10 Questions to Evaluate a Social Media ‘Expert’

zebra-social-media-expert Featured

Ian Lurie Jul 21 2009

zebra-social-media-expert.jpg

If you know more than 5 people, chances are you now know someone who declares themselves a social media expert. How can you tell if someone’s claim of expertise is legit? Here’s my quick quiz. Ask each question and take the appropriate action:

1: Do you have a blog?

If the expert answers ‘no’, that may be OK. Follow up with something like ‘Oh, you’re using Posterous instead?’. If they look at you blankly, end the meeting there. No sense wasting your time.

If the expert answers ‘yes’, get the address and go look. If they’ve been blogging for less than 2-3 years, and there’s no explanation like “I had to move my blog”, again, end the meeting.

Any social media expert has been somehow participating in the conversation for a long time.

2: When did you start in social media?

“6 months ago”. Yeah. OK. Bye.

“2 years ago”. Hey, not bad. Worth a chat.

“In 1992″. Er. Um. They’d better be referencing BBSes and Usenet.

3: What is social media?

“Blogging and Twitter and stuff”. Excuse yourself for a bathroom break and don’t come back.

“All of the conversations going on between people and people and businesses and such online”. Not bad.

“A trendy term to describe a new kind of mass media”. Totally acceptable.

4: What’s a social media campaign?

“Voting something to the front page of Digg using my proxy server and 35 computers”. Flee the scene, and get to a minimum safe distance as soon as possible. The Digg brigade may be on its way. Whatever you do, don’t hire them. While this is a valid tactic (I guess), it’s not a campaign. Nor does it generate long term results in most cases.

“Developing a great message and then reaching out to people, while giving them an incentive to ‘pass it on'”. Yeah, OK, keep ‘em around.

“I have this great software that will put a link to your site on 21,000 forums and 10,000 blogs…”. Push them down the garbage chute. Don’t be seen with them in public.

5: How do you monitor social media for a client?

“Huh?” Hopefully your next step is obvious.

“Google alerts”. Not bad, but wait and see if they add in stuff like subscribing to Twitter searches and the like.

“I use a 3rd party tool”. Fine, but make sure they do more than plug in some keywords and wait for e-mails. A human being needs to review what the tool reports or its worthless.

6: How do you measure ROI?

“Oh, shut up”. Perfectly OK, especially if the expert turns purple for a moment first. They’re just sick of hearing this question, which means they’ve been around the block a few times.

“It’s complicated, but here’s a high-level view…”. Nice!!!

“I track clicks from Twitter”. Nope, sorry.

7: How do you build an audience?

“I auto-follow 20,000 people on Twitter”. If you’re OK with it, kick them in the groin for me. If not, nod politely and move on.

“I follow interesting, relevant people on Twitter, comment on relevant blog posts and try to get into the conversation”. Home run. Try not to weep with joy.

“We need to figure out the campaign first”. Good answer. Give them a hypothetical campaign to be sure, but clearly you’re on the right track.

8: Do you offer a guarantee?

“Yes, I’ll get you 1000 links and 20,000 clicks”. See number 7, first action.

“Yes, that I’ll work my butt off for you”. I like it.

“No, because we’re marketing to people, and it’s hard to say what they’ll like/not like, or what might happen in the world that will affect behavior”. Also good.

9: How did you learn all this stuff?

“Oh, I read this book I bought from Amazon.com”. Wargh. By the time that book went to print it was out of date. No go.

“I’m always learning”. Good answer.

“I read a lot of blogs, and try to use as many different tools as I can”. Also good.

“I go to conferences”. Yeahhhhhh. Might be OK. Answers to the other 9 questions should tell you.

10: How does social media impact SEO?

“It doesn’t”. Slap them and tell ‘em that’s from Ian.

“It builds links”. That’s half the answer.

“It builds relationships that turn into links later”. HIRE THEM NOW.

Bonus question: How often do you write?

“I hate writing”. Cough.

“Oh, I try to but I don’t have much time”. Cough. Cough.

