Here Be Dragons

Hundreds of years ago, various cartographers and map makers had a way of depicting uncharted or unexplored expanses of the sea. They covered these areas with drawings of ominous sea creatures and often would accompany the cartoon images with the phrase, “here be dragons.”

digital marketing trainingBut why dragons? Perhaps these serpent-like caricatures were included to warn travelers of impending danger. Maybe they were pure figments of the map makers’ imaginations. Who is to say there was not legitimate proof that ocean dwelling monsters actually lived in those waters? More likely, no one really knew too much about certain patches of the sea, and just like our modern day attitudes about things we do not understand, this caused an irrational fear.

When viewed through the lens of digital marketing, what would you consider to be your dragon? Does social media marketing cause you to recoil? Does your lack of experience with search engine optimization or email marketing force you to look the other way? Does the mere thought of creating an online marketing campaign keep you from even attempting to do so? If so, here are some tips to aid in your exploration of digital marketing seascapes.

Build Your Library

One of the most beautiful and challenging things about being a digital marketer is constant and unrelenting change. Much of what we did last year, is now obsolete. It is so important to build a tenable roster of resources that refreshes itself as often as you need to. Here’s a few suggestions:

Books & eBooks: I hesitate to lead a categorical list off with this one as many books start to degrade to irrelevance the moment they are printed. However, I have several favorites that stand the test of time including Don’t Make Me Think, Information Dashboard Design, The Cluetrain Manifesto, The NOW Reovlution, buy•ology, and The Findability Formula.

RSS: Utilize Google Reader to create a list of blog and online publication subscriptions. Depending upon your niche, you can use an RSS reader to find, read, save and share important news as it is published in the blogosphere.

Slideshare: I think Slideshare is often overlooked as a valuable source of information. Many of the best speakers and brightest minds in our industry publish their presentations on Slideshare. You can follow several Slideshare accounts and create your own to promote your own thoughts in PowerPoint form.

Twitter Lists: I must confess I don’t use Twitter too often to converse with others. I choose to use it as an information gathering tool. Once you begin to follow smart digital marketers and build out lists that gather their tweets in one place, you can really start to rely on Twitter for nearly instantaneous and meaningful updates, news and thoughts about this space.

Others? Please list any the resources I may have missed in the comments.

Befriend a Herd of Nerds

One of the best ways to learn a new trade is to make friends with those who have already found success in that particular line of work. If you are interested in becoming a digital marketer, please go find and hang out with digital marketers. Attend local and regional events. Find out if there are local shared workspaces where online marketing types gather.

“When the character of a man is not clear, look at his friends.”

When I first started my consultancy, I made it a goal to go to coffee, lunch or happy hour with at least one person a week. If I didn’t have something scheduled with someone in my industry that I knew or wanted to know, there was something wrong. Part of the reasoning here was to expand and fortify my connections, but I continue to learn something new with every meeting. You may consider doing the same. Let your guard down, seek out some friendly resources, and become a reliable confidant as well.

Consult The Oracle

I’m going to let you in on a little secret here. There have been several times in the past month when my clients, partners and contacts have remarked about how amazed they are that I can respond to a question, find a resource or hunt down a solution to an itchy problem. Here’s the truth: I really don’t know the answer at least half the time. But my friend, Google, does.

A quick story. Nearly a two years ago, my sister took an extended hiatus from her job as an elementary school teacher to be at home with her newborn – my niece. In her spare time, she built a blog and started to network with other young mothers in her area. I was so impressed with the site she had built from scratch I told her:

“You should really consider selling your time to help other people in your area create blogs. With your own site as a working example and your teaching background, I think you would do really well.”

To which she replied:

“Hmm. That’s interesting. Yeah, I could do that. Here’s how the first day of class would go…. ‘Class, if you have a question, Google it. Class dismissed.’ “

Coincidentally, we come from a long line of smart asses.

Get Dirty & Embrace Failure

Sometimes you eat the bar. Sometimes, well, he eats you.

Lessons learned are the offspring of well-intended mistakes.

If you are really serious about becoming a digital marketer, the best advice I can give you is to simply start. Adopt a pet project, help out a friend or relative or offer your services pro bono to a local business or charity. Not actually trying is the worst possible outcome. The best? Failure.

Every one makes errors, but the good ones don’t forget them. Accept failure as a part of the process, and go kick a dragon’s teeth in.