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What Makes a Social Media Expert

While at SXSW I was interviewed by Christine Major of Perkett PR.  It was a fun and short interview but one of the questions that she asked me was concerning what determines a “social media expert”.  While there is a lot more that goes into a real response, I think my answer sums up how a lot of people I talk to feel.

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You can read the post I reference regarding the importance of face-to-face interaction, you can check it out over here.

So, what are your thoughts?  What do you consider to be the criteria that determines who is labeled a “social media expert”?

I want to take the best comments and make them into a blog post so please leave some thoughtful responses… :)

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  • mhitzeman

    Justin…”Social Media Expert” is a phrase used by some of us in order to be found by people/companies, looking for people/companies, who understand Social Media and how to leverage it in various ways. Maybe a more accurate phrase would be social media practitioner. But who would you rather talk to an expert or a practitioner. In actuality, this is a very fluid and expanding “space” and much like the universe, there is much to be learned and discovered (as well as proved and disproved.) All in all, like you stated in the beginning of your attached video interview, social media tools are platforms to communicate and build relationships, not unlike the phone, email, or a face to face meeting. I think what annoys me most is when it is used as a “marketing tool” rather than a “relationship tool”. I buy “stuff I want and need” from people I know and trust, I buy random crap from the lowest bidder, and not a marketing/PR/Ad “campaign. I am interested in the responses you get, so I will be watching this thread. Peace Brother…Marty

  • Stuartfoster

    Calling someone a “social media expert” is akin to calling someone a snake-oil salesman these days. They deserve it though for conning businesses and agencies into utilizing “social media platforms” done as a throw in with SEO services.

    It's all about the communication and interaction that occurs as you develop a dialogue about your brand. You're right Justin: the platform doesn't mean anything only the discussion does.

  • thisisjustin

    What makes someone a social media expert? I have my thoughts, share yours – (via @justinlevy)

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • thisisjustin

    I think people who call themselves social media experts are the same as those who call themselves cool. If you say it about yourself, you're most obviously not. An expert in their true right doesn't have to proclaim to the world about how expert they are, their actions are everyday examples of how much of a measured expert they really are. When people feel the need to constantly barrage others and their potential clients with false hope of their expert competency they only damage their business and in large the industry. Plus in the beginning of any client relationship, if you set yourself up as a known “expert” you have to consider what ones idea is of an expert. One might consider you an expert if you know all the terms and chronology of the industry, on the other hand, one might consider you an expert with how many followers one might gain. We all know that both lead down a path of broken relationships and wasted time. The measure of an expert is getting the desired results from strategy executed thoroughly while inheriting a pleasant surprise of something extraordinary. The experience and results are everything; what you received from the expert and ride to get there is what truly matters. And honestly, it's what clients pay for. They want results for the money they give you and it wouldn't hurt if you could surprise them with something truly unique and extraordinary. Clients pay to solve problems and to make themselves happy. Experts achieve both.

  • justinlevy

    What makes someone a “social media expert”? I really want to know your thoughts today –

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • sarahmerion

    According to Justin, no sleep = 1 word :-) RT @justinlevy: What makes someone a “social media expert”?

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • adamkmiec

    What Makes a Social Media Expert

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Dave Delaney

    Nice job Justin. Like I always say, it's all about the hugs, high-fives and handshakes*.


    *please remember to wash your hands frequently. :-)

  • Toni Rae

    I am the master of my fate, the captain of my ship: I contribute to a community that interests me and only me–this soup of association execs, social media enthusiasts, theatre folk and foodies. Twitter, Facebook, etc., are tools that merely opened my eyes to the possibilities and made it easier for me. In short, from a personal perspective, I am an expert, as only I know what will hold my interest and keep me in the conversation.

    That being said, wow, society currently needs LOTS of guidance. The challenge is that a person cannot have a fully informed opinion until they experience social media themselves, and I don't see any way around that, sorta the “lead a horse to water…” idea. How do you get the skeptics to the water? How do you make them understand that, like you said in your interview, that social media is a TOOL that enhances a person's (or a company's) opportunity to connect with the world around them? You can't do that by saying, “I do it all the time and it's great fun!” or by creating a spreadsheet filled with twitter stats–it doesn't mean anything to someone who is not involved. We need someone reputable to the masses to articulate in 140 characters or less the importance of social media. Ashton Kutcher and Oprah are not gonna cut it. Perhaps the concept of crowdsourcing will work and the cream will rise to the top and lead everyone toward the light…okay, I'll stop…

    Gotta go talk to my boss about why we need to stay on Twitter…sigh…

  • Nick

    i think expert or guru are attempts to justify bill rates. in my opinion, there are many out there right now who come from traditional backgrounds who are learning SoMe space as fast as they can. personally, it REALLY puts me off. what? you're ramping up on facebook, twitter, youtube, etc as fast as you can because clients are asking for it and you know you can charge for it? me? i want someone who uses this as a primary form of communication, who lives and breathes the space. what does this mean? it means that many of the shops (marketing, adv, strat) who are waving a SoMe offering around are trying to keep up with the joneses and are less likely to TRULY understand and leverage the medium.

    worse yet are the part timers. those who tweet and facebook in their spare time slash because they are bored and are catching up with college friends from the 70s and 80s (even 90s). they then decide to leverage their roladex to “sell their services” and advise on why it is SO cool to tweet. sigh

    social media advisers, the ones worth anything, are those who tweet more than they talk on the phone. they are the ones connecting business through facebook, the ones who use these platforms to interact with the world. of course it helps to have an understanding of business too, but even those who can combine the 2 arent experts or gurus. they are communicators (in the end, this is all communication, just with new tools, rules and less barriers) who are intimately familiar with the tools they are suggesting and behaviors they are helping to guide.

  • knealemann

    @justinlevy excellent post today – “What Makes A Social Media Expert”!

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Amber Rae Lambke

    Justin – great question!

    the term “expert” is completely subjective and based on perception. anyone can call themselves an expert, and in my opinion, there is no true credibility associated with the term, especially in regard to social media. (support: if you wikipedia social media, a warning appears that it “includes a list of references or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations” — aka credibility for the term is lacking.) due to the immature nature of the term “social media,” i think calling oneself an expert in a field that has not yet reached its peak is risky and wrongly perceived by the general public. call yourself an expert in mathematics, physics, or, even photography, and i'm unlikely to question your abilities. however, when it comes to a field that is not fully understood by the majority (and is not fully defined by the space), i think you're causing yourself more detriment than benefit.

  • IFDA

    @justinlevy answers “What makes a social media expert?” & shares some value he’s gotten from Twitter presence. Video #SM09

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Gary Ares

    Appreciate your openness and candor about social media; they're a group of tools, or platforms as you put it. There is one critical theme I experience and that's transparency. I also like the approachability and focus on relationsips you project. You and the other top-dogs of SM world are great examples, and a definite worthwhile follow. Thanks.

  • w2scott

    What Makes a Social Media Expert? (hint: don’t call yourself one)

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • jonpietz

    This may sound a bit prosaic, but isn't a Social Media expert someone who can actually show a track record of having used social media to accomplish well-defined goals? Whether they call themselves an expert or not seems to have little relevance one way or the other.

  • justinlevy

    I think you hit on it exactly. The problem is that everyone is an expert
    because they figured out how to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the
    other social tools. Those that have their heads down building that track
    record aren't concerned with whether they're called an expert, specialist or

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