Social media experts - it's all relative.

ExpertIt has been said that there are no social media experts and there has been a fair amount of discussion on this particular point. I wanted to expand on a comment I made on the subject over at Julian Baldwin's blog.

The social media space is relatively new and, because of this, is still changing. Definitions are morphing and the whole social web is constantly adapting. New services appear on an almost daily basis just as others fall by the wayside; the ecosystem surrounding social media is expanding as developers find new ways to use the APIs made available to them.

With such an ever changing landscape can anyone truly be called an expert when it comes to social media?

Let's have a look at a typical definition of the term expert:

displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience

Now compare this to the definition of an expert witness for legal purposes:

by virtue of education, training, skill, or experience, is believed to have knowledge in a particular subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially (and legally) rely upon the witness's specialised (scientific, technical or other) opinion about an evidence or fact issue within the scope of their expertise

The second definition may be a bit more in-depth but they essentially say the same thing: an expert is someone who has a high level of skill or knowledge in a certain area.

Social media experts?

How can someone be an 'expert' when the playing field is constantly changing? As there is so much change we can't hope to know everything all the time; we are all learning as the social media space is evolving. Some have more experience and some are better at communicating that experience but does this make them an expert? should we instead be referring to those people as an 'authority' on a given area?

If you were to isolate individual concepts, services or applications then - according to the definitions we have above - you could claim that a certain person was an expert for that specific element but I don't feel that we can apply the term to the social web as a whole when you consider its constant state of flux.


The degree to which anyone can be called an expert or an authority is, therefore, completely relative. The level of 'expertise' must be looked at in relation to their peers but I would argue that being an authority in this context must extend beyond knowledge alone and include the ability to expedite that knowledge for the benefit of the community. The social web is all about sharing and having the ability to do so in a useful and meaningful way.

Those who immerse themselves in the social web will not only be best placed to take advantage of the benefits it has to offer but will also be best placed to educate and inform those new to the space - they will therefore become the de facto 'experts' in this field even if the don't necessarily match the definition.

Your thoughts

Can anyone actually be a social media expert in this climate on change? Do we already have them and what is the scope of their influence? Who do you look to when in need of social knowledge?

Image by Bonnie Natko.

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The changing face of FriendFeed.

ChangeHutch Carpenter wrote a very intriguing post over at I'm Not actually A Geek which details why he thinks the FriendFeed service will go mainstream but may take ten years to do so.

He defines mainstream usage as 33% of internet users and estimates the timescales involved by looking at the adoption of other technologies and services such as the Internet itself, Google and RSS feeds but what stood out for me in this post was his assertion that, come the revolution, FriendFeed will look rather different to how it does at present as more 'non-tech' folks join the service.

In his post "Friendfeed stats show its just Twitter with bookmarks" Alexander Van Elsas advises us that FriendFeed traffic is more than half made up of Twitter messages and that direct postings to the service account for less that 1% of all traffic. Hutch surmises that over time the amount of direct postings (which includes sharing a link directly on the site rather than via somewhere like Google Reader) will rise incredibly as more people latch on to FriendFeed as a worthwhile service but I would personally expect things to further than he has outlined them.

Go to your audience

With the Blogging 2.0 discussion saying that bloggers should go where their audience is I feel it is only a matter of time before this is taken literally. During the debate about linking and attribution I remarked “A FriendFeed blog anyone?” and with a few changes I could see it happening.

All it would take is for FriendFeed to add formatting options to the current comment box and it suddenly becomes a viable mini-blog platform. If they also extended the API so that remote blogging applications could submit proper posts (including images, links etc.) then we could see a shift towards really taking your blog where the audience is. Forget about the worry of having your posts scraped by third party services, what about having your actual content directly in peoples streams?

Please sir, can I have some more?

Despite having been around for a couple of years Twitter is still a relative novelty and once people demand more they will move to services where the potential is greater and the conversation is more engaging.

As I said before, FriendFeed is no longer just an aggregation service - it is now a community and enhancing its capabilities further would put it in a great position to capture the imagination. Current users are already pushing the boundaries; we have gone way beyond just 'comments' and moved on to full blown discussions and I feel it won't be long before we are clamouring for extra ways to get our message across - an 'inline' blog seems a natural extension.

Your thoughts

Would  you use a blog hosted directly within an aggregation service like FriendFeed? Can you see the utility is a feature like this or would it bloat the system? How far will content creators go to be close to the audience?

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Image by TW Collins.

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Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog