Notes on the word “expert” (and social media)

on Jan 22 in facebook, social media, social networks posted by

Definitely an expert.A couple of weeks ago, I started a group on Facebook, Social Media Expert Directory, and created a social network on Ning. Wow! What a great response. In just two weeks we have 95101 Facebook fans and 23 members on the social network.

I started the group as a response to critiques about the plethora of so-called “experts” who are exploiting the explosion of business activity around social media. Understandably, some group members eschew the use of the word “expert,” and a number of social media star players have questioned the use of the word. (See Chris Brogan’s What I Want a Social Media Expert to Know.)  

It’s become fashionable to bash those who call themselves “experts” (For example, Social Media “Experts” are the Cancer of Twitter.) So it’s a natural response for social media providers to shy away from using the word.

But the danger is that we fall back to synonyms or euphemisms, only further muddying the picture.

Indeed, the positive response to the creation of the group shows there is a need for providers to push back against the negativity. For some, “expert” is a perfectly legitimate label. For the Social Media Expert Directory, I am using the word in its strict dictionary definition. According to Dictionary.com, the definition is:

1. a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority

In this sense, my plumber is an “expert.” Thus, it is fair for someone who has a particular skill or knowledge in social media to call themselves an expert.

That said, the definition does imply that an expert is also an “authority.” This may be where people come unstuck, because having authority may be confused with being well-known or widely-recognized. And having a specialist skill does not necessarily confer fame! I believe that an expert can be an authority without being well-known, but, given the negativity surrounding the word “expert”, the onus is upon the self-anointed to be able to justify such a label.

In the case of someone who does have considerable skill, a review of their profile should speak for itself.

So yes, use the word expert, by all means, but be prepared to back that up. You need more than just being able to set up a Facebook page or Twitter account. You need to show how you offer value and insight to a business unique needs, and to frame this in terms of a winning social media strategy.

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Truly wonderful commentary, Roger. As you may remember, when I signed on I stated my hesitation in being associated with the term Expert. This came from that yoke of discrimination hung around us by the Twitter world (and others).

    But as time has passed, and I’ve reflected…I AM an expert. I own a viable business. I have participated in conferences. I’ve practiced my skills in several businesses for many years now. And ON…and on…

    I appreciate your work here. Thank you for giving me that extra little kick I needed to say STFU world…I Rock~! 😉


    Comment by Eureka Janet — January 22, 2010 @ 5:48 pm

  2. Well said. The other, more strict definition is that of a subject matter expert, which typically indicates 10,000 hours (4.2 years) of practical experience in a narrow area to be crowned with that title. Social media is barely that old!

    A friend noted to me recently that there are people who were early adopters, but that doesn’t make them an expert. There are those who were early adopters and active participants who have truly developed subject matter expertise, and then there are the new comers, the rookies if you will, who have developed expertise in the field even tho they haven’t been here as long.

    As for notoriety, there are famous names, but there are others who provide value day in and day out for their clients without being a household name. That doesn’t make them less of an expert, just less well known.

    It really does boil down to what you discussed: what does their profile look like on the platforms where they claim to have expertise; are they active participants who understand the culture of the space; and do they provide value to their friends and followers.

    Looking forward to how your directory performs and allows for yet one more credential for those who really are in the business in a good way to point naysayers to.


    Comment by Lori Ruff — January 22, 2010 @ 9:52 pm

  3. Thank you for your comments, Janet and Lori!

    Thinking about this some more, I am beginning to think that those people who jump on the bandwagon of "expert bashing" have something to answer for.

    Rather than decrying the number of people calling themselves experts, which is like putting your thumb in the dyke, why not point out exactly what we have been discussing, viz. do the homework to make sure people can back their claim of being an expert.

    This is why there is an Approved Expert group on the Social Media Expert Directory: so that the community can judge who is an expert and who is not.

    Comment by Roger — January 24, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment