There are now more than 181,000 people that include the words “social media” in their Twitter bio, followed by some kind of qualifier: guru, maven, jedi, expert, ninja, professional, etc. This finding was reported last week by B.L. Ochman on Ad Age Digital, creating somewhat of a frenzy on various forums, blogs and… social media, of course. There are even 174 so-called “social media whores” on Twitter, for whatever that means!
SO WHAT, RIGHT?
Reading that story reminded me of this Hubspot cartoon from three years ago, in case you may have missed it.
There are essentially two schools of thought on this one. Some folks think it’s alright to self-proclaim yourself as an expert, guru, ninja, or jedi, if indeed you have relevant expertise and know-how. Others feel it’s ridiculous to even claim such expertise when the social media field is so nascent. I believe there is some truth in both opposing views, actually.
Personally, I find it somewhat pompous to call oneself any qualifier such as ‘guru’ or ‘jedi’. These terms are usually associated with someone who’s dedicated his or her life to learning in a given field. Sure, we get it, there is a tongue-in-cheek aspect in play here. I concur with B.L. Ochman that such terms are perhaps acceptable when bestowed upon someone, not when you self-proclaim. Just today, I came across a post announcing the presence of a social media guru, speaking at a Travel Agent summit coming up in Las Vegas. Out of curiosity, I checked out that person’s profile on Twitter, her blog and website. Yup, this lady certainly seems to have lots of experience in the travel industry and seems to fit the qualifier. And she doesn’t call herself a guru anywhere on her blog, website or Twitter bio. Call it being humble, or just plain common sense.
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HOW LONG ‘TIL ANYONE CAN BE A SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERT?
The real underlying question with this debate is perhaps this one: is there really such a thing as a social media expert? I don’t want to rehash last year’s debate over the claim only folks under 25 can properly manage social media because they understand it best (Read the story on Forbes). Or if you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, you know of his theory that it takes 10,000 hours working in a field or specialty in order to be considered an ‘expert’. Either way, if and when you hire a social media consultant to help with your situation, what you look for usually is:
- Track-record with other clients, i.e. recommendations on Linkedin or testimonials on website
- Case studies with recent clients: what was done, what were the objectives, how success was measured, what worked or not, etc.
- Tangible thought-leadership: personal or corporate blog, guest blogging, active and engaging presence on various social media, i.e. Twitter, Google+. Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook.
- Experience in your niche or industry
- Strategic thinking, or out-of-the-box approaches to solving problems
These are the aspects that rise to the top when considering working with a social media marketer. Some companies may require someone who is 100% savvy in social media, knowing the nuts and bolts of every modifications to Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm. Others will prefer someone who knows quite a bit about social media utilization, more than most people in fact, but who can also speak to SEO, AdWords campaigns or content marketing strategies across various company departments.
SEPARATING THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF
And that’s just the problem, ain’t it: how do you know which ones are the real experts? Well, when you see guru, jedi, maven or ninja, it’s usually a blunt giveaway: look the other way, and run! As far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t just apply to social media but to any field, really. I would rather work with a “real estate agent who listens to customer needs and gets the job done” rather than a “real estate rock star who broke every sales record for the past 12 years”. But hey, that’s me and I don’t judge folks who’d prefer to work with the latter.
So sure, there are people who claim to be social media experts because they’ve been on Facebook for the past five years, have a Klout score of 72 and count on 10,000 followers on Twitter, yet have little to no business experience. A little probing usually will allow to shed some light and get the clear picture before you commit to anything you might regret.