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Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Poll: Do "Social Media Experts" Need A Blog?

Earlier today I posed a question on Twitter about whether anyone calling themselves a "social media expert" should be required to have their own blog or at least contribute to a blog. It was inspired by the recent trend that many people have noticed of everyone who has ever visited a blog claiming that they are an expert on all forms of social media. And as some people noted, it was also a subtle comment on the fact that there are even people that do title themselves as a social media expert (which, by the way, I have never called myself - I prefer to describe myself as a Professional Marketer - or as an Author now that I have a book.)

Regardless, I also promised to make the results of the poll public, so without further ado - here are the updated results through 2pm EST based on the responses received on the first poll, as well as the second edition when the first one hit 100 responses and automatically closed.

Question: Can you be a "social media expert" if you do not have (or contribute to) a blog?

  • Yes - having a blog is optional (61 responses - 51%)
  • No - no blog = not an expert (58 responses - 49%)

These results in themselves were interesting (I actually thought a lot more people would respond "no" but it turned out to be evenly spread), but the reasoning and comments that some responders left were also illuminating. The full list of comments is included as a downloadable PDF as the end of this post, but the responses mostly fell into one of four categories:

  1. Yes, blogs don't equal social media. Several responders noted that blogs are not the only type of social media and felt that saying you needed a blog in order to understand social media was the same thing as saying you needed to drive one particular brand of car in order to get a driver's license (or, my favourite analogy from the responses, saying men shouldn't be gynecologists!).
  2. No, blogs are the cornerstone of social media. Most of the people who responded that it was indeed necessary to have a blog to be an expert reasoned that though blogs are not the only part of social media, they are easily the most visible and therefore can be used as a barometer to see if someone qualifies to be an expert or not.
  3. Yes, people's blogs are hidden. This was a point of view I didn't even think of, but sometimes you cannot tell if someone has a blog because they may blog privately or on a corporate intranet. You could argue that this means they do have a blog, so this response should actually go the other way, but it's an interesting point of view anyway because it forces you to not be so quick to judge.
  4. No, calling yourself an "expert" means you're a wanker. Many people felt that calling yourself an expert of any type, social media or otherwise, was a sure sign that you actually weren't. This was something of a non-answer to the actual question, but interesting to note that there was this backlash against the idea of people self identifying themselves as "experts."

Thanks to everyone who participated - all in all, I think it was a successful Friday poll experiment. Maybe I'll turn this into a weekly series if people find it useful ...


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I agree that you can be an 'expert' on Social Media, even without a blog. You can understand what makes SM tick, how to implement strategies, how to build community, etc. etc. But what having a blog does is differentiate yourself from the pack and show your value and understanding of the medium for the world to see - greater exposure and easier for potential clients/companies to see what you're made of.

Thanks for the survey. It appears that the lines are pretty much split right down the middle.

I think there is something fundamentally wrong in thinking that you have to have a blog in order to fully understand social media or to be an "expert" (although I agree with your comment about calling yourself an expert).

Blogging by nature takes a certain amount of writing ability. Not everyone wants to be a published writer. Does that mean they can't use social media? I propose that the social media "expert" knows how to go beyond the blog to accomplish whatever goal or objective is at hand.

I believe there are enough established social media resources available that you can accomplish some of the same objectives as a blog using what is already available as opposed to starting from scratch with a blog.

It is about your goals and objectives. Why do you want to start a blog? Don't blog for the sake of blogging.

Naturally, I wrote about this concept some time ago in my blog. Irony? I'll let you decide.


Interesting split on this one!

@khalidh has an interesting followup question on Twitter. Not sure how to link to the tweet (so much still to learn 8=), but if you got to his profile you should be able to find it.

Do you have to have killed someone to be on the jury in a murder trial? No, but the jurists should be able to draw on their other experiences and identify relevant and credible comments from others.

People who find it easy to gather this data and piece it together to build an informed opinion (without direct experience) are going to vote "yes". People who don't recognize this as a strength in themselves will have a hard time understanding that some people genuinely do have this skill, and will vote "no".

