Where Are The Experts?

The people on the leading edge of social media have, in general, avoided referring to themselves as experts. It’s partly due to modesty, and partly because everyone who calls themselves an “expert” gets widely mocked as a douchebag in the social media egosystem.

DouchebagI got a trackback today from a post by Marc Meyer, noting that “if I do a search for a social media expert, I may not be able to find one.” His post looks at the top ten Google results for “social media expert” and notes that only one is someone calling themselves an expert. The rest (including my own post on experts) are somewhat sceptical of people describing themselves as such.

Marc makes a fair point – there is a dearth of useful results when you look for people to help with your social media experts. That makes the selection process for companies all the more important, and was part of the reasoning behind my aforementioned post – you need to know the right questions to ask or you end up signing a contract for snake oil.

With that said, a few months ago I started to wonder when it’s going to be ok to start calling yourself an “expert.” People in other fields do, and social media has been around in an evolving form for ten years or so now. When will it be acceptable?

Part of the problem is that those of us who spend a lot of time thinking about social media and other thoughts of digital PR don’t want to position ourselves in the same pot as the plethora of jonny-come-lately self-entitled “experts” who have come crawling out of the woodwork recently.

Too many “experts” have built their egos on the back of their own “personal brands” but there’s a big difference between marketing yourself and marketing a corporation with stakeholders and competitors. Meanwhile, those of us who are looking to differentiate ourselves have taken to leading by offering advice instead of ego, and letting others judge if we know what we’re talking about.

To answer Marc’s point, here are some of the people I consider to be experts in the field of social media communications. I read their posts, in many cases I’ve met them in person and they’re doing the things that many other people only talk about.

These people aren’t necessarily the most prolific bloggers, but when they write, I read. When they speak, I listen… and their thoughts help me form my opinions, whether I agree with them or not:

Who do you regard as an expert?

Image credit: Marc Randazza

  • Dave, Jeremiah Owyang is a must read for me along with RichardatDell and Shel Israel. And how about Colin Mackay (CanuckFlack)? They’re experts to me.

  • Joe – all of those folks get the thumbs-up from me, too.

  • Patrice Cloutier

    Hey Dave … a good list … I’d provide two more names …

    on academic research on new media … a pretty solid reference for me anyways: Leysia Palen from UofColorado/Boulder and Michael Dumlao … from Booz Allen on the Beltway in DC … pretty influential …

    thanks to Gerald Baron … for leading me to these two …

  • I think it’s safe and somewhat necessary to call oneself a consultant(we have to eat don’t we?) but when people go around anointing themselves an expert, thats when the trouble starts.

    Luckily, not too many of these experts are well versed in marketing themselves online. If that were the case, then the search results would have said as much. And they didn’t. But even then, there is a dearth, as you said, of decent results. And to a certain degree, that’s a problem for companies and businesses of all sizes looking for social media consulting services.

    My guess is that those that are busy doing, are too busy to worry about what their title is; and as well have not taken the time to position themselves via search. And those that DO take the time to position themselves via SEO as social media experts, do so at their own peril. I like to repeat this often because it’s so true: If you have to tell people you are the man, you ain’t the man… Nice follow up post Dave.

  • Hi,
    Consultant is to me a better word than expert.

    I think you have to differentiate experts in the social media industry (analysts and consultants) and experts at marketing in social media.

    To me, what it takes to be an expert at marketing in social media for a given community is to have:
    – domain knowledge
    – passion
    – great ability to built trust with peers
    – marketing and strategy expertise
    – great writing skills

    As an example, if you want to be a great social media marketer for the “cloud computing” community, it’s better if you’re already a well connected expert from IBM with a great blog on the topic and that you know the analysts that matter and the key opinion leaders in this field.

    The challenge for enterprises is not to find experts ( and yes consulting and knowledge of best practices help) but to enable their people to engage in social media according to their marketing objective.

  • Me. But, as you say, I don’t talk about me.

  • Thanks for the article – I need to put this in my weekly newsletter to the students I teach SM 101 too.

    Personally I try to spend less type hyping social media and more time popping the bubble. People need to realize that this is just plain marketing when you are talking about business. Guess what people – Twitter is not anything new and magical.

  • When the corporate CEO has a question, he or she turns to a cadre of advisors and staff for help. This is why the CEO is not the Chief Expert Officer, or wouldn’t need the help.

    Likewise, a social media expert is an illusion or he/she would know everything, which clearly is not the case.