The Necessity of Trial and Error

I took this photo about 15 times before I captured the right moment with the right settings

My approach to trying new things or learning new disciplines is and has always been to jump right in and do it. From teaching myself how to play guitar as a kid to becoming a vegetarian to engineering complex big data systems for clients, I always just go for it and figure it out along the way. I like to think this is a good trait – though it’s incredibly detrimental to putting together Ikea furniture.

But of all the things I’ve done in my life and all the passions I’ve pursued, I think I can say that the one that has involved the most trial and error – and the most facepalm moments – is photography and videography. I don’t mean point-and-shoot photography or taking photos on my iPhone. I mean switching your DSLR to manual mode and manual focus and going to work taking photos and shooting video.

The other complication to this is that I’m a perfectionist, so my idea of error includes a shot slightly out of focus or a little overexposed. But when you’ve never taken a class or had professional training in a discipline (and sometimes even if you have), the learning process involves trial and error. And the key word there is error. Error is an essential element of that equation. If you ever find something you do perfectly the first time, then you’re probably not going to enjoy doing it for very long because there’s no challenge, there’s no personal art to it, there’s no chance to hone your craft.

The chemist and author Orlando A. Battista once wrote, “An error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” I would expand on that to say that a number of errors don’t equal failure as long as you keep at it to get them right. This is really the nature of producing anything – of creativity, of craft. The people who get really good at a skill or an art often had people tell them (maybe for years) that they were no good at what they were doing or that the product of their work was crap. But if you can sift out the constructive criticism from the noise, then going through that actually provides a pretty accelerated learning curve.

In addition to continuing to overcome errors in the process of creating, another essential element is getting work done. My friend Alan talks about how good work that is finished is, by nature, better than “perfect” work that was never completed. Because we all know there’s really no such thing as perfect anyway. The illustrator and cartoonist Jake Parker hits the nail on the head in a video about this. He makes this point: “The world wants, and it needs, people who finish things.” So, go do the thing you want to. Get it wrong, mess it up. But do it. Because just in doing it, you’re exponentially closer to doing it right than people who are afraid to try it in the first place.

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Digital Digest: Influencer marketing, too old for Snapchat, the creative imperative

You need to know about influencer marketing


In a few recent campaigns we’ve run for clients at SE2, we have employed influencers to amplify the campaigns beyond traditional owned and paid media and to reach very targeted audiences in an authentic way. The practice has worked very well for us thus far because we worked with influencers who are very thoughtful about their content and who make sure not to water down their channels with promotions. The other upside for us is that we were promoting positive public health messages that would be hard for someone not to get behind – from smoking prevention and cessation to helping Colorado kids get more active and healthy.

With the skyrocketing use of ad blockers and diminishing clickthrough rates on display advertising, influencer marketing will likely not only increase in popularity with marketers but may become the most effective and essential part of any campaign. Read more about what successful influencer marketing looks like.

Will Instagram save you from Snapchat? (Because let’s be honest, if you’re older than 22, Snapchat makes you feel old)


Even as a person who does digital strategy for a living, I will admit that I struggled at first to grasp why the hell I would ever use Snapchat personally. Then when I decided to, the interface was incredibly counterintuitive to me. I’ve since gotten slightly better at it, but there’s some good news: Instagram may save you and me and all of us who aren’t in our early 20s from having to use Snapchat. Find out more about Instagram’s alternative to Snapchat.

The Creative Imperative


The poet Mary Oliver wrote, “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

These powerful words are especially stirring to me right now as I’m diving back into blogging, writing new music for my band and starting some fun new digital marketing projects. The description of creative power as an uprising is especially on point as it’s like something almost subconscious, something primal in those who have it that insists on getting out – like a genie out of a bottle.

I know I’ve been suppressing that uprising in myself for a few months now because creativity isn’t a joyride. If you’re truly creating something, then you’re pulling from a depth of you where, well, to put it like they used to on old maps, “There be dragons.” It’s unsettling what you find, but going to those places allows you to uncover the wisdom there too. And then there’s the self-doubt and self-criticism that comes along with every single thing you create, but that’s another topic for another post. For now, check out more of what Mary Oliver has to say on the central commitment of the creative life.

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On Transparency


Last week, I ran across an article that talked about transparency in the workplace, and how that’s the essential key to a successful business where employees are happy and have fun. Google is the example so many companies look at as a paradigm of a fun culture. And those same companies think that putting in a ping pong table or foosball table or bar in the office is going to do that. But it doesn’t. A fun culture happens when employees feel informed about what’s going on and have clear communication channels where they know their voices will be heard. Then they can cut loose, let their hair down a little – because they’re confident in where they stand.

I could write a lengthy blog post on that alone, but really I’m just using it as a (somewhat clunky) analogy to talk about a shift I’m making on this blog.

And that shift is to be more transparent. Or, to put it another way, to chip away at the walls between personal and professional in an effort to provide something of more value to you as a reader…and to myself as a real human who’s writing about this stuff. I want you to connect with what you find here, and that’s only gonna happen if I pull back the curtain a bit and get real with you.

So, instead of limiting what I post here to digital marketing, I’m going to get a little bit personal and include the other facets of my life like music, photography/videography, philosophy (of the armchair variety) and other stuff. I’m also going to shoot for one post a week, at minimum. Because no one on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I would have written less about what matters to me.”

