When I deleted my personal Instagram account I didn’t make an announcement or cue anyone into what was going to happen. In hindsight, maybe that was reckless, but the people I’m meant to stay connected with have reached out on other platforms, so I think (hope) I’m not totally nuking my network with a rash departure from my personal social accounts.

On the phone yesterday one friend had mentioned they looked for my account, and when they didn’t find it…assumed I was taking a digital detox. Implied in this, at least to me, was the assumption that I would be back.

This assumption is massively common these days. We’ve come to expect that the frenetic pace of social and smartphones are just part of life, and aren’t surprised when people need a break. I’ve had other friends take a vacation from social, and another dear friend recently turned their phone off for a week. Just yesterday I read an article by James Clear where he shared a horrifying productivity hack wherein he has his assistant change his social media passwords every Monday, only granting him access again on Friday.

That last one…what the actual heck is healthy about that? I think that yes, it’s a smart hack. But what does it say about the world when these sorts of drastic measures are necessary to regulate the distractions in our lives? What does this indicate about how well we’re coping with the digital world we’re dragged into that we regularly need hacks to stay productive or full detoxes from the pace of it all?

If most people are this exhausted by their digital interactions, it doesn’t bode well for digital marketers and people trying to reach their customers online. You can’t market to someone digitally if they shut off their devices.

These behaviors seem to be the death rattle of social and digital marketing. A sign that marketing as we know it is not sustainable if we keep using the same tactics and strategies that are currently burning people out. Sure, social and news in itself is a lot for the average psyche to take, but then pile on constant flashing ads and CTAs and we’re not making the digital environment any more sustainable.

Consider what Tivo and DVRs did to TV commercials. They completely undermined the efficacy of those channels. When we can zoom right past the ads, we will.

Ad blockers have been trying to do this, with notable success, on the internet. In response, marketers & advertisers have pushed harder. Making the pop-ups flashier, paywalling content, and otherwise making the internet an absolute pit for distractions. It’s like pouring chemical fertilizers and herbicides on your land, eventually, you’re going to deplete the very thing you hope to grow from.

Collectively, as businesses and marketers, it’s time to find ways to reach people without burning them out and making more noise. It’s not just smart, it’s vital. Otherwise, we can’t act surprised when more people opt for flip-phones or light-phones and digital detoxes become our day to day norm.

Some of the best ways to connect thoughtfully are methods considered “old news”, especially email lists. Once touted as a dying form of marketing, smart marketers and businesses are realizing that when done right it’s a great way to stay connected with your customers and community. Anyone who says that email is dead and social is where it’s at is asking for trouble. If the antitrust laws don’t throttle these platforms, their algorithms are surely not going to do you any favors–they’re only out for their own profit.

What does doing email “right” even mean? Doing it correctly means not spamming your subscribers, providing value and service in the content you share, and being mindful of how full their inbox is. Getting access to someone’s inbox is not a privilege we should take for granted.

I signed up for a seed distributor’s email list to get occasional coupons and see what’s new during different planting seasons. I don’t get their emails anymore because they sent a flashy promotion every. single. day. It was too much for me. Really, I only need to occasionally buy seeds or I’d need a machete to get into my backyard.

When I asked if there was a weekly wrap-up or less frequent option, they said no…I could only choose to get their daily emails because the promotions were good for one day only.

This is absurd. I’m offering them the chance to market to me, just at a lower frequency that I can manage. Instead, they’ve lost the opportunity to market to me at all. I can sign up again at any time if I really wanted their coupons that bad, and in the meantime, I am ripe for poaching by other companies.

Their behavior felt like they were announcing that their daily promotions were worth the hassle of deleting them every day. Guess what…they’re not. It felt like they were saying I should welcome the privilege of getting their coupons, which makes me like them less and I hate saying that because they do amazing stuff with open-pollinated and heirloom seeds.

Let’s face it, at the end of the day…to me, the customer, my happiness and my experience are the most important things to me when I consider interacting with a brand. I am my own #1! And guess what, all your customers are their own #1 as well (ok maybe their kids take #1 but they’re still top 3, but the marketing to someone with a kid thing is a riff for another day).

So ask yourself, is your marketing too aggressive for your target audience? Some audiences can handle a lot more, but come on…gardeners tend to be unplugged people. We want to get in the dirt, not sift through emails.

Know your people, and don’t be afraid to dial it back and meet people where they’re at. The last thing you should do is add more noise to the digital world, especially when your people are asking you explicitly for a bit less noise. (Seriously guys, if your customers ever ask to stay on your list at a lower frequency MAKE IT HAPPEN, that’s a gift to get that request and if one person asks hundreds more could be wishing the same or just unsubscribing and never saying a peep)

Let’s not let our marketing efforts be the thing that drives more humans to need a digital detox, that’s only going to make it harder to reach people at all in the long run.


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