Digital Marketing is a Lie.

Six steps. That’s the distance between you and everything else.

Or at least it is according to the Theory of Six Degrees of Separation, a concept that inspired social media networking as we know it today. In 1997, social media pioneer Andrew Weinreich brought this idea of universal connectivity to life and launched sixdegrees.com, a website credited as the first modern social media network.

Six Degrees was based on a networking model known as the Web of Contacts. In this model users create a personal profile and begin building their network (or web) of friends, family, and co-workers. As the number of users and connections made on the site increase, the intricate pattern of the virtual web becomes more and more complex. If you were to physically draw out an accurate representation of this web it wouldn’t be difficult to believe that six steps really is the greatest distance between you and anyone in the world.

In those days of social media infancy the primary purpose of virtual networking was quite straightforward: to simply connect. Over the years social media has taken a number of progressive steps in its method of connection and continues to evolve at an increasingly rapid pace. In the nearly twenty years that modern social media has been around we’ve seen major networking sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook compete in a head-to-head battle for social dominance. In doing so, they’ve been forced to forge their own unique niche in the digital sphere, differentiating themselves from their competitors.

As a result of this differentiation we’ve found ourselves facing a virtual buffet of connection.

If you prefer to stay visually connected to your community then Instagram is going to be your media channel of choice. If you want to see the latest news, headlines and pop culture updates at a scroll, then Twitter is probably your best bet. If you want to actually hear from your network then join Voxer. It’s like a social media walkie talkie. Currently Facebook is facing a quasi-identity crisis, but it still remains the king of local community connection. LinkedIn is undeniably the hub for virtual networking, although I would venture to say it needs some updating if it wants to have long-term staying power. And this conversation wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, and Medium.

All of this to say that the devices that sit on our desks and ride along in our handbags and back pockets have caused a critical shift in the overarching social dynamic. As our virtual web of connection grows in complexity it becomes more and more a part of our actual reality. The line of distinction between digital and physical is blurred to the point of being obsolete. Unlike the early days of social media when online networks were still a somewhat disconnected community, we are interacting with the virtual world in much the same way that we interact with the physical world.

The business implications of this social shift cannot be ignored. Traditional forms of marketing are fading in relevance as native digital ads and social media marketing are stealing the show. When done correctly, digital marketing just makes sense. The most successful online strategies I’ve ever encountered simply share the culture and life of the brand through an authentic lens. The modern consumer appreciates the company that lets them in the backdoor. They respond to the business that makes them feel like “one of the regulars” and they want to see the human side of the products they buy. Social media has made this kind of intimate interaction between buyers and sellers possible. And to view it as simply an option amongst all the other forms marketing could prove to be a costly mistake.

If you go to any of my personal social media profiles you’ll see my work title listed as “digital marketing.” But truth be told, that’s a lie. I work in marketing, plain and simple. To segment the industry into separate buckets creates the illusion of there actually being a real life distinction between the digital and the physical. That just isn't the case. And if you lie to yourself by saying that your "digital" presence is a separate entity from your "actual" presence, you're doing yourself a great disservice.

One click. That’s the true distance between you and everything else.