Social Media Expert! Social Media Snake Oil!

Today, there is much buzz around Social Media, and lot many job opportunities are there. Since many companies have felt the need of social media strategies, and,consequentially,  titles such as Social Media Managers, Social Media Experts, Social Media Specialists, Social Brand Managers, and  “Social Media Evangelist”, etc have hogged the job lists.

In such a scenario, lot many debates have been going around how to find social media experts, and many parameters have been drawn to evaluate the credentials of social media experts.You can also refer to our earlier post “Let Social Media Cause Seismic Social Change in 2011″ to find so-called social media experts.

Stephen Baker  in his article “Beware Social Media Snake Oil”  writes,  “The self-proclaimed experts range from legions of wannabes, many of them refugees from the real estate bust, to industry superstars such as Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk. They produce best-selling books and dole out advice or lead workshops at companies for thousands of dollars a day. The consultants evangelize the transformative power of social media and often cast themselves as triumphant case studies of successful networking and self-branding. “.

Well, it will be truly interesting to watch the  given video on “Social Media Guru”

Here,at this juncture, WITS Zen would like to refer an article “9 Point Social Media Expert Evaluation” written by Chris Kieff which identified following minimum criteria to evaluate a social media expert:

  1. An expert should have a dominant presence on Google.
  2. The consultant must have a network over 2000 Twitter Followers.
  3. One of the best measures of how much others find your Tweets valuable is to measure how many take that extra step of adding the account to a list.
  4. A minimum Klout score of 30 as a criteria for judging a social media specialists.
  5. A social media expert must have an extensive network of other social media experts to collaborate with and to exchange ideas.
  6. You need to have people accept your invitations and people are much more picky on LinkedIn in general.  Therefore it takes some time to reach a network of 500 or more.
  7. An Expert should have a top notch Facebook Fan page.
  8. Blogs are essential to social media and any expert who doesn’t at least have a blog that they update weekly has to be questioned.
  9. A consultant should be on, Foursquare, Shopkick, GoWalla, Digg, Flickr, YouTube and a few dozen more.

However, many social media professionals, practitioners, thought leaders didn’t subscribe to and criticized  these  minimum criteria to evaluate a social media expert.

Leigh Durst of http://livepath.blogspot.com/, vehemently opposed to many of the criteria identified, and said, “there are more than too many egregious self-promoters and “one tool ponies” out there that have attempted to manipulate a digital footprint to prove their “WORTH” ” She said further, “The proof is in the work people do, Chris. Many of us who are entrenched in doing the work do not take ample time to play the influence game you seem to elude to.While many examples come to mind, consider Jeff Widman, one of the brightest talents Facebook today…He’s managing a company that is exploding and barely has a website. 100% of his work is word-of-mouth and his results prove his worth. He has handled FB presences for MAJOR, MAJOR successful brands… and I’d hire him over other pundits any day. At the end of day, it’s DELIVERY that matters…”

Disapprovingly ,Danny Brown enumerated the flaws in the  minimum criteria to identify social media experts

  1. Google. I can use blackhat SEO (I don’t) to not only help me own Google, but ruin the reputations of my competitor “experts” into the bargain. Scratch this one from the list.
  2. Twitter followers must be over 2,000. Awesome – I’ll get Justin Bieber to market my company today – do you have his number? Or, I’ll get TwitterAdder to get me over the magic number and then I’ll be good to go (once I finish high school, obviously, unless I can get a note from my mum).
  3. Twitter Lists. This can be useful, but again, it depends on what you’re being listed for. If I’m on 100+ lists, but 25 are for my Batman comics, then I’m not really going to be much good, am I?
  4. Klout score of 30+. There’s so much wrong with basing a reputation on an automated measurement tool that I’ll just leave it at that.
  5. 5. Facebook friends of 1000+. Curious – how do my college friends, ex-lovers that hate me but haven’t removed me from their friends, my baker and the newspaper delivery boy that are part of my Facebook friends make me an expert in social media? Some of my ex-girlfriends would say I’m anything BUT social…
  6. LinkedIn network of 500+. Have you worked with each of these 500+? Have you made their business more successful? If you’re only connected with them because you have LinkedIn’s icon on your blog’s sidebar and you’ve never really connected otherwise, then they’re faux connections.
  7. Facebook fan page 250+ Likes. I can buy 1,000 fans for $197 from uSocial – does that make me an expert at social media, or an expert at gaming the system?
  8. An active blog with active comments. Don’t disagree too much here, except don’t get caught up in the comments game. Two words – Seth Godin.
  9. Profiles on every other site. Um…. yikes! Where’s the strategy in this? Where’s the benefit? Where’s the time management and being focused on where you need to be? Say you set up on 100 networks, have a basic profile, then are only active on 5. The other 95 are now dead, but anyone stopping by and seeing you haven’t updated since 2009 will then ask, why should I trust this guy with my social media needs?

