Within the last eight weeks, Facebook rolled out GIF-supported polls, introduced sponsored messages, and altered its algorithm yet gain. Snapchat launched location-based context cards, Instagram introduced its own version of polls, and Twitter expanded its character limit to 280 and rewrote its user guidelines.
For creatives, it’s easy to become obsessed (or frightened) by the ceaseless flood of social media updates that saturate tech blogs on a daily basis. It seems impossible to keep up with every new trend, update, or modification – never mind mastering them or successfully incorporating them into an integrated communications plan.
This isn’t to say we should hunker down and revert to faxing press releases. There’s certainly something to be said for the ability to adapt – Elasticity’s founding principle. It’s cool to be the first brand to do “X” and to be seen as an innovating, disruptive force, or liberating to know that you’re putting the client in the best position to succeed. But when trend-chasing and instant gratification are given more weight than foresight and long-term value, your sense of autonomy is quickly lost.
The strategist Robert Greene calls this being in tactical hell: being perpetually reactive to other people’s demands and needs, driven by emotional impulses instead of logical ones, fighting battle after trivial battle.
This is where a critical lesson from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos comes into play: “Focus on the things that don’t change.”
Many people, including marketers, are not strategic. Instead they are reactive, chasing one fad after another without a plan, a vision, or sense of how one decision impacts the next. They may be working hard, experimenting with every new update and tweaking their content for the algorithms. But more often than not, they fail to deliver. They forget that technology can’t compensate for ideas and strategies – it can only supplement them.
Bezos addressed the seductiveness of short-sighted thinking in a letter to his shareholders nearly two decades ago:
“We believe that a fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the long term.” He went on to explain that Amazon would always focus on the longer term, “rather than short-term profitability or short-term Wall Street reactions.”
Bezos understands that real value lies in thinking decades ahead, not giving in to the shiny keys jingling in our peripheral vision. He understands that business isn’t about what’s new. It’s about what works. His maxim, to focus on the things that don’t change, is perennial. It’s held true through years past, and will not change in the years to come.