These are some of the ways I try to develop my own expertise.
Curiosity is a wonderful thing, and its spark can drive our interests and encourage us to open our minds. Let yourself be curious! Find out what things are, how things work, and why things do what they do. Ask questions. Wonder. Ponder. Think. Explore.
If you’re not reading about your industry or interests, you’re already behind. Find a few reputable, current websites or blogs and subscribe to them, and keep up with the news and trends about your field on a daily basis. Pick up a few books from the library and make them your bedtime reading. If you’re not a fan of lugging books around, try audiobooks or e-books. Whatever your delivery preferences, make reading a habit.
Let Me Google That for You.
It’s true that there’s nothing new under the sun – which means that whatever your question is, Google probably can deliver an answer with a few well-chosen keywords. Learn to be a Google ninja and effectively search and parse the results to find answers and discover great information. I can think of a number of instances where I’ve looked like a genius simply because I’ve mastered the art of Google-fu.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment.
When you’re learning something new or digging deeper into something you do or use every day, don’t be afraid to experiment. Especially for unfamiliar tools, software, programs and websites, don’t hold back from checking out different features to see what they do, playing with settings, trying various techniques, digging into the help topics or manual, and just exploring all the possible options that are open to you.
Practice, Practice, Practice.
It’s much more of a challenge to be an expert on subjects, tools, programs, strategies or methods you don’t use on a regular basis. Like our muscles, our knowledge can atrophy without exercise. Practice helps you hone and polish your skills.
Hang Out with Other Experts.
To help build your own knowledge and ideas, as well as get other fresh perspectives, surround yourself with experts in your field. Join a trade organization or two and attend meetings and networking events where you can enjoy expert presentations and talk shop with people who are involved in the same industry or interest. Participate in Twitter chats, industry groups or forums, or other Internet-based communities for your field. You’ll quickly find yourself becoming more knowledgeable about the topic after spending time with others who share your passion.
Share What You Know.
Experts don’t keep all the knowledge to themselves. Share advice and teach others to be experts, too. When you share what you know, people will recognize your expertise, and you’ll start building your reputation and personal brand in your subject.
Build Your Expertise, Not Your Ego.
I’ve noticed that true experts don’t often refer to themselves as such, while the hacks out there are mighty quick to append “expert,” “guru,” or “rock star” to their titles. Experts don’t need to flaunt it; their ideas usually speak for them. But more importantly, there is no end to learning and expanding your expertise. An expert is really just a perpetual student – always learning, always exploring the new developments in her field, always seeking out more information, understanding and perspectives. “Expert” is not synonymous with “know-it-all”. Embrace humility, open-mindedness and graciousness. Develop a thirst for knowledge for its own sake.
What about you? How do you strive to build your expertise in your field?]]>
A Dash of Video
There are all kinds of ways to use video. From tutorials and testimonials, to special events and behind-the-scenes footage, videos are powerful pieces of content that people love to watch, engage with, and share. Videos are also a great medium for creativity and fun, so you can show a lighter, more human side of your business.
A Pinch of Podcasts
Not really the video type? Got a face for radio? You can still create engaging media content with audio podcasts. With regular “episodes” you can discuss trends in your industry, share business insights or answer customer questions. Just like video, podcasts offer opportunities to get creative as well as showcase your own personality. And there are plenty of sites out there that make podcasting easy.
A Dollop of Reviews
I don’t mean a Yelp account; I’m talking about creating your own book reviews, app reviews, product reviews. A thoughtful review is a fantastic piece of content for a couple of reasons. It illustrates that you and your business are up to speed on recent releases in your industry (be it a new book, a cool app or an upcoming product or technology), and it provides a valuable opinion for others who might think about purchasing the same item.
A Smidgen of Infographics
Infographics are an interesting and beautiful way to visually communicate trends, statistics and facts about your industry. Plus, the Internet loves them! Consider working with a designer to put some of your industry knowledge into a cool infographic. Or, if you don’t have easy access to graphic design skills, share infographics from other sources (with proper attribution, of course).
A Hint of Interviews
Interview-style content is another way to add variety to your blog. While interviews with industry experts or leaders of your company are great, your interviewee doesn’t have to be a founder or CEO. Interviews with front line employees about their experiences and what they do from day to day help introduce your customers to the human faces of your business.
A Skosh of Guest Posts
Know someone else in your industry who can share quality content and opinions? Have super employees who could provide interesting posts? Invite other voices to guest post on your page and share their experiences and thoughts with your audience.
A Bit of Live Blogging
If you’re keeping up with your industry, you probably make a few trips each year to tradeshows and conventions to stay on top of new developments and make new connections. You might even host your own corporate events. Events provide an awesome opportunity for live blogging and sharing new updates and other special features with your audience in real-time. Plus it can keep people returning to your blog for additional updates throughout the day.
