This is a guest post by Glen Allsopp, a 20-year-old genius who has been in this industry for as long as I remember — and you can tell he’s got a knack for brilliance. Follow him on Twitter.
There are a few jokes going around the blogosphere right now regarding what it means to be a social media expert. Now that the stay-at-home-moms (and dads) are finding their way to a five-figure Twitter follow count, they’re offering all types of services and branding themselves as all-round experts.
Despite the title of the post, having worked as the social media manager for Fortune 500 companies, and a lot of knowledge here being totally personal, I do not think of myself as an expert. In fact, I don’t think becoming a social media expert is something that people should be worried about; they should be focused on becoming expert communicators instead.
Because of the less serious checklists that are being passed around the web right now, I thought it would be a good time to look at what some of the influencers online are really doing, and how you can join their ranks if you’re so inclined.
Do you ever read the tweets of Chris Brogan? I know there are a lot of them, but that’s because he’s spending a large portion of each day highlighting the work of others. Darren Rowse? Brian Clark? Daniel Scocco? They might not tweet as much, but they are definitely focusing their attention elsewhere.
I’ve personally taken this concept so far that I now have a pretty new box at the end of most blog posts which highlights other bloggers that I enjoy. Right now, you’ll find the likes of Tamar, Jonathan, Lisa and Rebecca in my feed reader, and consequently, in that box.
You can help your bid to become more transparent online by sharing what you enjoy. Plus, if you know anything about how blogging works, you should know that no blog is a competitor.
Grow Biggers Ears
I did have another way of saying this, but Chris’s term sounds better. Quite simply: the true social media experts are willing to listen to the ideas of absolutely anybody in this space. That could be from traditional media, my sister, a friend, the radio, or even a small child. If someone has an idea I like the sound of, I’m not going to care about where it came from – I’m going to see if I can use it.
Remember, to make an impact in the social media space you have to become the best communicator. And, to fulfil that position, it requires you to be willing to give your time, attention, and logic to people with a variety of different ages and backgrounds.
Accept a New Normal
When I talk about accepting a new normal , I’m talking about two different aspects of life. The first is personal. Take my own situation as an example. Because I have quit my job, and I blog about personal things, I have written about quitting my job and in turn found that this interests a lot of readers.
In terms of influence though, people email me about whether they should quit their job or not, and expect that a 20-year old from England really should know the answers to such important career advice. Influencers accept that they have a position to hold and won’t abuse it for a quick buck.
Not only do experts accept a change personally, they also accept that the business world is changing and the way to get sales no longer means interrupting your audience via every medium they hate being interrupted in.
If you resist the changing times, you’ll just get left behind.
Make Everything Else Irrelevant
In aiming to be the best communicators, it’s important that we don’t discriminate anyone by age, gender or ethnicity when working with them. However, as an influencer, you must remember that while many people will praise you, lots of others in the same niche will not even know who you are. Therefore, aim to constantly focus on producing the best products / posts / services that you can, to make your previous background or achievements irrelevant.
For example, when I first started making money online, I was 16 years old. I knew that unless I went above the effort of everyone else who was blogging about my topic and offering services to clients, people just wouldn’t take me seriously. Because of this, I believe the influencers in any niche should be the people who are the most passionate about their industry doing well.
If you feel the same, then you must also realise that these people don’t fit a cookie-cutter image. Social media experts realise that you can’t control what people say about you online, but you can continue to focus on putting out your best work possible, whatever your medium can be.
Despite all the noise online, it’s still possible to become a signal.
Ignore Social Media Checklists or ‘Top’ Lists
It’s nice to be featured in press both online and off, but allowing that to influence your ego or strategy is just silly. The people that deserve to be the influencers are the ones that realise 10,000 random followers can not be compared to 1,000 or even 500 people who genuinely care about what you have to say.
You don’t become a social media expert by promoting yourself as a social media expert. In fact, if you don’t mind me letting you in on a little secret, there is no way to become an expert in the eyes of everybody anyway. Instead, what you should be pushing to become is the biggest communicator, thought-provoker and connector in your niche.
Then, and only then, will people really start to see you as an expert at something. And perhaps it will be deserved.
Glen Allsopp writes about the topic of Viral marketing at ViperChill. He’s also a huge fan of Tamar and very thankful to have her offer him this opportunity.