“Every day”. DING DING DING. A winner!

There you go. An instant social media expert evaluator. Sort of like a Cylon Detector, but hopefully more effective.

By the way, print a copy of this. If you get word-for-word answers, you might think twice.

Yes, I hate the phrase social media. No reason to beat that dead horse any more.


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91 Comments

  1. Excellent list of questions, some of the things I’ve seen in working with so-called social media “experts”.
    1: Their blog names are generally SEO traps with URLs like: getmorelinks.biz
    2: Their twitter feeds are primarily RT’s & tinyurl’s.
    3: What they do write is so SEO focused that the meaning and value is lost completely.
    4: The last time they’ve updated their blog is in 2008.
    5: They advertise numbers of followers but can’t measure engagement.
    6: They talk about content as if it’s a thing to be had and not a conversation.
    7: They talk to you about behavioral targeting, but cannot list more than 2 inherent social network behaviors.
    8: They cant name a single market vertical based social network.
    9: They sputter when you ask them name a campaign where you were failing and what did you do to change it?
    10: They brag about their off-shore UGC teams… *sigh*
    Thanks for posting this, it crystallized some of the things I’ve seen im my own career.

  2. Enjoyed the post. Very true, all. The one thing I still have problems with is “expert.” It is so overused as to be meaningless anymore. Especially meaningless when someone uses the term about themselves.

  3. I agree with Hamilton, “exper”t is so overused and abused. I think I hate “Guru” even more!

  4. Ian, I love you! (And I mean that in a bromance kinda way although I’m a girl.)
    You can’t throw a proverbial rock on the internet without it bouncing off yet another “social media expert.” (aka a way of justifying the time I spend screwing around ont he internet.)
    Why does everyone have to be an “expert”? Why isn’t it good enough to be a participant who can explain how this stuff works? Do they think they’re improving their chances of getting hired? They’re not. Companies are looking for results not another marketing expense and the vast majority of these “experts” don’t have the goods to back up the claims.

  5. Well written… good job. Everybody’s an expert so at least this is a good view for normal people to get an idea of who’s full of it. :)

  6. This is an excellent list. I appreciate the blend of humor and seriousness. There is so much snake oil out there, especially with social media. I just talked to a guy that paid a woman $45/hour to be his social media expert. She turned out not to be an expert and he wasted a bunch of money.
    Viewers of your blog, take heed.

  7. I echo the sentiment of those who have grown weary of the terms “expert”, “guru” and the like. If you’re the only one referring to yourself in those terms, guess what…you’re NOT.
    And those who have the knowledge and expertise to be considered experts are highly unlikely to EVER refer to themselves as such. Like I tell my 7-year-old nephew all the time, “If you’re the only one laughing, you’re not as funny as you think you are…”. :)

  8. Way to conduct an interview. I’d ask for a second post to explain what the heck is JP Sherman talking about when he says UGC and single market based social network?
    Anyway, excellent addition to my guerilla knowledge.
    Leo

  9. Fun post. Good stuff.
    One bone to pick. I’ve seen the #1 and #2 point made before. My opinion: A blogger does not a consultant make. A consultant does not a blogger make.
    Ad agencies don’t do a lot of advertising for themselves but they can do it well for businesses. Management consultants don’t have to be managing teams to add value to a company’s leadership. Business lawyers don’t need to have been sued themselves to handle a litigation.

  10. As a business couselor, I’m finding a market filled with people looking for information but unsophisticated enough to be inadequate in judging abilities. This will be a great resource that I will use. Thanks Ian! Also, thanks for the laugh!!

  11. Great post. Your style is playful and informative. I think the best consultants (expert or not) realize that social media is a forum for conversations, not a strategy in itself. The marketing strategy has to be bigger than the tactical way you can implement it.

  12. Kimota

    I always get nervous when seeing these sorts of posts, but – phew – seems I would hire me. I would only take issue with the first two questions – not because a blogger doesn’t make a consultant (of course it doesn’t) but because it suggests anyone with under 2 years isn’t worth talking to.
    I’ve certainly come across many old-school bloggers who’s ideas seemed to dry up in 2007/8 and others who have recently entered the field with immense enthusiasm, knowledge and original thinking.
    I used to work in employment and would always advise employers against advertising for a minimum experience as a time factor – three years experience a must, etc. Time in a discipline doesn’t equal talent. A particularly talented, skillful or creative individual can achieve great things and reveal that talent in months, not years. would you want to turn down a wonderful and visionary talent (that granted may need a little more nurturing) and plump for the steady jobsworth who’s grinding out his/her time with no spectacular achievements?

  13. This post is the most witty thing I’ve read all week. I love it. As an avid reader (usually via RSS) of this blog, this is my first comment – but don’t let that send you the wrong message, I thoroughly enjoy this blog and really should contribute more often. I just finished a blog post over on my personal blog adding a few ideas to the list and giving you kudos for the post, so thanks for the inspiration!
    http://nickroshon.com/social-media/social-media-experts-are-really-only-experts-at-cliche
    Best,
    Nick

  14. Ian;
    Really enjoyed the post and though funny, really thought your questions AND answers were spot on. (Though I do have my own opinions on the ROI question – including the framing of the question in a manner specific to the size and type of business, their goals, and the goals to be achieved by the social media strategy – that having been said, 90% is still an awesome score)
    I do have one question for you though- When someone calls you a social media guru- do you throw up just a little bit in the back of your mouth too?
    ;-)

  15. Ian

    @Bill Actually I go on a long rant about how social media is just media. Usually, about 1/2way through, the other person starts avoiding eye contact and backs slowly away.

  16. Alice

    Good post — but what about all those who claim to be a “social media jedi?” I truly roll my eyes at them. Sheesh.

  17. Social media is just media, where people get to interact with others. It’s a social thing we do through online media. *grins* – is this a right answer? :)
    Oh btw, found ya through Google blogs.

  18. If I hadn’t found this via a Twitter link from @treypennington (who knows social media & marketing) I’d have thought the title could go either way.
    Of course you’re spot on. Because the barrier to entry in new media consulting is only microns above zero there is a whole lot of outright crap being, um, floated by folks who plain don’t get it. Does nothing but muddy the water.
    Potential clients are confused and afraid to commit & professionals in other marketing areas tend to paint us all with the same soiled brush.
    Thanks for spelling it out clearly for folks.

  19. Great post… but I was wondering if we could shorten the time requirement (#2) :) I wish I had jumped into this world sooner, but better late than never. That said, I’m not really a social media expert… just an enthusiast.
    Again, thanks for the great post. Can I cut it down from 10 to 8 and then show it to a potential client? :)

  20. Ian

    @Steve I should’ve added another rule, for clients: “If you can’t judge the smart from the dumb, find someone else to choose your expert.”
    I’ll bet you have the expertise – you just learned faster. In the end the clients have to figure that out, with our help.

  21. John

    Who is going to be stupid enough to claim they are a social media experts and somehow say they hate writing…..
    I would like to kick you in the groin for making me spend my time reading this……

  22. I absolutely loved this post and the humor. As a traditional media journalist and someone who recently started working in ‘new media’, I found that pretty much everyone person I met was some sort of social media expert, which only meant that they were slightly more knowledgeable than a newbie like me.
    Thank you for these tips –
    Really enjoyed the post
    Cheers,
    Anita

  23. Interesting tips. I like the quiz approach but I’d also say that you can learn just as much from interacting with your expert, like:
    – Are they calling themselves an “expert”? Not a good sign.
    – Has your “expert” added value to your business before or on your first meeting (and before you pay them a dime)? Good sign.
    – Did they bring to the meeting an overly polished ppt deck or flash demo of their services? Bad.
    – Are they recommending you undertake large projects on social media with big $$ associated from the onset? Very bad.
    We published a more exhaustive list at http://traackr.com/blog/?p=36 for anyone interested.
    Cheers, PL

  24. eddy

    Great article, Ian. Anytime someone has to say they are an expert on something, it usually hides some insecurity in the fact that they aren’t.

  25. Ian

    @eddy I don’t mind the claim so much as the fact that providers abuse it and clients take it at face value. We all – consultants and clients – have to take more responsibility for providing and consuming quality services.

  26. Consider adding a piece about how a true social media expert must know how to engage with their clients to solicit key information on the client’s business goals and objectives. Furthermore, the SoMe expert must demonstrate value by creating a well developed marketing plan, which will strategically leverage the power of socia media tools to achieve the client’s stated goals and objectives. got that?!
    In other words, they better have deep knowledge about business and marketing baby -not just twitter chit-chat!
    @SusanBeebe
    http://susanbeebe.com
    Co-Founder, Social Media Club – Rochester, NY
    @SMC_Rochester

  27. david

    In the land of the blind the one eye man is king. Unfortunately like some people stated before you really don’t need that much knowledge specially when it comes to the internet to be call your self and be perceived as an expert. Trust me I’ve gone to my share of them. However since there is no university for this, not that a university prepares you for much of the real world, than we all have to take steps. Sometimes an “expert” just knows more than you and you can learn some valuable stuff from them (for a minimal price) as oppose to gamble on a very expensive “Expert”.
    I myself are leaning from the University of ME and it is still a slow but exiting process.
    I do love the article and I wish I had it before, but it is here now and now we learned something new, that makes the day worth it.
    take care

  28. I answered 7 out of the 10 questions properly. Does that make me an “Expert-in-Training”? LoL

  29. Good stuff Ian! Both informative and very funny while also being dead-on accurate (sadly). I guy here in Cincinnati who is positioning himself as a “social media expert” said to me last month “I don’t really know much about it, but people are hiring me because I’m young. Nice.
    I hope that there is a professional organization focused on social media soon that people could join and therefore have some semblance of accreditation. Like SEMPO with search marketing or WOMMA for word of mouth. If you or someone can suggest an organization like that now, I’d appreciate the tip.
    Thank you for the post.

  30. Rob, I’m thinking of applying for a company which does just that. The company is called Click to Connect. They are actually hiring a “social media intern” which is exactly what I need to gain me more experience in social media and get me closer to being an “expert.”

  31. Ian, great piece, it’s too bad you didn’t use a picture of a donkey though…:)
    Cheers,
    Walter Schwabe (@fusedlogic)

  32. Darby

    Traditional media, new media, and social media are still a medium of communication. Exchanging information that engages conversation or elicits action is accomplished with powerful words and evocative pictures. You can give me every tool Home Depot has and I am pretty sure I still couldn’t build a house.

  33. You deserve a trophy for this one. Great article.

  34. Derek

    You forgot the most important question…
    “How much money have you made from Social Media (excluding your consulting fees)?”
    Why is this the most important? All of the real experts became experts because of their proven track record of building websites and garnering traffic for themselves.
    And then when they realized they were good at it, they decided to move into consulting.

  35. I am so disappointed by this post Ian. I used to think that you are an expert if you´ve read some blogs; and quite a guru if you´ve bought 2 books from Amazon. It´s a deception to discover that it´s not the case, and that it requires much more work. I hope that letting a comment on your blog will make me look like one. Great post, and great sense of humor.

  36. For the person whose friend paid $45 per hour for a hack social media consultant: I’m thinking that rate should have been the first clue!
    (Or maybe my concept of hourly rates is skewed based on California rates–you can barely hire a babysitter for $45/hour here!)

  37. I tend to run with the word “Guru” not Mentor or Expert. However like you I need it proven whatever they claim. You have to ROCK my socks off to be a Expert.

  38. drjimsellner PhD.,DipC.

    Great funny, useful, practical piece. as a 66-year old “Super Zoomer” who remembers his dad buying the first B&W TV, this stuff is mind turbulating. This is useful – with a little help from my friends.
    jim

  39. I’m going by the title “adept” — I think (hope) it portrays someone who’s not a total newbie, but knows that there’s still more to learn as well.
    This was really insightful, and I’ve found a few good blogs to follow by checking out the comments too. Thanks!

