Social Media Use Does Not an Expert Make

geek-and-poke.pngYet again today I was invited to a handful of events – in person and via webinar – to gain exposure to a social media expert and their take on social media marketing. As I review their profiles, their LinkedIn info, their sites and their blogs, I find no substantial information supporting the premise that they are social media experts.

Social media expert? Really? Perhaps they have tens of thousands of Twitter followers, hundreds of comments on their Facebook wall, and membership in a dozen or so networks. Perhaps because they’re a charlatan, a shark or a geek.

What would I classify as a social media expert? I love Peter Shankman’s list of qualifications and disqualifications for social media experts. I would add – that if it’s pertaining to business – I would like to see a long list of measurable results and references across a variety of companies and strategies.

Do I classify myself as an expert? I do – but not because I claim to understand it all. This is a young medium and its changing on a daily basis. It’s changing business behavior. It’s changing consumer behavior. My decade of experience evolving from direct marketing and database marketing, email marketing, etc. enabled me to naturally evolve into my current status.

I don’t claim myself an expert because of my knowledge of social media… I claim myself an expert because of the work I’ve accomplished for companies large and small to grow their business, retain and upsell customers, and reduce customer service calls by effectively utilizing social media.

Do I claim myself an expert because of the work I currently do?

  • While VP of a blogging platform, we helped dozens of businesses develop their social media and search strategies to drive inbound marketing efforts.
  • I own a successful New Media Agency with a solid history of assisting companies develop and execute their social strategies.
  • The integration and automation tools I’ve developed in the blogging, email, video and mobile space have reached tens of thousands of companies.
  • The 2 social networks I helped start and continue to help run.
  • My own blog which spans 5+ years (plus a couple more on other platforms) speaking to social media and marketing technology.

NO! None of this qualifies me as an expert.

I call myself an expert for three reasons:

  1. Businesses seek experts, not gurus and geeks.
  2. Calling myself an expert holds myself to a higher standard and expectation with a company that I must fulfill.
  3. I fit the definition:

An expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well distinguished domain. An expert, more generally, is a person with extensive knowledge or ability in a particular area of study.

Am I smarter than the rest of the folks out there? Nope.
Do I know everything about social media? Of course not.
Do other experts always agree with me? Not a chance!
Has all of my work been successful? No – but much of it has.

I do believe that I have had an outstanding knack for analyzing business processes, marketing mediums, and determining how technology can bridge the gap. I don’t lie to clients and tell them they must be a part of social media if they wish to survive. I do share with them many of the successes, though! It’s a medium I personally believe in and hope to see mass adoption of – not because it can be manipulated by bad businesses – but because it can be leveraged by great businesses.

I believe social media connects businesses to prospects, builds improved relationships between customers and companies, pushes companies to improve customer service, builds transparency, and encourages thought leadership, entrepreneurial talent and evolution… all great for business.

And that, my friends, is my expert opinion.

PS: I’m sure if you go back far enough in my blog or comments on other blogs that I’ve torn into a few folks who self-proclaimed their expertise. Now it’s your turn. 🙂


  1. 1

    I find it interesting that in two different blogs I read the value of 'expert' is debatable. In two posts I read earlier it was implied to ignore (and subsequently not hire) anybody that uses the term 'expert' as part of their qualifications, yet you turnaround and cite one of the same blog articles as a reason to call you an expert, and after citing the article imply that you are an expert. So which is it? Do I trust you because you consider yourself an expert and cite Shankman, or do I ignore everything you say from here on out because you consider yourself an expert and cite Shankman? Don't get me wrong, I appreciate everything you've accomplished, and I follow your blog so I obviously find value in what you state… but contradiction like this is why my clients are so confused.

    • 2

      Hi Robert! I totally admit to the contradiction – even hypocrisy – on my part in this post. I do refer to the other posts because I'd like the conversation to continue with different perspectives. In the past, I avoided the word 'expert'. As I continue to do more work in the field, though, I'm seeing more and more people use the title 'social media expert'.

      I find myself at a point in my career where I'm concerned that businesses are getting duped by self-proclaimed 'experts' but businesses continue to seek them out. Do I continue to watch business go to people with no experience or 'expertise'? Or – do I announce myself an expert, prove my worth, and get that business?

      I'm going to call myself an expert from here on out because of the business advantages. As well – I appreciate you and my other readers holding me to a higher standard!

      Thanks – I really do appreciate the comment!

  2. 3

    I agree with you Douglas. It takes years of experience with favourable output (including one's failures, we only count how one has risen after such failure that's why it still is favourable) to be called an expert. Having thousands of followers on Twitter does not make one.

  3. 4

    Hi Doug,

    In no other discipline have I seen this much debate over who is an expert, who is not and what makes up the criteria of attaining expert status. I understand the concern as I too, have seen many people call themselves social media experts but do not have the marketing expertise to go along with it. They know the tools, but it doesn't make them an expert at marketing using social media as the channel.

    I have been a marketer for more years than I care to admit, and have learned the marketing discipline across all channels, using all types of tactics, from strategy to execution. Adding social media as another channel for marketing is a natural progression and is one, unfortunately a lot of marketers have ignored until recently when they realized that they better figure this stuff out.

    But the only people who can proclaim you an expert are your clients and customers. They are the proof that validates the term.

  4. 5

    Hi Doug,

    I agree with your comments wholeheartedly, the term "expert" is applied way to easily. I'm aware of a number of people who market themselves as experts in social media and yet steal other writers ideas and strategies and call them their own. I'm in the process right now of creating and building a social strategy for one of the countries largest real estate groups and that has been a real eye opener for me. I agree with Deborah in her comments, that only clients and customers can crown you with the expert tag. I'm still learning a hell of a lot and I'm by no means an expert, but I'm working on it. Great article

  5. 6

    Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.. Why do we even have to declare experts – I don't get the whole debate. Bantering and discussing it takes away from the energy in life. Is it really a worthwhile use of energy?

    • 7


      I tend to agree with you. I always feel strange self-promoting myself with a title like 'expert'. However, the fact is that businesses are looking for 'experts' and it's only the ones who are using the title that will be found.


  6. 8

    In knowing you and working with you on a variety of projects, I can say I wholeheartedly support your referring to yourself as an expert. As you stated, the title comes from your successes as well as your failures as was stated by David in the first comment. It probably gets old with you, but I know that when I have a question about something related to technology and social media I'll get an answer based in experience, knowledge and trust. That's what I'd look for in an expert across any topic or industry.

  7. 9

    Doug, this is a fantastic post for a number of reasons.

    1. It’s direct and to the point: No B.S. I like skipping the appetizers and getting to the main course.
    2. It’s precise: Any geek can figure out how to tweak social media, but experts generate business (a.k.a. “the bottom line”).
    3. It’s honest: We’re exploring new frontiers here that are in flux and changing rapidly. The real experts are the ones who are confident yet humble enough to be honest and say, “I don’t know”, and then find the answer, in stead of pretending to know it all.

    Nice! Shared!

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