Let’s Put The Expert Topic To Rest, Shall We?

by Jason Falls |

I’m awfully tired of the “expert” conversation. It first popped up in early 2009 and hasn’t died since. Social media echo chamber sounding boards rant and rave about who’s qualified to help companies with social media and who isn’t. A fair amount of the conversation is ego driven with consultants and agency types puffing out their chests and client case studies trying to prove their Twitter dick is bigger.

The one group of people who don’t care about the expert conversation? Clients. They don’t hire idiots. And if they do, they learn from it and move on.

Now that those with large audiences have gotten in on the action, the conversation is having an unfortunate spill-over effect. Every time I’m introduced to a group of people as a social media expert — wording I don’t use, mind you — someone in the audience who’s saw Gary Vaynerchuk’s rant or Peter Shankman’s unfortunate “die in a fire” post looks at me through tinted lenses. While I don’t think Gary or Peter would include me in the category of people they were aiming for, mainstream clientele listen to a handful of voices in the social media echo chamber. They don’t understand the context of the accusations or labels. So even the good get lumped in with the bad.

For the record, Gary clarified his thoughts on Geoff Livingston’s blog and admitted his thoughts were a bit of a mistake, at least in context.

I told Jim Long what I thought of the expert discussion recently. He reported it on his blog:

The people who care whether or not someone calls themselves an “expert” are only afraid one of them will steal clients from them. You know who doesn’t care about this topic? Businesses who hire consultants. They hire people who can help their business, not paranoid and defensive ego-mongers who think they’re playing thought leader by minimizing someone they never heard of and know nothing about.

Please note that wasn’t directed at Gary or Peter. It was just a general statement. But it’s not too awfully far off from what I said about the matter when it first popped up in 2009:

While everyone has a perspective and reason to believe there are snake oil salesmen among us, I would like to challenge each of you to look beyond the in-fighting and back-stabbing ego trips this conversation frequently becomes. I challenge you to understand that the people who hire consultants and agencies are often a thousand times smarter about their business than you … or than you give them credit for. They are smart enough to ask a better question about social media experts:


Will this person help my business?

Expert or not, that’s the only determination they need to make.

And frankly, who they make it about is none of our business. Focus on you, not them. That, more than anything, will police our industry a bit better.


About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).