What is a Social Networking/Media Expert?

I recently was asked to speak at a workshop on LinkedIn by a connection of mine.  A week or so prior to the event I received an email from her to use to promote the event.  The description headline stopped me in my tracks…”Sean Nelson the King of LinkedIn”

It took me about two seconds to fire off an email telling her to ditch the royal reference ASAP.  A lot of people would call me an expert on LinkedIn, its their opinion so they can think or say what they like.  I have a different different way of describing what I am.  “I’m simply a small business owner that learned how to use LinkedIn and Social networking / media in order to network more efficiently and to drive new business.”

The word “expert” is thrown around way too often these days with little to back up the claim.  What does a LinkedIn expert look like?  How do you determine that they are an expert?  The same goes for “social networking/media expert”.

I was looking at my home page the other day and noticed an updated profile for a connection of mine and someone I’ve known for the last couple of years.  Curious about what changed I took a look at his profile and immediately noticed that after years in another field he was now a social media expert.

Now anyone can learn a lot about social media and be seen as an expert or extremely knowledgeable even if they’re not in the marketing or advertising field.  I’m a prime example of that.  I learned LinkedIn and social networking/media through trial and error trying to drive business for my insurance agency.

In this case the person had attended a couple of my LinkedIn workshops, a few other social media workshops, and was partnering with a company jumping from Google Adwords to social media.  It takes more than attending a couple of workshops and working in the industry to be an expert.

So what is an expert and how do you determine if you’re one?  Is it valid to claim that you are an expert or does that title have to be conferred upon you by another person?  I’m not certain what the official definition is but here are some thoughts about what I think it takes to potentially be considered an expert:

Without knowledge we’re not even having this discussion.  You have to know the subject to claim expertise.  But there’s a difference between knowing something and knowing how to use it effectively.

To be an expert you have to know both the strategies of your subject and the tactics to accomplish them.  There are many people out there teaching others what LinkedIn is, not as many teaching people how to specifically use it to accomplish specific goals.

Be a Teacher:
Some might disagree with this one, but if you want to be an expert you have to not only know your subject but be able to communicate it to others so that they understand it.  One of the interesting parts of conducting workshops is there is often a range of different experience levels in terms of using LinkedIn or social networking/media.  Making sure each walks away with value is a challenge that requires understanding the subject from multiple perspectives.

Create not Regurgitate:
An expert is someone who takes the current discussion and advances it a couple of steps further down the road.  They don’t simply repeat what they have heard or read.  I think if you want to be considered an expert you have to bring a new perspective or approach to the table.

There are many people who are experts at conducting workshops on LinkedIn or social networking/media but they are not necessarily a LinkedIn or social networking / media expert.  You can still learn a lot from these people.  Not being an expert isn’t a black mark, it may simply be that you know a lot about the subject.  There are many people who could benefit from the knowledge of a non-expert.

Put a Target on Your Back:
The final piece of the puzzle is that a LinkedIn or social networking/media expert needs to publish their thoughts, ideas, strategies, etc. for review, discussion, and disagreement.  This might be done through a book, a blog, or other media.  The key is that they are staking a claim and giving others an opportunity to dissect their ideas.

Wrap Up

So back to the original question…”What is a LinkedIn or Social Networking/Media expert?”  Who cares.  It’s not about what you say you are it’s about what those who have relied upon your information and expertise say.

To some I might be an expert.  To others not.   My perspective is that I’m simply a small business person that began learning to use social networking/media to make money.  What I’ve been able to learn simply now is a knowledge base to help other’s do the same.

In boxing, Ali was an expert and one of, if not the greatest.  How would you define a Social Networking/Media expert?


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Published by

Sean Nelson

Sean has been a Keynote speaker at Norvax University, conducts social media workshops and webinars, and has released three books on LinkedIn and written several social media guides. Sean currently runs Social Media Sonar, which in addition to providing free resources, manages social media strategies and tactics for companies. He is also a partner in Surge Labs, a conversion rate optimization company, helping companies improve conversions and profitability through scientific testing of Landing Pages, Websites, Email communications, and Shopping Carts.