Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 25, 2009 9:38 PM

An Expert With No Experience

What constitutes an expert?

One of the major conversations that still takes place online revolves around the question, "who is an expert?" Big business is looking for a reason to engage in these many online channels, they just don't want to be taken for a ride by someone with ten thousand followers and no experience. So, what should your business do?

What constitutes an expert? Some argue that it's impossible to even call yourself (or be called) an expert in Social Media simply because the channels and platforms are so new that we have not had the time required (Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours theory from Outliers) to really identify who the experts are. Others argue that the Internet has been commercialized for over fifteen years and even though it has changed in dramatic ways, there are still those who have proven - time and time again - that they are apt and capable at delivering real and tangible results in these channels. I am of the opinion that just because an individual can create some kind of community and audience for themselves, it does not mean that they can do it for others. A real expert might be someone who can create community, conversation and conversion for others as simply as they can for themselves.

The truth is, we have had many missteps that should be cause for concern.

In the past year, there have been many instances where those who are revered for the breadth and depth of their online social networks have really stumbled (or dropped the ball entirely) when it comes to trying to replicate what they have done for themselves for others. On top of that, there have been many instances where big-named agencies who work with some of the world's biggest brands have used the channels in a very traditional (re: manipulative) way that wound up causing more negative PR than positive brand experiences.

The lesson is crystal clear: an expert without real business experience is no expert at all.

There are those who spend a lot of time talking (be it on Twitter, through a Blog/Podcast and even in books) and very little time walking that talk. Put yourself in the client's shoes: you're working with a "Social Media Expert" - someone with thousands of followers, a highly trafficked Blog and hefty "friend" base on Facebook. Their mandate is clear: to help your company engage in the many online social networks and Social Media platforms. How is this work going to get done if most of that individual's day is spent focused on their own Twitter feed and Blog? Where, exactly, is the team behind this "expert"? The strategy, design, content, technology and marketing to really push your story out to the online channel? Great results require a strong team - not just one individual and their many followers.

Ken Wong says that these channels could well be what Marketing, Communications and Advertising is really all about, but we need the right case studies to really push it forward.

He's right. But, it's not just the case studies... it's the experience first. This is all healthy and normal. We're in the middle of a renaissance period for the Marketing and Communications industry (some - including myself - might even argue that all of business is going through this), and we're going to need a few more years of trying, testing, learning and experimenting not just to reach the point of commercial success, but to get all of the kinks out of the system. We're going to do this by having some of the real online experts bring in their strong pedigree for measurable metrics, better web analytics, strong development and client services teams, and more strategic brand insights, so that it's not just about what's happening right now on Twitter and Facebook, but it's all about how people are searching, finding, engaging and conversing about the brands.

It's a tall order, but I think our industry is up for it. What do you think?

By Mitch Joel