There Is No Such Thing As An “Expert”

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A few weeks ago I attended the Social Commerce Leadership Forum and during the introduction the sponsor  asked the audience of 75 a series of questions:

How many of you are beginners when it comes to social media? Maybe 25 raised their hands.

Any advanced practitioners? Another 25 or so raised their hands (including myself).

Do we have any experts in the room? Roughly 10 people raised their hands.

Then came the first speaker, Andrew Koven, President of ECommerce & Customer Experience at Steve Madden. Wearing a bright orange Syracuse University sweatshirt and a carmel-brown winter jacket, Andrew stood behind the podium at the front of the room and started off his presentation by stating, “First of all, I’m no expert.”

Thank you, Andrew. Not only do I like your first name but you are the first speaker, let alone person, who I’ve heard at an industry conference who admits to not being an expert. While some of us may have years of experience at a profession and a resume full of success highlights, does that mean there is nothing else to be learned at our job? If we finally get a client quoted in the NY Times or manage an online campaign that results in millions of impressions, does that mean our employer should give us a blank check and a promotion because we know more than everybody else?

Don’t get me wrong, I think there are plenty of smart, knowledgeable professionals in all industry’s. It just bothers me when the term “expert” gets thrown around around. I see the term used in LinkedIn profiles, Twitter bio’s, and I always wonder how these professionals became perfect. That’s what an expert is, to me. Someone who doesn’t make mistakes. Perhaps people like this exist. I just haven’t met him or her yet.

As I commented on a similar post this week from Danny Brown, we’re all students no matter what profession we’re in. Whether you have two years of experience at your job or 200, there is always something new to be learned. So please, think twice before you call yourself an expert.

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14 comments on “There Is No Such Thing As An “Expert”

  1. By jove, I think he’s got it!

    Andrew, great post buddy, as always. You’re definitely right about this. I am SO SICK of this “expert” word being thrown around willy-nilly. Nobody is an expert, point blank.

    I love the fact that a whole group of so-called experts raised their hands in the audience, then the guest speaker comes and says, “I’m no expert.” Lulz. Haha.

    I addressed this exact issue in my blog post about social media experts here: http://robertburnsii.com/2010/07/21/smexpert/

  2. I could not agree more. This topic has come up a few times at some of the groups I attend. While attending a Social Media Club of Madison meeting recently, the speaker Paul Banas of Kraft Foods, said “If you meet someone who claims to be a social media expert, run!”. His point was exactly yours, there is no such thing. Certainly some folks have more knowledge about one topic or another, but everything changes so fast that no one person is an “expert”. We are all learning from each other, which is the spirit of Social Media.

  3. It’s those social media experts that are training people to use “bots” and “auto-repliers” in their “social” media.

    It’s those social media experts that are teaching people to “Billboard” on their social media sites – not converse and reply. Imagine going to an offline social event and not responding to someone who says, “Hello, that’s a nice shirt.”

    It’s those social media experts who are continuing to cheer-lead social media, while never pointing out its privacy problems, time-drain potential and huge spam issues.

    It’s those social media experts….. but need I go on?

    Social media experts? Well, maybe Chris Brogan, David Meerman Scott and a few others. But, certainly not those who raise their hands.

  4. I think the big difference between “those” experts and actual Social Media professionals is ethics. Much like the argument that bloggers are not held to a journalistic standard many social media users can be irresponsible in their practices. I was pleased to hear at yet another Social Media Club of Madison meeting held at Madison College (formerly Madison Area Technical College) that the newly launched Social Media Certificate program was off to a good start. When I asked the professor I met at the event what the students were working on, he said they spent the first several weeks discussing ethics. I am a graduate of the Internet Developer Certificate program at the same school and had somewhat dismissed Social Media Certificate program in my mind, but now I think it may be a bit more thought out and relevant.

    • Whether a platform is new or has been around for years, I’m not sure the learning process ever stops. Things change, people’s habits change, etc. There will always be something new to learn, even for the “experts”

  5. Couldn’t agree more – I’m so turned off by the term “expert”, because what exactly makes someone an expert in their particular field?! There is always more to learn, more challenges to overcome, and more opportunities to enhance our skills and knowledge.

    Thanks for this post!

  6. I consider myself an expert in social media and I’m not afraid to say it. Here is the definition of an expert:

    Expert: a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority

    If you don’t consider yourself to have special knowledge about SM why would a client hire you?

    I think the problem here is your conception of the term “expert”. Next time feel free to consult a dictionary before you write a blog post. Even a non expert could tell you that you can find free dictionarys on the internet.

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