I have been bombarded over the past few months by email solicitations to attend presentations or webinars, buy books, and contract consulting services from "leading social media experts". As someone who regularly spends time in the Social Media world, I've learned just enough to know when people are selling me snake oil. I've also gained just enough insight to know which questions to ask, and to identify very questionable proclamations made by these s0-called experts.
With such a new resource, can there truly be any EXPERTS in this area? I would say the answer is absolutely not. There are many who have more experience than others, but even the most experienced "social media expert" has less than a decade under their belt, and for the first half of that time, the landscape was completely different. In truth, what we're seeing is people with expertise or experience in related fields quickly assigning themselves the title of Undisputed Heavyweight Social Media Champions of the World (boxing fans, you know how to read that aloud)!
At it's essence, this is the same model of carpetbaggers in America at the end of the 19th century. Before we move on, here's a quick definition from Wikipedia (bold and italics added by author for emphasis) :
The term carpetbaggers was used to describe the northern Republican politicians who came South, arriving with their travel carpetbags. Southerners considered them ready to loot and plunder the defeated South. Although the term is still an insult in common usage, in histories and reference works it is now used without derogatory intent.
In modern usage in the United States, the term is sometimes used derisively to refer to a politician who runs for public office in an area in which he or she is not originally from and/or has only lived for a very short time.
This seems to hit the nail on the head. As people move into the new social media space, particularly when they're focused on business development, they are coming from somewhere else, bringing their past expertise, morals, and life lessons with them. This is critical to understand, as you encounter or explore working with an outside vendor to help develop your social media strategy.
Where did they come from?
What preconceptions are they bringing with them?
What do they know about YOUR business environment/market?
Are they truly more qualified than your internal resources?
Before attending workshops, purchasing white papers, or paying a consultant with social media expertise, be sure to execute your due diligence. Here's a few ideas to consider BEFORE you enter a relationship with a "social media expert":
- Identify your own 30,000 foot view of what a social media strategy should be.
- Include a list of results of this activity you expect to realize- 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 5 years out.
- Define internally your WHY- why are you doing this, why is it worth your time and money?.
- Determine who your internal auditors will be- who will be reviewing the strategy to ensure it's the right plan for your company.
- What are 2 or 3 or 4 absolute MUST HAVE's for an outside consultant? (3 plus years industry experience, proven results of 3 or more successes with different businesses, 3 plus years experience with using a specific platform such as facebook, experience with online video, web design, etc, for example)
- How much autonomy and control are you willing to give over to an outside consultant. That is, will they lead and you follow, or will you work collaboratively to build a strategy.
To get an idea of just how overwhelmed the social media landscape has become with so called experts, I include the following link:
GOOGLE Search Results for "Social Media Networking Expert"