I eschew the term expert when talking about social media – preferring the term “specialist.” I don’t think anyone can be an expert in social media – with a field so new and ever growing and changing there are only specialists – people like me who devote lots of time and energy to staying on top of the game. I think there are people who are passionate about social media and the power it holds, but to call oneself an expert smacks of an undeserved arrogance.
A word about arrogance, though, as I acknowledge that those of us in this field have a certain amount of it. I argue that it has been necessary and it is an attribute that has grown out of a need to be absolutely convinced and convincing when sharing the benefits of engaging in social media for business. We are the self-taught forerunners of this field who have spent, in most cases, the better part of the last seven years defending the internet. We’ve had to stare down corporate leaders afraid to dip their toes into online waters and demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that the benefits far outweigh the risks.
When most of us started in this area the word blogger was said in the same tone as cancer; bloggers rose from the pasty-faced basement dwellers to a chosen few who make millions and others who just make a difference. By definition, a blogger almost has to have some level of conceit to trust that their thoughts and online ponderings would be of interest to anyone at all.
I’ve been part of an audience of those learning at the feet of those who have taught social media in the PR industry, this guy, this guy, this guy and this guy in particular. They all have one mannerism in common – a dismissive shaking of the head when a member of the community begins down the road of denial (it won’t work! we don’t have time! we can’t allow our people to self-publish! we need control!). I’ve noted this move and truly don’t find it arrogant (although corporate leaders, uncomfortable still with this deep end of the pool into which they’ve been thrown most likely do). I find it admirable – and it’s that confidence, that absolute gut-deep knowledge that you’re right and you know what you’re talking about and can prove it that I believe I’ve realized for myself. Does that make me an expert? No, but I’m practicing that head shake for the next time a doubter is in the room.