Is the digital industry shooting itself in the foot?

The titles that digital marketers are giving themselves these days are rather unbelievable. From “guru” to “specialist” to “strategist” and beyond (Buzz Light-Year would be proud). But are these titles that those who are using them, by and large, can actually live up to?

In case you missed it; this is going to be more of an opinion piece about the digital industry as a whole, with a particular focus on how some individuals within it (both locally and internationally) are not necessarily doing it the biggest of favours.

The scene
Business executives are realizing more and more that the power of social media is growing at a rate of knots. The general public is becoming increasingly connected and smarter about how and where they consume their media as well as who influences buying decisions. There is no doubt that digital (with social as a subset of that) is the way of marketing and business in the future.

So the business need is there; but it is still a concept that business leaders today are not entirely comfortable with. It is foreign and they are unsure of how and where the business value can be derived.

They look to those who do understand the industry and the dynamics at play; they look to those who are adept at crossing the ever blurring lines between technical geek speak and social interaction. But they are still expecting a business solution that is going to deliver business results to a business problem.

The blurred lines
There is a definite line that the digital industry needs to straddle; but often times it seems as though there is a definite bias towards one side of the line.

When digital professionals add words like “strategist”, “guru”, “specialist” and so on to their titles; they are playing to the one side of the line. The side of the line that is more focused on social. The side of the line where it is perfectly acceptable to go to work in flip flops; shorts and band memorabilia. I have no problem whatsoever with this side of the line – in fact until recently I was a big proponent for being on that side of the line.

But then the other side of the line is the more business side; a side where our clients are looking to place their trust and business future in our hands. The side of the line where we need to deliver business value around concepts that are generally foreign to business professionals.

I was chatting to Michelle Coetsee and she commented, “I think (hope) reputation is stronger than labels. Proof is in delivery, but creates a halo of distrust.”

When we represent ourselves as too far off of the centre of the line, how can we expect to change the reputation of the digital industry from “the guys who play on the internet” to “the guys who are discussing the viability of a “social business” model and introducing “gamification” as a way of improving work place inefficiencies within your staff base”?

Personally I think that the time has come for the digital industry to mature to a point where it sees itself as a serious part of the future of business. I am not saying that this needs to come at the expense of being innovative and forward thinking or even relaxed as a way of doing business – what I’m saying is this needs to come about as a way for the industry to cement its future in the right place for the right reasons.



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