I admit it, I’m a flip-flopper. I could clearly never run for office, people would follow me around with giant flip-flops on sticks (plus, my dentist tells me due to my sensitive teeth I’m not supposed to use teeth whitener). The issue of my indecision? Should people call themselves ‘social media experts?’ I used to say no. Now I am not so sure.
The best part about this debate is that it is, in social media terms, about one-thousand years old. You could probably call me an early adopter; I first got involved in monitoring and leveraging social media as a function of business communications in late 2006 and early 2007. I believe summer 2007 was the first time I heard someone scoff about so-called “social media experts.”
“There is no such thing!” They would exclaim, bursting with indignation, as I nodded solemnly. I’d say the same things, probably on these very pages, or as the subject of one of my old “Media Monitoring Minute” segments on FIR, or on the Roundtable.
Four years later and it’s still happening, but now I’m not so sure I agree. Highly regarded blogger/entrepreneur/etc. Peter Shankman penned a scathing post demanding a hiring freeze on anyone who calls themselves an expert in social media. Naturally it made the rounds. I didn’t link to it or talk about, because I was thinking the whole time that it was kind of a sucker punch aimed at a long-since-deceased horse, and also, what’s so wrong with being proud to be an authority in your field?
Enter Shel Holtz, one of my favorite social media guys ever (and the first blog I think I subscribed to and started quoting frequently in this space, back in the day)—a voice of reason! His widely-read post earlier this month echoed everything I was starting to think: Essentially, of course it’s okay to call yourself a social media expert, so long as you are one.
He’s posted a follow-up last week in response to some of the debate, and it is also worth a read. He’s definitely converted me. What about you?
Has Social Media Been Around Long Enough to be a Field of Expertise? – Shel Holtz – I’ve summed up my thoughts above, so I will just hand this over to Shel, who makes so much sense sometimes it’s almost scary. “In this case, the history of social media matters less than the volume of research and data that have accumulated during that time. By virtue of its digital nature, social media is subject to intense data analysis. Using tools as simple as Google Analytics to those as sophisticated as Radian6, Sysomos and the like, more analysis has been conducted in social media’s brief lifespan than in many disciplines that have been around longer. (Not to mention that folks who work for these organizations—like Amber Naslund—have made the study of social media analytics their life’s work.)”
Commoditization of Social Media – Kami Huyse – I love reading posts that shed light on things I hadn’t yet heard of, and Kami’s is no exception. She discusses the “social media marketplace,” and the number of new business ventures hoping to cash in on the demand for social media expertise by setting up turnkey products. I find the idea slightly horrifying, and Kami warns companies using these products that you might get what you pay for, so to speak. “Now that nearly every business wants to be “in” social media, and every person who has a Facebook account thinks they can “do” social media. A number of services are popping up to offer turnkey social media solutions…But those that use these services need to beware the consequences. Over 70 percent of those who are on the Internet are using social services like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. They are becoming empowered to speak up about their experiences, both good and bad (e.g. Yelp), and a cookie cutter approach could cause a lot of harm to a business if they aren’t watching the stream themselves.”
The Biggest Secret of Social Media – Chris Brogan – In a similar vein, Chris mentions the rise in demand for some sort of automation of social media feeds, as more businesses are trying to find resources to manage this aspect of their communications. He points out that automation can have its place, but the biggest requirement of success in social is to actually want to interact with people. “I’m not some kind of kumbaya, let’s-hug-the-whales guy, but at the same time, if you’re thinking that social media’s going to bring prosperity to your business, and yet your first thoughts are on how to mechanize it, you might be looking at the wrong tool. The purpose of the toolset is to provide a way to communicate in a more directed way, to communicate in a more narrowly defined way, to be able to respond in two-way modes instead of use the single direction modes that came before. It’s not that we have to be all love all the time, and it’s not that we shouldn’t intend to use the tools for business. But we have to think about their usage and how to keep the best parts working.”
Twitter Traps to Avoid – Aleena Hasnain – I love a post that gets back to basics. Now that most of the world has actually heard of Twitter and millions are using it, it’s a good thing to remind ourselves now and then how to build a good, dynamic presence, whether you’re using it for personal or for a business/brand. My favorite tip? Check out the profiles behind @ replies before automatically responding: “First, you need to make sure the user is not a robot by checking their profile. Second, look at their Twitter history and followers. Always remember to ask yourself, is that a brand you want to associate yourself with? If so, go ahead and give them a mention. (Note: Don’t let the conversation go for more than a response since it is often frustrating for the other users to read.)”