  40. Love the post, it is fairly accurate as an actual guide. It disagree on one point and that is that social media is really a trendy term used to describe a new kind of mass media.
    I don’t buy that, I think we are in a period where there are few truly mass media. As we morph to a social eco system which means I’ll be able to ID and communicate with all (pick a topic) bikers, then we are approaching a mass media.
    Right now what is social is a bunch of fragmented pieces and you are hoping to cobble together enough of them to make an impact on your business or organization.

  41. How often do you write shouldn’t be a bonus – that’s the most important thing a “social media expert” should do. I say do away with every part of that cliche phrase and make it clear what social media experts actually do – something like Web Presence Manager or Online Content Manager.

  42. I have to laugh at how many of the questions have no darned good answers at all. I can only assume that’s part of the humorous subtlety of this post. If so, then I admire your artistic style immensely…great work!

  43. Awesome awesome awesome. Awesome. Especially kicking in the groin for auto-following.
    My customers ask me all the time if I’m a social media expert. I almost want to run the other way. I understand it, answer questions about it, and I can help, but I don’t ever call myself an expert.
    Awesome. I’m just going to send customers here whenever they ask about Social Media from now on. Thanks!

  44. Joe

    I enjoyed your comments. Right on!
    I am going to send this to all my friends.

  45. Funny but true. It’s amazing how many people call themselves “experts” and have 10 followers on Twitter or just use Facebook. Someone into social media should know about many different sites and understand when and where to use them. For those of you interested in other sites besides the most popular ones, check out my new book, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Social Media but were afraid to ask…Building Your Business Using Consumer Generated Media.” It’s available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble…. Love to hear what you guys think…. In any event, thanks for the post! You did good….

  46. A good article.Is not the person who can ask these questions is a bit of social media expert himself ?

  47. Well said. I just posted something to someone’s blog asking for more candid feedback about social media.
    In regard to experts….What a great topic on a an approach that is in the early stages of adoption.
    The best point you make is about users. I don’t think one can truly embrace and develop an effect social media approach without a deep experience based understanding.

  48. So you’re saying just because someone claims to be an expert, it’s not necessarily true?
    I came across a blog the other day with the owner’s photo who looked to be 14 years old claiming to be an expert in online marketing. I just cracked up.
    I guess looking at track records is a good idea.

  49. I would want to hear about specific clients and campaigns and that I could contact those clients as a reference. It’s not necessarily true that lots of time spent equates to successful implementation. You want people who know the social media playing field but also know how to market. Those 2 things don’t always go hand-in-hand.

  50. It still comes down to knowledge, trust, and strategy. There is a ton of great information out there and it is not hard to get your hands on. The key is to aggregate it and understand how to use it. Helping clients understand by showing them how to use, implament, and follow through, is what will make the professionals shine. There is a lot of flash and bling in these spaces that are making a lot of noise. It isn’t the information that is proprietary. It is the skill to care about helping business’ and individuals understand the choices to be made as this all evolves. Great post. Keep em coming.

  51. Arisu Mendez

    Awesome article! It made me laugh, but also it´s a guide to be a Social Media Expert: work hard, build relationships, and get into it; because you can´t teach about social media, nor use it effectually if you don´t dive into it.

  52. Ian… great post bro! Most
    people are running around jumping
    on the social media wagon.
    I like what you said about build the
    relationships, and that will cause the
    links.
    I’m going to keep this article close by:)

  53. Amy

    Kick ‘em in the groin… haha
    All good points but I must say I disagree with #1 I have worked independently in Social Media for almost 2 yrs now. Just cause I don’t have time to do my own blogging doesn’t mean I’m not qualified to consult on someone else’s!
    I also received Social Media Consultant/Specialist – whatever you wanna call it as long as you don’t call it an expert/jedi/guru (ick) through http://www.vaclassroom.com. It is mandatory to take the Internet Marketing Certification course before you could take the Social Media Course. There was approximately 25 hrs of virtual classroom training and 18 exams that required an 80% minimum grade to pass.
    Although Social Media is forever changing this is one solid basis to start from!
    Amy

  54. Very common-sensical approach to interviewing “social media experts.”
    I’d also ask (and always do) for the person to demonstrate proof of how their social media efforts drive tangible business value. The answer doesn’t have to be in the form of “ROI” or even dollars. I just need to see and hear something more than, “I increased Web traffic and referral links from Twitter by 1%.”

