When Can We Start To Say “Expert?”

Are you an expert? Since getting involved social media a few years ago, I’ve consistently shied away from describing myself with one word:

Expert.

I’ve also avoided using the word to describe others.

Not only have I shied away from using the word, I’ve been pretty harsh on the people who have used it.

Plenty of other people have similarly railed against social media “experts” – Michael Pinto is one recent example that attracted attention, but others like Brian Solis, Michael Gray, Geoff Livingston and Beth Harte and Susan Murphy have written about it in recent months.

I have avoided the “expert” term in the past for a few reasons:

  1. Because I’m still learning every day;
  2. Because the term “expert” sets you up for a fall;
  3. Calling yourself an “expert” makes you look like a pompous ass – that should be left to other people;
  4. Social media as a “discipline” (for want of a better word) has only been around for a few years;
  5. Social media is evolving so quickly that few people can really get a handle on everything.

Until recently I’ve agreed with Chris Brogan‘s take that saying you’re a social media expert is like saying you’re an email expert

Recently, though, I’ve started to wonder about my stance on “experts.”

  • Social media has now been around for a few years;
  • A lot of people have now been implementing and advising organizations and people on this for a while;
  • We’ve started to see a widening gap between people who get it right and people who get it wrong that makes me think it might be time to differentiate between the professionals and the enthusiasts.

I’m still not going to use the term about myself as I think my original points still stand in relation to me, but I’m starting to consider breaking it out to describe the people that I think consistently hit the nail on the head.

I wonder, does anyone care about this distinction outside of the fishbowl? Are those of us inside the bowl shooting ourselves in the foot while those outside call themselves “experts,” potentially landing more clients in the process? Does it make any difference?

So what do you think? Are we at a point yet where we can talk about social media experts?

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.