I was part of a conversation over dinner at a the other night and a fellow networker challenged a reference to the term ‘expert’ and in particular to the sudden increase in so called ’social media experts’. I’ve been reflecting on this the past few days and so wanted to get something down because it’s actually an interesting multi faceted debate. My immediate on the spot response was this ‘There are no social media experts there are only people experts‘ or something like that but you get the gist of my point. If not then don’t worry, this is what this post is about.
In this article I’ll try to fairly break down what it is to be a social media expert. It might go on a bit but will try to keep it as brief as possible and yet cover all angles at the same time. Hopefully unravel some of the mysteries as well. so here goes…
What makes an expert?
Well plainly speaking the dictionary says “a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field”. Well that isn’t overly helpful because subjectively anyone can claim to hold a special skill or knowledge over someone else.
Another point is that there are no hard and fast rules about length of time over which someone should serve in order to be crowned an expert. There was a time when to speak about advertising (for example) you needed to of been working in the field for 25 years or so. Social media is as old as the internet which is approx 20 years but the so called ‘boom’ has been in the last 3 years or so and twitter experts are popping up all over the place in the last 6 months.
So how long has social media been around?
Well as noted above it’s actually as old as the internet. Social media defined as ‘conversations on the internet’ (in it’s rawest form) was the basis for the internet coming alive. If you want to disagree with that then do your homework on how the internet started. More recently internet forums sprung up covering all and every subjects for example in area of business allowing business folk to exchange ideas, advice and reviews. It is only since the prolific use of the likes of Facebook, twitter and similar that the phrase social media has come into the lime light and become (as most things do) a bandwagon for the masses to jump on.
Just pushing buttons?
But wait, unlike say for example ‘accountancy software’ social media has 2 distinct sides to it that other on-line apps do not. Yes it has the mechanical computer data input side that has to be learnt in order to use the software, what button to push to do whatever etc. But, training people to use these applications does not require a social media expert, lets face it that’s the job of an IT trainer, no? It’s no different to teaching them to use word, excel or whatever.
A revolution and the people business
So the 2nd side of it all is the human side. It’s the interaction, the engagement, the agreeing and disagreeing, sharing the good times and bad times, experiences, it’s all about experiences. We are an experiential society now, the phrase ‘if it feels good then do it’ is at the heart of it all. You see what has happened in marketing over the past 20 or so years is not mechanical it’s massive sociological shift, a revolution if you will in the way people make decisions on life, make and build beliefs and more importantly for us in the business community the way in which people make decisions on buying goods and services.
Social media experts MUST be ’social media revolution and cultural shift experts’ if they are to be of any benefit to those paying them big £££ to teach them, if they are not then they are nothing more than glorified IT trainers. If you don’t fully understand what has occurred over the past 20 years on these fundamental sociological changes then how on earth can you teach others to use social media to work to their advantage and so reaching new audiences and markets?
So we’ve established the 2 sides to social media. What about when it comes to the nitty gritty of the coaching/teaching (assuming they can use the stuff, look if they can’t switch a computer on then there’s no hope), not everyone is capable of ‘getting it’. That is to say they simply can’t understand people, putting it bluntly they aren’t people people. ‘A leopard wont change its spots’ the saying goes and for some you simply can’t make them people people. Can I go so far as to say that if someone wants to spend lots of £££ on hiring an expert to teach them skills that they think they need to succeed in today’s business world then that’s up to them but shouldn’t such an expert tell them that they are unlikely to succeed and should look at appointing someone else to handle social networking, someone who ‘gets it’ someone who can meaningfully engage with people.
You see the problem is that the ‘bandwagon’ I spoke about earlier has become a commodity, that is social media experts are selling or I should say ‘reselling’ the bandwagon onto their clients. Using social media is not like buying boxed software off the shelf it’s far far deeper than that.
So who gets it?
I don’t want to make this a social media expert bashing post and equally I’m no real authority on who is and who isn’t an expert but there are genuinely people out there who really do get it. What they are saying is far deeper than a ‘do this do that; push this push that’ type advice. In fact their advice can often be applied to doing business at a general level and indeed just getting on in life. One such person is . I’ve heard him speak and seen / read some of his stuff and he’s someone that clearly gets it. Of course he doesn’t need my approval at all but when I first saw his words I thought that he was reading my mind! But look at his background, it’s sales not IT, that’s people not buttons.
So in closing what am I saying? Well I’m saying that social media is far deeper than the methods. It’s about attitude, practices, engagement, culture, people, relationships. I’m also saying that not all that glitters is gold! I’d also like to be so bold and think that we’re people that ‘get it’ and we’d really like other businesses to start to ‘get it’ as well.
That’s my 6 pence worth on the subject (for now). As I write this tomorrow we’re going to be exhibiting at a business expo in Norwich and the main speaker is guess what? A ’social media expert’ so it will be interesting to hear what he has to say but checking his blog he’s not done an entry for 2 months!