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  • 6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Brand Yourself as a Social Media Expert

    If you’re currently branding yourself as a “social media expert,” this post is mandatory reading for you. I, for one, am branded as a “social media expert” at EMC corporation, but that’s not exactly how I want the world to see me.  Whenever someone has a question about social media or requests some strategic guidance, my name comes into their minds first because it’s my job title, but not my personal brand.  We’re living in a world where everyone is starting to learn best practices in social media, whether you’re in school or you’re in the workforce.  In the US, social networking is up 83% from a year ago.

    You’re probably one of 230 million people on Facebook, 40 million people on LinkedIn or approximately 17 million people on Twitter.  If you aren’t, then you will be sometime soon because you won’t have a choice. You’re friends, family, and co-workers will be using these tools to communicate and do business, which will force you to create an account to send and receive messages.  Face it, there’s no going back.

    Here are 5 reasons you shouldn’t brand yourself as a social media expert:

    1.  You can’t stand out

    Five years ago, you could have stood out as a social media expert because the pool was shallow and dipping your toe into it was easy. As long as you had a blog, you were an early adopter and could offer your services to end users or companies.  There certainly weren’t 300 million plus blogs and no one was talking about social networks, other than MySpace and Facebook. Saying you were an expert on social media was like saying that you were a web developer when websites first came out and an email expert way back in the dark ages.  In each example, there were few competitors back then and now the market is so flooded that you can’t stand out.

    The pioneers of new media are still successful today, but they don’t even brand themselves as “social media experts.”  Think about experts such as David Meerman Scott, Paul Gillan, Chris Brogan, Charlene Li, Steve Rubel, and Robert Scoble.  David is an author who has successfully blended social media with PR and marketing before everyone else.  Chris Brogan focuses more on social media’s impact on community building and he’s been blogging religiously before the medium became mainstream.  Don’t try and brand yourself as one of them because you’ll fail trying.

    2.  What is a social media expert anyways?

    If you’re a social media expert, try and define your own role.  I think most people can’t even do that because they got their current positions because of their activity using these tools  to gain attention.

    Social media expert defined: One who specializes in the use of social media…….????

    Do you do social media for a company or are you a consultant? Some of you just brand yourself as “social media expert” because no one can say you aren’t.  This title is very ubiquitous and since social media is a large umbrella that shelters the thousands of social networks out there, blogging, wiki’s and more, it’s hard to truly pinpoint where your expertise actually lies.  Are you a LinkedIn expert?  Are you a Twitter expert?

    What makes you an expert? This question comes up again and again.  An expert is someone who has proven results.  What results have you had with social media?  How did that benefit your client?  These are all questions you have to ask yourself before you brand yourself as a social media expert.

    3.  There are no barriers to entry

    Think about large companies such as P&G, GE and Coca Cola.  They have created massive barriers to entry, which means it’s harder to join the market because the costs are higher.  For example, Coca Cola has a lot of leverage with their distribution system, which extends to supermarkets, fast food chains and corporate cafeteria’s.  If you start a beverage company, it’s going to be hard to build it without relationships with vendors and to get to Coca Cola’s size is nearly impossible.

    Now think about yourself as a company in the same fashion. As a “social media expert,” all someone has to know is how to use one or more tools to help a business, themself or someone else.  It’s not very hard to do this because the tools, if used even half-correctly, can benefit anyone.  Thus, there are no barriers to entry and there are no costs associated with someone starting a blog or a Facebook page.  In this way, you become expendable.

    4.  You can’t command a premium salary

    Since social media experts are expendable, people won’t have to pay you a lot of money to get a blog going or their Facebook page up.  Unless you’re famous or have a very lucrative track record of providing enormous value to companies, you won’t get paid much to do this type of work.  There are also no advancement opportunities for you, so your career will be in a stranglehold and it will break you down at some point in the future.  Since the dollar is declining due to inflation, you can’t afford to stay at the same salary your entire less, so being a social media expert can’t be your “finish line” or long-term aspiration.

    5.  It’s impossible to measure your role

    No one has figured out social media ROI yet. A lot of so-called experts say “I got 300 retweets, 100 new Twitter followers, 60 fans on Facebook, 36 blog comments,” but what does that really mean?  It means nothing actually, unless you can convert that into sales or stockholder value.  If you can’t measure, you can’t improve and you can’t deliver on your promise of value.  How would you ever be able to measure the impact of a tweet from an influencer on your marketing program?

    6.  When everyone in the world is a social media expert it loses meaning

    I really sincerely feel that everyone in the world will be forced to learn about social media and use it every day to help build their platform or help market on their companies behalf.  I don’t even understand how some of my friends avoid purchasing their domain name.  It’s really at their own peril and I can predict their career will be impacted as a result.  The term social media expert is already losing meaning because everyone is using it on all of their profiles and blogs and we are so used to seeing it, that we dismiss it.


    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in eBrand, Personal Branding, Positioning, Social Media
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    58 comments on “6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Brand Yourself as a Social Media Expert
    1. avatar
      Rob says:

      There’s a seventh reason, which is something of a 400 pound gorilla: social media is a near-universal money loser. So what does a “Social Media Expert” really know? What is his expertise in? How to lose gargantuan sums of venture capital? That’s not appealing to ANYONE.

    2. avatar
      TJAbif says:

      Really good read. I’ve ReTweeted on Twittter. Thanks for shedding some light on this particular topic. Good stuff!.

    3. avatar
      mark evertz says:

      This is great and so timely given that everybody with a Facebook account is branding themselves (keyword: Themselves) a Social Media Expert.