  55. Gabriel Gonzalez

    I can’t help but agree on most every point. However, I must agree to disagree with some of my fellow commenters on the point of blogging.
    It may seem whimsical to say to somebody: “I don’t have my own blog, but I can certainly help you with yours.” The big question is, how? A little knowledge of SEO, Keyword performance, Cross/Back-linking and perhaps some PPC (in the grand scheme of things, not for everyone) and BAM – you have yourself some blogging “magic” going on.
    Being a “Social Media Consultant,” I would have to agree with Kimota, ^ up there, in saying I would hire Me after reading this =P. That being said, it almost pains me to say: Thank you for introducing me to Posterous! Though, only being 25, blogging does seem rather archaic to me (http://bit.ly/9DDJWM) as well as most young people.
    Cheers to some great content!
    Gabriel.

  56. Chris

    This is hysterical. I’m job hunting and it would be great to have these questions (with your comments muttered in response).
    Actually, it occurred to me, since the market’s dry, I might as well go ahead and interview myself with these questions. How do you think I did: http://chrisenglund.com/hire-me/

  57. This post not only made me laugh, but really confirmed my beliefs about what a “Social Media Expert” should really know! I appreciate the attention to ROI, buzz words, and building a LEGITIMATE community through social networks. The comments are a source of education as well. Thanks so much for sharing this, great thoughts!

  58. Lou

    I’m glad I found this post. I serve on several chamber boards. “Social Media” has been a pretty favorite topic around here. One individual in particular has been showing up around multiple organizations touting herself as a “social media expert”, probably trying to capitalize on the interest.
    I’ve been less than impressed with her, and her collection of DVD’s and such that she markets as her “proven techniques”. There was a dead giveaway that she’s totally clueless: She actually wrote this on an article that was published here. “She helps you expose yourself to millions locally or nationally.” Wow.

  59. Ian

    @Lou OK, I had to retweet that one. That’s classic.

  60. Julie

    BBSes and Usenet weren’t social media, they were social diseases.

  61. Cyndee

    What is it about social media that brings out such negative pot-shots? These are actually GREAT questions, but it’s sad that the bigger point appears to be the same ol’ tired message of “You’re not a social media rock expert” blah blah blah. Jeez. Who wants to be a ‘social media expert’ if being unprofessional and critical is a requirement? I’ll stick to being a cheerful and positive ROADIE, thanks.

  62. Good advice. After all social media is a very powerful tool.
    David Plouffe’s,( President Barack Obama’s point man on social media) innovative strategy not only got Obama elected but also managed to raise the largest amount of campaign funding in election history.
    At the IMD OWP 2010 , David Plouffe will share his insights on the historic Obama campaign

  63. fh

    6: How do you measure ROI?
    “Oh, shut up”. Perfectly OK, especially if the expert turns purple for a moment first. They’re just sick of hearing this question, which means they’ve been around the block a few times.
    Nice overview, except this point. By turning purple these guys just show their incompetence as consultants. They may have been social media for years, but they are no communication professionals.
    Any business needs to be able to show the value its creating. In communications, it has always been hard to measure success and prove effectiveness, because its just one of the components that add to the overall success.
    But it is possible – and online even better than offline, because so much can be tracked. It takes time to create new models to measure engagement, and tracking, anaysing and reporting is not the most fun work. But its neccessary and needs to be done. Otherwise you never know if you are just burning money.
    So if your potential consultant turns purple at that question, he has not been in communication consulting for long or is just plain lazy. Don’t go for that guy.

