Social Media Experts

Where did this term come from? How does one become a “Social Media Expert.” What are the credentials or qualifications for such a thing? I keep hearing all these people who self-label as social media gurus and whatnot. They just seem to throw it out there like it’s nothing. I recently interviewed someone for an communications intern type position and she told me she was a social media expert and that she knows more about social media than most people in Canada. This is such a strange thing to say, because I think this doesn’t actually mean anything.

I feel like calling yourself a social media expert is akin to calling yourself a public transportation expert. Well, you know, I’ve been taking public transportation since 1997 and I am on there several times a day every single day! Yeah yeah, I’m great at getting on buses, getting off streetcars, meeting people on the subway, I can get myself anywhere, etc, just awesome! I know more about public trasportation than most people in Canada.

When you’re a child and don’t have any life experience or you’re from a small town or from the country with no access to public transportation and you’re from the early 20th century and you’ve never heard of buses or trains, you might hear someone say “Hey, I’m an expert on public transportation,” you would be very impressed! However, if you’ve grown up in present day and public transportation is such a part of every day life that you take it for granted and wouldn’t even imagine saying you’re an expert in something so ordinary and invisible. It’s also such a broad category of something to be an expert in and it is unclear. For example, maybe you are trying to say you are an expert at fixing streetcars, or you know all the different models of subways by sight, or you have a scam going on where you get on for free, you know? It’s not a valid claim and doesn’t actually mean anything of value to people who know how public transportation works.

That’s how I feel when someone says they are an expert in social media. It’s so vague, man. What does that even mean? You know about the various social media forms? You know how to send out a group text? You know how to create an event? You know how to “like” things? All users of this stuff know this already. You know how to read metrics and analytics? You know how to program apps? You are good at community building and interaction on brand? You can design a social media campaign? There are actual categories for that like, experience and interaction design, technologist, programmer, digital community coordinator, strategic planner, digital copywriter, etc, etc. No one who legitimately works in the media ever calls themselves a socal media expert in general terms. Do they? Maybe they do. They shouldn’t.

Whenever I hear anyone call themselves a social media expert I think that either they don’t fully understand what social media is and how to work in it or they are trying to fool someone who they think doesn’t know what social media is. Am I crazy? It’s seems like such a common label, but I suspect people are just making it up. Please feel free to argue with me.

And then I google image searched “public transportation expert.” I liked these:




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7 Responses to “Social Media Experts”

  1. andrew says:

    it’s like when a store says “best cheesecake in town!”
    they never have the best cheesecake.

  2. Candace says:

    I totally agree; I’m also an expert at conversion of oxygen to carbon dioxide, for example, and I have over 30 years experience doing so.

    I get paid to run people’s social media stuff for them, so while kind-of grasping for a term that covers all the stuff I do, I’ve tentatively called myself a Social Media Consultant (amongst a lot of job titles and odd descriptors to tell people what I do). It gets the idea across; people get that I manage things like Fb, Wordpress, and Twitter accounts, and can make plans and implement them.

    There are a lot of self-proclaimed experts out there; I think that if you call yourself an expert, it’s like saying “I’m a classy lady” – it immediately tells people that the opposite is true.

  3. Phronk says:

    OMG, the public transportation expert analogy is genius. I’m going to link to this post every time someone refers to themselves as a social media expert.

    I’ve seen people actually get jobs merely for labelling themselves as an SM expert. People who have been on personal Twitter accounts for one week and clearly don’t get it yet (even though there’s not much to get, hence the lack of a need for experts).

    There’s a reason that “social media douchebag” has become a common term.

  4. shine says:

    Dude. I’m like totally a door opening expert. I open those things all the time. I even do it for other people.

    I have to agree with this post entirely. It’s just weird to me to hear someone say that. It’s kind of like putting “proficient with calculator” on your resume, or something.

    But in today’s world, everyone wants to be an expert at something. And broad is better. It’s much easier to fake it ’til you make it at something broad than to say that you’re the leading expert on tweeting from your bathtub with your toes while not getting your iPhone wet. People might actually want see proof of THAT.

  5. GoogleMaster says:

    I also do not like those people. They belittle my science of search engine mastry!

  6. David says:

    I think that if that same person were applying for a job from someone maybe 15 years older, the term Social Media Expert may seem more persuasive.

    Just picture some aging middle-level HR who has heard that the Internet is the most dynamic marketing tool and that “Twitter is awsim” and has no idea what either of those things mean.

  7. Sean Ward says:

    The catch phrase that’s out in the world about this right now is that it’s the new “snake oil salesman”, running up in companies and selling them on a big social media dream, and then getting the hell out of there with a bag of money before they figure out that they’re in the exact same place they were before, facing the same challenges.

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