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I recently met a social media expert at a local gathering. To protect his identity, we will call him Ring Tailed Lemur.

Me: "What do you do?"
Ring Tailed Lemur: "I'm a social media expert."
Me: "Interesting. What sort of work do you do with social media?"
Ring Tailed Lemur: "I have lots of friends on Facebook and I tell them about my customers' products."
Me: (friendly joking) "I'm sure that makes you very popular."
Ring Tailed Lemur: (serious face) "Yes, well. I think they like it."
...long uncomfortable silence...
Me: "Cool."

Tags: ring tail lemur, social media

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I don't know - maybe it's my New York upbringing - but I don't detect any harshness here.

I mean this sincerely - a little heat is good for the community.

Anyway, some substantive points...

1. Laurence - there's a difference between sales/marketing and social media expertise. The general thread is about the latter, not the former.

2. If some harshness is detected, I think it's because there's a general feeling among people I speak to that
a) there's an extremely low barrier of entry to having an opinion about social media
b) for those people who actually work at building online businesses, 99% of blogosphere chatter is silly and distracting

So in the end, you wind up with a lot of opinion about silly stuff.

Second Life? Facebook applications? If you paid too much attention to these ephemera, you were likely not paying enough attention to the bottom line.

In most other industries, you don't find so much opinion allowed to float without substantiation. Does the conversation in the oil industry accept this? How about the insurance industry? It infantalizes a sector when it emphasizes gossip.

There are two types of people associated with the tech sector - those who view it as a hobby and those who view it as a business. Too many of the former dominate the conversation and it hurts the industry.

Unless you conduct detailed studies on a subject and back it up with an accumulation of dispassionate data, you're not an expert.

In commercial environments - that is, in real life - being a social media expert means knowing how to do SEO and SEO, A/B testing, etc... the other stuff ain't all that hard.
Sorry, I disagree entirely. In the original conversation, this person identified himself as a "Consultant". From the original conversation, it's pretty clear what kind of business he's engaged in. Whether it's useful and valuable remains to be seen, but it's clearly not mass "Web Marketing and SEO" as most of us know it.

Equating this person's occupation with traditional Commercial Marketing expertise and SEO knowledge is a very far stretch -- one that I didn't initiate, btw. He's in Marketing (somehow), and engages a target audience via Friends, and that's pretty much it.

I have equated this occupation with paid Socialites who go around the Clubbing scene promoting events, venues, and new products, and don't see much of a problem with it. I often see them at Amuse passing out postcards for upcoming events, for example.

Maybe just me, but "twit" just seems derogatory. I know it was said in jest, but still.. I'm not the only one who reacted to that.

End of discussion on my end, lest this thread turn more toxic than it already is. Thanks.
Anyway, back to the fun and humor of it all -- I'm a bit disappointed the standard HottieClock Guy outfit doesn't come with the glitter wand with streamers, and a rhinestone tiara. :-p

Excellent suggestions. I'll add these to the agenda of our next meeting: Discussion Item 4: Addition of glitter wand and rhinestone tiara to guys HottieClock outfit.

Just for clarification, and this is my fault for not explaining the "expert" comment, Ring Tail Lemur introduced himself as a consultant and referred to himself as an expert during the short conversation.

re: Twit

This is the danger of non-verbal communication. I think this was in jest. A friend of mine who started using twitter last month commented that his siblings always called him a twit growing up, and now its true. :-)
In the beginning, that being 1996 when we started our company in Santa Fe, New Mexico, we had to explain to our corporate and state government/agency clients why email was better than faxing and what the Internet was. 6 months after we created some of the first commercial websites in the Southwest, every Graphic Designer and geek with an AOL account was now an "Internet Expert" or "Email Expert" or "Web Site Developer." Really, the only difference between us and them is that we were actually doing the work while they just talked about it.

Fast forward 13 years and these same types of people are now "Facebook Consultants" and "Twitter Experts." Nothing new. In 6 months they'll be "Hunch.com Consultants" or whatever the new "easy-to-attach-a-shingle-to" online service happens to be.

There's a few things we try to keep in mind, or ask ourselves, when coming into contact and/or being approached by these types:

1. Are they actually producing any useful, helpful, or thought provoking content? Or are they just adding to the noise? You don't need years or decades of experience to contribute to an industry. Sometimes not having a pre-conceived notion about how an industry "should" work leads to refreshing breakthroughs. Read a few pages of their Tweets. Check their blog. It's easy to very quickly see if they are contributing.

2. Do they call themselves an expert? If so, they're probably not. I tend to agree with Malcolm Gladwell (just starting "Outliers") and the general Wikipeida def of an Expert, "In many domains of expertise estimates of 10 years experience or 10,000 hours deliberate practice are common.". So in my view, there are, not yet, any Social Media, Twitter, or Facebook experts.

