How to Be a Digital Media Douchebag


I met a great friend for coffee today, and as usual, we ended up discussing digital marketing, a favourite topic for both of us.  One thing that kept striking us is how bad most digital marketers are at, well, marketing.

"The last thing I need," says said friend, "Is another shot of you with a three day beard, or you drinking a latte, or you retweeting your brand's tweets, and then going into your client's account, and retweeting what you just retweeted.  That's not exactly community management, that's being a douchebag."

It's sad, but I'd have to agree.

Digital marketing has exploded in the last two to five years.  I'm speaking just from experience, but I pulled this set of slides with 2008 forecasts that say companies are spending more dollars on programs than personnel.  I think this implies a move towards automated services that are being paid for, which is digital media.  And budgets for digital media are set to increase, according to some people in the space.

This is a topic for another time, but this relates quite a bit to your 'online digital brand.'   I've just done a typical google search, and I came up with 1.12 million results on how-to articles on 'your personal online brand.'  Another great quote from said friend:

"A student came up to me the other day and said they were stressed about their digital brand.  I told them to forget about it because who really cares?  No one cares about your online digital brand if your skills suck.  I've never heard 'You have lots of experience, a great resume and great skills, but we just can't hire you because your digital footprint isn't great.'  Really?"

Again, I agree.  I did a quick survey of all the people I know on twitter working in agencies.  I would say about 3/4 of them have between 100-400 followers on twitter.  Which is equivalent to saying, no digital footprint, as far as I can tell.  And these are people who have been hired by PR agencies.

The best part about all of this is that these people think they are big deals in social media, in the social media space.  In reality, however, they are "self-important self-absorbed idiots that like to talk about themselves."  (ie. the criticism most often applied to Gen Y really is specifically reserved for these kind of social media disasters.)  I am vaguely aware of Toronto's social media glitterati, and I can say with a fair amount of honesty that I don't care for most of them.  I'm sure some of them are nice, but perhaps there's a line between good social media connections and simply broadcasting louder and way too often?

Reality Check:  Most people like social media as a way to open their eyes to new audiences.  But unfortunately, there's still that segment in life and the business world that turn it into a popularity contest.  (Shame.)




I'm a PR professional and I love social media, reading, tech and bad tv.


  1. avatar

    Yasmine Kashefi says:

    I think it's important to note that while yes, having a digital footprint doesn't mean you're a superstar at all things digital, having one can help get your foot in the door. Having some sort of presence online doesn't necessarily equate to digital douchebaggery. It can, in some cases, demonstrate you have an understanding of the space you want to work in.

    More importantly, if you're already interacting with the people you may potentially work for down the road, that gives you a competitive edge.

    Again, I absolutely agree that, in the long run, having a digital footprint or brand is useless if you don't have the skills to back it up. But let's not discount the benefits it can have, especially if you're just starting out in your career.

    • avatar

      Brennan says:

      Thanks for the comment, Yasmine.

      I guess where I would differ is that I would prefer to see employers and potential employers consider an applicant for what they can bring to a company, not how many friends they have on Facebook. It's funny because I have worked in the digital space for a relatively short amount of time, and I find myself switching to a very conservative viewpoint on this.

  2. avatar

    Stephanie Schweitzer says:

    Hello Friends,

    While a "presence" in the digital space is important, my fear is that it's being pushed to the forefront of curriculums and people aren't placing importance on basic skills and even the simple things like attention to detail. Whether or not your abbreviate every word of your tweet to make it fit into 140 characters is one thing, but not being able to thoroughly proof a piece of work before submitting it to your boss for review is another. Instead of looking at a digital presence or footprint as a "next step" we are treating it like the golden ticket to Willy Wonka's PR factory and exposing impressionable and confused student minds to people who aren't necessarily that great at their job, but people who have the loudest voices.

    The digital footprint helps, but at the end of the day your twitter handle means nothing to anyone if you can't correct the typo in your resume or submit a proper press release. Knowing social media is important, I'm not debating that, it's a skill everyone should have, but knowing how to understand the tools is different than being "influential". You can be an awesome digital strategist without tweeting about what you had for lunch and how much awesome you are radiating if you take the time to learn the tools and think creatively about how to use them.

    • avatar

      Brennan says:

      Agreed. It's nice to have a presence, but that's different than

      a) creating a twitter account and letting it die

      b) having writing skills and the 'pr people' skills needed to survive in this business. I think digital strategy and execution is a set of skills, just like public affairs, consumer marketing, etc.


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