Everyone: Tamar is way too nice 😉
Tamar: Thanks a lot for asking me to write here; I hope the readers like it.
Oh man I wish every blogger on the earth could read this:
“In terms of influence though, people email me about whether they should quit their job or not, and expect that a 20-year old from England really should know the answers to such important career advice.”
Too many bloggers get a sense of their own importance, start believing their own publicity and offering advice waaaay out of their remit of what they really know about.
Nice post Glen. Oh and yeh, you’re an expert, don’t be bashful 😉
In secret, I’ve been wondering why 50% of the twitter profiles have “social media expert” in them. I’ve never known what that actually meant. I completely agree with you that highlighting others is key. People really appreciate appreciation, as long as it is genuine!
Another great post, Glen. Sometimes I wonder what kind of sacrifices you make to write so well 😉
@ Henri – Get this. I was contacted my a “Social Media Expert” about 6 months ago. He told me that my site was committing 3 Cardinal Sins and it was holding my ranking back and he could help me.
On further investigation this guy had an Alexa ranking of a tad over 25 million for his site whereas mine at the time was about 80,000. Needless to say I didn’t hire that particular expert!
Great points Glen- as usual. I like how you drive home that we’re losing a sense of what’s important by getting caught up in the “social media expert” label. It’s so true that communication is key and a huge part of communicating is listening- fantastic point about listening to everybody and deciphering what works from there.
It’s great to see, as well, that you’re following your own advice and being such a strong communicator. 🙂 (Faithful follower of Viral Marketing! I love the transparency. That level of communication really teaches your readers.)
@ Tim – Sounds like you made a wise choice. I get the same e-mails, only they are about getting a #1 ranking in Google 😉
This post is a prime example of how to be a true social media expert.
Deliver smart, innovative, to the point content that provides genuine value. Promote others heavily and let those less willing to work their arse off worry about labels like “Social Media Expert”.
This is the best post I have read in a good long time and has really struck a chord with me.
Tama, you are right – Glen is a genius when it comes to ingenuity, openness and honestly.
I’ve followed a few listed experts, but passed on tons more who don’t seem to “walk the walk.”
As to growing ears and accepting new normals, that’s all about defining your own way to do social media. Ignore the pundits who try and tell you how to blog, Twitter and network.
You gotta stop worrying about labels, forget who’s “expert” or not and stick what what you do and know best: yourself. Cheesy but true. FWIW.
Just really starting to delve into the world of social media, but probably 75% of the people I’ve encountered are self-proclaimed “social media experts.”
I think the best strategy right now is listening/reading as much as I can on the subject and just implementing those ideas that mirror my own thoughts and feelings on getting out there.
Trying to stay true to who I am and hopefully helping others along the way – don’t need to be a “social media expert” to help people with their businesses!
I think you are seeing advice as something that people are forcing on others based on your comment. As with anything: take what works for you and leave what doesn’t.
This article is not an exception to that 🙂
Thanks for breaking this topic down into a clear and concise post. I have been hearing a lot about this recently on the Internet and was wondering myself how any one could be a Social Media Expert? Thanks for taking the time to explain and demystify what a Social Media Expert is and isn’t.
Glen, No one can make you do anything, and no I didn’t mean “forced” advice sorry. Just different ideas and opinions. There are socially “accepted” standards, practices and norms in SM; after reading so many “how to Twitter” posts I wrote my own. It was how I would Twitter, but would not tell someone else how to; that’s up to them and their own strategy for SM.
As you’ve suggested, I’ve taken what’s worked for me, left the rest. Hope that clarifies.
You had me when you put more focus on communicating than the tools. It’s awesome people can promote knowing trick in the book about facebook and twitter, but do they know how to read the subtext of a situation and really get in someones world in a conversation. It’s something I promote all the time being in an all around IT support field. Knowing how to convey what I mean is just as important as knowing how to restart terminal services is OS X. Solid post, great perspective.
Hooray for the “I don’t call myself an expert…” and then immediately sharing a little expertise. Personally, I can’t stand the use of words like “expert”, “guru” and the like. The quickest way to identify those who aren’t experts is to find those who slap the aforementioned labels on themselves.