      I’m going to let any follower, friend or adversary decide whether my opinions or interests provide value. In addition, I’ll share my ass off, validate opinions I agree with and raise an eyebrow on ones I don’t (Rob…seriously, “near universal money loser.” Stay warm under that broad blanket statement.) If that makes me valuable to somebody, cool. If not, equally cool. Until the book idea or new business project comes to mind, I’m just drafting off a ton of really smart people. Thanks for being out there and sharing. Cheers,

    4. avatar
      Rob says:

      It’s definitely a blanket statement, but one that merely reflects a blanket reality. After all, which well-known social media sites/services have ever turned an aggregate profit? (as opposed to an aggregate debt-shrinking quarter or two)

      Friendster: no
      Myspace: no
      Facebook: no
      Twitter: no
      Bebo: no
      LinkedIn: ???

      If even the brightest stars in the sector haven’t found a way to consistently stop the financial hemorrhaging, then it’s fairly clear that a proven method for monetizing social media has yet to be developed. Therefore, what are all of the self-proclaimed “experts” and “consultants” experts in exactly? What practical and quantifiable knowledge do such people possess which contributes to the core reason for the existence of these businesses, profits? Knowing how to generate headlines, traffic and/or large user bases is utterly useless without profits.

    5. avatar
      mark evertz says:

      Hey Rob…We agree that sites aren’t turning a profit but to loosely say that social media isn’t profitable is just plain wrong. Ask the authors of Groundswell how unprofitable social media is. Ask Chris Brogan how his consulting gigs are going. The sites you mention are mere mechanisms for building your own personal or organizational brand…what you do with them or how profitable they make you is entirely up to you. Just please don’t become one of those guys that tells me how to turn 200,000 tweets into $200,000. I hate that.

      BTW…I don’t make a nickel on any of my stuff and I”m totally OK with that. I do it for the pure release of meeting new people and vetting ideas. That said, if someone reads our interactions here or anyone else and offers me a job based on our dialogue then I’m cool with that too.

      Let Evan Williams worry about the profitability of his own company…let’s you and me worry about how to use his technology to get whatever we need out of it to thrive. I don’t care if that’s money, friends, a stockpile of jokes or whatever makes it worth our collective while.

      I getcha man…I just thing your focal point is too narrow.

      Good luck out there.

    6. avatar
      RIck L'Amie says:

      Great post Dan. I agree and wrote something similar on my blog. Are there knowledgeable people and companies with cutting edge ideas? Yes. But really, if someone claims to be any kind of expert, or uses words like guru of anything whether it’s a guru of marketing, advertising, sales or any service, be suspicious. That is a label that others should give you after you earn it. Here’s my post: http://www.marketingwithmoxie.com/blog/2009/5/26/im-an-online-marketing-expert-not.html

    7. avatar
      LaTronBrown says:

      I completely agree with this posting. You hit the nail on the head with the second point. Personally, I believe people are underestimating the definition of an expert. To me an expert is someone who has demonstrated success and can reproduce results in various situations. Its not just simply being able to use the tools. Quite frankly, a large percentage of people our age are using these tools, perhaps not for business; however the usage, boils down to the same thing-“what are you doing?” If that is the case, then most of Gen-Y are Social Media Experts. Now, if people begin calling you an expert because you have given them some type of result that they have been looking for, then basque in your expertness; otherwise, don’t. Check out my blog posting on the “So called Social media Expert”:


    8. avatar
      Andrew Davis says:

      Rob – MySpace has made a few billion over the years. FB still makes a substantial amount of money, just in global brand terms, the profit is not that much.

    9. avatar

      No such thing as a Social Media Expert. Total B.S. What there is an over supply of is Social Media Sheep. All the sheep follow and link to and re-tweet a handful of the popular hoping to fit in. All the little bloggers out there afraid to lead but quite comfortable being some Guru’s little soldier.

    10. avatar
      mwaters5 says:

      I am not sure I agree with this article either. The title may not be much but I have no problem picking up clients in my circle. Most business want to be in social media but they don’t know how to do it with a strategy that makes money.

      I help business put strategies in place to make money.

      The part I do agree with is that being a social media expert is a whole lot more than setting up a facebook and twitter account. Being a social media expert encompass multiple networks, multiple accounts with a cohesive marketing strategies.

    11. avatar
      noahcarter says:

      no such word as anyways

    8 Pings/Trackbacks for "6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Brand Yourself as a Social Media Expert"
    1. […] by Michael Clarke OK, that was a long title.  But Dan Schwabel’s reasonably interesting post on problems with trying to be an expert in social media inadvertently highlighted the ongoing issue with trying to make any kind of definitive […]

    2. […] Dan Schawbel provides a list of reasons from inability to command a premium salary, too little bases for differentiation and confusion as to what a social media expert is as to why ‘You shouldn’t brand yourself as a social media expert! […]

    3. […] Personal Branding, Positioning | No Comment // Last week, I wrote a blog post called “6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Brand Yourself as a Social Media Expert” and it quickly became the most popular post I’ve ever written on this blog (since […]

    4. […] are a lot of self proclaimed experts on Twitter, especially on the subject of social media. As this post explains, it’s probably not a very good idea to describe yourself this […]

    5. […] Schawbel’s post “6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Brand Yourself as a Social Media Expert” is the most poignant read I’ve come across on social media in months.  Everyone from PR, […]

    6. […] Dan Schawbel of Gen-Y has a terrific post entitled “6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Brand Yourself as a Social Media Expert” that goes very well with this topic.  See the post […]

    7. […] Shouldn’t Brand Yourself as a Social Media Expert” that goes very well with this topic.  See the post Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)My first week on Twitter after years on […]

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