3 traits every digital marketer should have

Marketers who succeed in the ever-changing, exciting world of digital embody insatiable curiosity, a sincere interest in people and an optimistic appetite for adventure.

  • Curiosity keeps them in touch with the latest trends
  • Sincere interest in others enables genuine connections
  • A sense of adventure gives them the courage to explore new channels and take the necessary risks to succeed.

Here’s a look at each trait, why it matters and how it works in practice.

1. Insatiable curiosity

Alice in Wonderland holding "drink me" bottle
Photo by Jacqueline / CC BY

A hunger for learning is what keeps us competitive and in touch with a rapidly-changing environment. In a world where consumer eyes and ears are bombarded by more marketing messages than ever before, standing out means shaping and sharing a remarkable idea in the right place.

Creating something remarkable happens when an inquisitive mind can draw on an awareness of current channels and tools. When everything we know and learn whirls and collides inside our brain, new connections are made and a new idea is born. Curious marketers feed themselves on broad subjects and diverse platforms, so that their ideas combine the best of each. The more new information you feed yourself, the more likely you are to create something different.

“What if?” thinking

Curiosity isn’t just about reading widely, though. Thinking ‘What if?’ – poking the box to see what can be improved – is the other piece of the puzzle.

Digital marketers are always exploring and always spotting potential. We’re the annoying people who are never satisfied with a project, even when it has launched. We continuously check course with analytics and explore new avenues with A/B tests as we try to improve.

Curious Examples

  • Guardian Witness gives anyone, anywhere the power to tell their stories by submitting videos, pictures and text to the platform. Crowdsourcing the news is nothing new – but the Witness app team were inquisitive enough to ask “What if storytellers had a common platform, and the power to get themselves heard?”
  • Uber, a disruptive taxi & ridesharing application, was founded in 2009 as a result of the a question: “what if there was a better, faster way to connect passengers with drivers?”. Built on the founders’ knowledge of web applications, and harnessing their willingness to try something new, the app now boasts roughly half a million active users each month, with some placing the company’s worth at $3.5B.

Staying curious

Find ideas in strange places

What works in one area of your life might work in another. Move ideas and concepts from your hobbies and see if they work at the office, and vice versa.  Look at your interests, and see what ideas can be transferred elsewhere.

Poke the box with data

Think up some questions, then dive into the ridiculous oversupply of data we’re surrounded by. Don’t come up for air until you have actionable answers. Amazon, with their “Culture of Metrics” do this brilliantly to drive product recommendations and encourage upsells.

Make the technology work for you

The pace of change in digital can be daunting. Platforms like IFTTT, Feedly and Google Alerts make it easy to automate tasks and aggregate information. They can help you be the first to know about new developments in your industry.

2. Sincere interest in others

Der gute Samariter by Van Gogh / CC BY

Digital natives can sniff out inauthenticity in a heartbeat. By contrast, a sincere interest in others comes across loud and clear, and can endear you to your audience. In short – everything you share should be about them, not you. Every post should add something to the conversation, not seek to exploit it.

The transparent nature of digital media forces us to express ourselves and our brands in human values and to ask why we do what we do. What’s the dent we’re trying to make in the universe, for better or worse? What do we really, truly believe? What kind of people should join our cause?

Companies like Innocent Smoothies, the Walt Disney Company, Apple; all have a clearly communicated sense of who they are. These companies, who can confidently, authentically express themselves will come through loud and clear, and can be a magnet for like-minded potential customers and advocates.

Sincerity examples

  • The Fun Theory by Volkswagen had a clear vision – to bring more fun into the world and to make it a better place. It demonstrated this authentically with a series of experiments ( like this one to encourage people to take the stairs at a tube station) designed to make mundane tasks more fun.People engaged and shared willingly because they detected a genuine commitment from Volkswagen.
  • You are blind – built to raise awareness about blindness, this website not only shows sympathy with the blind due to its purpose, but instills empathy in the participant by having them experience a day in the life of a blind person.The subject matter is handled sensitively and leaves you thinking about how our environment can be improved to benefit the blind.

Being sincere

Knowing where to find your kindred spirits has a huge impact on your ability to talk openly.When I first started using Twitter, I’d tweet away incessantly on subjects I thought were interesting, to the entire world. The world didn’t tweet back. I lost confidence and my motivation to tweet soon disappeared.

A few months ago, I started browsing and posting on Reddit, and was amazed at how many like-minded individuals you can find if you know where to look. Reddit organises itself into subreddits – each named and built around a particular interest, so identifying users with common interests was easy. Suddenly I was reassured, felt welcomed and was able to converse with people who shared many common interests – from gaming to cooking to marketing.

Returning to Twitter, I realised hashtags served exactly the same purpose. With the SquaredOnline course, I can use a hashtag which unites me with people who have common interests, and we can all babble away merrily and share ideas.

Knowing how and where to find your kindred spirits on digital has a huge impact on your enjoyment and success. It can give you the confidence to be who you are.

3. A sense of adventure

Photo by Håkon Thingstad / CC BY

Digital marketers need guts to get the glory. Testing, accepting failures and learning from it are daily occurrences for them. If you want to be the first person in your company to try a snapchat campaign, don’t expect your colleagues to volunteer their help. They’re more likely to stand back and spectate your rise or demise. Digital marketers are the pioneers; the spirit of adventure takes us to exciting new places where we set a stake in the ground for others to follow. Optimism and a love of adventure are what carry us through.

Failing early and fast is synonymous with digital. A marketer driving a digital project needs:

  • The strength of character to try out new ideas (planning)
  • The commitment and attention to detail to observe what happens (measure with analytics)
  • The humility to learn from the results and look honestly at how it performed (conducting analysis and starting a new test)

The good news is that with powerful analytics packages now now free and accessible, trying something and tracking results is easier than ever. The cost of entry to new channels has lowered, too. Analytics allow us to observe interactions in real time, to quickly set up split tests to optimise everything from the colour of your webpage to the position of a call-out button.

Adventure examples

Volvo ‘the hook’

Volvo’s president showed his own sense of adventure with this real-life demonstration of the reliability of volvo parts. He staked his reputation and well-being on the quality of Volvo trucks by dangling precariously from a crane in Gothenburg harbour.

Lynx Snapchat
Lynx trialed a new campaign using Snapchat, sharing exclusive behind-the-scences pictures and encouraging users to submit their own. They even had a strategy for any risqué photos, responding with pictures of a cold shower and suggesting the user take a minute to clean up.

Chasing adventure

Analytics keep you grounded

Having a list of questions which relate to your objectives is the first requirement before delving into analytics. Then get analytics into your site, your app, or your service. Once analytics are in place give yourself permission to fail, provided that you learn from each failure.

Choose your own adventures

I love to disappear into the unknown on hikes, wild camps, adventure races and climbing whenever I can. Find an adventure that works for you, keep your appetite alive and remember to dare greatly whenever you can!

I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.

Thomas Edison

What else?

Curiosity, sincere interest in others and a sense of adventure are three important parts of a digital marketer’s DNA.

In a busy, disruptive environment, these traits help us navigate new territories and leap bravely into the unknown. Cultivating each trait and keeping our eyes open for new opportunities is what will keep us competitive.

As digital continues to evolve, what important traits do you think a digital marketer needs? What will keep us afloat as the pace of change increases?

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