What other kinds of content do you cook up to make your blog or website a delicious dish?]]>
Twitter is kind of like a giant, online networking event. There are plenty of people out there who might be potential customers, vendors or business partners – but you’re never going to find them if you don’t strike up a few conversations. One of the most common mistakes made by Twitter newbies is too few @replies (aka, conversation starters). To get the most out of Twitter, you have to start engaging with other Twitter users. Unmarketing author Scott Stratten suggests making @replies as much as 75% of your tweets!
Sharing Is Caring
Are you following people and brands that produce lots of interesting, relevant content? Share it in your own stream by re-tweeting (or RT’ing) the posts you really enjoy and value. Chances are, your followers will enjoy them too – and you may get a little extra appreciation and attention from the people you re-tweet.
It’s Not All About You
Yes, it’s your business Twitter account, but that doesn’t mean your content stream should be plastered with more advertising messages than Times Square. In fact, too many self-promotional posts can get you labeled as a spammer. You probably don’t enjoy talking to people who only talk about themselves, right? Similarly, few people like to follow a business profile that focuses only on its own marketing message. A little self-promotion is okay, but don’t neglect to engage, share and post content that’s valuable to your audience.
Content Is King
Speaking of quality content, the surest way to build a better Twitter following is to tweet things that are helpful, interesting or otherwise valuable to your audience. Whether you are tweeting about your recent update to the company blog, sharing links to other items around the web, or even making pithy 140-character observations, your content should be meaningful and relevant. When you have excellent content, others are far more likely to click on it, read it and share it.
It’s okay to let your personality shine through on a business Twitter profile. In fact, it’s more than okay: It’s awesome! Being authentic, honest and genuine is the only way to go, in social networks as in life. Injecting a bit of your own personality and even humor into your business Twitter profile can help humanize your brand, and help you avoid being just another stale corporate voice in the Twitter landscape.
What ideas do you have about building and maintaining an effective Twitter profile for your brand?]]>
Today, I’m starting a new job!
I’m thrilled to announce that I am joining Social Strategy1 as a Strategy Analyst. I’m looking forward to my first day, getting to know my new team and diving in to the challenges of my new role.
Friday marked my last day as a Web Presence Professional at ReachLocal. I can’t emphasize enough how valuable my time at ReachLocal was — not only for the experience and all I’ve learned, but for all the fantastic and talented people I met. I would call them not only great colleagues, but friends. I’ll most certainly miss my ReachCast family.
But I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for me. Onward to new adventures!]]>
Where Is My Niche?
Many local businesses already have some sort of niche. Most likely, you have some unique factor that sets your company apart, and a specific audience of customers who appreciate what you offer and how you do business. Just like other business efforts, content marketing should focus around – and capitalize on – your niche. If you’re the Bentley of your industry, don’t create content that reeks of Buick.
What Do My Customers Want?
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What topics would pique your interests? What kinds of content would keep you coming back for more? What sort of information would encourage you to do business with your company? Don’t create content that’s tailored to yourself; rather, share things that make sense to your customers.
What’s In It for Them?
You must consider what your customers want, because their primary question will be, “What’s in it for me?” You, as a business, must be prepared to answer that. With a content marketing strategy, “what’s in it” is often the valuable, quality content you’re giving away – which makes it all the more important to create content that shines. But in addition to quality content, what else can you offer your customers to encourage them to stick around and listen to what you have to say?
What Do You Think?
One of the easiest and best ways to spark conversation and engagement around your business is simply asking your customers for their opinions. This helps you in several ways. One, it gets people talking about you and with you. Two, it offers from-the-horses-mouth insights into what your customers want and care about. Three, it gives you more topics to discuss in the future, and reveals questions that you may not have even known your customers had.
So… What Do You Think?
What questions do you think are important to ask when embarking on a content marketing strategy?]]>
At #GR2L2, I had the pleasure of listening to thought leaders like Amber Naslund, Scott Stratten, Jason Falls and Chris Brogan. The individual presentations were short and sweet, but packed with powerful insights. Now that I’ve had a few weeks to mull them over, I want to dig deeper into some of the ideas that grabbed me.
Scott Stratten told us at #GR2L2 that we need to protect both our time and our emotional currency from the haters—the people who drain us empty, stress us out, and who ultimately don’t matter. Why waste your emotional capital on people who make you miserable? Save that up for your family, friends and people you respect. Haters to the left.
