Our resources are our network, research skills, intelligence and ability to communicate.
Our knowledge is the stuff we already know.
Resources crush knowledge, every time.
Why, Ian, why?
Here’s why I’m writing like I’m in a philosophy survey course:
Several times in the last year, I’ve gone to Twitter, Facebook and such to get input from colleagues. I’ll ask something like “Anyone else had trouble with [insert feature] in Google Analytics?”
Generally, I’m asking those questions because of a client project.
The result, nearly every time: Someone at the client’s office sees that I actually asked others for advice, freaks out, and runs to their boss screaming OMG Ian is a freaking moron he’s asking people on Twitter for help.
You can guess how I feel about it: Anyone stupid enough to not check their premises with their colleagues needs to get out of consulting. Period. Because resources are more important than knowledge.
I asked around to see what other folks thought. Ironic, huh?
Gillian Muessig, President, SEOMOZ:
Glad you asked – this is a pet peeve of mine and I am happy to weigh in strongly on this issue.
The question has more to do with traditional business relationship issues than with the technology of Twitter or other social media portals that enable swift/immediate answers to be at the fingertips of consultants. The underlying issue behind the IT Manager’s actions has to do with one-upsmanship – in other words, he was in a pissing match with you and took the opportunity to label you as ‘clueless’ in front of his colleagues in order to build his own stature as an expert.
This has been a problem of in-house vs consultant relations since time immemorial. Here’s my put:
Clients should be delighted to have hired an honest, capable consultant who brings great value to the table. And when that consultant doesn’t have confidence about an answer to an important question at hand, the client should be THRILLED to see that the consultant doesn’t bullshit his way through the issue, but immediately takes action, using all the technology and tools at his disposal to obtain the correct answer and guide the client safely through it.
The client can’t ask the same question on Twitter and get the same answers from the same people. The experts don’t follow them. You, the consultant have a number of tools at your disposal – and access to the best and brightest in your industry, of which you are a full-fledged ‘paying’ member, do have access to that knowledge bank. Not leveraging your assets in support of your client would be tantamount to selling a product and then holding back.
The most powerful people on earth will tell you time and again:
You do not need to know all the answers; you need only to know and have access to the people who do.
All that said: please remember not to share any proprietary information in order to obtain your answer. It appears that you respected that rule.
You can reach Gillian at SEOMOZ or on Twitter – @seomom
Rand Fishkin, Wizard, SEOMOZ
I personally think it’s a wonderful way to tap into a network and crowdsource smart answers to tough questions and problems. I also believe that clients should be recruiting and hiring consultants based, in part, on the strength of their networks and ability to leverage that community to provide smart answers.
Rand is the Wizard of Moz. What else needs to be said? You can find him on Twitter at @randfish.
David Mihm, Local Search Guru
When you hire a consultant, part of what you are often hiring is the collective knowledge of that person’s peers. Would you rather your consultant “muddle through” a “long, hard slog” wasting his time and your money trying to figure out a particular problem? Or would you rather he had the foresight to ask a set of experts in a specialized topic for their advice on your behalf? (And no, the reference to the utter failure of the Bush/Rumsfeld mentality to ignore intelligent peers was not accidental.)
Very rhetorical, David. But I get it. You can reach David at Davidmihm.com and on Twitter at @Davidmihm.
Dana Lookadoo, Yo Yo SEO
Peer collaboration is key. Just like in school, the person who asked the most questions was the one who usually aced the test. Asking a question has an unjust stigma – that the person doesn’t know the answer. In reality, the one asking the question is usually the thinker, the one who gathers information to come to the best conclusion and with full picture of the options and situation.
SEO and online marketing are not exact sciences. The art comes in by exploring different approaches, ways of painting on the search canvas. I ask questions publically to open my horizons, to discover alternative approaches, the way an artist may use different brushes. Paint-by-numbers doesn’t exist in this industry. It’s highly important to collaborate with peers. Iron sharpens iron! Those who work in a closed system will rust and certainly loose rankings and traffic!
