head should be able to quickly pull a report and be able to tell exactly where consumers are coming from. There is no more social media versus web content versus Google ad. No. You need to be looking at every single point of contact as a unique point of contact so you can refine your metrics.
OMG this was a total mess at my last company. They had a purchase pixel on the main page of the website and no Google pixels placed at all. Correctly placed pixels are essential to getting the best learning data and finding out exactly what your conversions are worth. We had to play around until we realized it was not the “Submit” page, but the “Congrats” page that truly measured a conversion. This meant customers were approved and a true customer, so we immediately had a custom Pixel placed on that page.
You need to be thinking about who you are looking for in a digital marketing role. It’s no longer the cut and dry social media manager, but a social media manager with SEO and affiliate marketing experience. It’s no longer the SEO-focused SEO manager, but an SEO manager with paid social media and eCommerce experience. You are looking for the T-shaped employee to run digital marketing for you. This means that they have a main focus (social media, SEO, ecommerce) but they are also able to take on and understand other roles as needed.
This is something I have seen a lot of brands rethinking as the digital age comes to fruition. Not only should you be thinking of the digital marketing tactics, but also can your business in general be sold in more digital ways? Is there an opportunity for you in eCommerce? Can Instagram stories spotlight one of your newest products? What can you change to make the in-store experience more connected with digital? Find it out an start implementing more digital-forward strategies NOW.
The greatest news is that it’s not too late. It might have taken six years, but the college ex and I now know how to support each other where we are in our lives now. Hopefully, it doesn’t take your brand six years, and you are able to recognize the evolution of social/digital marketing and tap into the power it can give to your brand.
– Marji J. Sherman