Thought of a broader, better, inarguable point:

A blog is a tool, and using one shouldn't be the goal. I don't have to have used a jackhammer to know that a jackhammer isn't the best tool for any of my current home improvement projects. I don't have to currently be posting to a blog to know that a blog is not the best solution to my current social media needs.

I get paid to work with social media every day, and I certainly don't think of myself as a social media expert. There's plenty of people that fall into the camp that you can consider yourself an expert if you know more about it than the average person on the street, but I don't buy that. I can count the number of people I'd consider social media experts my fingers.

I call myself a social media experimenter because the medium is very new. I think it's safe to say I know more about it than countless people involved in the space, and 99% of people in general. That doesn't change the fact that all the initiatives I try are typically experiments. I'm not sure if they'll work or not. I'm not a neurosurgeon that's performed the same operation 100 + times.

There are exceptions to every rule, but generally the best coaches have played the sports they're coaching at a very high level (at least college). If you want to call yourself an expert in social media, (for the most part) I would expect you to have some experience blogging.

Blogging is just one tool for social media, but it's one of the most important (at least in my mind). It's often the hub for all the other initiatives.

Sorry I missed the poll. Interesting split. That said, isn't what makes you an expert the perception and respect of others for what you do, rather than calling yourself an expert? I think the credibility in the title of expert is conveyed rather than self-anointed.

As with most things, there are many people active in social media who are interesting to follow and many others who operate -- somewhat loudly -- with an overblown sense of self-importance. I'd put you in the first category Rohit, and appreciate how you operate (quietly!). Best/Geri R

Hate to be the skunk at the garden party, but having a blog is not a pre-requisite to being a social media expert. (BTW, "SM Experts" is a horrible idea")

HP did an awesome job (really awesome) on 31 Days of The Dragon and the person who ran that does not blog.

Goodby did an incredible job on Layer Tennis and the person in charge does not blog.

Huge commercial successes leveraging social computing. One related to blogs, one completely unrelated to blogs. People in charge not bloggers.

Social media may be about blogs, but people connecting around their shared passion using the plumbing of the web is NOT just about blogs.

\rant off\

Tom O'Brien
MotiveQuest LLC

I think that "social media expert" means they spend all day on Twitter.

First, it should be noted that this will be the 10th comment on this post, and you got over 10 times the response on Twitter. Up until around 2006 or so, most conversations in the social media space were still happening mainly on blogs. Now there's Twitter/Facebook/Plurk/Friendfeed/etc so conversations are happening in so many places. Social Media is now so much more than just blogs.

But...many people that want to position themselves as being a 'social media expert' are doing so because they want to sell their 'expertise' to companies. And many of those companies will want/need to be blogging. So that means that if someone doesn't have a blog or much experience blogging, they could be an expert Twitter/Facebook/Friendfeed user, and still mis-representing their skillset to potential clients.

So while I don't like to think in terms of absolutes when it comes to social media, I would seriously question any claim of social media 'expertise' by someone that has no blog and little/no experience blogging.

LOL @ wanker! Rohit, I'm glad you're not afraid to tell — and do — it as it is.

Maybe calling yourself a "social media expert" is like calling yourself "cool"; others can acknowledge you but... you can't self-proclaim. How weird!

Why the binary split? It's lowminded. One can not presently have a blog as they don't find it useful for their purposes, but they may have blogged successfully, many times, before. It's like knowing how to swim — you can be an expert EVEN if you aren't doing it right now. (Ryan Stephens has a great analogy.)

Rather than "social media expert", it helps to be more specific to the tools. No one calls themselves an "image editing expert" — they're more likely to be a "Photoshop guru".

Some people are wonderful at Twitter but suck at blogging. Others are great at tumblogging but horrible at longer-format posts. Specifics — *substantiate*!

It personally annoys me so much when people go around calling themselves a social media expert. I am sure there are lots ot there but there are also a lot of bluffers trying to make a quick buck. I think the very least they should have is a blog

I have to agree with the previous comment. I think that MOST of the people labeling themselves as an "Expert" are mostly blowing smoke.

