Thoughts on Learning Digital Marketing … in Digital Times.
TL;DR: The traditional ways to transfer knowledge from teacher to student (active — passive) are not the only ways to learn. Improve the skill of research and organisation of the available online assets and learn how not to feel overwhelmed with the task at hand. And a few other things… (the resources are in point 3 and 4)
But first …
Content has became the new digital currency: If I give you information, you give me attention (and maybe prestige and maybe money).
1/5 — The Establishment
I am a perpetual learner and I like it but it cannot be done in a traditional way.
As it happens all around the World, the systems are set to follow a certain linear pattern of behaviour:
Spend 2/3 of your life in in school with common subjects chosen for everyone and gradually you (the voice-modulator teenager without a clue of what it is coming ahead) can choose your own areas of interest and become who you want to be… but:
- Not everyone knows what to do in life
- Even if we do, it is likely to be a romanticised version with plenty of success.
- Only some of us have the chance to start a career and then move to a different one later in life.
Unsatisfactorily, like any other mass-system, it is based on scalability, aiming to solve the problem of how a process of teaching for 1 student can be expanded, implemented and controlled for millions of individuals worldwide.
“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”. — W. Churchill
In the same way, our current educational system is the worst form of education, except for all of the others.
This it is not by any means the only way to acquire knowledge. (I would gladly have learnt this simple tip rather than memorising the name of all the rivers and types of climate around the World. When was I supposed to use this anyway?)
The point is that we have one of the most powerful tools ever made accessible to the mainstream… The Internet, most specifically content on Internet and even more specifically everyone going batsh*t crazy wanting to share content over internet.
Gladly for the ones making a living out of the digital world, our teachers are now random strangers we happen to find on Youtube and our classrooms are wherever there computer is.
But not everything is good news! If everyone can produce his own currency means that there will be a lot of fake gold circulating around. This is actually one of the prices we pay by following an open-source way of learning - attention is expensive.
As of rule of thumb (with some exceptions) if the problem is complex and the teachers give us a dead simple (and free) solution it will most likely to be a big pile of BS with residuary application , and waste of time as well.
Between you and me, my personal archenemy of the marketing world is Neil Patel. All those clickbait blog titles, subscription pop-us everywhere and over inflated promises and all… for free! If you are brave enough, make sure you access his website on incognito because he’ll haunt you with retargeting ads.
(Neil, in the unlikely event you read this phrase, it is nothing personal and if you dislike my posts that’s ok, best regards).
2/5 — The Bottom of the Mountain & Organising Info
I am sure you have experienced the humbling feeling of being on the “bottom of a mountain” with billions of lines of information in front of you… So much to learn, so many places to look for the knowledge and so little time to be ahead of the game.
Roll up the sleeves, there is a dirty job to be done…
On my journey, I have Googled (if Shakespeare sees this…) many different queries all around digital marketing and all the “promising” findings were sent straight to an overwhelmingly growing list of “see later” “SEO” and “Growth” bookmark folders.
Later I realised that this method was just as good as having my own copy of the Google database just creating another mountain so, I started tagging the websites using Pocket instead.
The second approach was better but not good yet because I would not access all the URLs one by one to check for old and new material.
Let’s resolve (or at least come up with better solutions to) this problem first.
3/5 — The Alternative to the Establishment
My own conditioning of years of (traditional) learning was creating a bias to resolve the issue of organising all the information.
The question should be why do we keep the information manually centralised and not automatically distributed (with manual and automatic referring to the way we access the content).
Although not perfect, the best way I have found to keep up with all the resources I have been finding and that people referred to me along the time is to distribute them on social media, email subscriptions and aggregators like Feedly and Relevnt.
Let me explain: The publications I follow will show on the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter feeds so I’ll be exposed to new content. The content I found more interesting (Let’s call it “the core”) are sent to my email and all the remaining will be previewed on the aggregators.
What if I don’t access enough times to see all the new posts? It’s ok… The new technologies have opened to us a sea of knowledge but as a trade-off, we need to open hands and to realise that it cannot be contained in our brains all the time.
In the same way, learning the names of all the rivers in the country does not make sense because the information will be on demand when needed. The core? Of course, lets keep it close to us. The rest? Let’s find it when needed.
The process in the game is no longer You teach me > I memorise, it is more like research & organise > learn the core & retrieve the info on demand
See below a sample of resources I consider worthy exchanging the attention currency:
- thedrum.com (in particular the opinions of Samuel Scott)
- Chase Reiner (Youtube)
- Experts on the Wire and Six Pixels of Separation (Podcasts)
- Quora.com (growth, analytics, marketing, digital marketing and many other tags)
- google.com/partners (Analytics, Adwords and mobile certifications)
- And as you may guess: many others that I don’t own, control or centralise and I will be reminded when I receive the email or see the post on my feed.
4/5 — Applying the new knowledge
Knowledge without application is meaningless. — Thomas Edison
The next level of refinement would be to look for the information needed inside of each resource based on the application criteria.
Getting the basics right is uber-important but there is no point in digging deep if there is not a chance of application. I don’t say this because it is not important but because there is a finite amount of time and energy hence we need to choose what will fall out from the equation.
Here the factor “experience” comes into play. Only along the time, we will be able to grow and apply our knowledge based on the need at the time. This is why we tag our job titles as junior, senior, expert and (not) my favourite one veteran (usually associated with the army but it can mean involvement in a particular activity for a long time, but how much is a long time?)
I tend to have a list on Trello or Google Keep (the latter for more immediate application) about the areas I’d like to test in a near future no matter my level of expertise on the subject.
I also write my own guides for subjects that require a deeper understanding as I prefer the information represented visually and with my notes added. I have done it for Adwords, SEO, Analytics (especially using GTM and the data layer) and I am now working on a more holistic view on Digital/Growth Marketing.
Instead of sharing it with you, here are my main sources of info for the guides:
- Measureschool on Youtube
5/5 — Wrapping up my point
I don’t mean that traditional strategies are useless, in fact, there are many great courses and talks (digital or in schools) to teach us the profession.
But these should be not be our only tools in the toolbox.
Referring to the story of a friend of mine: The QA team wrote a script to automate the process of testing the application, when the script could not run due to security pop-ups in the software, the QA process stopped for an entire day.
The solution? Google it! (or Bing it or DuckDuckgo it or whatever you use) Many other people had the same issue and shared the solution on blogs and forums. There is no need to have the teacher in the room so we can ask what to do.
Our job titles don’t talk about our capabilities and resourcefulness.
Become agile (literally agile) about researching, interpreting and processing the information we can have on demand. This will lastly be the division line between good professionals who evolve and adapt with the circumstances VS the ones who stay stuck on the learnings of the past.
Citing several authors (Seth Godin comes to mind), people are willing to “tell their secrets” because they know that not many are willing to put the work to validate the solution, try it and steal it.
Also very important, if you are lucky enough to choose, stay in an environment where you can thrive and surround yourself with people willing to contribute. I am one of the lucky ones.
If you have a contribution to this idea, please let me know. You can find me here.