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Why I’m probably not a social media expert and neither are you

Over the past few years a plethora of Social Media Experts* have cropped up and their tweets, posts, podcasts etc serve up a cacophony of advice and pontification.

Here’s a few of my thoughts on the matter, from the perspective of someone who sees herself as an apprentice on a learning journey.

Anyone who claims to be an expert in social media is probably talking through their hat.

Social media has been with us for only a few years. Expertise is not developed overnight.

Deep knowledge is founded on a basis of research and experience. Lessons learned, especially from failure and pushing of known boundaries, are key to development of expertise.

But research has shown that expertise in a particular field is achieved over many years of research and practice. Since social media has been with us for such a short time it is unlikely that any of us have gleaned more than primitive insights as yet.

As Wikipedia notes:

Some characteristics of the development of an expert have been found to include

  • At a minimum usually 10 years of consistent practice, sometimes more for certain fields
  • A characterization of this practice as “deliberate practice”, which forces the practitioner to come up with new ways to encourage and enable themselves to reach new levels of performance
  • An early phase of learning which is characterized by enjoyment, excitement, and participation without outcome-related goals
  • The ability to rearrange or construct a higher dimension of creativity. Due to such familiarity or advanced knowledge experts can develop more abstract perspectives of their concepts and/or performances.

Some people may have expertise in other areas that gives them unique insights into the possibilities inherent in social media. They may be able to fast track the development of expertise in social media by building on their previous knowledge and experience.

Further, social media is just media and communications on a new platform. I’m not quite sure if that fact privileges social media in some special way?

Rather it seems that what we are undergoing is experimentation with the new media publishing platforms – from hard copy to soft copy, from television to online, etc.

This is no different from the platform change that ensued with the move from radio to television. I wonder if there were a bunch of Television Media Experts running around back in those days too? And I suspect that those experts of olden times would have known just as much as the average Social Media Expert today.

Perhaps rather than being social media experts we are social media learners? If indeed social media is a real thing we should even consider in and of itself (but that is a topic for another day)?

* Updated: OzDJ also reminded me of the various “social media ‘luminaries’, ‘mavens’, ‘gurus’ et al”

7 thoughts on “Why I’m probably not a social media expert and neither are you”

  1. Its such an evolving area, what works today may not work tomorrow. Me, well I’m always trying out new things to see how the community likes them. That’s about it in a nutshell.

    Posting photos as I cook something with instructions on twitter, blogging it after its made, and this month I linked my twitpic instructions back into a blogpost.

  2. Gosh, that first comment is such an obvious link-to-gain-Googlejuice thing, isn’t it!

    One paragraph of vague waffle only tenuously connected to the subject of the post, then a second paragraph describing quite specifically what the commenter’s website is about.

    Someone must be reading what those SOE “experts” talk about…

  3. Nice post Kate, although I don’t agree that you need to notch up ten years in a field to be considered an expert – I’ve known plenty of people who’ve been rubbish in their professional practice for decades…and some very smart people who bring brilliance and fresh ideas from the outset. I also don’t believe that communication in the digital space means discarding everything you’ve ever learned about talking to people elsewhere and starting afresh – it’s this positioning of the web as strange and unfamiliar new territory that you need a protective helmet and 12 volume guidebook to navigate that gives rise to the snake-oil guru phenomenon.
    I definitely agree though, that claiming expertise, refusing to allow fluidity and evolution to inform your professional practice and development is something to be very wary of, as a client or peer.
    Find out more at my exclusive seminar. Details at…;)

  4. Great post Kate! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve been wary of anyone proclaiming to be a social media expert and now I understand why! I also think the whole nature of the new open, transparent platform that is social media means its open to everyone, so I dislike the term expert because it also implies its closed off to you unless you are that so called expert, which is rubbish 🙂

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