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Digital First is the new paradigm of marketing, because if marketing works well in the complex world of social media. it works everywhere else as well.

by Jerry “Doctor Spin” Silver // Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
Senior Digital Strategist // Spin Factory

I’ve worked within many disciplines of marketing. Each and every one has merit, all depending on what the brand is setting out to accomplish through marketing.

It’s not a contest, but many professionals sure are trying to make it into one.

When I decided to focus 100% on digital, the majority of my peers in the traditional advertising and public relations industry tried to convince me that I’d better set my mind to making my transition a temporary one.


Because they were convinced that traditional marketing would catch up, and when it (meaning they) did, my specific line of business (“digital marketing”), wouldn’t be considered a separate discipline for more than a couple of years.

“Enjoy it while it lasts,” they said.

The Digital Gap Is Increasing

Now, depending on where you’d place the starting marker, I’d say we’re well over five years into the complete professionalisation of digital marketing. And traditional marketers… hasn’t really caught up yet. In fact, more often, they aren’t even close. Instead, the gap is wider than ever.

And this is quite in order; digital marketing is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. As soon as you stumble upon something new, yet another endless abyss of potential knowledge opens up under your feet.

A few examples from the top of my head:

  1. Multiple consumer touchpoints. The constantly emerging complexity of inbound and outbound SEO, SEM and SMO and what happens when penguins and Google authorships re-writes all known maps.
  2. Tracking consumer behaviour. Big data acquisition and statistical social media analysis, cross-referenced to the vast seas of internally generated data sets.
  3. Branded journalism. The challenges with producing multimedia communication fast, cheap and how to seed it.
  4. Online retention and loyalty. The explosive importance of inbound marketing in general and content marketing in particular.
  5. New media logic. A whole new body of knowledge on how to work with influencers who aren’t driven by reporting someone else’s news. And being relevant in a time when everyone has access to their own printing presses.
  6. Permission marketing. The mechanics of e-commerce fuelled by list-building and socially sparked email send-outs, a complete and total shift from chronological to event-based communication cycles.
  7. In-depth testing. The fascinating and never-ending science that is on-site conversion, with everything from eye-movement analysis and A/B-testing to advanced social psychology insights driving how we optimise online communication.
  8. Marketing-as-a-Service). Moving from “marketing as fireworks” to MaaS (Marketing as a Service).
  9. The Money Web. How the Hippie Web is quickly being replaced by a more exclusive and transactional Money Web.
  10. Cross-functional teams. Working closely together with coders, programmers, art directors, interaction designers and big data engineers, incorporating them into the strategic communication process.

This Is The New Business Unusual

Now, I hate to say it, but traditional marketing doesn’t just “absorb” all of this during business as usual. This is, to paraphrase Henriette Weber, business unusual. And, so what is in fact happening?

Boom. Instead of seeing digital marketing specialists disappear, they constantly get better positions within companies. and they start new innovative agencies.

Boom. I’ve helped several start-ups to recruit marketing specialists. And what main competence do they want for their first hire? Digital marketing specialists, hands down.

Boom. If you’re doing a campaign today, who does company want to establish the strategy? More and more, digital. Why?

Because, if you look at the simplified model below, if it works in digital, it’s easy to make it work elsewhere as well. Digital is the best representation of how communication flows through a society that we have to date.


Because digital is what moves people’s perception of the world the fastest. It has taken over as our primary outlet for both information absorption and multi-level dialogue.

So, what does all of this mean?

Digital First

As I said, it’s not a contest. All types of marketing has merit; it all comes down to what you’re trying to achieve. But in case you haven’t noticed—digital marketing is not a fad.

Remember that the day your Head of Marketing knows more about digital than anyone else in the Marketing Department, because that’s simply why she or he got the job in the first place. Or, remember that the day your traditional marketing agency is being sold to a powerful international network of digital agencies.

It was never about what role digital marketing should play in traditional marketing. It was always the other way around.

Some related reading:

Image credit: Infocux Technologies


PS. You want to download a secret workbook on how to create social media strategies in a few easy-to-implement steps? Based on my expertise from being a PR professional and a digital strategist for 10+ years, I’ve put together a free guide that will take you to the process of creating a social media strategy, step by step, action by action. Learn more here.

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Behind the keyboard:

Jerry Silver is the author of Doctor Spin, a PR blog that's been around for 15+ years. Via his agency Spin Factory, Jerry is advising brands on how to adapt to a 'digital first' world. In 2016, Cision Scandinavia named him "PR Influencer of the Year". Jerry lives in Stockholm, Sweden with his wife Lisah, news anchor and television host, and their three-year-old son, Jack.

Doctor Spin’s comment policy:
“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Reader reactions:

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CarlahayesinKC DoktorSpinn amen. it’s really an excellent article Jerry


itsjessicann CarlahayesinKC Thanks guys, glad to hear you liked it!


henrietteweber Yes, FTW! Thanks for inspiration!


DoktorSpinn anytime ;)


It is digital first. But it is also planning exit strategies for many campaigns. Having built up a huge following, why do so many then slam the door, leaving their followers in the lurch.

Jerry Silfwer

JonathanMarks Thanks for stopping by, Jonathan. And I agree, it’s a disgrace. I think it’s because campaigning is the quickest way to get into the whole thing, so many creatives sort of takes the money and runs as soon as the campaign is “over”.


Having a background in Data Mining, I’m very interested in your second point. Could you please elaborate a little bit on how you are using big data in your digital marketing?
As for me, when I’ve worked with data it has almost always been in house data used for either creating clusters or discovering exceptions in different flows.

Jerry Silfwer

aspelund Awesome question!
A couple of examples:
1. Looking at trends from social media conversations and looking for historical correlations in sales data.
2. Cross-referencing web metrics and inbound linking with brand share of voice.
3. All the stuff that can be extracted from competitor activities online. Quantifiable learning from other mistakes and successes in digital marketing! :)
4. Big data mining to establish segmentations, publics, target groups and even personas – based on actual online behaviours.
5. A bit tricky still, but soon I think we’ll be able to do some quite accurate analysis of how exactly brand messages spread and trace it backwards to better understand niche influencer dynamics.
A lot of fancy stuff, but for sure an interesting future as digital marketing and data mining integrates! :)