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.