Haters aren’t only external, however, and the coffers of our emotional capital can be just as easily run dry by our inner haters. The nagging voice that says you’re not good enough. The ugly part of you that thrives on gossip. The internal complainer. The piece of you that sees only problems, never solutions. The naysayer. The Resistance.
The inner haters tell you to spend your time and emotional currency grumbling about the status quo, but not changing it. They tell you to use your precious emotional resources tearing others down to make yourself feel better, instead of building others up to make everyone truly better. They tell you shouldn’t bother trying to take on new challenges that will help you grow, because the easy, lazy route is good enough. They tell you that your sarcastic, bad attitude is funny and honest, not annoying, emotionally taxing, or depressing.
The inner haters are exhausting, they’re eating up your emotional capital, and they’re keeping you from doing good work. Even worse, when you indulge your inner haters, that attitude can spread to the people around you. The people you care about, who you should be investing your emotional currency in instead.
It’s time to push the inner haters to the left.
This is not just a matter of “the power of positive thinking”—blanket positivity can be just as irritating as constant negativity, and “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is still a terrible rule to live by. It doesn’t mean that you should stop offering constructive criticism. Truth is always important, even if it’s a hard truth. Sometimes problems need to be talked about. Sometimes you have to call your baby ugly. But you don’t have to give in to the haters.
Here’s how I’m going to better protect my emotional capital from the inner haters.
Instead of only complaining about problems, I’ll invent and implement solutions. Even if a solution is something small, and seemingly insignificant, it’s better than nothing. It makes a difference, which is more than simply complaining will do. And enough little solutions can add up to make a big difference.
Instead of talking about and dwelling on annoying people, I’ll use that energy to reinforce, compliment and help those who matter. Like Scott Stratten says, the haters and morons aren’t worth spending time on. They aren’t worth gossiping about, either. Why give them ANY thought? There are plenty of other people who have wonderful talents and ideas to be shared and developed. Let’s talk about that, instead.
Instead of saying, That could never be me, I’ll say, I can do that. And then do it, whatever it is. The inner haters feed on your doubts, fears and insecurities. They say you aren’t smart enough, good enough, organized enough, dedicated enough, knowledgeable enough. They say that the only way you can feel like you’re worthy is by giving your emotional capital over to them and over to these vices.
Well, screw that. Inner haters to the left. I am good enough, smart enough, dedicated enough. I can do it, and I will.
And so are you, and so can you.
What are you doing to protect your emotional currency from the haters, both inner and outer?]]>
Gen Y cuspers like me have been here for a while (I entered the post-graduate workforce 5 years ago). Yet even in my current company, which is full of Gen Y workers and relatively young executives, I don’t think the corporate culture is quite used to having us around. I’ve observed more generational divide in my eight months here than I did in four years of agency work.
While there will always be some misunderstanding on both sides of a generation gap, making the most of a Gen Y workforce doesn’t mean overhauling the corporate structure. With a little bit of give, employers can get a lot out of their younger workers.
We’re full of ideas and personal goals. We think we can do anything. Many of my peers have some mental roadmap of what they want to do with their lives. We want to know whether our current work will help us forge a career path that matches our own vision, inside the company as well as outside of it. And if it doesn’t, we want to know how we can make it so.
We’d like to have a career roadmap, but we’d also like to have some influence over that roadmap. We’re fans of career design. Give us the opportunity to explore different ways we can contribute to the organization and different ways we can advance our careers. Climbing the same old corporate ladder through a succession of jobs we aren’t passionate about doesn’t hold much appeal. We don’t want to climb for the sake of the climb.
We’re an ambitious bunch, always looking for the next challenge. Sometimes this appears as a sense of entitlement: that we expect to be given bigger and better positions without “paying dues”. The reality is that the learning and growth we seek doesn’t need to come with a new position; a promotion is often just the traditional corporate way of getting more demanding work and responsibilities. A promotion is the traditional “next level”. But our quest for challenge can just as easily be completed through projects and assignments that test and hone our skills; by giving us greater responsibility, new goals, and rewarding us for our achievements.
The stereotype says Gen Y doesn’t like doing grunt work. The reality is, grunt work is fine as long as we’re still learning, have a sense of purpose and believe that our work is helping us fulfill our dreams. We have dreams and ambitions, and many of us have been raised by supportive parents who have fed those dreams for 20-plus years. We do understand that you have to start somewhere, and entry-level isn’t always glamorous. But we like to know that what we do is valuable, to our company as well as to our own development.
This may seem kind of oxymoronic, but a Gen Y worker needs both. We don’t want to be micromanaged; we want the freedom to prove ourselves and do our work our way. But at the same time, we want to be part of a great team. We’re social and we enjoy being able to share ideas, connect and brainstorm.
