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June 30, 2023
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 min read

What Is a Subject Matter Expert and Why Are They Important?

A Subject Matter Expert is an indispensable asset in today's business landscape, where intelligence is easily accessible through cost-effective generative AI.

What Is a Subject Matter Expert and Why Are They Important?

Subject Matter Experts, with their deep and specific knowledge in a given field, provide a unique edge that allows businesses to differentiate themselves in this rapidly evolving digital world.

What is a Subject Matter Expert?

A Subject Matter Expert (SME) is an individual who possesses comprehensive and authoritative knowledge in a specific domain, process, technology, or field.

They have attained a level of expertise that makes them the 'go-to' person for questions, guidance, and problem-solving in their particular area.

Subject Matter Experts can hail from a broad spectrum of areas depending on the industry and the organizational needs. They can have expertise in highly technical fields such as IT, software development, cybersecurity, or data science. They can also be specialists in areas like finance, human resources, sales and marketing, healthcare, manufacturing processes, environmental regulations, and more.

In essence, any field that requires deep knowledge and understanding can have a subject matter expert.

Six Examples of Subject Matter Experts in an AI-Driven Business Landscape

Even as AI automates routine tasks, Subject Matter Experts bring irreplaceable human insight, nuanced understanding, and creative intuition to the table. Here are some roles that especially call for this unique value addition:

  1. SEO Specialists: While AI can streamline keyword research and data analysis, an Subject Matter Expert in SEO can craft a bespoke SEO strategy considering the broader marketing goals, competitor landscape, and changing search engine algorithms. They can intuitively address evolving user search behaviors and adapt to the dynamic nature of SEO, thus ensuring your content is always optimized for visibility.
  2. Copywriters: AI can generate text based on patterns, but it lacks the innate human touch that resonates with audiences. Subject Matter Experts in copywriting are adept at capturing your brand's unique voice, understanding the emotions and motivations of your target audience, and crafting compelling narratives that engage and convert. They keep a pulse on cultural nuances, slang, and emerging trends, thereby making the content timely and relevant.
  3. Marketers: While AI has transformed data-driven marketing, an Subject Matter Expert in marketing brings the much-needed strategic lens and creative spark. They can contextualize data insights, understand the complexities of customer journeys, and design innovative campaigns that resonate on a human level. They navigate the intersection of marketing channels, customer psychology, and business objectives to drive growth.
  4. Data Scientists: Even as AI gets better at processing and interpreting data, the role of data science Subject Matter Experts remains crucial. They can weave meaningful narratives from raw data, identify underlying patterns, and apply these insights strategically to address business challenges and opportunities.
  5. Cybersecurity Specialists: As cyber threats become more sophisticated, Subject Matter Experts in cybersecurity are needed to anticipate vulnerabilities, design resilient systems, and ensure an adaptable defense mechanism that can counter evolving threats.
  6. Legal and Compliance Experts: The rise of AI and data-centric operations underscores the need for Subject Matter Experts who can navigate the maze of data privacy regulations, intellectual property rights, and AI ethics to ensure compliance and protect your business from legal ramifications.
Why are Subject Matter Experts important for Your business?

"In an age where AI can emulate many tasks, it's the irreplaceable, nuanced expertise of Subject Matter Experts that truly differentiates a business, fueling innovation and strategic growth".

- Torbjørn Flensted

8 Steps to Becoming a Subject Matter Expert in Your Chosen Field

Certainly, becoming a Subject Matter Expert (SME) isn't confined to a linear path, and often, it's the unorthodox approaches that yield the most exciting insights and innovations. Here's a less conventional yet effective guide on how to become an Subject Matter Expert:

1. Select Your Niche

The journey to becoming an Subject Matter Expert begins with choosing your area of expertise. It should be something you're genuinely interested in and passionate about. But don't confine yourself to conventional domains. The most interesting niches often lie at the intersection of disciplines.

2. Embrace the Beginner's Mindset

Even as an Subject Matter Expert, it's crucial to keep the beginner's mindset. Never assume you know everything about your field. There's always more to learn, and maintaining a curious, open mind allows for continuous learning and discovery.

3. Deep Dive into Learning

Get your hands on every resource you can—books, podcasts, research papers, online courses, seminars, and more. Remember, the goal isn't just to accumulate knowledge; it's about understanding concepts deeply and being able to view them from multiple perspectives.

4. Engage with the Community

Join forums, attend conferences, participate in online discussions, and connect with other enthusiasts and experts in your field. You'll gain invaluable insights from their experiences and perspectives.

5. Get Practical Experience

Apply your knowledge in real-world scenarios. Work on projects, even if they're self-initiated. Practical application often uncovers nuances that theoretical knowledge doesn't reveal.

6. Challenge Established Norms

The best Subject Matter Experts aren't afraid to question accepted wisdom and challenge the status quo. Think critically about established theories and practices in your field; dig deeper when you come across something that doesn't make sense.

7. Share Your Knowledge

Write articles, give talks, or mentor others in your field. Sharing solidifies your understanding, positions you as an authority in your field, and enables you to give back to the community.

8. Keep Evolving

Even when you're recognized as an Subject Matter Expert, remember that it's not a destination but an ongoing journey. Keep learning, evolving, and pushing the boundaries of your knowledge.

Being an Subject Matter Expert is about more than being the smartest person in the room. It's about being the most curious, the most daring, and the most resilient.

What Is a Subject Matter Expert and Why Are They Important?

Leading SEO expert with two decades of industry experience and founder of

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