Is There Really Such a Thing as a Social Media Expert

One of the common themes I see recurring in blog/websites articles are “How to use your blog to drive traffic”, “how to use twitter to engage your community”, and “how to use stumbeupon to bring you new RSS subscribers”. In some cases these posts do actually contain some useful nuggets of information,  however as is more often the case, I see optimizers with no real experience doing little more than writing click enticing titles, without any real substance behind them.Recent books like Outliers have shown that it takes about 10,000 hours to develop a real expertise in an area, some studies have shown it takes about 10 years. In newer and emerging fields the time frame is less, but you still have to pay your dues. So when I read a post titles like “9 Ways your can explode your number of twitter followers” and I look at the persons profile, and see 320 followers, half of which are people like robert scoble auto follow bots, I wonder if they have any clue what they are talking about, or are just really good at building a network of reciprocating blind voting friend networks. That said there is some social media skill that’s required to build that type network, but as Sarah Lacy recently pointed out social media skills dont always translate into cash.

I understand shameless promotion is part of the gig, and I engage in it myself, but I do wonder how many people who claim to be social media experts, have any clue what they are doing. I recently wrote a post about Halo Media and Social Media at Webmaster World (subscribers only), and have to say it’s pretty big field. Just because you’re good a writing blog posts, and getting your stories lots of bookmarks, doesn’t mean you understand how to deploy widgets that build links (without violating search engine guidelines). You can read all the posts, from the biggest and most recognized experts in the field, but until you start to do it, stumble or fail and learn something, it’s pretty hard to claim any sort of expertise, outside of the purely theorhetical.

Lastly I’d like to address the topic of people who write, come up with, or suggest that there are “social media rules”, that should never be violated. To those people I’d like to say sorry, but the expertise you are spouting is just a bunch of hogwash. Are there best practices, sure for example I recently poste about how running a professional twitter profile is different from a personal one, but those are recomendations not rules. As long as you understand what happens when you “go against the grain” and it aligns with your long term goal, feel free to follow that route. Style is not what you do right but what you do wrong.

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