Gen Y has big dreams, but we need mentors to guide us, challenge us and help us realize our strengths, weaknesses, passions and competencies. We cherish relationships. We want the support of mentors to help us grow and succeed—and in turn, we want to offer our support to such people, too. We’re very reciprocal, and contrary to the stereotype, very loyal as well. We’re just loyal to people more than organizations.
I find it interesting that so many bloggers, authors, journalists and businesspeople have carried on so much conversation about Gen Y and what we’re all about, but in many corporate cultures, we still feel the disconnect.
What do you think makes the Gen Y worker different and how can companies make the most of their new workforce of educated, connected, driven young people?]]>
However, I didn’t have the spare cash (or the spare time off work) for a badge and a week’s worth of conferencing and partying. I opted to make a badgeless adventure out of it on the weekend, and scoured Eventbrite and Plancast for badgeless events that I could attend. I made up a little calendar on my phone, downloaded a bunch of cool apps, and headed out. Yesterday was my first day of hitting up downtown Austin and assorted SXSWi meetups and parties.
I’ve learned many lessons from this little experiment, some of which might be useful to anyone considering going to SXSWi for the first time.
I also was able to make a few more personal observations after my SXSWi day one. Events like this have a way of highlighting some of my social weaknesses.
SXSWi day one wasn’t all about lessons learned though. I had a fun time and met some cool people. A few highlights of my Saturday:
And now I’m off for Day 2 of Badgeless Adventuring. I think, after my experience yesterday, I might be buying a ticket for the Get Ready to Live session of talks. I think that will give me a little more structure, and maybe a lot more food for thought, since it’s filled with awesome speakers.]]>
I walked into the office of my bosses’ boss’ boss’ and tore apart our department. I criticized our training. I complained about our career development. I highlighted all the problems with our product. I called people out and named names. I expressed my thoughts and talked about the workplace negatives with pure honesty and no reservations.
It was scary. It was liberating. And I think it was one of the best things I’ve done for my career lately.
My department’s vice president didn’t kick me out of his office or threaten my job for speaking up about problems and dissatisfaction. He didn’t argue with me. In fact, he largely agreed with my points. He listened to me, took notes, and gave me good feedback and a long discussion about all the factors that go into the issues I brought up. He offered me criticism and made me analyze my own thought process. He shared some of his own ideas and plans, and solicited my opinions.
After an hour of discussion, I walked out of his office feeling good—not like I had just kamikazed my career. I felt like I was valued, I felt like I was heard, and I felt like our director has a plan to address the problems we have—one that I have been able to influence by speaking up.
We’ve all heard this old chestnut: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I’ve always hated this piece of advice; how can you improve yourself if no one tells you what you’re doing wrong? In the workplace, I don’t understand the good of ignoring or staying quiet about flaws and problems—with people, products, management, career development or any other job-related issue. Unless you make it clear that there IS a problem, others in your workplace can’t begin to address it. And even if your leadership is aware of the issue, delving into the specifics and offering your thoughts on the matter may help provide additional insight into possible solutions (or give you additional insight into what’s being done about it.)
Even if you aren’t talking to the leadership about the concerns you have with your job, chances are, you’re talking with your similarly-disaffected peers. But keeping all that pent-up dissatisfaction in whispers and chats behind closed doors doesn’t get you any closer to fixing the problem. Airing the problems more openly, engaging management in the discussion, and talking about ideas for ways to make it better, is ultimately more productive and more likely to boost workplace morale.
One of the key reasons that I didn’t feel like my little conversation turned into career suicide was the fact that our vice president wanted to hear what I had to say. Management and leadership should always be willing to listen and learn from their employees—even if the employee voices criticism of the status quo in the workplace. If your leaders prefer to stick their head in the sand and punish or ignore employees who speak up about strife and troubles on the job, then maybe it’s time to seek out a better place to work. Leadership without listening isn’t really leadership at all.
After my talk with our vice president, I felt a sense of relief. I got a lot of my frustrations off my chest. And I felt a renewed sense of opportunity and value within my workplace, and felt that I had also been given some good feedback to chew on. Further, once I was done with my conversation, I also felt like I had sort of given up a burden. Talking about it means that now, leadership is well aware of some of the issues, and I helped ensure that they were brought to light. Now I can work on helping solve them.
Have you ever had a good experience airing out all the dirty laundry in your workplace?]]>
So with that in mind, I thought it would be worthwhile to focus a bit on some of the things that make me really happy right now. Happiness is where you find it, in the big things as well as the little ones, so these range from the very important to the frivolous. But all of them have one thing in common: They make me smile.
Just writing this post me in a good mood. What things (big or small) bring a smile to your face?]]>