Determining whether someone is a social media expert or a just another wannabe can be a difficult task for the typical consumer. There is a tremendous amount of noise out there being created by a plethora of “consultants” professing expertise in what I refer to as the new social sciences: personal branding, social networking, social media marketing, etc. I just did a Google search for the term social media expert and had more than 96 million returned search results…give me a break. So my question is this: what constitutes a “social media expert,” and how do you tell the posers from the players? Which of these professed miracle workers are true professionals, and which ones are simply attempting to gravy-train a rapidly growing market niche in pursuit of a quick buck?
Let me begin by dispelling a popular myth oft espoused online – It seems to be fashionable of late to state that there is no such thing as a social media expert. The thinking (albeit flawed thinking) of those who hold this opinion is that social media is so new, and so rapidly evolving, that there simply could not be any real experts.
My answer? Ridiculous…Every industry has experts regardless of maturity of life-cycle. In fact, many of the real innovators and experts are those early adopters doing the heavy lifting and the ground breaking. There are experts in every industry and at every stage of maturation. Some early experts mature as the industry grows, and others fall by the way side because they don’t keep pace giving way to new generations of innovators building on what the first generation of experts created. The issue is not whether experts exist, as they most certainly do. The issue is finding them among the hordes of pretenders and wannabes.
I’m going to cut right to the chase and give you six things to beware of when attempting to discern the true professional advisers capable of delivering a certainty of execution, from the rogues and scoundrels simply looking to separate you from your money:
- Beware the Part-Time Expert: My father has an old saying that I’ve found to be very accurate over the years: “part-time efforts, yield part-time results.” If the person seeking your business has a day job that constitutes something other than the services he or she is pitching, run for the hills. If your potential advisor is moonlighting then they really have no business asking for your business.
- Beware the Shoemaker without Shoes: Your position should be one of “don’t tell me…show me.” If your would-be social media guru cannot be found online, doesn’t blog, tweet, or is invisible on the major social networking platforms you might want to rethink their qualifications. Important Caveat: the mere existence of a blog, YouTube channel, LinkedIn profile, Facebook account, or a Twitter page doesn’t guarantee competence…any idiot can amass thousands of followers on Twitter just by following everybody and their brother, so look for someone who has amassed a quality list of followers, who has more people following them than they follow, and who actively engages with their followers.
- Beware the Expert without Clients: No referenceable clients equals zero credibility. It’s one thing to show you their own work, but quite another to show you demonstrated success on behalf of paying and satisfied clients.
- Beware the Expert without Industry Recognition: If your so called expert isn’t referenced as such by credible, independent third parties, isn’t published, doesn’t speak, lecture or teach, doesn’t have a column, hasn’t won any awards, etc., then they might not be a true expert.
- Beware the Expert too Aggressive in their Pursuit: There is a big difference between professional follow-up and desperation. Let me be blunt…most professionals at the top of their game haven’t made a cold call in years. In fact, even in this down economy they typically have more business than they know what to do with. If your world-beater of a consultant is chasing you down like a hungry dog after the meat wagon then you may want to take pause.
- Beware of Bargain Basement Expertise: In most cases the reality is that you get what you pay for…True expertise doesn’t come cheaply, but is well worth the investment. Few things in business will get you in as much trouble as not getting advice and counsel when needed, or worse yet, getting poor quality or incorrect advice. I would much rather pay an expert a larger fee for 30 minutes of their time and get what I need rather than pay someone $50 dollars an hour who is hoping to fake it until they can make it…Questionable advisors will take much longer to get from point a to point b (if they get there at all), and will likely cost you more money at the end of the day when contrasted with true professionals.
If you need help in integrating social media into your business I would recommend the following individuals (some you may know and some you may not) as they all pass the litmus test mentioned above. Those listed below are in no particular order of preference and you can rest assured they are not “info-product” sales people masquerading as social media professionals, but they are in fact the true subject matter experts who can get the job done:
- Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan): Chris is smart, approachable, innovative, has a high degree of integrity, probably the hardest working man on the planet, and a heck of a nice guy. I’ve enjoyed every interaction I’ve had with Chris, and he has earned my trust and respect.
- Mack Collier (@MackCollier): I don’t know Mack personally, but have enjoyed reading his candid and ever straight foward opinions online. Mack is well respected and his the loyalty of his followers more than speak to his capabilities.
- Lee Odden (@LeeOdden) I’ve known Lee for several years (before he was rich and famous). In fact, in a prior life as a corporate executive Lee was the consultant I chose to place on retainer. He is smart, seasoned and delivers on his promises.
- Amy Martin (@DigitalRoyalty) I guess the moniker Digital Royalty says it all…Amy represents some of the biggest names and fastest growning brands online. Nothing bodes as well for an agency as success, and Amy has plenty of pedigree in that department.
- Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) Ashton combines his celebrity status, a fascination with social media, and a disarming and ever inquistive intellect to head one of the fastest growing social media agencies on the web.
- Liz Strauss (@lizstrauss) – Liz is well known for her approachability, friendliness and candor. She also happens to be one of the savviest bloggers and social media consultants online.
- And if you’re slumming:), feel free to check out our social media practice or ping me @mikemyatt – nuff said…
Related Post: “How to Select a Professional Advisor“