Can you be a social media expert without tweeting or blogging?

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about a social media ‘expert’ who doesn’t tweet or blog, which got me thinking – How important is it for the social media ‘experts’ to actually get their hands dirty?

Tom Foremski has touched on the same issue in his post , ‘Can you advise on social media if you don’t use it?’

Foremski talks about a PR person whom he met recently, who doesn’t blog or tweet but advises clients on social media and claims that,

… she knows all about Facebook and Twitter and blogging even though she doesn’t blog or leave comments, she isn’t on Facebook, and doesn’t have a Twitter account.

It seems that just by the virtue of being in a customer-facing and/or web-related role, professionals in communication, PR, marketing, and SEO have been thrust onto the social media scene. But chances are that while their clients look to them for guidance on how to navigate this new space, these folks are also scrambling to catch up and are probably just as clueless as their clients.

I agree with Foremski that if you’re supposed to be an expert in ‘social’ media, can you really be credible if you aren’t out there social?! There are definite advantages to getting your hands dirty. It gives one more credibility with clients and helps reassure them that the advice they’re getting  is based on experience, not just theory. It also provides a good understanding about what works and what doesn’t in the social media space, without relying on someone else’s opinion. 

That being said, blogging or tweeting by itself doesn’t make one an expert in social media. There are plenty of folks who have a huge following on social media sites, but not many of them are qualified to advise anyone on social media. And lately, everyone has a blog so that’s not a great indicator of social media expertise either. This great cartoon shared by Mark Evans, strikes a chord as everyone claims to be a social media expert these days. 

I think it’s irrelevant whether these ‘experts’ learn about social media tools and sites by using them or researching them. What’s more important is that folks who are responsible for advising their clients on social media aren’t married to a single tool or site. These professionals need to be objective and tool/site-agnostic so they can recommend the right tools for their clients, even if they aren’t experts in using it. There’s nothing worse than a so-called expert who recommends a specific social site or tool because that’s the only one they are familiar with.

At end of the day, clients aren’t just paying for someone’s expertise in social media but rather their expertise in how to use social media to help their business.


10 responses to “Can you be a social media expert without tweeting or blogging?

  1. I think a background in Marketing is more important than big Twitter numbers of Facebook fans. Twitter and Facebook are good for people, but if brands want in, it means understanding how Twitter (or other web 2.0 thingy) fits into the plan.

    So, the use of Twitter or Facebook isn’t that important. Knowing why people use it, and how a brand can help people use it better is important.

    In my opinion.

    • Hi Matt,
      You just made my day! 🙂 That’s exactly my point, clients don’t care if you’re a Twitter or Facebook Guru, what they really care about is how you will use Twitter or any other social site to help their business. Understanding your customers is key, which tool/site to use should be secondary.

  2. I would have to say that the old adage applies here ‘practice makes perfect.’ Yes, a person can study anything from afar, but to truly be an expert I would have to say no. Can a contractor truly understand a blueprint without knowledge of how to use a drill? Doctors need time in the O.R. prior to being called a surgeon yes?

    Honestly, you can’t be an ‘expert’ at something unless you’ve lived it.

    • Hi Craig,
      True! I would agree that the best way to learn is to do it. These days it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t blog or isn’t on Facebook. I think as social media evolves, we should start looking at the quality of interactions rather than pure usage as an indicator of expertise.

  3. I think in order to make valid client recommendations, a combination of marketing AND media knowledge is key. That’s not to say you have to be a rockstar blogger or a Twitter celebrity. But as is true in most disciplines, the powerful nuances of social media tools are often better learned through use than study.

    • Absolutely! You need to be able to tie the tools to the customer needs. Without customer/market knowledge, social media tools are useless.

  4. To expand on the point of being tool- and site-agnostic – I’d say an “expert” has to be willing to research and learn about each customer’s audience. Even if that audience is found on Facebook, Twitter, etc., a solution simply based on personal experience with those tools will never be tailored enough – it’s only the beginning.

    • Hi Phoebe,
      You’ve brought up such a great point. The customer has to come first. Usage is the first step and tailoring the solution to customer need is key.

  5. Interestingly, I have found the greatest issue is getting customers to stop thinking social media is ‘cheap’.

    Next I find @Pheobe is right there needs to be a willingness to understand the client, unfortunately most clients get caught on the ‘cheap’ moniker and think “I just want to be on Facebook”.

    @Matt Hames is also absolutely correct, we are MMM work hard to focus on what the clients business/marketing objectives are and to craft a plan that is most likely to accomplish those goals.

    Problems I have found in the industry are 1) as I alluded to that businesses are convinced Social Media services are cheap, 2) everyone goes viral and gets millions of views, 3) the wrong people are speaking at events e.g. often I sit there and roll my eyes and inevitably ask “so you built a ‘field of dreams’?”.

    We have a lots of work to do for clients as an niche industry to have them properly informed, I think that should be the goal of every interaction by an agency that offers social media. We offer training on nearly every project as integral because we feel it will only serve to help them and us down the road as we support our clients in improving their business.

    • Hi Roger,
      Thanks for the great insights! The reason why companies think social media is cheap is because they think employee time is *free*. To your point, “wrong people are speaking at events”, I agree that much of social media revolves around hype and jargon, that the real value and message is lost. I commend your approach where helping clients improve their business is key.
      Look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s