  64. Maham

    Really nice post Ian. This is my first visit to your blog and I have subscribed to your feeds. This is really good stuff but nowadays so much is done online and companies operate globally so I don’t think there must be a problem in hiring a genuine person for the post.

  65. Sally

    Hey Ian
    This was seriously funny, I bet the so called social media experts run screaming when they see you coming!
    Sally :)

  66. Disappointed

    Hi!
    The post is great. I have spent quite a bit of time digging someone else’s tweets to find this article again because I remembered that you mentioned a few social media analytical tools how to measure ROI…and I have found nothing. Did you reedit your blog? I would need them so badly…would you be so kind to e-mail me if you do not want to republish them?

  67. Disappointed

    Great links, thanks. You are actually saying something, you don’t just feed us with cliches…I appreciate it.
    In your 5th point: “How do you monitor social media for a client?” You have mentioned a few (paid?) monitoring tools – these are what I would be very interested in. One of them I did not know and would like to try. Am I wrong? I usually have an exceptional memory:)

  68. Ian

    Engage! Listen! Practice best practices!
    :)
    I’m not sure where I wrote about those, but the tools would be things like Radian6, Visible Technologies and Social Mention. Those ring a bell?

  69. Disappointed

    Yeah, great! Thanks.
    And I totally agree (meanwhile, I am reading your articles with great elan) that social media does not generate ROI. :)
    Still, I love metrics :)

  70. RE: #1: Do you have a blog?
    The answer should be yes, as you point out–but–this can be a slippery slope.
    For instance: I thoroughly dislike using Facebook socially. But, I also acknowledge that with 500 million users, most of them active, I need to separate my personal distaste from what’s best for the businesses I work with. Does that make sense?

  71. Stellar piece! Great points — thanks for spelling out major considerations in determining if someone is truly plugged into the Social Media scene or merely a poser. The comments are insightful, as well. Glad I happened into this convo!
    I believe being the OBvious Expert is always far more powerful than having to say it. In Social Media, it is clearly illustrated by the person’s philosophy of use, expertise with various platforms, and in-the-trenches hands-on knowledge (including behind-the-scenes personal discoveries in actual usage). This does not necessarily translate out into thousands of followers — but it might. Whatever the expertise, it must be able to be explained in some way, to show worthiness of consideration for hiring.
    Totally agree — time/hours/years ‘put in’ — nor age, ever equal expertise or talent in any field or venue, at any time. In Social Media, understanding how a potential Social Media consultant views and actually uses it is very telling — beyond their elevator speech. It’s all in the relationship and convo — “listen.”

  72. Nicely done!
    And I also enjoyed the Tongue in Cheek.
    When potential clients call me for information I always refer them to existing clients and encourage them to ask ABOUT Increased Sales and Profits.
    Of course these are Business Persons who operate with a Business Mindset.
    The numbers are impressive enough to usually secure another client, who falls into the parameters of our Social Media Marketing Strategy.
    This is a WIDE open Market, if approached with the standard BUSINESS Fundamentals and can offer the “consultant” impressive Continuity Income.
    Thank you for your candor

  73. Kumar

    Nice article. It is very funny. I like the sense of humor in the article. People just claim themselves as Social Media Experts without understanding the strategic ties with overall marketing strategy and business strategy. Someone who does not understand the strategic vision of company can create more harm to the company rather than good…

  74. Zarko

    Ha :) Just stumbled here, great post, the only problem I have when having an interview with “SMO experts” is that I can’t kick them in the… because I usually have meetings online :(
    But I sure did laugh and learn a few things here!

  75. Very good blog post, Ian. Just came across it today. I totally agree with Derek, though. The most important question should be:
    “How much money have you made from Social Media (excluding your consulting fees)?”
    … then ask for the proof!
    Money you’ve made with your own ventures from the internet / social media is a very good measuring stick. That’s what gives you authority in the marketplace.
    There are too many self-proclaimed “experts” out there teaching theory or stuff they’ve never successfully used themselves.

