I find it fascinating how ever-so-often I come across people who confidently state that they’re an “expert” in something. These days, particularly on LinkedIn, it’s almost every fifth or sixth profile that’s a person declaring themselves an “expert” in subject matter areas so vast that it’s literally impossible for them to make the claim if they think about it objectively. I find this particularly unsettling when people make this claim within spheres of emerging technologies alongside marketing best practices.
Why? It’s simple. The Cambridge Dictionary exact definition of the word Expert is “a person with a high level of knowledge or skill relating to a particular subject or activity”. So let’s be reasonable here. What would you define as a “high” level of knowledge? For the sake of this article, let’s assume that a high level of knowledge can be defined as someone knowing at least half, i.e. 50% of that particular body of knowledge intrinsically in order to deem themselves anywhere near an “Expert”. That’s feasible, yes?
Now let’s assume a digital marketer finds you on LinkedIn and claims to be a “digital marketing” expert? Taking into account the criteria we highlighted earlier that they would need to know at least half (50%) of everything there is to know about this field; would you actually believe it if he or she states that they know half of all there is to know about the “digital marketing” field intrinsically? If you do, you’re almost certainly giving one of these marketers way too much face while they most likely are taking you & your marketing spend for a ride.
No one human mind irrespective of how smart can possibly know even half of everything there is to know within an ever-evolving body-of-knowledge. That’s like someone telling you that they know everything there is to know about Human Resources, or a Neurologist claiming that he or she knows everything there is to know about 50% of the human brain. You will meet neurologists today who’ve practised for decades and they’ll tell you that we know less than 10% of the human brain’s core and dynamics till date despite medical advances.
So now, would you believe someone who confidently states that they’re an expert in anything? Can someone really know almost everything about their field in these times of data & disruption? I personally say No. A great example these-days is BlockChain. 10 Youtube videos & 30 Articles later, just about everyone is a “BlockChain Expert” now. The field is so new, so fluid that my mind literally boggles when someone declares themselves an expert within BlockChain.
I’ve spent the last five years researching and building my own hypothesis of how one becomes a “brand” or business storyteller. My journey to understand this body of knowledge at a deeper level has truly helped me grow not just as a marketer but also as a person. So much so that in 2018, I decided to start writing a book about it. So much so, that it took my partners and me almost ten years running our branding firm, Subture before we felt anywhere near comfortable calling ourselves the Brand Storytelling Agency. In parallel I’ve been invited to events all over Asia to speak, coach, and train around how businesses can make sense of millennials, storytelling, and digital disruption.
Yet despite all that, I still never bring myself to claim that I’m an expert in the field. I call myself a storyteller but am I an expert? Certainly not, and quite frankly if anyone says they are, I would genuinely ask you to reconsider your engagements with them. They almost certainly have visions of misplaced grandeur that may eventually hurt their own brand plus your bottom-line.
Too many marketing experts, particularly “digital marketing” experts today who sell snake oil statistics to their potential customers. Hence I recommend three easy ways on LinkedIn for you to identify real marketers versus ones that you need to think twice about.
Brand Profile. Imagine you see an amazing car on the road one day. You feel like you need to know more about it before you decide to buy one for yourself. You want to know more about its safety features, its sound system, its pricing variants, etc; but then when you go to their website, all you find is super-appealing visuals with vague information at best around the information you were looking for. How does that feel? Frustrating, right? That’s exactly what’s happening for a lot of would-be customers when they visit a LinkedIn profile that does an amazing sales pitch but fails to provide an actual profile of your company, irrespective of whether its a website URL or a PDF set of slides. Give the market a little more detail when they come knocking on your proverbial door. Not too much detail because no one wants to read an essay anymore, but definitely a little more than just flashy buzz-words or a one-page brochure. So the next time you’re gauging someone’s marketing agency by way of their LinkedIn profile, be sure to see if they have a profile/portfolio for you to access there & then or a website URL that takes you deeper into their value proposition.
LinkedIn Testimonials. You’d be surprised how quickly people can figure out if you’re trying to fool them – customers appreciate businesses & brands that are upfront with their intentions today. Authenticity isn’t just a fad, you’ve actually got to be authentic instead of just lying for the sake of sales. What are your customers saying about you? If you’re really that good, then your clients should be testifying accordingly. You can say whatever you want on your profile but do you have testimonials from the market to back that up? So please, if you’ve got a LinkedIn profile that boasts that you’re an absolute superstar or expert when it comes to e.g. “Lead Generation” marketing but then you only have two testimonials on LinkedIn that say something vague about that; there’s something very wrong there. Make sure whomever you work with is someone who understands that their brand isn’t what they say it is, it’s what others say it is.
Follow-Ups. I say this often, the magic in any organisation irrespective of sales, finance, marketing or operations – is the follow-up. At least a quarter of the “expert” LinkedIn profiles I’ve crossed paths with have shown me their true colours by having absolutely no regard to follow-ups. What can you and I learn from this? For example, if you DM (direct message) an expert in digital marketing with an enquiry on LinkedIn, and he or she decides to respond to you a week later or perhaps doesn’t even respond; then you know that despite the amazing accolades & awesome posts that you’re most likely dealing with an amateur as opposed to a professional. Influencer or not, how someone treats you when there’s no money in the mix just yet is a massive indicator around whether or not you want to engage them.