Sometimes you need an expert

May, 2011

I’ll be honest, I only skimmed Peter Shakman’s recent post Why I Will Never, Ever Hire A “Social Media Expert”. You know why? Because I don’t need to read the same old, boring diatribe along with a pile of generic social media advice.

This old line again?

If you’ve been in the social media field for a while you might have noticed an annoying trend. We’ve spent years doing two things:

  1. Stop hiring interns to do an important job
  2. Social media experts are bogus frauds

And guess what, most of the talking heads saying this stuff, they’re the experts, the actual ones – whether they like it or not. And this advice is crap. Peter will never need a social media expert because he is one. An actual one. Not a fake one. And you know what, there are a bunch out there.

Just as there are a bunch of experts in every field. They are the ones who know the most. They always exist, even if they don’t know it.

Want to know the truth? Experts often don’t realize what they are until long after they became experts.

When you need an expert

There are times when you need and expert, and it’s not to hard to see where and when. It’s when you need someone good to get the job done right. This is no different then when you plan on buying a bunch of companies, you hire an M&A expert. Here’s an easy way to tell if you need a social media expert:

  • You know transparency and engagement, but aren’t sure what’s next
    Moving from concept to game-plan isn’t easy. It’s takes planning, knowledge and experience. Having someone on your side who has done it more than a couple of times is a huge help.
  • If you want to make social media strategic
    I’m talking about core to your company strategic. I mean if you want social media to be essential to how you get leads and sales (e.g. Hubspot).
  • If you need to engage with a large audience
    Like on the scale of Comcast, American Idol. This is a daunting task, hire someone who has been in the trenches, managed a team doing this stuff, and executed it with direction and purpose.
  • If you have an image problem
    Just like how you’d hire a good PR agency to do damage control if you say, destroyed the gulf. You might want someone experience at the helm of SM when you are trying to win hearts and minds via SM.
  • When you have no clue what you are doing
    This isn’t for everyone, and it may be more of a consulting deal. But if you are just getting started, and have the budget, then maybe you should hire an actual expert to get you going. Rather than stumble into it, find a person who can get you running with a strategy, the right tools, and the right team in place.

Makes sense, right?

I could keep going, but I think you get the point. Yes, there are a lot of charlatans out there claiming to be experts, but there are a lot of real ones who are ready to roll up their sleeves and help you get social media right. Don’t buy the hate and hype – especially when the experts are just deriding themselves.

  • Michael Cheek

    Like you, the charlatans got me a little ticked off for a while. But then I got to wondering what the difference happened to be.

    - Social media has been in the business mindset for less than three years.
    - An “expert” is defined as someone who has “a prolonged or intense experience through practice and education in a particular field” (source: Wikipedia).

    It’s just too early for there to be any “experts” out there. Are there experienced professional? Yes. Should you hire interns? No.

    You should read my piece, “Five Myths About Social Media” at FYI, those five myths are as follows:

    Myth #1: Social Media Offers an Extensive Track Record
    Myth #2: There Are Social Media Experts
    Myth #3: Social Media Should Be Segmented
    Myth #4: Anyone Can Do Social Media
    Myth #5: Social Media Should Be Ignored until Maturity

  • Adam Covati

    Good points Michael. While I can’t argue that compared to some other areas of expertise, I would say that people have been using social media for more than three years as a business tool. Especially if you accept blogs, forums, reviews, and other commenting mediums as social media – which much of us do.

    Also, expert is a term that works relative to its subject, for example within any one group there may exist a subject matter expert. Outside of said group they may not be considered an expert, but inside, they are the go-to person.

    If you look at social media as a world unto itself, then those experts emerge. If you want to compare them to Marketing experts they may pale in comparison, but that’s to be expected in a new medium.

  • Brian McDonald


    I had a nice discussion about Shankman’s post on LinkedIn group. I agree with you that there are experts in social media as well as search, PR, advertising and any other communication/media channel. Just because bogus experts are out there does not mean others do not and cannot be experts in their field. Good points you raised here and bravo for posting this!

  • Adam Covati

    Brian, thanks man. That’s a great succinct way to put it. Don’t let the fakers keep the pros down!