Nope, No Expert Here…

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…and quite happy to say so!

Every once in a while a client with whom I have worked for many months or even years, and with whom I have a very honest and straightforward relationship, will introduce me to one of his/her friends, co-workers or colleagues as a “social media expert”. I ALWAYS cringe and shudder (inwardly), then try to smile and make the usual small talk and chat with the person to whom I’ve been introduced. Once we were alone again, I take the time to tell that client that I feel uncomfortable with the idea of an “expert” when it comes to social media. As I already stated, these are clients with whom I am quite in tune, so this statement often piques their interest and starts an interesting discussion. I thought I’d share some of the discussion points with the readers here.

Expert

photo credit: Pete Prodoehl via photopin cc

If you keep up with any and all news that gets tagged, shared, searched and skimmed with regard to those who work with social media, you know that new apps, software, platforms, yadda yadda…pop up every day. There’s really no way that anyone can actually be on top of it all. You could skim the articles, check out the demos, maybe download an app or twelve, EVERY DAY, and you still haven’t scratched the surface of what’s available and deemed the “next GREAT BIG thing”. Look at your RSS feed, every scroll showcases a title detailing something else new, improved or some combination of the two.

So, I ask you – how could you possibly keep up with each and every latest and greatest? How could you possibly profess expertise.

It’s the abundance, this gluttony of new and better that makes me shy away from the idea of calling myself an expert. I can’t, in good conscience, say I’m adept with each app, stellar with every new type of software, proficient with every platform. I can’t even try them all – and I really wouldn’t want to try them all, being quite honest. I’d spend my entire day, 24-7-365, skimming articles, downloading and testing. I’d never do any work for the clients that actually pay me to keep their campaigns running fresh and strong.

Even if one considers only and simply using the biggest of the big guns, Facebook and Twitter, Linkedin and Google+, your blog and an eNewsletter, maybe FourSquare or Yelp if you’re in a location based/local driven business, there’s no end to the new ways and means to revamp, refine and revise the way we post, discuss and share. There are, of course, new ways to manage information, photos, videos and more. There are new widgets, apps, gizmos and more that pop up every day. So you’ll never hear me say I’m a “particular application” expert either. Though I use them every day, there is no one size fits all solution to posting, curating, sharing and relationship building that would allow for “expertise” per se.

Let me give you an example. When all the Facebook Edgerank hullabaloo started, those of us using Facebook for business had to consider our post style. Were we going to go for more boring and bland text only posts to bolster reach and rank or were we going to continue to post images in order to enhance engagement. It was a choice that had to be made. Were we to stop posting shared link summaries as the main post and put links in the first comment (NO, NO, NO)? It’s these kind of regular, and even daily decisions that make “expertise” difficult to grasp and hold.

So…what am I? I like to think that I’m a social media “enthusiast”. Someone who takes the time to keep as up to date as possible on what’s new, improved and no longer available. I might call my self a “seeker of social savvy”, as I like to think that I do the careful research that allows me to see past fads and “gotta have this minute” new and shiny apps and widgets. I might call myself an analyst, as I carefully choose what will work best for a client, even if it isn’t the latest and greatest, the newest and neatest, the here today and more than likely gone tomorrow.

My clients understand and appreciated this idea, my aversion to the term expert. I think that savvy, careful current and potential clients will feel much the same. What do you think?

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Mallie Hart
After a long career as a graphic artist, web designer and ghost writer, Mallie found her true calling when personal social media embarked on the path leading to social business. While she still gets busy with graphics, most of her creative energy is now directed to unique social media content creation, curation and cultivation. Her dual love of graphic design and social media requires her to research, write about and promote a wide variety of topics while staying true to brand integrity. A research junkie - she majored in medieval history, Mallie enjoys the opportunity to find an interesting angle on just about any type of business or industry niche. When she’s not busy with The Media Barista, Mallie has been known to devour books (several per week), careen over rocks and roots on her bicycle and seek out the newest, edgiest music; all while drinking a lot of coffee.
Mallie Hart

@themediabarista

Caffeinated creativity and connections...building the best social media campaigns! When not here, I'm herding cats at @collectiveSS! #socialbiz
Have you noticed I don't post here anymore? Please come connect over at @moremallie. No automation - all off the cuff! - 2 months ago
Mallie Hart

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Comments

  1. I totally relate to what you say, Mallie. I think most people in the social media field are uncomfortable calling themselves "experts" for the reasons you state.

