Without a doubt, the best way to educate yourself as to the state of marketing is to get out there and start engaging and experimenting with all the different tools. At a minimum, you should get used to using:
Twitter (setup an account. Start tweeting)
Tweetdeck (setup multiple searches, learn the lexicon of Tweets, evaluate brand usage)
LinkedIn (if you don’t have one… not sure what to say)
Facebook (focus on how brands are engaging on the site. Where are they present, and what are they doing?)
SlideShare (open an account. Post a presentation. Friend / Share / and cross promote your presentation)
YouTube (open an account and post a video. Explore the metrics)
Wordpress (or whichever blogging platform. Setup a new site)
Then, start advancing into more advanced subjects:
Bit.ly (figure out what it is. How can it be used? Across social, digital content, etc.)
QR Codes (go to Google, set one up. Find an example where and how they are being used)
SpredFast (look at the broader implications for syndicating content more broadly)
LoopFuse.com (one of the marketing automation vendors. Investigate what the technology does. How is it different from plain old ESP’s)
GoogleAnalytics (familiarize yourself with the metrics of websites)
GoogleAdsense (open it up, fund a baby account, figure out how the AdNetwork works and where and how both PPC terms and banners are pushed and to where).
Also, engage with communities. Find a way to be an active member and an ambassador for your brand (a lot, lot more coming on this front):
Figure out who the players are in your space. Think of it as forensic research. Look at the thought leadership they are putting out. Review their client and leadership rosters. Create a list of terms they are using and assess who you think they are appealing to across the marketing organizations?
Something else to do is start evaluating the communication strategy of your favorite brands. Register for their email programs (all of them), sign up loyalty programs, mailers, tweet about them (can you get $5 off your next pizza?) do whatever you can to engage with them to find out all you can. Start getting a sense for who you think is doing it well, and who isn’t.
There are a host of other ideas and approaches we could discuss here, but the key is to just get started. With all of this, you need to be diligent and consistent. Like training for a marathon, or losing weight, this isn’t going to be accomplished in a single session. This should be a regular part of your daily routine.