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Why does everyone think they are a social media expert?

Why does everyone think they are a social media expert?

As I scroll through my twitter feed on any given day, I can guarantee you there will be at least a dozen people promoting their Social Media workshops. These are all aimed at helping people grow their businesses through online networking tools. Any workshop which states they can ‘grow your business’ denotes to me that they must know what they are talking about and are therefore an “expert”. Now when I think of an ‘expert’ I think of someone who has had great success with their own social media campaign, someone who has studied the trend and has spearheaded many campaigns which have proved profitable for others. However when I dig a little deeper I am often disappointed to find that this so called expert’s actual expertise is a completely different field or industry. Not only that, but when you view there website they have a neglected blog (if they have one at all) with no comments, their latest 5 Tweets soley promote their social media “how to grow your business” workshop and when I eventually find them of Facebook their profile picture is one of them throwing up at the office party. Very disappointing indeed! Social Media is the latest online buzzword and it seems to me like everyone is jumping on the band wagon to make a fast buck.

So what makes these people think they can tell others how to use social media? Yes they have managed to set up an account on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and are using them to minimal effect, but so has my friends cat and my own mother. And yes they can create a powerpoint presentation telling everyone to sign up to delicious, Stumble and Technorati, but what good does this do if they can’t explain why and what you should do when you are in there? I am very sure that with the amount of coverage Twitter has gained lately through the media (and our fixation with celebrities) that most people have heard of it, they just don’t know what to do with it and how they can use it to benefit their business. If you are new to social media and online networking there is a lot to take in and I personally believe this cannot be covered in a 1 hour presentation. It is more likely to put you off only to never return to it again. Or even worse the “social media expert by night” has fed everyone enough information to overwhelm and scare the poor little lambs into thinking they cannot do it themselves and therefore need their help. 

Recently, we have been setting up a blog for a client and as we have had a small amount of success with our blog (where we have gained several design projects and new clients) and the vwcampervanblog.com (a hobby blog we run on the side), we offered to show them how we promote our articles through social media and online networking. Now I am not an expert in this field by any means, we certainly do not have thousands and thousands of subscribers and commenters like some of the more successful graphic and logo design blogs. However, we do know what has worked for us but because of this lack of ‘expertise’ I did not and would not charge for this advice and time. I am a graphic designer. This is what I have studied, this is what I have a portfolio of work for and this is the industry I have spent the last few years of my life in. I would happily call myself a graphic design expert, but certainly not a social media expert. I am not about to jump on the social media express and sell my two pence worth of advice and experience. That should be left the true experts. 

So, what does make a social media expert? For me, someone who I would happily take advice from is an individual or company where this is their sole profession, something in which they specialise. They’re not a social media ninja by night and a plumber by day, they actually live and breath social media and online marketing 24/7. For me, a social media expert has a strong portfolio in social media and can run through what part they have played in online campaigns. For me, an expert must have either some kind of education or qualification in their industry and / or have proven years of experience in this sector. These people are the true experts. However, at the moment it looks like it is hard to tell the actual experts from the self proclaimed experts.

OK rant over, but I am keen to get everyones thoughts on this? Would all you very successful bloggers out there regard yourself as social media gurus? What qualities would you look for in a social media expert?

Posted by Lu

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Posted on Thursday, October 15th, 2009 at 9:49 am
Posted In Blogging, Web Design | Tags: , ,

9 Responses to “Why does everyone think they are a social media expert?”

  • Danny Hinde says:

    Couldn’t agree more! I often find when I stumble across designers that they add the ‘social media expert’ tag to themselves. I don’t believe social media services should be offered alone (unless by an ‘expert’) as it seems to be replacing the thought process and strategy involved with marketing.

    I don’t know how a designer who takes them self seriously can call themselves a ‘social media expert’, how hard is it to set up a twitter account, apply some sort of branding and set up automatic tweets? This is why I find it ironic when I see the title slung around all over twitter, to me it seems like just another service that can be charged for due to the clients lack of knowledge in the area.

    I would NOT consider myself a social media guru. I use social media to engage and learn with other people. I am however aware of how I could gain more followers etc… and I am aware of the mistakes I make using social media but for me it’s more about enjoyment than anything else.

    Interesting article Lu!

  • David Thomas says:

    Interesting article and you make many good points. I’m not sure though about a person not being able to advise on social media if it’s not their main profession.

    I run a computer support business and this will always be my focus and passion. However, I also run social media workshops (free and paid) but I don’t claim to be an expert. Over the past 18 months we’ve used social media as an integral part of our marketing strategy and in the process have made a serious attempt to understand the in’s and out’s of social media. This learning has given us a tremendous insight in to how social media can be used to help a business.

    This doesn’t make me an expert but it does allow me to help others understand that they can also potentially get something from it. In fact my role in the workshops is to facilitate the delegates understanding of social media by using my knowledge, not expertise.

    I see social media being about conversation and relationships with the many tools (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn) as a means of aiding those conversations/relationships. I’m no expert but I do have enough practical experience of social media to be able to pass it on to other business owners.

