What makes someone a ‘digital expert’?

I have come across many imposters in my time; many of them claiming to be ‘digital experts’ who make promises and just don’t deliver.

I am able to spot an imposter, although for the non ‘digital expert’ an imposter can be hard to recognise, especially when they talk the talk and have you hanging off every word they say.

Being an expert in the digital world comes from a great deal of experience with understanding trends and technical developments in this fast developing world.

Sure there are people out there who are good at what they do, but if you want ROI being good just isn’t good enough.

So what makes an expert? Contrary to what some think, it is not the realm of the young; seasoned, 35-year-old-plus types are usually the best bets, especially those with experience of the three digital evolutionary phases of:

  • the infancy of digital;
  • the dotcom boom and crash; and
  • the new emergent economy, the social business model.

Obviously the proof is in the pudding, do your research! Digital experts are not all about a social footprint, it is what they have delivered that counts most, and having the references to prove it.

Digital experts will be ingrained into the web, so dig deep. It is crucial that you find out if they are actually who they claim to be, be careful because working in the digital industry doesn’t necessarily make you an expert!

Most seasoned digital experts don’t live in advertising agencies or management consultancies: both environments are pretty much a no-no for digital people who go beyond an online advertising campaign.

Digital experts build businesses online, not banner ads and micro-sites. Nor do they pontificate on their management consulting models and boxes. Why? Because that stuff just isn’t what all digital is about. Most digital experts have been doing what they have been doing for a considerable amount of time and are “not launching a digital proposition”, they are the digital proposition.

In my experience it takes a lot to trust someone, especially when handing over a large amount of money upfront and not knowing whether they will deliver the goods.

A real ‘digital expert’ doesn’t need to swindle anyone; they practice what they preach and are passionate about what they do. It is important you don’t listen to experts who spout Facebook and Twitter as the only thing in social media and confuse you with a load of lingo that means nothing to your business, just pie in the sky stuff.

A qualified ‘digital expert’ will be able tell you exactly what they can do for you; if they can’t express to you what their plan of action is without all the lingo then they probably don’t know what they are talking about! It certainly won’t work for your business, because true digital experts understand transformation and changing behaviours. They understand business and a digital business in context.

Here is some handy advice worth remembering next time you’re in the market for a ‘digital expert’:

“The butcher that can cut you a pound of meat without weighing it is not an expert. He’s just a darn good butcher. The butcher who created a better way to slice up a cow and documented it, that’s your expert.”

Fi Bendall is the managing director of digital and interactive consultancy company Bendalls Group. With over 20 years’ experience, Bendall has worked with global brands including BBC and Virgin, and is an expert in how businesses can approach strategy in the digital world. You can follow her on Twitter at @FiBendall, and can contact her through Bendalls Group.


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