When being the best at what you do just isn’t enough anymore

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It seems to make sense at first, doesn’t it?

Specialize in one particular skill, honing it to the point that you’re not only an expert, but known for it.
You face less competition as THE expert in whatever it is you do– landing page optimization, Facebook’s Power Editor, or whatever.

The jack of all trades, trying to be good at everything in an increasingly complex world, fights a futile battle.
Or so you’re told and perpetuate this reasonable, convenient lie.

But let me ask you this…
How many people do you know who are experts in using a screwdriver?
Okay fine.  How many people do you know who are experts at replacing light bulbs?

The fact that we’re increasingly dependent upon technology creates a natural desire to be a tool specialist.
The more machines there are, the more workers needed to operate them, right?

This dynamic is true at first in periods of structural, as opposed to frictional, unemployment.
Nascent technology creates initially creates demand for tool experts and consultants.
Self-proclaimed gurus eagerly fill the void, peddling their wares to the uninitiated and those who can afford their services.

Confession: I’m one of those chest-beating gurus

A dozen years ago, I made a handy living as a search engine “expert”.
Coming from Yahoo!, I had a depth of experience and could speak confidently about paid search and SEO topics.

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The more I spoke, the greater my reputation and network, which forced me into a lucrative cubbyhole– a niche.

And in 2007, Facebook broke onto the scene with an ad and app platform.
So knowing nothing more than others, I dove in and made campaigns 24×7.
I published what I learned on allfacebook.com and insidefacebook.com, the two largest sites in this area.

The dirty, yet completely open, secret is that all along I was sharing fundamental techniques in marketing optimization.
Principles of database marketing from the 1960’s, polished up nicely and repackaged: that’s what we sold.
Nothing dishonest, really, since most people still needed help with the basics of goal-setting, creating content, and targeting.

These are all flavors of personalized marketing, which boils down to:
sending the right message to the right person at the right time.

And now the market is looking for the loudest voices in content marketing, video optimization, marketing automation, Pinterest marketing, or whatever.
Might as well be the grapefruit diet, caveman diet, low carb diet, and high carb diet.

Can’t get away from the basics, despite the attractiveness of the new, shiny object.
Hey look– a squirrel!

If you’re a consultant, agency, or even a student looking for a job, don’t make this mistake

Get off the treadmill.

When being the best just isn’t enough

You could brand yourself as a social media expert and enjoy a living for a couple more years before the fad dies out.
But do you really want to have to keep re-tooling and re-branding as things change, knowing change is accelerating?

It’s taken me 498 words so far to tell you why the single channel marketer will be extinct.
You don’t want to be a Facebook marketing expert, Instagram expert, or whatever– however appealing.
Those will all go away and be absorbed into generalized tools that span across all networks and techniques.

Learn the principles that will never go away— how to optimize for profit, how to segment your audiences, how to write great content, and so forth.
Then you’ll not be caught off guard when the “next thing” comes along– you’ll understand in context what’s important and not.

If you’re a business owner, you can’t afford to hire a bunch of specialists

What’s the cost of hiring someone to build your website, another person to do your Facebook ads, another person to optimize your YouTube, another person to set up your email programs, and so forth?

Keep doing that and you’ll look no different than an online marketing agency, as opposed to whatever it is that you actually do for a living.
Take this from me, the CTO at a software company– you don’t want to manage these pieces.
You’re integrating things you don’t know and it’s costing you a lot of money.

3rd party software, by itself, isn’t likely to be your nirvana, either.
The finest golf clubs in the hands of an amateur, sadly, won’t improve his golf game. [Tweet “The finest golf clubs in the hands of an amateur, sadly, won’t improve his golf game. via @dennisyu on @tabsite”]
And even if you have the people and technology, if you don’t have the process to create content, you’re dead in the water.

Okay, so what are we to do?

Being a tool expert is ephemeral , so here’s what you need to focus on instead:

  • Master the core concepts of marketing: GCT (goals, content, targeting), AEC (audience, engagement, conversion), and MAA (metrics, analysis, action).
  • Learn less about the intricate specifics of social networks and more about the connections BETWEEN these networks (your site and Facebook, your email list and website,  your site and gotowebinar signups, etc)
  • Find existing customers to be your passionate marketers, doing what they already do, leveraging the knowledge they already have.
  • Use tools like TabSite and HootSuite that multiply the effectiveness of your content.
  • Make sure you’ve mastered the free, native tools of Facebook and Google before moving into complex things like marketing automation. 9 out of 10 small business owners are at this stage.

I started by saying that being an expert in a particular technology is a profession that creates a livelihood for only a few people– mainly software companies and high-end consultants.

But if you’re an expert in an industry vertical, that’s a different matter. When you have deep expertise in Hyundai repair, cosmetic dentistry, or areas that don’t change every few days, you’re still good.

About Dennis Yu

Dennis Yu is the CTO of Blitzmetrics. He is an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook marketing, having been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, and CBS Evening News. He is also a regular contributor for Adweek's SocialTimes column. Dennis has held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines. He studied Finance and Economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics. Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you. You can contact him at dennis@blitzmetrics.com, his blog, or on Facebook.