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 being..um.. 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.