Everyone who has worked in digital marketing must at some time or other failed at a task or campaign. The entire ethos for all good digital marketers is to test and learn and make evidence based decisions and therefore these failures, just like in real life, can teach you more than the successes.

With this in mind, the best thing we can do is mitigate the risk of failure by ensuring all of our activities are as planned and well executed as possible. For example, at Kier we run a company blog which has seen a fair amount of success and has definitely met our original objectives. Without these objectives (an integrated approach, increased organic reach and an improved amount of positive mentions against our competitors) we would have no idea if this task was worthy of our valuable time.

I have seen so many social media accounts simply die a death due to no clear strategy and whilst they are given a lot of focus early on (or as part of a campaign) they are then just left to rot and in the long run actually do more harm to the brand than they ever did good. A neglected social media account says a lot about a company - usually the date the person previously maintaining it handed in their notice!

My latest analogy (those who have worked with me will know I love an analogy!) is that all digital activities/websites are like gardens. Unless you are prepared to continue to build, weed, cultivate and monitor them then there is little point having one in the first place.

In filming one of our #KierHeroes videos with our Kier Living team I was interested that their philosophy is to not only build the houses but also to regularly check back to ensure there are no problems and oversee any maintenance. This can also be applied to setting up any new online channels - the continued maintenance is as important as the build.

It's easy to neglect a lot of very important tasks early on and no doubt we have all been guilty of some of these either through misguided leadership, time and budget constraints:
  • A Google Analytics account with no goals/conversions
  • Social Media accounts with no objectives, content strategy or monitoring
  • Email campaigns that are not integrated into the marketing plan or followed up
  • Google AdWords campaigns that are not regularly checked and don't link to a bespoke landing page
  • Print adverts with no performance measurement or call to action
Google analytics flatline!
This could be a very long list and it is our job to ensure that nothing goes out the door that isn't part of a wider marketing plan. Sometimes it may mean asking some difficult questions but without some of the above our efforts will have little chance of the success being measured, being optimised to the maximum valuable insight being gained to prove we have not wasted our time and money.

I'm pleased to say that I have now reached a stage in my career where I am able to drive a campaign forward with a clear vision and objectives. Of course, some may not have the impact which was originally hoped for but if we can learn something from this the end result may be better than if it had worked. For example, we have learnt from trial and error that the best time to post our B2B social content is 3pm - 4pm (there's obviously a dip in workplace energy at that time) and for our B2C content a 7.30pm - 9pm slot works better (people are clearly multi-screening at home). Without some of our content falling on deaf ears this would not something we could have discerned.

The importance of learning from your mistakes cannot be underestimated as this is the best way ensure you constantly evolve and innovate.
'Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently' - Henry Ford
Another day, another awards shortlist! However, for the first time ever this is in a completely different sector to what I'm used to! Previously we've either been recognised in education (in my previous role) or individually for this blog. Therefore, I'm very proud that the hard work has paid off and we've been nominated at the Construction Marketing Awards 2015 for Best Social Media Campaign and Best Use of Content Marketing for our #KierHeroes campaign.

Originally the main purpose of writing frequent awards entries was to primarily focus efforts when planning/analysing campaigns and to gain much needed internal buy-in for our efforts. However, recently I've noticed that I don't seem to need to do as much  internal hard sell on the importance of digital. An increasingly number of staff and executives seem to get it - and more often than not when I present it is to a room of nodding heads.

The challenge comes when, having been given executive support, this is not backed up by a strong strategic direction. There is simply just a vague vision stating that digital is vital to the company's success but this is not backed up by any real details, support or extra resources. Whilst the importance is acknowledged there is very little understanding to make recommendations.

Digital = approved!
These executives are no doubt very intelligent and this lack of a strategic outline is really not their fault. They have extremely high pressured roles and so they cannot (and should not) delve into the intricate details of everyday operations. They have set the agenda and it's down to the workforce to make it a reality. If this doesn't happen there is a real danger it will fall at the first hurdle for two reasons:

  • It is just a vague mission statement that fades before it takes root
  • It gets highjacked by people attaching their own agenda to an executive directive - Therefore it turns into an excuse to either acquire a new IT system or staff for the marketing team
It's down to us digital professionals to stop this occurring and to immediately take action as a team to use this as an opportunity to instigate company-wide changes. In order for this directive to change working practices it will mean concentrating on any barriers that may stop this happening and thinking about how to overcome them.

For example, at Kier we have a big emphasis on offering training to other employees to support the digital first vision. I've also spent a lot of time on our digital strategy which outlines the return on investment for these activities and covers which work is the most important with all key milestone clearly mapped. Chiefly it sets the digital agenda from the outset to ensure the business understands what digital first means in practice. It is then a matter of presenting this back to senior management and leaving it up them to decide if this is a solution which they are happy to support.

Share the knowledge!
Therefore, rather than being thrown when support and backing is offered it is up to us to drive this strategy forward. With both the continued internal buy-in (from ongoing training, one to ones and workshops) and analytics to support our constant testing learning from any campaigns, we as a team can take charge of the direction in which our digital efforts are headed.

It's with this is mind that I was delighted to discover this recent blog post analysing all of the big players in the construction industry and their social media strategies. We get a glowing mention (particularly for our company blog, LinkedIn and Integration) which shows the plans we have put into place are really starting to drive forward the external reputation of the company.

Being given this green light to move the company forward by executives is an opportunity that is too good to miss. It's up to us to grab it with both hands and to start shaping the solutions ourselves.

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