'Experts Only' by Ross Mayfield What is an expert?  Is it a guru?  Is it someone who has thought deeply on the subject?  Or is it someone who has actually performed work and generated results?  So many people today are scrambling to become a social media experts, then it’s quite confusing to businesses looking for talented help.

The reality in social media, as with any burgeoning industry or trade, there are none.  Or at least, there are only a handful who truly have the skills, but will never call themselves experts.  I’ve really enjoyed Christopher S. Penn’s explanation of experts in social media.  Relating the rise or growth of individuals who have explored the space before many others got there.

In two of his posts from June 2008, Who is a social media expert? and  How to Become a Social Media Expert, he recaps the analogy of Japanese martial arts to social media and (ironically 😉 expertly describes why it’s difficult in the world of social media to identify a true expert.

There simply isn’t a better description of what it takes to start down the right path to be a viable social media professional than those two posts.  There’s a lot of great content on the Internet to help folks figure it out, and experimentation is a great leaning tool.  But as a professional practice, there are many pitfalls to claiming expert status.

As with project management methodologies, there are just too many ways to do the same thing.  What works for one client, for one project, for one product, isn’t necessarily what will work for the next.  Even if it’s an update to the previously successful product that enjoyed a thrilling viral marketing campaign.

There are talented folks out there though, and these are the one’s that you want to seek out.  Whether it be for a contract job, hiring for training purposes, helping change the culture in your company, or running that stunning viral campaign.

They’re not hard to find, but they are hard to get scheduled as they’re often in high demand.  So don’t hesitate to ask consultants who inspires them, who they learn from, or what resources they use to learn new things.  Their answers are indicative of professionals who know their stuff.  For true experts realize that they don’t have all the answers, they are aware that surprises await in every endeavor, and they have the resources to deal with everything that is thrown at them.

So while you should be cautious of those who claim (scream?) expert status from their online profiles, you’ll also find a growing group of real professionals in social media that come from all backgrounds… and that’s for another post.

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