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Digital Digest: Who owns your social media, video trends and not telling chatbots your secrets

Con/Text Digital Digest: It’s like Reader’s Digest, except shorter, more cutting edge, significantly hipper…and, you won’t find it in your grandmother’s bathroom.

Do you really own your brand’s social media channels?


Technically, those of us in communications do consider social media as “owned” media properties. But that’s somewhat of a misnomer. If you’re publishing content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or a blogging platform like Medium – you’re building on rented land. Is that necessarily a bad thing? I would say no – because that rented land has a waaay better location for foot traffic than the land you actually own (i.e. your email list and website). Nonetheless, it’s good to keep in mind that when you’re on that rented land, the landlord can jack up the rent or just decide to kick you off it at any time – and this article gets to that point.

Are customers watching brands’ video content? If so, probably not on live TV
YouTubeReachCheck out more surprising stats about video consumption habits in this article.

The rise of the chatbots


“Chatbots get better with time and information. The more info you feed them, the better they become at mimicking natural language and making you believe they are real. Human even.”

That’s scary enough, but we also need to think about the threats chatbots could pose in terms of our online privacy and security. Read more on that.

The disease of being busy

I know I’m guilty of it – taking too much on at work, over-committing to outside projects, hobbies, social events, volunteer work. We all seem to hate being too busy. It keeps us from the things we want to be doing…but we don’t do anything to change it.

With our ever-connected world where we’re checking work emails around the clock, constantly scrolling on social media sites or swiping on dating apps, along with our packed-to-the-brim schedules, we’ve forgotten how to just be rather than always be doing. This article is slightly out of the norm for what I usually include in the Digital Digest, but in the buzz of our digital lives, we need to stop, take a breath and ask ourselves: When did we forget we are human beings, not human doings?



Digital Digest: Influencer Marketing Trends, the real purpose of Facebook’s new emojis and more

Con/Text Digital Digest: It’s like Reader’s Digest, except shorter, more cutting edge, significantly hipper…and, you won’t find it in your grandmother’s bathroom.


Forbes starts its own influencer network

I’m currently working on a blog on influencer marketing that I’ll publish soon, but I wanted to go ahead and share this news because of the possible trend shift it represents in native and influencer marketing. You may be aware of existing influencer marketing companies like TapInfluence that build relationships with influential individuals (usually social media personalities) so brands and agencies can easily connect with them (for a price, of course) to get their message in front of their campaign’s target audience.

Forbes is launching their own influencer network strictly for their publications (online and print) that shifts this model in a couple ways. One, instead of a random popular YouTuber or blogger, their influencers are journalists, academics and topic experts (like in cloud computing or monetary policy). Two, the native content lives on their channels alone. That fact is significant because it means they may no longer host content from other native ad platforms (like Outbrain). Though it might be a long time before a critical mass of sites/publications move to this model, it is an interesting development both for native content as well as how publications can create another income stream for themselves. Read more about BrandVoice Premium in this Wall Street Journal article.

The REAL reason FB added emoji reactions beyond Like

Long story short: the more Facebook knows about what mood you’re in or what emotional response you have to certain types of posts from friends and brands, they can learn how to get their hooks deeper into you and keep you on the platform for longer stretches of time. Learn more.

Some brands going all-in on election year


“A survey by the Global Strategy Group last year found that corporations that were seen as politically involved or attuned were viewed favorably — no matter which side of the aisle they were on.” Definitely a potentially dangerous strategy, but it can be executed effectively with the right mix of humor/cynicism. Of course, Neflix’s House of Cards is the clear winner here.

And your bonus prize of the week

From my favorite fake clickbait Facebook page…


Digital Digest: Twitter’s new algorithm, the new dynamics of PR and more

It’s like Reader’s Digest, except shorter, more cutting edge, significantly hipper…and, you won’t find it in your grandmother’s bathroom.

Image: Brittany Herbert/Mashable

Image: Brittany Herbert/Mashable

Twitter’s timeline goes algorithmic
Facebook has notoriously used complex algorithms to decide who and what you see in your Facebook News Feed – from friend posts to updates from that band you Liked two years ago (hint: you’ll never see that band’s posts unless they pay for it). Users can now opt in to see what Twitter thinks is “the best” at the top of their timelines. This change complements the platform’s First View ads, which stay at the top of Twitter feeds for 24 hours. Learn more

Are you a content marketing curmudgeon?
Well, if you have any blog you like reading or enjoy taking those “What Harry Potter Character Are You?” quizzes, then you shouldn’t be. You can also tweet at me, and I’ll give you a thousand reasons you should be totally jazzed about content marketing. Or you could read this article by a guy who was very against content marketing until he saw the light. Read it here.

Using Content to Battle Big Brother
Apple takes a strong stance in an essay explaining their refusal to build a back door into iPhones for the FBI as doing so would compromise the current and future privacy of all iPhone users. And the way Apple spreads that message illustrates the new dynamics of PR: they published directly to the public without the need to go through any news media outlets. Read more about that and read Tim Cook’s essay.

And your bonus prize of the week:

Tim Cook took a blurry photo at the Super Bowl and got seriously trolled for it