  76. A client of mine sent me this article. I was cracking up while reading it. Love it. So true!
    Oh…and the good part for me…is my client said I scored very well and he wanted to tell me that. :)
    Excellent read!

  77. This post worth to be translated to spanish.
    ¿Do you mind Ian? off course giving credit.

  78. Ian

    @Irenarco go ahead!

  79. David

    All unfortunately very true Ian. I just got off the phone with a guy I’m trying to sign up as a client for a social media campaign.
    He’s talking to me and at least two others and looking around on the net for answers, so far he’s found enough information to confuse himself really well.
    Maybe I’ll point him to your article.

  80. Mike D

    I’ve read your Blog and read your comments–seems you have a lot of like-minded followers. Building a business, even if its being a “social media expert” requires more traits than living in a musty basement with no windows, being able to speak the Social Media Language and talk code and make thousands of friends on facebook. You need to be able to set professional appointments, speak intelligently, and have the qualities that people look for when choosing a business partner–more specifically, the qualities it takes to get the opportunity to sit in the interview that you described above. The, so called, under-qualified “experts” that are getting the jobs and making the money and irritating the computer geeks–have made the mistake of not hiring someone that can help them provide a more effective service- but at least they are working and providing a service. Try not to hate the business savvy competition that has entered your computer world and capitalizing on the product that you take so much pride in.

  81. What hardly anyone knows is that “social media” aka, “social networking” predates the World Wide Web on the Internet. The Internet was created for social networking and the Web found the Internet later, as an opportunistic commercial space. I myself, have fond rememberance of AOhelL from ’90-’93 and juicy BBS action as far back as 1990. I think my first Internet computer was a monochrome 360? Jeez, I’m getting old.
    I would like to point out, in my professional opinion, that not all marketers who refer to themselves as an “expert,” or a “guru,” which simply means ‘master,’ are bogus. Many of us have paid our dues and have a good sense of humor to boot!
    I enjoyed reading your article and the comments.
    Robert in Colorado

  82. Ryan

    “It builds relationships that turn into links later”. HIRE THEM NOW.
    I bet a lot of my social media counterparts who don’t work on SEO don’t even consider this… Nice point!

  83. As an aspiring social media person, have got some pointers to work on from your post. Always felt experts in this field were that by virtue of the amount of time they spent on it. Am realizing it’s not quite that simple:) Thanks for a funny but true post!

  84. I’d add:
    #11 Do you have any case studies you can share with me?
    “Umm, what’s a case study?” Tell them not to tweet you, you’ll tweet them.
    “Why yes, yes I do” Show them where their office will be then take them out to lunch.
    “I could put some together for you by the end of the week” Also okay, they’re too busy helping their clients to put together their own marketing materials.
    On #2: If they’ve been involved in social media for 2 years I’d only consider them for a junior role. Some of us do date back to the mid 90s when we had to unplug our phone so an incoming call didn’t shut down our Internet connection and therefore disconnect us from an excellent flame thread in a newsgroup about the virtue or horror of tables.

  85. Nice list, also nice points in some of the comments, also. Im looking to take on a new social media expert, and it might be amusing to ask a few of the above points to see what their answers would be.

  86. Clinton Skakun

    It doesn’t take much to be an SM expert according to these guidelines. I don’t disagree with them, it just shows how much trash is still out there and how to quickly filter them out. Great article.

  87. Thanks for this post! I actually had a potential customer print it out and ask me a number of the questions! Thanks for making me look good.

    I am going to refer a couple more potential clients here who have been sitting on the fence. Maybe it will help the light go on.

    Gary Vaynerchuck did a talk recently for INC 500 about Social Media ROI, it is an hour long and has some course language but WELL WORTH watching!

    I enjoyed it so much I put it on my blog!

  88. Kate

    I love your answer to No 4. so much that i’m seriously considering putting it in my email signature. Sometimes the clients do ask for it, though – i spent a good half an hour yesterday on the phone to someone who’s entire strategy was “I want to be No1 on LinkedIn”….

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