Friday, March 25, 2011

How many "social media experts" does it take to change an industry?

Two recent events helped me conceptualize something I've been thinking for some time now.  First was attendance at the International Franchise Association's annual convention in Las Vegas.  This event is attended by nearly 3000 franchising industry professionals - franchisors, franchisees, and industry suppliers.   I've been attending this event off and on for about 6 years.

In this instance there were several "social media experts" on hand from both the franchisor and industry supplier camps that were able to provide excellent input and value to the attendees who participated in several sessions, all of which were standing room only.  Within this vertical category, these "experts" were relevant.  In addition to the "experts", there were a number of us early adopter, social media active individuals who don't go by "expert" but certainly have experience and perspective in this buzz.  We all were able to have excellent conversations and I loved the honest discussion that no one really knows how this will all turn out and exactly how the franchising industry should use social media because it's too new and there are not enough best practices - although they are beginning to become documented.   The consensus was - put your toes and ankles in the water and let's figure it out.

The other event was the recent SXSW - which I did not attend - but watched, read and listened to remotely.  The joke I heard was that if an individual in Austin that week shouted "Is there a social media expert in the house", they'd be overrun and likely trampled.

How can there be so many "social media experts" out there in a phenomenon that is so new?

My bigger question, is after following so many of these "experts" on Twitter and blogs, based on the amount of tweets, retweets and posts SOME of them throw out there, I wonder how they have any time to really PRACTICE social media when the math shows that there is not enough time in the day to read all the articles and posts that they retweet and blog posts that they publish.  No way!

Listen, let's just be honest here.  Many of us use social media.  Many of us have had professional experiences (good and bad) using social networks.  Many people can speak to the topic.  Some are making (or trying to make) a living advising businesses and companies about social media.  I'm not one to judge what an "expert" is and who they are.  It just bugs me that there are so many so fast in an area that hasn't shown enough documented case studies of social media success for there to be so many experts.

But what really bugs me and the point of this post are the number of those retweets of posts and published social media-related articles that some people are using to try to position themselves as an expert. 

Let's just cut it out.  Curate what's appropriate but let's see what you've done, not what you've read.

Whew,  I feel better.

DISCLAIMER:  I was recently asked to speak about social media at a vendor's convention.  This was based on an article I wrote about Twitter for the International Franchise Association's "Franchising World" December 2010 issue.  The vendor read the article, called and asked me if I was a "social media expert".  Ha!   I said "No", but I have been using social media since 2008 when Twitter was unknown and Facebook was just coming out of the college world and I'd be happy to speak to it if you'd like.  I will be in May but not as an "expert". 

Because I'm not.


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