Five Myths About “No Social Media Experts” Busted

Still? We’re still talking about whether there are social media experts?

This argument has reared its ugly head again, when some social media practitioners (frankly, people who I would call experts) have declared that they would never ever hire a social media expert, because there’s no such thing.

It’s interesting how people can declare there are no experts with an air of authority that they just implied doesn’t exist. I’m firmly in the “there are social media experts, so deal with it” camp, and have been talking about this for a couple years now, even arguing with other social media experts about their own existence.

So here are the same five myths I hear over and over, and my response to them.

Myth #1) Social media is new.

Social media is not new. It’s really, really old. It’s older than Kyle Lacy, and it’s even his birthday today.

Social media goes back before the mid-90s when AOL cracked 1 million members. (I became member #832,000-something in 1994).
Social media goes back before the mid-80s when AOL was born.
Social media goes back to the late-70s when BBSes and the Usenet were born.

Social media is at least 30 years old, even if we didn’t call it social media back then. But if you don’t want to accept that BBSes and AOL aren’t early forms of social media, then remember: Facebook is 7 years old, LinkedIn is 8 years old. That’s not new either.

2) Social media is always changing.

Yes, and so is medical science, but we still call doctors medical experts. So is finance, but we still call financial planners experts. So is auto racing, but we still call the engineers experts. So is animal husbandry, but we still — okay, that hasn’t changed since the dawn of time.

The social media tools may change, but the idea of relationship marketing has not. People still don’t want to be screamed at by TV ads, or spammed by, well, spammers. People want to have relationships with their brands. That hasn’t changed.

The only thing in social media that’s changing are the numbers of people joining it. But the idea of “being a valuable resource to your customers,” of “don’t spam people,” of “practice good customer service” has never changed.

3) Social media is just a channel. You can’t be an expert at a channel.

Tell that to the TV advertising guys, tell that to the radio advertising guys. Tell it to people who excel at trade shows, who kick ass at street teams, or are wizards at special events.

Social media may be a channel, but so is every other form of communication we use.

4) Social media is just a tool. You can’t be an expert at a tool.

No one said they were an expert at the tool. You said that’s what we had to be when you said “Malcolm Gladwell says you need 10,000 hours to be an expert.”

Remember, it’s not the tool that’s important, it’s message creation and social psychology. In other words, can you create an effective message? Do you know how your target audience will respond to that message?

A good communicator understands his or her audience, and can tailor a message that will move, inform, educate, or persuade that audience. Journalists know how to write good news stories that people want to watch or listen to (now there’s an industry that’s changing all the time. No one’s whining that there’s no such thing as a news expert.) Marketers know how to create compelling copy that makes people want to buy stuff. TV producers know how write shows that make people want to watch.

5) Malcolm Gladwell says you need 10,000 hours to be an expert.

Oh dear God, he did not! Malcolm Gladwell said if you want to be an outlier, the freak of nature who outshines everyone else, you need 10,000 hours of solid practice. Hence the name of his book, Outliers.

To get 10,000 hours of anything, you need to do it for a full-time job, 40 hours a week, for 5 years. If you’re going to quote the 10,000 hour rule at me, then I’m calling anyone with six or more years of experience at anything an expert.

This Is What An “Expert” Is

To me, a real expert is someone who knows more about something than most other people. Even the dictionary agrees with me: a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority: a language expert. (Dictionary.com).

An expert is not the person who knows the most, is the best in the world, or has stopped learning new stuff. They know more than the average person. That’s it. They don’t get to wear a sash, they don’t get a parade, they don’t get the best seats in restaurants. They get to say “I know more than most people about this subject,” and that’s it.

My doctor better know more than me. My financial planner better know more than me. Dario Franchitti’s engineer better know more about fixing race cars than anyone in his garage. They don’t have to be the best there is, they just need to know enough to help me succeed at what I (or Dario Franchitti) want to do.

And as long as you know more than most people — at least enough to fill a book — you need to wear the mantle of expert and don’t be a snob about it. Otherwise, you shouldn’t be charging thousands of dollars to speak at an event, and should tell your publisher you don’t know as much as you claimed when you signed your book contract.

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency in Indianapolis, IN. He co-authored three social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (2nd ed., 2012; Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.

    Comments

    1. Here’s reality: people saying “there are no such thing as social media experts” say it because they don’t want experience and expertise to be hiring or evaluation criteria. They are either employees or consultants that don’t have the resume for the job they are gunning for or occupy.

      The phrase “social media” was coined in 1997, and the actual concepts are even older than Erik suggests (I think you can go back to the late 70s when Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis created what would become Usenet). Regardless, beware of any consultant that is not an expert on the arena they are consulting… and be careful when a consultant does not have the resume to back up their claim of expertise.

    2. Wow. Erik, I’m new to your blog and already know I’ll be a loyal fan. Thanks for your leadership—good stuff!

    3. I would agree that anyone call call themselves an expert, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any experts. The proof lies in their accomplishments and the results they get for other clients.

      The person who has jumped out of an airplane 50 times definitely has more expertise than I do (I’ve also never done it; never will either). And the person who has 1,000 jumps also has expertise. But it doesn’t matter if the 1,000-jumps guy says “that other guy isn’t an expert,” what matters is whether the 50-jump guy knows enough to teach me to successfully jump out of an airplane.

      But for the 1,000-jump guy to say “there’s no such thing as a skydiving expert” is ludicrous.

    4. It’s all perspective.

      I’ve never jumped out of an airplane. For those people who have done it at least once, they certainly more expertise than me but nobody would ever call them an expert. 50 jumps? Maybe. But the person who’s done 1,000 jumps would not call the 50-jumper an expert.

      The challenge with comparing this to medicine is that not everybody can jump in and start being a doctor. But anybody can jump in and claim to be a “social media expert.”

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