Have you ever seen a digital agency use peculiar language when referring to their own skillsets?
Ever read about web developers calling themselves “coding ninjas”?
Or how about those website designers saying that they’re “rock stars”?
Well, it’s not quite as prevalent these days as it used to be, but once upon a time, giving yourself a witty moniker was the norm; Some groups in the digital and design industry used these odd self-titles to differentiate themselves, but then it became common and eventually, a bit of a joke. [Totally Mexico. A bit like Nathan Barley, the Channel 4 series from 2005 – Ed.]
But actually, it was never particularly funny.
There was once a tweet, that I cannot for the life of me find, but it went along the lines of:
“Dear fellow creatives; please stop calling yourselves, ninjas, rock stars and gurus, you’re making us all look like tw*ts!”
According to the Oxford English Dictionary definition, a ninja is:
“A person skilled in the Japanese art of ninjutsu.”
From the same fount of knowledge, Ninjutsu is:
“The traditional Japanese art of stealth, camouflage, and sabotage, developed in feudal times for espionage and now practised as a martial art.”
From these definitions, I’m not sure what form of black-masked subterfuge is relevant to the digital marketing, web development or graphic design business.
As for being a “Rockstar”, singing, playing the guitar/bass/drums/keyboard and touring the globe with a drug habit and an entourage of groupies is nothing I’m familiar with in my twenty years in the digital profession.
It’s similar for the moniker “guru”. It actually means a “Hindu spiritual teacher” which I don’t think many creative in the UK can genuinely purport to being, correct me if I’m wrong please. However, there is a more modern definition in the OED which states:
“An influential teacher or popular expert.”
Again, I could be wildly incorrect here, but how many self-styled gurus fit the description? If I were an influential teacher, I’d modestly duck out of bearing that sign. As for popular or expert, again, humility dictates that something more unassuming is appropriate. Are you a guru? Have you presented a TED talk? [My cousin has – Ed.]
Digital Marketing Experts: The 10,000 Hour Rule
One thing I will say about being an expert though, is that there’s an app for that. OK, a formula then. There’s also a formula for “the perfect bacon sandwich”, but I digress…
Back in 2008 the journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell wrote his book Outliers. The Story of Success.
Examining the factors that contribute to success, Gladwell proposed that expertise arises from experience and repetition. Studying successful people, from hockey teams to Bill Gates to The Beatles, Gladwell claimed that best practice and repeating a specialism resulted in expertise.
His magic number was ten thousand, in that to be an expert you would have immersed yourself in your art or science for that number of hours, or the “10,000-hour rule”. That amounts to being in a particular role for around five years, plying your specific trade day-in, day-out.
A couple of years ago I was introduced to a digital marketer, in their early twenties, and they were referred to me as being a “guru” in our profession. With five years’ experience, that neatly fell into the 10,000-hour rule definition, yet I was not convinced that they were a “spiritual teacher” of digital marketing at such a tender age. So does the 10,000 hour rule apply to the whole spectrum of digital marketing?
Once, in 2009, someone made a remark at a conference I was speaking at, saying;
“SEO isn’t rocket science is it?”
…and they were right. SEO is not rocket science. SEO is not mechanics (fluid mechanics, structural mechanics, orbital mechanics), flight dynamics, physics, mathematics, control engineering, materials science, aeroelasticity, avionics, reliability engineering, noise control and flight testing. The point here is that regular trades are often demeaned because there is not as much academic background to a profession as there may be in a scientific endeavour.
Then there’s PPC or Pay Per Click, another realm of digital marketing, with not just Google Ads but also Bing Ads or the Microsoft Advertising Network as it is now rather clumsily known. But wait, there are also LinkedIn sponsored posts, paid InMail, text ads, Facebook ads, Twitter ads, Instagram ads, WhatsApp for Business etc. etc.
But what about the tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Tag Manager, or the myriad of other SEO tools like SEMrush, Screaming Frog, ahrefs or BuzzSumo?
How can anyone possibly know ALL about digital marketing in just five years and be an expert in ALL of its fields? Personally, I don’t think that’s possible, not unless you were a precocious child prodigy and junior world chess champion at the age of seven.
Well, that’s how my mind works anyway.
Clever Marketing Experts
All this aside, we are experts. I’ve been doing digital marketing for over twenty years now. Our resident PPC manager has at least 8 years in the industry. Our number one developer also has 8 years’ of WordPress dev under his belt whilst our graphic designers have a good twenty or thirty years each.
I think that puts us in a good position as a digital marketing agency. We won a client in September 2020 who chose us because of our age and experience. Having been around the block a few times themselves, they were acutely aware of and averse to using juniors. Don’t get me wrong, the youngsters are our future, in all industries, not just digital. However, it’s the people with experience who have developed years of digital expertise. Having a well-balanced team is what you need, as a business looking for an agency.
So, when making your decision on who to employ as your next digital agency, make sure that you see their results, that they share their successes, and that they have a team of genuine experts onboard, young or old, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they have the expertise to understand, innovate and deliver, be it brand awareness, lead generation or business development.
Digital marketing ninjas need not apply.
Digital marketing ninjas we are not, experts we are.