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.

  1. Pat O'Bryan says: #
    The expert value that would cause me to hire an expert in this field would be that they were aware of all the options available, and could save me the time and trouble of climbing multiple learning curves for no reason by identifying what tools, out of an ever-changing and seemingly infinite universe of tools, would accomplish MY goals.

    that's expert enuf fer me.
  2. Ryan says: #
    To me, expert status would guide me more toward a person who understand the impact and how to maximize reach. It would not necessarily have to do with a particular service or application. Simply have technical knowledge is not sufficient. For someone to be expert they need to be able to provide some impact.
    I think an expert needs to have a broad enough view of what is available to know the best options for different contexts. But for that person to be bogged down in the innerworkings of that technology might be a waste of time.
  3. Mi_Integrity says: #
    I think what we are dealing with really is not expertise so much but the ability to provide "navigation". Since there is so much change happening with regard to social media, the person looking for help will be best served by someone who understands the landscape at that moment in time and can help navigate a strategy for using the tools available to map out the best implementation of media to accomplish the individual or organizational goals.
  4. Colin Walker says: #
    All very good points and go back to what I was saying about an expert being 'best placed to educate and inform'. It's not about the technology on it's own but what we can do with it that matters.
  5. Mark Dykeman says: #
    Many fields change rapidly. You always have experts, even though they don't have complete knowledge. Put simply, they have the best knowledge and information sources available at any given point in time.
  6. KimberlyBock says: #
    extremely terrific post colin. well said.

    i think the results of our efforts in social media are best noted and understood when we consider the target audiences that are finding appeal in what we offer.

    we spend a lot of time worshiping a listers and crawling after link love with them, which is important..dont get me wrong..but they are not where our conversions will ultimately be found in the future. it is with those not of the marketing world that we seek for conversion.

    social media is evolving and those who best see where it's heading, are the ones that will be called the 'expert' in the future. because they will evolve with it..not against it..

    of course that is speculative on my part, yet..i have had the privilege of heavy participation in the field and have found that wherever i go, there are more and more people daily that agree with this. one of the main reasons that there's not more public 'bucking' of todays system, is due to fear of losing a lister links and promos..because they have a tendency to gang up on opposers of their viewpoints. (not all of them..but enough. they think its their forever paycheck) behind closed doors, theirs plenty of discussion going on believe me..this is where things are evolving the strongest, because until certainty in SM tactics is achieved, many feel inhibited and even intimidated in voicing their revelations. wobbly kneed.

    the usual marketing strategies of today, will be seen differently in the future. if they refuse to grow and expand, as opposed to holding on to the old concepts, it's unlikely that they will continue to flourish in the fashion they are accustomed to.

    experts in SM? nah..

    experts of observation? for sure.
  7. JayMoney says: #
    This was a great read Expert makes me feel warm and toasty inside. To me it's the top of the mountain but as with anything some people are just as good if not better than David Copperfield at making that mole hill look like a Mountain. Me and my 2 cents.
  8. KimberlyBock says: #
    if a mountain can be made of a mole hill, i'd say that's a good first step towards being an 'expert' in SM. ;-)
  9. Shey says: #
    To me, an "expert" in Social Media would best be identified by having a long track record of effectively and efficiently helping acheive organizational / individual goals using a combined knowledge of the social web and it's enabling technologies.

    The expert has to be able to understand not only how the supporting technology works, but how to interact with the community in order to maximize participation and immersion.
  10. I hate the term expert. I dont think anyone can be a social networking, new media, social media whatever you want to call it expert. Everyday I learn something new about it. The term social media expert makes my hair stand up
  11. tinpig says: #
    I tend to agree that "Social Media Expert" is too broad of a label. That is, some people my be adept at building new communities while others are skilled in marketing to them and others still in interfacing with social media sites from a technology perspective.
  12. Daryl Tay says: #
    Hi Colin, I'm not sure there are really "experts" but there are definitely people who know more than others. But it's hard to say they're experts in the way they could be a computer fixing expert because things are changing so quickly and across so many platforms that it's truly hard to keep up sometimes!