    It could be argued that the social media world has no experts only people who varying levels of knowledge and experiences.

  • Pedro Laboy says:

    Ok, my two cents. A social media “expert” must:

    1. Provide a content and delivery strategies that align to the client’s overall marketing and sales strategy

    2. Integrate social media to other digital vehicles such as email, search, display so they support and enhance each other

    3. Have a in-depth understanding of the underlying technologies behind social platforms. Why? So they can make recommendations on how to integrate these platforms–either through third-party applications such as Gist or Cliqset, the client’s website CMS, or a customized application built (i.e. using Adobe Air) specifically for the client.

    4. Provide social media usage guidelines that go beyond the marketing department. It only takes one misguided posting by a client’s employee to undo a year’s worth of social marketing

    5. Collect and mine social media data to identify trends and opportunities the client should promptly act upon. This includes mining data to determine the client’s Social Graph or identifying brand promoters that should be targeted.

    You cannot be a social media “expert” if you cannot master ALL of the above.

  • […] Why does everyone think they are a social media expert? / eightyone design / graphic design blog […]

  • Lu says:

    Thank you all for your thoughts.


    I agree that social media services should only be offered by an expert. As you mentioned, anyone can set up a Twitter account and they shouldn’t then be classed as a social media expert. I also agree that it seems like they are taking advantage of people who are lacking knowledge in the area. Don’t get me wrong I understand that everyone needs to cover costs and if a client comes to you requesting info or help setting up Twitter, Flickr, Facebook accounts etc you need to charge them for your time. But to openly advertise it as a service (as well as graphic design or any other skill) simply portrays a ‘jack of all trades’ rather than an expert.


    Thanks for giving us an insight from the other side of the fence. It’s great to hear that you have been using social media as a part of your marketing strategy. We too have used social media to promote our business, we are lucky enough to have gained several clients due to our blog and gained exposure in several design/web magazines due to our articles. However, whilst being fairly successful with social networking, I am sure we have not always gone about things in the most effective way as it has really been a case of learning as we go. We too have spent a tremendous amount of time learning and researching social media but this still does not make us experts. We simply have the knowledge we have gained through carrying out our own social media campaign. For this reason, we would never charge for the knowledge we have gained as I am sure there are things we could have improved upon.

    For me, someone who operates and charges for workshops should have a wide portfolio of social media campaigns and can demonstrate how they have helped a number of companies to enhance their brands awareness.

    I do agree that it could be argued that there are no social media experts as the subject is relatively new. However we believe that there are plenty of online marketing agencies out there who can advise how to integrate your social media with a wider online marketing campaign and these are the people that we would take advice from.


    Thanks for your comments and I agree that an expert should be able to demonstrate a wide range of services to not only develop a social media campaign but also integrate it with a wider marketing strategy.

    Thank you all for taking the time to get involved with the discussion.

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  • I’m also in full agreement here, there are too many so called ‘Gurus’!

    I have alot of followers on Twitter (2500+) for some reason and I was recently taking to someone about this and they said “you should offer a twitter setup service” now I said that I didn’t really want to as I was a designer and I wasn’t really any kind of expert, similar to what you said above really.

    I also a couple of days ago got asked to do a talk on the subject.. I was kind of taken aback, I said “I’m not a expert” they didn’t seem to care.

    I think because Twitter is such a new platform (relatively) people who have some form of success are quick to jump on the guru bandwagon, similar to the ‘SEO’ bandwagon where everyone and his dog for a time was saying they were an expert, some still are! Great post by the way and apologises for the rant!

  • dotlizard says:

    When someone on Twitter does nothing but tweet about how awesome they are at social media, this means they *suck* at social media – “Twitter is not your personal RSS feed / marketing platform” is pretty much the first rule of proper twittering. If they are not interacting, engaging in conversations, listening, and connecting, then they are just spewing b.s. Usually it seems like these folks have follower counts 99% made up of other social marketing “experts” who are all doing nothing but following each other and tweeting about their awesome new service / workshop / consulting — everyone talking but no one listening.

    And if they advise clients to do as they do, get loads of followers who aren’t listening & then broadcast marketing messages, they’re not just polluting twitter with their own crap, they’re actually breeding new crap. And companies will listen, and they will look at those big follow numbers and think those 5,000 or 50,000 people are receiving their message, when in reality it’s probably more like five who are actually paying attention.

    Sorry to go on so, this is a pet peeve of mine :) Great post.

  • Lu says:

    Gareth – Don’t apologise for the rant! I don’t think there is anything wrong with sharing your experiences with social media as long as you aren’t preaching. Inform people that ‘this is how I do it’, rather than ‘this is the way to do it’ isn’t a bad thing. It’s when people claim to be experts when they’re just another wanna be that frustrates me!

    You do have a lot of Twitter followers, I expect it’s because you give out great Tweets!

    Dotlizard – You put it perfectly when you said “everyone talking but no one listening” and this is what these people are essentially doing. No need to apologise for ‘going on’ it’s good to get it off your chest!!

    Thank you both for your thoughts!

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