I have few pet peeves in life. In fact, I try to be generally accommodating and very ‘go with the flow.’ But one thing that really gets under my skin is reading a website, social profile or resume in which the company or person declares themselves an expert, superstar or other superlative that implies they hold a level of knowledge that others do not when it comes to digital and online understanding.
Now, a big caveat to this pet peeve is that I ‘get it’ and some of you have more experience, more years within your industry, etc. What’s more, some of you just think highly of yourselves and want to express that in a way that leads to the equivalent of awesomeness. But lets be real – an expert in digital marketing does not exist. Let’s discuss why.
In 1972, the internet – and digital life as we knew it – was very basic. Today, the internet is billions of times larger than that and growing every day. Just think about everything you do online: web browsing, research, social networking, email, fantasy sports, video watching. The list is significant. So we come back to my peeve – how can you be an expert in all of that? Chances are, you’re not.
On top of all the stuff that comprises ‘digital’ and ‘online,’ it’s trumped by the fact that it’s growing daily. There’s a never ending stream of changes to how we develop websites, how we maximize email marketing for the highest open rates, and how we can drive more traffic/conversions/sales to find that mythical creature that is ROI.
But fear not! This is not meant to discourage fellow contemporaries or companies that beat their chest proudly. It’s more a call-to-arms. Let’s strive to be experts or damn close to it. There are many resources – conferences, websites, blogs – that have turned away from the structure of an expert preaching to you and simply aim to promote conversation and advancement of the digital marketing industry. The only way to stay on top of it is to become immersed in it and be aware of at least a percentage of it.
My favorite anecdote on this topic revolves around a massively hyped and now defunct device – the BlackBerry Playbook. A few years ago, right after it was announced but long before it went on sale, a client asked, “What’s my website going to look like on that BlackBerry Playbook that was just announced.”
I said (abbreviating ), “Well, when it’s available, we can find out.”
Now, the tech-savvy among you will bring up responsive design, having a tablet-ready mobile site, etc., and you’re right, that’s the exact ‘right’ answer. But look at what I was being asked – to be an expert on a device that wasn’t even available to test on or play with. And that’s exactly why we cannot be experts, and we have to let our clients and peers know we aren’t.
Agency life tends to be a bit crazy. Day to day we don’t know what’s going to come across our desk or what impact the latest digital technology announcement will bring. Of course I had no idea what the website would look like on a BlackBerry Playbook, but I had at least heard of it, read some other industry thoughts and opinions, and even had an iPad to make some basic comparison to. But I couldn’t give an exact answer and I was OK with that.
Experts live and play in medical fields, in hard facts, in provable scientific methods. Not in marketing communications and certainly not in digital strategy and execution. But that’s what also makes it really cool – we get to play, to experiment, and sometimes, fail. In no other field that I can think of can I say to someone, “Well, I don’t know. Let’s give it a shot,” have that person give me the time and budget to try it out and if it fails, go back to them and say, “You know, that didn’t work, but here’s what we learned from it and here’s how we can make it better.”
I’m Michael Schwabe and I’m not an expert. Oh, and my other pet peeve? Using your windshield wipers at a ludicrous speed when it’s merely drizzling.