I think reading about digital marketing is a good start, but if you continue to use other people’s tips, you will always be following. There is also a significant industry in digital marketing and social media education and, unfortunately, not all of it is very accurate or useful.
Part of being a good digital marketer—especially the “best” digital marketer, as this person queries—is being able to jump to the next curve. Sure, you need to be able to repeat tried-and-true techniques—but you also need to be able build communities and campaigns in new environments. How do you do this? This means 1) investing in your skills and not just in quick fixes and 2) getting the most experience you can in the smallest amount of time. Digital marketing is unique in that the startup costs are low and the available analytics are many. What guides the strategy and tactics can become pretty instinctual (akin to riding a bike), so the trick is to quickly hone that instinct.
So aside from reading and identifying digital marketing examples that you love and can learn from (I admit to becoming obsessed with this when I was first getting into it), I would do the following:
1. Find a passion, start your own project, and grow its reach via digital channels. You need to put yourself in a position where you need to use digital channels. You should also put yourself in a position in which you have fun with it. This could be something as simple as a blog, a cause, a Facebook community, or a G+ page/community. It could even be volunteering your time to a nonprofit to jump start their digital marketing efforts.
2. Create often. Whether they are Twitter, Facebook, G+, videos, SEM, or other posts, post often. This will help you understand at a very tactical level what works in digital. (As an added side benefit, posting often and consistently is one of the best ways to build a community.)
3. Look at the numbers. When you post, make sure you have access to the metrics behind them to clearly understand how your posts are performing. And make it easy to check—this could mean creating a dashboard on one of the many free metric services.
4. Join a community. The best way to learn about the subject is to get really into it. Truly into it. Don’t just exploit it; have some fun. So find something that you enjoy and join relevant communities to learn how passions manifest themselves on digital. Learn about how digital marketing can play a role in fueling those passions.
5. Post for a high-volume social media account. You learn a lot very quickly from posting to high volume accounts. I’ve been fortunate to help grow and post for several accounts with several hundred thousand followers or more, and I have learned so much from it. High-volume accounts require a lot of content, and many are looking for help posting. Try to find one to help post. Doing this will accelerate your ability to learn about channel strategy, community building, community management, and content strategy.
6. Experiment. Don’t just do what people tell you. Be willing to try new things quickly and see how it goes. This is the fun part.
Lastly, I am going to go back on my earlier statement about reading and following by saying that Guy Kawasaki has been hugely influential in the way I think about digital marketing. He has used his foundational marketing instinct to help define how we think about digital marketing today. So, I would read his books, blogs, and posts (see tip 2 ;-).
I love digital marketing. I really think it’s fun. I hope these tips help other people enjoy it as much. Go crazy!