Further, elaborating his points, Danny Brown says,”The problem is that there are no hard and fast rules on setting expertise. Numbers are always open to be gamed – using numbers therefore just offers a “false” belief in that it’s all most should worry about…The one over-riding factor I would suggest (and do so for our own clients and potential ones, whether we win them or not) is that success comes from results.Ask for results. And then ask why these results would be beneficial and relevant to your industry. Just because you had a great social marketing campaign for butchers doesn’t mean the same tactics will work for a vegan company.”(Read the complete article here)

Beth Harte of  “The Harte of Marketing” quizzed about excluding” the idea of being a PR or marketing expert isn’t mentioned when hiring a social media “expert.”  Adding further, she said, ” all the criteria mentioned could be totally gamed  or easily achieved with someone’s “personal brand” (gag!). It doesn’t mean they have a clue as to how to use social media tools to achieve business goals….I know people who are experts in social media that don’t meet any of the criteria above…you know why they are experts? Because they are so heads down in REAL work that they don’t have time to chat all day on Twitter (Klout), run around the country at conferences (LinkedIn), they reserve Facebook for friends, and they don’t have time to blog.I would assume that most serious businesses would want to hire a social media professional based on their past experience, business acumen and references/referrals. Not how popular they are by someone else’s standards.”


Toby Bloomberg of Diva Marketing Blog
added some valid points, “I agree with my dear friend Paul Chaney (thanks for the kind words) we are learning together as journeymen .. not “experts.” However, as with advertising, PR, research, customer service, etc. there is a place for people who are committed to social media as a discipline. Sure we must bring a depth of skills to the party but at the end of the day it’s how we can help the brand through leveraging social media that is our concentration. Count me in as politically incorrect.”

WITS Zen  feels that the best way for social media’s practitioners, including thousands of consultants, to avoid a similar backlash  is to shift the focus from promises to results. It may be the only way to convert the skeptics. And, moreover,  there is a advice for companies planning to launch social media campaign, “Social Media is part of a larger communication jigsaw puzzle & businesses need to see how they can make it fit. But that fit may, need not be an elaborate campaign. Social Media simply may be the resource for information discovery versus an integral part of outreach. I would urge companies the way we urge our clients to see this expanding & powerful piece of the puzzle as part of the whole. Not a bait & switch opportunity to blindly attempt to lower your marketing budget. Or worse to cut off your marketing nose to spite your face.” Have a look at the complete comments and more…

Finally, WITS Zen 4 wits on social media experts:

  1. Social media is not about technology and tools, it is about relationship. It is about Relationship, driven by technology and tools, based on storytelling, empathizing with community,energizing and engaging them towards a well- defined objective.
  2. Social media practitioners or consultants need to have in-depth understanding of objectives and goals to go on social media
  3. Why do anybody needs experts, better look for a practitioner, who understands the requirements, works towards the objectives set by the client, and keeps working on established and new social media tools and technologies to achieve objectives.
  4. Social media expert can be one who has good at story telling .

Social media is a platform which can be used as an effective tool for marketing. However as with any tool, the results will vary depending on the skill of the craftsmen. A scalpel, is a useful tool for a surgeon, but if used by an amateur, the results can be fatal. The same applies to social media.

WITS Zen thanks all the contributors and commentators on the debate of “social media expert”. If you would like to refer more to better understand  “social media experts”, following articles could be of great help:

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