5 Ways Good Companies Screw Up Digital Media

Jeff Elder
3 min readFeb 17, 2019

It’s been a good decade since many companies jumped into blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and later Instagram. Yet fundamental and elemental rookie mistakes still trip up many good companies. Here are five major areas that are simple, if not always easy, to fix.

5. It’s not an offensive game. Digital media is straight-up defense, and not just customer service and brand protection. Your customers are talking to you. Social listening, search data, and performance metrics are market research you can do every day. Tune in. No one cares what you want to promote. You have to promote what they care about. See great examples of how brands do this on the Hootsuite blog here.

4. It’s about governance, not ownership. “Who owns social?” is one of the dumbest questions thrown out in communications and marketing departments (along with “How do we change our Wikipedia page?”) What that often means is “What executive gets budget for social?” While that’s important, executives often screw up budget allocation for digital media anyway (see №1). What’s far more important is who has governance over your company’s digital media. Who measures the data? Who oversees work on the platform? Who actually hits “send” or “publish”? If the answer is an agency, you have given away your power. If there is no centralized committee with accountability and best practices, you are not organizing and growing your power. Read why companies need to master digital media governance from Forbes here.

3. It’s not about strategy. Having a big Wile E. Coyote plan for how to capture the Road Runner of digital media success often blows up in your face. Why? Because it’s contrived. Because you’re trying to do something you don’t naturally do. Authenticity – which often means sincerity and strategy – is far more valuable than your whiteboard inspiration. Authenticity is your company DNA. Trust it. Bring it out. What you write, photograph, video record, and post should surprise no one with its ad-agency savvy. It should feel right, familiar, and real. If you’re afraid of that, you have big problems that go way beyond digital media. Read more about authenticity – and how strategic it can be – on the Content Marketing Institute here.

2. Digital media should come first. Too often in comms and marketing plans, blog posts and social media posts are the last bullet on the agenda, the hood ornament added to the car. They should be the car’s engine. Because you control owned media, it can be the very essence of your message. Courting the outside media and trying to persuade them to adopt your message is a feeble and passive pursuit. Get out in front of your message and state it clearly. Craft the PR and other messaging around the published posts. Then you are showing, not telling. The media and other influencers are far more likely to respond to polished published posts than pleas for their attention. Don’t wait for coverage of your company to light up the world; light up the world with our message. Read how companies are prioritizing earned media in a Cision report here.

Light up the world with your message.

1.Cultivate brand spokespeople and trust them. The people who work on your digital media need room to work. They need trust and support. If they are constantly looking over their shoulders at meddling bosses, or awaiting the latest shake of the strategy Etch-A-Sketch, they can’t do good work. And they often leave. Digital media is a great job market. Too many people who work in it hopscotch jobs away from meddling managers who trust the latest industry trends more than their own people. Digital media isn’t about adopting some alchemy you heard at a conference. It’s not about throwing money at a new tool or platform or promoted post. It’s about mastering the processes you already have. Read more about high employee turnover related to social media here.



Jeff Elder

Former WSJ reporter and syndicated columnist now writing crypto and cybersecurity. The Paris Review praised my Johnny Cash post.