I applaud your efforts to educate those who inhabit the social web. What seems to be overlooked by self-proclaimed “social media experts” is the social aspect of the undertaking, which is all about communication and interaction. Social media isn’t a broadcast medium. Building expertise isn’t just about using all the lingo and being knowledgeable about the vast myriad of outlets and sources. It’s so much more than that.
Like you said, an unrelenting dedication to being a great communicator is key. Understanding the need and having the desire to interact – to learn from others, to take perspectives other than your own into account, to share knowledge and to share the information you find useful and interesting with others who might also find it useful and interesting.
That ability and desire to communicate is a fundamental quality all true social media experts possess, which is why they’ll never label themselves “experts”. Doing so would put them on an island with other so-called experts and gurus, separating them from those they most want to interact with and learn from: everyone else!
Thank you very much !
“This is the true joy in life-being for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature and instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances” by George B. Shaw, 1856-1950
Jose G. G.
One of those moments, I was just reading Roberts comment above, about being in someone’s world of conversation, when I glanced at my twitter account on the other screen a saw stream of tweets all promoting automated twitter solutions. Made me laugh when I compared it back to Roberts comment about focus on communicating rather than tools.
There is a reason why Social media is called social media.
Calling yourself an expert is like proclaiming yourself humble. It doesn’t work.
Great article. Glenn, you definitely know how to promote yourself- you are everywhere! (But that is a good thing!)
Jim – So true. That’s similar to when people give you tips on how to be more real. It’s just…not something you can try and do.
The social media infection spreads very quickly and reached also our region. Everyone who tweeted 100 times proclaims himself a SM expert. Is it time to set some sort of guidelines of what and what is not a SM expert?
kga, I don’t think guidelines are needed, to be honest. It’s not that black and white. Here’s a good post by Mack Collier, though, on social media rockstardom.
Hey, you say we should avoid the checklists but this post is called: 5 things true…… so what is it? 🙂
Adrian, a catch 22, maybe? 😉
nicely done, glen… humble, clear and spot on!
sometimes i feel like a grandpa in this business, as i’ve been developing sites for almost as long as you’ve been alive… but reading posts like this keeps me completely energized and thrilled to do what i do for a living.
please keep it coming.. we need more of you out here!
and thanks, tamar. great site!
I heard that….thanks Tamar 😉
I really like this blog post! I think we get wrapped up with using the Expert title that we fail to recognized the real purpose of teaching others about social media. Social media is about building relationships and so many “experts” are not great communicators. Some “experts” does not even response back to comments.
Oh, yeah Tamar! Love your book “The New Community Rules” girl! I take it everywhere I go! Great job!
Really this is great post and Thanks Tamar for sharing this informative post. It true that social media networking or optimization is source to build a relationship with customer directly and introduce your product and brand in very simple way.
Loved this post, nice to know you Glen Allsopp, i especially liked “Ignore Social Media Checklists or ‘Top’ Lists”
Glen, good post. I am absolutely tired of all the profiles with “Social Media Expert”. It turns out the actual experts, in most cases, dont even mention it in their profiles, others do it for them. Tamar, looking forward to featuring you soon!
If everybody is [;)] ‘ing at this post ….why would I be any different.
Like the previous post on your blog (the recent one) this one qualifies as being personal and yet thought provoking and utterly humble!
Kudos to the writer and thank you for posting this.
Looking forward to more of such……..
Question: Can you be a social media expert?
The literal definition dictates being social with a specific set of media. In which case I became an expert at the age of 1, when I started to communicate. I dare say many other people share the same.
If we switch to the “web version” then I would suggest no one can be an expert, only a practitioner as it’s all too new and changing too fast.
Therefore, the only combination of the two that would appear to work is to practice sharing on the web and as Tamar suggests – engage.
It would appear then that those who profess to expertise in social activities, by default, are not. If they were then they would understand that expertise in “piping the social web” would be more appropriate and quantifiable.
Cheer Glen! He’s the one who wrote this post. 🙂
If I were to add anything to the list it would be that social media is more than just Facebook and Twitter. If your social media guru tells you to setup a Facebook or Twitter account without any regard to what you’ll accomplish by doing so they are probably not an expert.
Hi Ruben, I cover that in a number of articles here. Check out the second header in this post.
Great article, thanks for sharing this.