What it means to be a “Social Media Expert”

by keif on July 30, 2008

I’ve got to be honest – I’ve been really hard on anyone that introduces themselves as a “Social Media Expert.” I’m a little prejudiced, because I’m very familiar with Social Media and the social networking movement – I signed up for sixdegrees.com back in the day, I sought out the old school “party-lines” thanks to a phreak I knew.

That, to me, was the beginning of social networking. BBS were the original message boards. Hackers and computer nerds pioneered these ideas of getting people together across the country (and even the world) for the pursuit of knowledge.

Today we have Social Media Experts.

What are Social Media Experts?

Why, they’re experts in social media! To me, I always related Social Media as a skillset – they are part of a bigger role – much like how we don’t have HTML experts – they are part of a bigger role. They have the knowledge of the tool sets. They have a proven track record of showing how they apply their knowledge to various business functions, which creates value.

To be an expert – you must have experience, a track record! Now take a minute and visit that link. Read through The Personal Branding Blog – and if you have twitter I suggest you add @danschawbel as well (and add me too!). You can start to see his understanding the Social Media Experts of today will not exist in the short future.

What Social Media Is

Social Media is an extension of Public Relations, communications, customer service, business development… it’s a tool to be used, to be taught. You use your expertise to assist your clients – not to milk them for eyars, but to show them how to be capable themselves. You need to be an expert so you can teach them your skill set (and if you’re truly indispensable, they know you’ve got an eye for “the next big thing” so I’m sure you can inherit a new Web 3.0 title when those start coming around).

What Social Media Isn’t

Social Media isn’t all about networking – but it is one aspect. It’s about OPENness. It’s about communication. It’s not about hording information, or acting like you hold some secret. You don’t – and the more you horde your information, try and make yourself “indispensable” by creating vague propositions hiding behind a mask of “social media.” You’ll be out of a job if you don’t start expanding your knowledge and understanding, and become a teacher.

The secret is OUT!

Social Media Experts are all ready on their way out – we know it’s a matter of time as the “skill set” propagates out – but the true value you have to add right now – appying your knowledge and experience with social toolsets and networking – proving that you have more to add than just one area of “expertise” – that will show your true colors – your mixing of your expertise in multiple aspects will outshine this “web 2.0 title” and propogate to show that you’re on top of what’s buzzing in Web 2.0 and you’ll be buzzing when Web 3.0 rolls around.

So – all you Social Media Experts – shine on and show the world your not just a buzz word!

  • http://www.afhill.com/blog Andrea Hill

    I guess I think of social media/social interaction design as an extension as to how ppl use the web. Yes, I too will say that we had it all going on back with geocities and livejournal.. but at the same time, you have to admit that how people use technology is changing.. I think that social media is about people leveraging technologies to communicate among themselves, as opposed to going to a destination website to learn about a brand. No, the basic premise is not new, but its relevance to business is.

    I think that PR is related to social media, but they’re not the same thing. I place the emphasis on social media on the platform, not on the message itself…

    • http://ikeif.net keif

      Well, ultimately that is what I mean – there is a relation, a cross-reference with other roles (much like we’ve seen from a marketing AND development perspective).

      I suppose that “Social Media Experts” fall in line more so with a relationship of what other aspect they know strongly – PR, HR, Development, Personal Branding, etc. etc.

      I really dig what…I’ve been digging up… as it’s really shedding a bit more light on people that claim a title, versus people that deserve the title (and also a nice guide to those that want to earn the title).

  • Amy

    Nice work. I too was a member of sixdegrees back in the day, and then Friendster, Myspace, and on and on and on. I also used Prodigy for bulletin boards and all the fun that come along with it.


    • http://ikeif.net keif

      Ah, the days of dial-up and trying to find a working number to dial-in.

      With the invention of DSL, cable, et al. I’m glad to see how expansive it’s becoming so that people from all nations and backgrounds are able to get online and connect.

      I still wonder what it’ll be like by the time my son’s old enough to be online…

  • http://the270.com Alvin

    Damn. And I was thinking of opening up a Social Media Expert consulting business. :)

    Check out my comment here (#14) http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2008/07/23/why-social-network-marketing-misses-out-playing-solitaire-at-a-party/.

    Not as well said as your post, but the gist is the same.

    • http://ikeif.net keif

      Well, there’s definitely money to be had in consulting, but it’s understanding at some point you’ll be replaced by a kid in grade school unless you show your value-added approach! ;)

  • http://www.larakretler.com Lara Kretler

    Great post – I present about social media all the time but one of my messages is that I am NOT an expert, just an enthusiast and avid user of social media. If you Google “social media expert” you get 12 million hits. It’s insane. The true gurus in this space are the ones who give the most away for free (a la Chris Brogan). Thanks for sharing this – and I love your skull background.

    • http://ikeif.net keif

      That’s really the thing that worries me most – people that can sell themselves well enough that they can “talk the talk” but create the wrong image of social media to the wrong people – whereas it potentially could hurt the “expert”, it could more so hurt a business that pursues a bad path or turns themselves off from social media altogether.

      Oh, and I really dig Chris Brogan (and my skull and crossbones is a piratey theme idea I had way too early in the morning :) )

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