Dana is launching a new SEO company, YoYoSEO – launching soon. In the mean time, she’s on Twitter at @yoyoseo. She’s also done something I never did: Got on the podium at a few bike races.
Gab Goldenberg, Owner, SEOROI
I think the Pirkei Avot, or ‘Ethics of Our Fathers’, says something like: The fool thinks he knows it all. The wise man acknowledges what he doesn’t know.
I had a similar experience, asking for advice on the Google Webmaster Forum, since it was for my seo site. N I was like, “I’m an expert because I know enough when to ask…” That helped tone things down n got people’s respect.
Gab Goldenberg is on Twitter at @SEOROI. He gets double props for citing Jewish teachings sufficiently obscure that I haven’t heard ’em named since Hebrew school.
Todd Mintz, Founding member of SEMPDX, Writer on Search Engine Guide
Even the top guns in this industry haven’t encountered every situation before…but chances are that somebody in your extended network has experienced it. It would be foolhardy not to reach out to your network for advice and insight …doing so only benefits the client. The client should be stoked that many SEO consultants share information openly amongst themselves and they should know that SEO is a complex enough discipline where nobody knows it all.
Todd writes for the SEMPDX blog, is the Director of Internet Marketing and Information Systems at SR Clarke, and helped found SEMPDX. He’s an underachiever. You can find him on Twitter at @Toddmintz.
Rebecca Kelley, Director of Social Media, 10e20
I did it all the time when I was doing Q&A at SEOmoz. One person on Twitter caught me tweeting his question and was like “I asked that!” but was totally cool with me asking others for their input. I think it’s B.S. for a client to expect you to know the answer to everything — a good client understands that a good consultant will know when to ask for help or do research/hunt to find the best answer when he doesn’t know it.
I would never B.S. a response if I didn’t know the best or correct answer — that’s misleading and can be harmful to the client. Better to reach out to your colleagues or strong network of experts through social media or other means to find the right answer than to provide nothing or the wrong answer.
Rebecca is the Director of Social Media at 10e20. She’s a long-time link bait expert.
Resources > Knowledge
No matter what you do for a living, you have limited data storage. I topped out shortly after having children. That’s when resources – your own creativity, intelligence, research skills and network – became more valuable to me than knowledge.
I will always maintain that resources are ultimately more valuable than your total knowledge. That’s even more true as we collect larger and larger circles of friends, colleagues and connections through online communities.
Caveat: If you have no knowledge of a subject, no amount of resources can save you. OK?
I’m going to add input from other online marketers as it comes in. Did I mention August is a terrible time to try to reach folks?
Ian, thanks for the opportunity to chime in! It’s nice to see that even though we answered in a vacuum without knowing how others answered, we were essentially in unison.
Since many of us thrive through the communities we network within, it’s a given to ask.
I especially like and want to repeat Todd Mintz’ comment: “It would be foolhardy not to reach out to your network for advice and insight.”
You hit this spot on, and I hope this will encourage online marketers even more to not hesitate to ask questions!
It’s hard to differentiate between the two. You may have spent years building your knowledge, but during that time you also built different resources to help put that knowledge to work – so I have a hard time really removing one from the other.
I will say that when it comes to your network, that can be huge. You might know a little about everything that surrounds what you do, but by having a network of experts in each area, you have that knowledge by your fingertips (by proxy of course).
Excellent post Ian. There is no cookie-cutter solution for every problem – we learn through experience, why not tap into your network’s experience for help? That’s the beauty of social networks these days, people can be very generous with their knowledge and time. When I’m working on a project that requires research, I do what I can to aggregate that information and post it. It would be shortsighted to hold onto resources when I can pay it forward and save someone else time in the the future.
I think this is spot on use for a business blog – educating clients in a valuable way.