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Social Media Experts. Do They Really Exist?

As I see it…

Social Media Experts Are As Real As Unicorns

Why don't people believe in Social Media Experts?

There seems to be some controversy brewing regarding whether one can actually be an expert in a field such as social media. After all, the field is evolving so rapidly that no one could possibly know everything about it. Since when has this been a requirement for being considered an expert in any field? Who in his right mind would claim to know everything about anything?

The only constant is change–the only difference from one field to another being the rate of change. If this were not true in every field there would not be a need for newsletters, journals, blogs, seminars and professional meetings, all of which seem to have proliferated exponentially in recent years.

In the late 1960’s, before the age of personal computers, there was great debate over the future of communications. Marshall McLuhan was pontificating that the medium was the message and that AT&T didn’t understand the telephone. While he was sometimes overly bombastic, he did predict an internet-like system decades before its creation and coined the term “global village.” He understood that a medium of communication has a life of its own that impacts society fully as much as does the content it carries. Nowhere has this been more true than in the burgeoning field of social media.

That said, then, what would constitute a social media “expert?” A dictionary definition of an expert is “a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field.” As usual, the dictionary definition, while accurate, is not particularly helpful. I would propose an operational definition–a social media expert is a person who has the skills and knowledge to help a potential user with the selection and application of appropriate applications and strategies to achieve the results desired by the user.

Social Media Icons

There is a lot of information out there, but there are people who know where to look for answers.

Many, if not most small businesses have web sites, but many who do not utilize social media to brand, market and track business would like to. They are in need of social media expertise. Few have the time to invest in learning it all through extensive research and trial and error. Fortunately there are media professionals (yes, “experts”) to help with the process. They may be specialists within full-service media firms or independent consultants, but they’re out there.

If you are thinking about taking the plunge, run a browser search for social media consultants in your area. Also, ask around at business and social events–personal recommendations are valuable in this area as they are in selecting any professional service. Find someone with whom you feel comfortable. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t feel pressured. If the fit doesn’t feel right, keep looking. You’re not buying a car–it’s more like a courtship. Just don’t be left standing on the dock when the ship has sailed.

Clif Pence

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Clif Pence

Clifford Pence holds an AB in Government from the College of William and Mary and an MS in Communications from Temple University, where he held a teaching assistantship before joining the faculty. Subsequently, he returned to William and Mary, where he taught Broadcasting courses and also administered the College’s closed-circuit and Television Services operations. Mr. Pence left academia to join the staff of the Center for Excellence, a not-for-profit educational telecommunications start-up in Williamsburg, Virginia, as its first Director of Telecommunications Support Services. His areas of responsibility included both HR functions and day-to-day financial operations (payroll, procurement, disbursements and financial reporting). In addition, he was the primary writer/editor for new grant proposals, several of which were funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the Virginia Department of Education. Most recently, he has retired from a twenty-five year career in the Industrial Gases industry and returned to his writing/editing roots.

  • I may be a little biased (well okay, A LOT biased), but I agree! I find it extremely frustrating to have people (even some people in the same field) who claim that there is no such thing as a Social Media Expert. I understand that there are people claiming to be experts who aren’t, but that isn’t a good reason to denigrate the people who are legitimate in their application of knowledge and expertise. Those who are truly practiced in Social Media methodology and keep pace with the marketing trends that require Social Media expertise should have the confidence and wherewithal so stick to their guns and have the confidence to say, “Yes. I am an expert in Social Media.”

    It is true that the field is new and there is little in the way of official education or certification available, which makes classification of skill level difficult. We currently rely on experience and reputation to judge someones qualifications, but hasn’t that been the case in any emerging field? In Social Media, as with any other marketing focus or specialization, there are many people of many skill levels from novice all the way up to expert. Over time standard qualifications will emerge to separate the pretenders from the truly skilled; in the meanwhile I agree with your suggestion to use sound judgment and ask pertinent questions to make your own determination.

  • Rob Clinton says:

    Great post! Expertise comes through someone’s ability to come through and at the same time so that other’s can vouche for that expertise. I don’t believe I would ever work with someone strictly on what a piece of paper says anyways, except for the relationship and trust we’ve built, as well as the credibility they’ve earned in my eyes from previous successes with others. What other’s say about you, means a whole lot… The way we communicate is growing so fast, and thanks goodness there are a handful of experts who are willing to do the hard work it takes to understand and provide the solutions necessary to others so they can focus on the things that matter to them.

  • i agree with your post and thoughts. Just to build on it:

    5 Questions to ask the Social Networking Consultant:

    1. Does this person understand your company’s practices, and more importantly, the time constraints that your company has?

    2. Does this person’s vision of your online presence make sense? Are they trying to get you to basically spam your potential followers, or are they trying to help your company build its brand?

    3. Is this person’s pricing structure reasonable for the work they’re doing, or the return you’re getting?

    4.What is this social networking consultant’s goal for getting your followers/fans to actually become your customers?

    5.Finally, does this person do a good job of explaining social websites to you, or are they treating you as a child whose hand they’ll have to hold the whole way?

    You obviously, have a good perspective on this – BTW, we just connected on Twitter & I went to your site & saw your post, so I thought I would TY for following me!

  • I just wrote a long post in response to the criticisms Peter Shankman made in his recent diatribe against “social media experts.” It offers a different perspective on his arguments, articulates the need for social media expertise, and provides guidance for hiring individuals and organizations (consultants, contractors, and employees) to help with social media initiatives. I would love for you all to read/comment on what I wrote, including a link back to this post and/or other resources you think would be valuable.

    The post is entitled “Social Media Experts: Yes, they Exist. And Yes, You Should Hire Them. But Do Your Due Diligence” and can be accessed via


    Courtney Hunt
    Founder, Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community

    • I read the article by Peter Shankman and found myself increasingly annoyed the further I read! Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful response; after reading the comments accompanying the article I was contemplating doing the same, but it seems unnecessary at this point since you’ve covered all the bases! Job well done, I say. 🙂

  • Yes, we can always learn from others. This information super highway has taken us further than many could have ever imagined. Searching for experts is a great idea or even search youtube for information and best practices.

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