    The technology and is both too new and transforming too quickly to ever be able to grasp it entirely.
    But people need experts. Clients want to hire experts.

    So while I won't call myself one (prefer specialist), I use the relativist take on it – I'm more expert than you because I have spent years researching and using the technology.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Kittie Walker says:

    I agree with what you say nobody other than perhaps the developers of the apps, platforms or software can really class themselves as an expert. As Ray says all we can do is keep researching and testing so that we can keep our clients ahead of the curve.

    • Mallie Hart says:

      Even the app developers have to worry about operating system changes, upgrades and glitches, right Kittie!

      • Kittie Walker says:

        Absolutely, they have their own set learning curves for the tools and systems they use to produce their products! :D

  3. The best is when I read 'social media guru'. That is just as hilariously awesome! Most conversations I have with these social media 'experts' shows me that they know as much as the next person because over time we all start reading from the same resources: news, blogs, sites… We are all enthusiastic about it, which is why we are in this field, we like to push information and elevate worthy stories or topics or brands or causes. Expert Schmexpert.

    • Mallie Hart says:

      Couldn't agree more, Tiana! Thanks for the comment. Guru is one that always causes me to emit a half groan/half laugh.

  4. I like and think Social Media “enthusiast” works. Expert, guru, rockstar, etc., which are generally self-generated, are comical. The field is to new to have any legit experts anyway. As you mentioned, to be a Social Media "Expert" is near impossible. There are just too moving parts. You might have a shot of being a "Twitter" expert or "Google +" expert, but no way Social Media Expert.

    • Daniel Hebert says:

      I agree with you Steve. One could possibly be a Facebook expert, but there's absolutely no way you could be a social media expert (way too broad of a field).

      I read a definition of expert once that said that "an expert is someone that made every possible mistakes there is to be made in a particular, narrow field." If this is a true definition of an expert, there is no way that anyone is a Social Media Expert.

    • Mallie Hart says:

      Thanks for the reply, Steven. I think you're correct. If you can niche down in our niche, you might stand a chance at expertise.

  5. Daniel Hebert says:

    Great post Mallie!

    I like to use "professional" or "strategist". The only problem that I see with the term "enthusiast" is that anyone can be an enthusiast of anything, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it's their career/profession. I usually use the term "digital marketing professional", or "digital marketing strategist" more than "social media professional", just because what I do usually involves a lot more than just using social media.

    I do agree with you though, "expert", "guru", "ninja", etc. are no-nos :)

    • Mallie Hart says:

      There's the thing with "descriptors", Daniel. We can all find reasons why they don't work. While I absolutely do strategize, I would never call myself a strategist because its clinical, number crunching "sound" detracts from the social nature of what we do. And professional seems a bit blatant and obvious. I'll have to try on a few more before I find one that fits.

  6. Randy Bowden says:

    I can totally relate with your assessment of “enthusiast” Mallie and personally try to stir clear of titles. As for the label of “professional” it is simply a reference of a “expert” who is a master in a specific field! I struggled with that during my corporate career as I felt I was in a continual learning cycle constaintly moving in and out of departments and specialties learning the general as most managers do but certainly never on the level of expert, much like today. Hell, I have been drinking bourbon whisky for over 25 years and learn something new about that delightful amber liquid all the time! For me, I am a marketer with an insatiable appitite for the craft.

  7. Jen Walker - Be A Top Producer says:

    It is hard to take people seriously who claim to be experts or gurus in the social media field. Anyone who is very familiar with this field knows that things change so rapidly that there really are no experts and claiming to be one is just wrong! I have called myself an 'enthusiast' for years and am well aware that there is still so much to know!

  8. I have a lot of respect for you folks who operate in the social space. The whole thing is just daunting to keep up with it all. Whenever I hear "social media expert" I cringe as well, but I appreciate the title because I know not to waste time taking the person seriously. Save me time trying to figure them out.

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