Through a circuitous route, I got to thinking about experts.

Seems a Ketchum PR man who’s billed as a social media expert was on his way to present on social media (natch) to a key client, FedEx, at their headquarters in Memphis. Upon landing, he tweeted: “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, ‘I would die if I had to live here.'” This got FedEx folks mad, which got lots of people interested and a fracas enused.

Folks in the communications world are still talking about the boneheaded tweet, pointing out that even in the world of social media, basic rules need to be followed.

(A long time ago, I learned that when making a call on a client, you wait until you are well out of the building and on the way back, in the car, to discuss any aspect of the meeting with your colleagues. Not in the elevator, not in the hallway, not in the bathroom. This is the 21st century example of that dictum.)

Other commnications pros are jeering, pointing out that this social media gaffe was by a social media “expert.” One person pointed out that, at the time of The Bad Tweet, he had just about 1,000 followers (which is a lot but not rockstar status). How is this guy an “expert?” they are saying.

That’s a fair questions but I would flip it on its side: Are there experts in social media? 

Dave Fleet says he used to think it silly to talk about experts in social media — but now he sees the usefulness of it. The area has grown up enough for there to be experts. Another person says, however, that calling someone an expert in social media is “like saying you’re an email expert.”

But, there are experts in email, making lots of money. Some of them do good work, others are all sound and fury. It’s probably the same in social media. The fundamental question is not how big your follower litst is, or whether people see you as an “influencer” or “collaborator” (though those can be markers). The question, as one commenter at David Fleet’s article says, is: “Can you help me make some money?” 

We’re seeing “old” and “new” rub up against one another, “big” and “little”, “social” and “push.” Some rules are changing, and even older rules are becoming yet more important. But one — results matter — remains.

Published by

Brad Rourke

Executive editor of issue guides and program officer at the Kettering Foundation.

3 thoughts on “Experts”

  1. Believe it or not, I know something about social media experts — I know that they're hard to find!

    My brother Rob always attends the big annual internet retailers conference, and last year there were several seminars about social networking. He decided it was time that Lifetime Mothers had a social network presence, and he hired me to create one. He hooked me up with online recordings of the seminars.

    OMG! <– childish social-network speak > Most of the speakers were actually pretty clueless about the way Facebook and MySpace are used. It's like they didn't actually use FB or MS personally, much less for business, although they certainly sounded young enough that unfamiliarity with these two giants is weird.

    The one helpful speaker was from… hmmmm…. maybe he wasn’t so successful, because I can’t remember which giant corporation employs him. Anyway, his company’s social networking endeavors are hugely popular and hopefully increase the company’s bottom line. But Rob doesn’t trust his advice! I’m betting that there are lots of business owners like Rob, who has never used social networking, whose friends don’t even spend much time e-mailing stuff to each other, who are very concerned that social networking might negatively impact their companies’ image.

    When I was in college, I was the managing editor for the academic psychology journal “Omega: Journal of Death and Dying.” The founder and editor, Dr. Robert Kastenbaum, said that he was amazed when, shortly after founding the journal, everyone started to call him an “expert” in the field of dying. He said, “I’m not an expert; I gather information from experts!” But his name because associated with the subject, and over the years, I think everyone would agree that he became an expert. You can imagine how he felt at first, however.

    Now if only my brother would consider me and expert and give my social networking plan a try!

  2. With the almost insane velocity of new technology developments being lobbed at us daily, I would say that while there are “social media experts”, they’re experts in the same way I was when I taught 5th grade math. One chapter (on a good day) ahead of my students.

    Clearly, Mr. “Ketchum PR Man” wasn’t having a good day as either a social media expert, or as a PR expert. I think there’s important fact that’s being left out of this story. Either he was a twenty-something who’d been hired for his social media savvy, was clueless about PR, but was being schlepped to the meeting to illustrate Ketchums SM cred. (the way an agency I worked for many years ago, asked the only two black employees at the company – the HR guy and a very jr. account person – to sit in on a new business meeting to a company w/an African American CEO), or it was a PR guy who had just completed a crash course in SM and hadn’t yet gotten his sea legs.

    Either way, totally lame.

  3. Thanks for these thoughtful comments.

    Well, I’m no expert, but here are a few things of note, to add to the mix:

    1) Andrews’ followers are now up around 1,700 — controversy generated 70% increase. (Not surprising but too bad.)

    2) Looking through his tweetstream, you get the sense there’s a lot of hype (he is constantly promoting this or that) but little “there” there.

    3) I don’t know how junior or senior he actually is, but he is clearly from the “younger set.” Kids today.

    All in all, I think Andrews got tripped up by the temptation of immediacy. I wrote about that here some time ago, in another context. I bet he wishes he could have untweeted on the fly. (I do give him some credit that he let the tweet stand.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s