3. Do we care? Are we, or I, personally and professionally interested in investing time, energy, resources (all of which for me are very limited and precious) in trying to figure out if someone is who they proclaim to be. Who cares if someone calls themselves an expert or a consultant? It's difficult to hide rocks if you live in a glass house... We do our best simply to ignore those people, don't give them any of our energy or attention, and keep doing to best work we can for our clients and ourselves.

The only time these "experts" seem to cause us or our business problems, is when companies hire them and then have that project or campaign fail. Having a failed project makes it difficult for us to persuade a potential client that a properly architected web presence or properly managed project has an exponentially better chance of success than that of their previous, and probably considerably cheaper, project/campaign experience.

All that being said, Daniel, I laughed out loud when I read your conversation with the Facebook person. It's so funny 'cause it's so true.
Finally a thread with some temper and opinions in it. :-)


(disclaimer..this is my opinion...please hold me to it).

First, the biggest problem isn't really that people call themselves something, it is how we evaluate them and that there is no accountability. It is OUR failure to properly evaluate sources. I think it stems from what Colbert labels Truthiness. It is true simply because someone say it is true. This, of course, only holds if we do not evaluate our sources. So an expert is only an expert if we do not use our skills to check to what extent this is true.

Now of course it is a little annoying to see people you know have no true understanding whatsoever jump on the band wagon (ie. they consult on Twitter, and their twitter account is 1 month old..I suspect their bookshelf is filled with "... for dummies" ). The problem isn't really that they call themselves an expert, (I suspect Faux News would happily label them as one) it is that hiring people does not have a framework for how to evaluate these "experts". All they see is their report to the board that they are "on this Twitter thing" with no respect or understanding on how to monetize on it or on real conversion rates.

Another "problem" are people that "know enough to be dangerous". The constant pull to own something by discounting other fields (this will seem a little ironic since I will be railing a little about it here). There is a person in the twitterverse that has written a book about the "the-whuffie-factor" which is to my understanding basically about social capital.

She takes a commonly used concept renames it and attempts to own the concept. Very good as a personal marketing scheme, but it confuses what should be the real debate namely what social capital is. She talk about cloud computing, and "..-as-a-service" without knowing the complexities and problems involved in creating such systems....and then she discounts it by saying that her concept "community-as-a-service" (as if this is a new thing) is much more complex and harder to create than clouds!!! and other -"...as-a-service" products. She tops it off with a some "pre-conditions" that goes against a lot of scientifically verified social-psychology theories about community creation, and group creation....but she still has a book that is about to be published.

My point is this: A social media expert does not know everything there is to know, even is they give that impression. It is the hiring manager's duty to evaluate the sources, and go into some depth on it...even if it takes hiring someone to help evaluate sources, and then hold them accountable for what they are saying.

I am doing a case study with the class I am teaching at UH on how to evaluate sources online. I hope something interesting will come out of it. :-)

Anyhoo take care,
Laurence A. Lee said:
Sorry, I disagree entirely. In the original conversation, this person identified himself as a "Consultant". From the original conversation, it's pretty clear what kind of business he's engaged in. Whether it's useful and valuable remains to be seen, but it's clearly not mass "Web Marketing and SEO" as most of us know it.

Equating this person's occupation with traditional Commercial Marketing expertise and SEO knowledge is a very far stretch -- one that I didn't initiate, btw. He's in Marketing (somehow), and engages a target audience via Friends, and that's pretty much it.

I have equated this occupation with paid Socialites who go around the Clubbing scene promoting events, venues, and new products, and don't see much of a problem with it. I often see them at Amuse passing out postcards for upcoming events, for example.


End of discussion on my end, lest this thread turn more toxic than it already is. Thanks.

Agree this is NOT social media...it isn't even close. I think this problem equates to what we saw when shops took their bricks and mortar online, and could not understand why it did not succeed. You really need a completely new approach, and to the core of it lies trust. There is no short cut, and it does take time and effort. No problem with people trying to make a living, but I think it is about how we evaluate sources.

I think it is awesome that we get some temperament out here. :-)

Good post
Here's a thought question:

How many "social media experts" do you all think Facebook employs?

My bet is less than 10 people have titles that approximate it.
What a fraking riot. Let's put a cap on this. We as a community (is this a proto-stretch?) are getting waaaay too anal retentive on this string.

Humor Ar Ar. Get a Life.

Like, how many social network mavins can you fit on the tip of a catherter?

Answer: Not enough
I ferget to add...yah sure, the next big thing will be hermit networks. I don't hear you, do you copy 5 x 5?
My problem: "Hi, I'm Joe, Online Marketing Manager for Prudential Locations." They ask: "so, What do you actually DO?"
I can sympathize. Many people don't think there is any money is social media or social media marketing. In fact there is, but it requires a lot of study and hard work.

Joe Segal said:
My problem: "Hi, I'm Joe, Online Marketing Manager for Prudential Locations." They ask: "so, What do you actually DO?"
There are also self-proclaimed Blogologists.

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