digital-native-or-internet-marketing-expertFull of turkey and armed with leftovers, I was able to leave my parents’ house on Thanksgiving without being asked to “look at the computer”. As the youngest in the family, and the only one with a Computer Science degree, I am always asked about anything technology related. (You name it: cell phones, computers, DVD players, etc.) I am the family expert. While I enjoy helping my family, I can’t say that I really do have all this knowledge in my head. I am simply a digital native.

Everyone knows a digital native: someone that has a high-level of comfort with technology, always talks about the newest things, and loves to help friends & family, even if their expertise comes from just doing Google research. A digital native's passion is persausive as they rave about some new web site application, but a digital native, in & of themselves, is not an internet marketing expert.  

Unfortunately, I repeatedly speak to people that have been burned by mistakenly hiring a digital native that was a self-labeled internet marketing expert. To someone that is not native to the digital world, it can be very difficult to tell the two apart. Here's where it gets tricky: many internet marketing experts can also be digital natives, but just as growing up in a chef's house won't make you a world-class chef, being a digital native doesn't necessarily mean you're an expert in the internet.

Business owners and marketing executives need to be especially aware of who they are bringing on board for the internet marketing efforts. Despite the fact the technology gives marketers the ability to easily measure the effectiveness of campaigns; hiring the right people to monitor those campaigns is still a slippery thing to handle. If you're not an expert yourself, it might be many months before you realize that who you hired isn't living up to their promises.

Before you realize that you spent thousands of dollars with little results, here are some quick things to consider:

1.    Define your business goals and let the expert explain how their techniques will get you there. Be specific here (e.g. 6X as many leads in 6 months, 10% increase of revenue from internet leads, etc.). Without a good definition of success, it will be difficult for you to hold your consultants or employees to your standards. Because you have the destination picked, a good expert will be able to put together a roadmap for you.

2.    Ask to see behind the curtain. If an expert won’t allow you or your staff to participate in any of their inbound marketing efforts, you need to be suspicious. The worst thing that can happen to you is that your expert is using black-hat techniques to artificially accelerate the results. The long-term side-effect can be devastating to your efforts. Your expert should also be giving you an education.

3.    Get references and case studies because inbound marketers tend to brag. This is your opportunity to find out what they’ve done in the past. Even if your expert is your cousin or neighbor’s son and has no previous experience, you need to make sure that your resource has legs to stand-on. Don’t simply rely on their pretty website or number of Twitter followers.

As I continue to speak with smart business owners and marketers that want to start using inbound marketing, I’m sure I will hear more horror stories about how a consultant didn’t live up to their claims. It makes me thankful that the Red Sox don’t hire everyone in Boston that seems to know exactly what the team should do.

Are you a hiring manager who is having trouble telling digital natives from the internet marketing experts? Have any tips on how to root out the true experts from the natives? Share them in the comments.

photo by nomaan!

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Originally published Nov 30, 2009 8:30:00 AM, updated March 21 2013