The Social Media Expert Crisis Descends

Back in August last year I wrote about my fears that we are facing a trust crisis in the social media space.

I’ve been disconnected from the United States since that time, so this post applies primarily to Australia. But given Australia’s ability to follow the trends out of the States, I’d bet that this might apply there as well.

In August, I wrote that “the label social media expert is being used by all and sundry just because they have used Twitter, or started a blog, or at the extreme, have a Facebook account.” I further discussed that this proliferation would in itself undermine social media because those that have no experience in the field would be preaching to those that want to know more, while those with the real experience were too busy using their knowledge to make a non-speaking living.

I’m sad to report that in March 2010, the crisis is here.

My first pointer was at the Media140 conference in Sydney in November 2009. I hold no grudge against the organizer, who I’ve since learned is fairly switched on. But she was compromised by the sponsors, and the speakers who she was forced to line up. I’ve never been as gobsmaked before to see speaker after speaker get up and say “I’ve been on Twitter for 6/12/18 mths because I was told to join by my boss/ someone told me I should join and this is my experience.” Apparently being on Twitter for 5 minutes gave these people the license to speak for 5-25 minutes on being a social media expert.

But that was November.

In March, the madness has become like an outbreak of the plague, particularly among the PR/ Marketing crowd, not only in Sydney, but mostly.

If you’ve gotten 200 followers for your corporate Twitter account in Sydney, and sent out 20 tweets, that’s now ample qualification that you are a social media expert.

I spoke to someone recently who works in IT but consults to some of Australia’s largest brands on social media; mostly from the tech/ implementation aspect. The stories he told me turned my hair grey…well, more grey. Companies that think less than 100 mentions in a month is a social media success, because their marketing/ PR ppl told them. Companies who are reluctant to tweet, but want to have a social media strategy without Twitter.

Australia is suffering from a major outbreak of social media experts, and it is and will damage the whole space.

The problem, as I wrote in August, comes back to trust. There is little to no trust in every man and his dog who uses twitter in PR/ Marketing claiming to be an expert. There is zero trust in those who have never really practiced in the space, or have only done so 5 minutes ago, preaching.

There are great, legitimate social media experts out there (and a shout out to Laurel who I’d defer to any day,) but many of the rest are essentially the unwashed swill who are going to ruin it for everyone else.

Can we change this though: probably not. It is always the case that those most successful practice, while those who can’t, preach. But my concern remains is that the advice given now isn’t just shallow, it’s bad. Not just bad, but damaging. Like in August, I offer no solution, because I don’t know what it is, but recognition of an issue should always be the start.

Image: Gaping Void