You’re a middle-aged chief marketing officer. And everything and everyone around you is rapidly advancing in matters digital.
But your chaotic schedule won’t allow you to learn all the things your youngest employees were seemingly born knowing how to do.
You owe it to yourself and to your career to develop skills that keep you at the top of your game.
Here’s what you can do to survive in this digital age:
1. Spend 20 minutes a day exploring.
There are no digital experts. The pace of technological change is too fast. Everyone is an explorer. The best practitioners just spend more time doing it than you. If you want to stay ahead, you need to understand the possibilities.
To do that, make digital exploration part of your lifestyle. When you hear about a new site, app, service, company, look it up. You don’t need to learn to code, but engage in the online and tech universe and actively educate yourself.
2. Get on Twitter and Instagram.
Sign up. Follow on Twitter and Instagram your colleagues, other chief marketing officers, brands, personalities and news and sports outlets that interest you.
Don’t act like a corporation. Be yourself. Try to create a few posts or updates a day. Experiment.
Share things that you’re proud of or whatever grabs your attention. Comment. Ask questions. Respond.
Once you’re comfortable, try out other social-media networks. You don’t need thousands of followers. You just want to learn best practices and formulate opinions.
3. Download apps. Buy gadgets.
Find your inner app geek. Replace as many life tasks as you can with digital services. Purchase gadgets and download apps even if you don’t know what they are exactly at first.
Some of my favorite apps to use include Uber for rides, Zite for news, Postmates for delivery, FitStar for workouts and Dark Sky for weather.
And don’t forget to avail yourself of the connected gadgets. Do some weekend drone flying, make GoPro movies and buy some wearable tech.
Document your learnings. You’ll spot trends and become smarter.
4. Follow BuzzFeed video and Vice on YouTube.
You’re not just competing with other companies. You’re competing to keep up with culture.
BuzzFeed and Vice and other video outlets are creating a lot of it these days. BuzzFeed has more than 74 million unique visitors and routinely scores more than 1 million views a video.
Spend as much time as you can on popular YouTube channels like BuzzFeed and Vice. Follow the feeds of popular video creators.
There’s an art and science to creating shareable digital video content. Familiarize yourself with it. Everything you make should be designed so it could be shared online.
5. Hang out with proven innovators.
Many professionals talk to themselves too much, forgetting that the best ideas result from divergent thinking. Over the last seven years, I have tried to exit my comfort zone by spending one-on-one time with proven innovators outside the advertising and marketing field.
I’ve met with venture capitalists, engineers, founders and notable technology thinkers. I take an annual ski trip organized by Path founder Dave Morin called The Lodge with a group of tech innovators to expose myself to new and unexpected thinking.
Most of these different types of people whom you will reach out to will want to have a relationship with you. Invite them over, have them speak to your company and take dine with them at events like SXSW, CES, TED or Cannes.
Also participate in labs run by Google, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter and meet with the engineers not just the salespeople. You’ll learn a lot more from the makers than the sellers.
6. Hire Internet kids.
Training will help, but it won’t be enough. The digital landscape is too complex and fast moving. And this is an age of specialization. If you want to do breakthrough marketing, surround yourself with young digital specialists who are obsessed with Internet culture and technology, the type of people who explore the digital world for fun, not just work.
Put them in key and empowered roles and task them with evaluating ideas, identifying the right partners, developing digital, mobile and social media strategies and keeping your company digitally literate.
Find the Gen Y people who know how to win on the Internet.
The next generation of brands that history will remember will be digital at their core. Stay close to the talent inventing it. Hire young, digital folks and people smarter than you.
7. Remember what you bring to the table.
Digital natives instinctively understand what works on the Internet. But remember you’re a marketing chief for a reason – not because you can fly drones, build robots and write code.
You understand business, culture and brands and have the skills and experience to lead people and large organizations. You have vision – something everyone needs but few possess. The secret to your longevity is maintaining curiosity, keeping an open mind and giving smart young people plenty of runway. Don’t tell them what to do. Show them where to go. That way everybody wins.