Do people who claim to be “social media experts” make you cringe?
Fred Wellman, a small business owner and former Army officer, made his opinion clear in a post last year: “I am so tired of social media ‘gurus,’ ‘ninjas’ and let’s not forget the latest cool one, ‘mavens.’ (Somebody tell me what the heck a maven is?).”
This week, the issue was resurrected when one poster shared a link to a column by the author Peter Shankman titled, “Why I Will Never, Ever Hire A ‘Social Media Expert.’” In it, Shankman argues that being a social media expert “is like being an expert at taking the bread out of the refrigerator.” Shankman wants his employees to be able to make the entire sandwich. Being the bread-getter is too narrow to be useful.
But not everyone on GovLoop seemed so sure. Several members found employee specialization to be necessary and desirable.
“Personally, if my communications goal is making a sandwich, I want the best darn Bread-Taker-Outer I can get as part of my team, because that bread is an important part, just like the insides,” National Transportation Safety Board web developer James Mathieson countered.
Some thought the problem with so-called “experts” is they tend to be unqualified for the jobs they hold. These posters see legitimate value in social media expertise-they just believe the people who claim to have the skills are usually posers.
Courtney Shelton Hunt, founder a professional association for social media practitioners, expressed this in an online response to Shankman. “More often than not, when people make sneering references to social media experts and/or disdain the use of the term, what they’re referring to is the proliferation of charlatans in response to the dramatic growth of digital social media in the past few years,” she wrote.
Other GovLoop members have a problem with the terminology.
“In my opinion, an individual shouldn’t be declaring themselves an expert, unless they caveat it with ‘self-proclaimed,’” said Yun-Mei Lin, a human resources specialist with the U.S. Forest Service, in an earlier post.
For Lin and others, thinking that highly of oneself can actually cause a loss of credibility.
“A true expert knows the limitations of his or her knowledge and is comfortable admitting as much,” USDA risk analyst Rob Ahern said. “In my experience, those who refer to themselves as experts often lack this ability and, as such, are prone to mistakes of far greater substance than lay people.”
Perhaps, then, the problem with social media expertise is that the people who possess it choose subtler ways to say so.