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.