It's a much better approach to just do the best you know how at whatever and if others call you expert, "Guru" or whatever, then it'll have a chance to carry more weight.

I'm reminded of a line from an old Kansas tune "If I claim to be a wise man it surely means that I don't Know."

True words indeed.

I think this question needs to be looked at differently. To say "Do you have to have a blog?" focuses on the platform, and so many people here are arguing about platforms.

Let's, for the sake of my argument, say there is such thing as a "social media expert" (don't worry about who that is, or if it is ok to call yourself one). I think to be a SMX you have to be able to demonstrate a certain amount of critical thinking.

Do you have to have used a jackhammer to know that it's not the right tool for grouting your tub? No. But, to switch metaphors, going on Twitter and saying "The Dark Knight was an awesome movie!1!!" does not make you a movie critic.

A blog provides the platform for someone to show the insight and understanding of how social media works. That's not the only criteria - it's not a 'those who can do, those who can't, teach sort of thing - but I wouldn't call someone an expert in anything if they can't lay out an argument in an intelligent manner.

Sure, they could write a book, or even a white paper, and not have a blog. But a blog provides the best platform today - you can link, revise, add multimedia, etc.

So, though I missed the vote, I would side with the 'yes, you need one' crowd because a blog, unlike any other social media platform, allows you to express your thoughts in a well laid out manner.

Thanks, Rohit, for starting this great conversation.

Rohit, this is interesting. I was deep into social media before I ever got a blog. I tweeted, then someone said "expand to a blog so you can say more." But now I say too much. :) There is definitely a balance.

Then again, I am no social media expert. Just a blogger and a loudmouth.

I blog through twitter...

funny, just posed this very question last night via FB chat..i consider myself a social media recreational user trying to learn more about it in terms of business application... i guess when you've got something to sell or a job to land, you "become" a "social media expert"

Does a professional photographer have to own a camera?


Often to it's good to practice what you preach. Whilst it may not be essential for "social media consultants/experts" to have blogs, running a personal blog delivers real experience based learning, which can be passed onto your clients if blogging is the ideal solution for them.

Wow, that's a tough one. How do you coin an expert for an industry that didn't exist a decade ago? Is there a handbook, or a qualification list?

In general, I don't think someone can call themself an expert unless other experts view them in that same light. Then again, how do you choose 'the ones'? It will be interesting to see who really is an expert in social media a few years from now- reading their blog would help determine, but I don't think it's a requirement. What about a podcast or a videocast?

A blog, as some might say is your digital diary but people who are using it for long time, for them it has become a communication tool which they can use to drive community responses. I think blog is very individualistic approach towards social media. The trickle down effect of a blog takes its own sweet time in the blogosphere and the social media. For an individual who has started using internet just 2-3 years back, its unlikely that he would be use to more evolved sources of social media. Someone like Rohit can definitely use his blog presence to a great advantage for obvious reasons. But having said that any social media tool starts from communication, anyone who knows what to communicate at what time can be called as an expert in social media. Web is a jungle and you just need to know from where the fire will catch faster.

There is a time and place for everything. When you are with your friends on social media, no need to call yourself an expert. Your friends don't care.

If you are doing media, you want to be known as an author and ( fill in the blank) expert. Otherwise, why would they have you on if you are not an expert.

Dr. Wright
The Wright Place TV show

Interesting results, but not unexpected. I think blogging is a very individual choice. If someone refers to themselves as a "social media expert", I really don't care if they have a blog or not. That is a ridiculous, self-proclaimed title and I wouldn't want to follow them anyway. (Now I'm I refer to myself as an "expert"? Oh my...I should check my blog.) I blog because it gets people excited about social media and how they might use it. And that gets me excited. So for me, it's about sharing and feeling good about the results. Does it make me an expert? No. If I didn't have a blog, would I be less knowledgeable? No. I enjoy exchanging ideas and putting information out there for folks to use, discuss, argue...or ignore.

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