Everyone's An Expert, No One's An Expert - InformationWeek
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Jamie Pappas
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Everyone's An Expert, No One's An Expert

Beware community and social media know-it-alls. Take the time to do your own research.

One of the many things I enjoy about social media is that it affords people the opportunity to meet and converse with people they might not have otherwise had an opportunity to encounter. Having worked in this area for a number of years, I can attest to the power of networking. I have personally developed a number of close friendships and business relationships that started online because I enjoyed and valued what someone I didn't know shared, and I wanted to explore the topic further.

The exciting thing about social media is that it affords all people a voice and the opportunity to express themselves and their opinions without discrimination based on experience or location. It also provides a venue for people to connect with other individuals and businesses around a set of shared interests.

But for all the positive qualities of social media, it's not without risk. One of the things that concerns me the most about social media is that it assigns expertise to too many people. Since a great number of our conversations are indexed and return in search results, you can literally stumble upon anyone's blog or conversation stream without any context as to who the person is and what his or her background or level of expertise might be.

If you're diligent like me, you research the person whose content you've come across before you take the person's expertise at face value. Every week I run across a new person who offers his or her social media expertise for sale in the form of consulting services, webinars, white papers, or books. Yet when I look at their profiles or research them a bit further, I find no examples of experience or expertise in using social media for business.

Another recent example was when a smart individual started a conversation surrounding a tool he never used and challenged the usefulness of that tool and questioned whether customers really use it to its full potential. He argued that the tool is too expensive, offers too much functionality, and may even take too long to deploy. Your average reader might conclude, "Oh, no -- I've got to take that vendor off my list!" The sad reality is that this self-proclaimed expert never even used the tool, in a business or any other setting. I know firsthand that companies worldwide use this tool to transform the way people work, communicate, and accomplish real business objectives. But the average reader who searched for the tool or vendor wouldn't know that without doing a little research.

I'm not saying that people are maliciously sharing bad information; I don't believe that at all. A lot of people have a lot of great ideas, and I admire their passion and enthusiasm for sharing and sparking conversation. I'm even OK with the above individual starting the conversation around the tool he'd never used, because it led to testimonials from real users. It sparked exactly the kind of factual information and case studies necessary to make an informed decision.

It's important to remember that passion doesn't equal expertise or experience. Theories and assertions can be interesting, but facts win out every time.

Jamie (@JamiePappas) is VP of social media at AMP Agency, the leader in inspiring brands with integrated digital and experiential marketing. You can reach her at jpappas@ampagency.com or at her blog, Social Media Musings.

Attend Enterprise 2.0 Boston to see the latest social business tools and technologies. Register with code CPBJEB03 and save $100 off conference passes or for a free expo pass. It happens June 20-23. Find out more.

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User Rank: Apprentice
6/14/2011 | 1:03:06 AM
re: Everyone's An Expert, No One's An Expert
Jamie - it's funny - in the last 4 months, I've spent more time than usual talking to the "great unwashed masses" - and when you point out to them what being findable, and being about to find/vet people via LinkedIn et al, I've seen a lot of "oh sheet!" moments cross their faces.

Example: I ended up being rushed by current students of my alma mater (Berklee) when I was on a panel a few months ago about post-graduation life. Everyone else on the panel was talking about paper resumes and thank you letters, and sending things through "normal" channels, and told them all to light that stuff on fire. Be online, or be non-existent - and let people find YOU rather than to have to pitch blindly at the gatekeepers! "Thank god you were talking about social networking - should we really be on LinkedIn as musicians?" Good times. Felt good to give back.

It's interesting times - and the mainstream is warming up to all of this - we just need to "keep it real (simple)" and stop confusing 'em with out secret language of hashtags and realtime collaboration.

See you at #e2conf next week - all sorts of convergence happening these days. Almost feels like progress, eh?

Jamie Pappas
Jamie Pappas,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/14/2011 | 12:40:08 AM
re: Everyone's An Expert, No One's An Expert
Hi Dan,
Thanks so much for the feedback. Totally agree - social tools are an excellent way to do research on someone to get a better handle on their experience and expertise. In my line of work, there hasn't been a candidate in years that I've not searched for on major social networking sites to see if they have a presence, experience, and credibility, given that's typically what I'm hiring for.

I've also found it to be a great way to find out information about vendors and experiences with their tools, as well.

At the end of the day, it does come down to what the real/normal folks are actually saying and doing!

And yes - much success comes from fishing where the fish are ;-)

Cheers to you!
User Rank: Apprentice
6/7/2011 | 1:52:39 PM
re: Everyone's An Expert, No One's An Expert
Jamie - greats points, and I was discussing exactly this sort of vetting process with a client yesterday, who is still working their way through how to get value out of any of this "social stuff."

Social networking is useful not only in being found (or creating relationships), but also in being able to check-out whether someone has real credibility/experience, on top of their enthusiasm.

Given two otherwise equal candidates, I'll take the enthusiastic person any time, but without real meat (experience/expertise) - all too easy to misapply a theory when it falls from the ivory tower, vs. the real world experience of climbing out of potholes (I must be driving around too much in Boston these days ;).

Your last line of:
"It's important to remember that passion doesn't equal expertise or experience. Theories and assertions can be interesting, but facts win out every time." - lines up nicely with my comment on Tony's post about Consumerization vs. Humanization - all of us on the crazy bleeding edge can wax and wane all day long - but what are *real people* ("normal" people?) actually saying and doing?

I've found it more useful to fish where the fish are, and go from there. You? :)
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