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  • Tools Don’t Matter, Skill Does

    Skills photo from ShutterstockIn the ongoing debate over the existence of social media experts, people point to the ever changing landscape of social media as their evidence that there’s no such thing as experts. The anti-expert side argues that the mere fact that social media tools pop in and out of existence, or that they dramatically change their operations, somehow changes the way social media works completely.

    Since social media and its tools are ever-changing, they argue, there can’t be social media experts.

    It’s all crap because social media expertise has nothing to do with the tools or how rapidly the landscape changes.

    Rather, effective social media marketing depends on your marketing skills and ability, rather than how you use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

    To be an expert, you need the foundational skills. The tools don’t make a bit of difference. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn don’t matter. Those will go away in a number of years, but the skills you need to effectively use them will be needed for their replacement.

    A carpenter’s skills don’t change when he switches from a hammer to a pneumatic nailer. You hire him for his building skills, not the number of hours he’s spent swinging a hammer.

    A writer doesn’t forget everything she knows just because she switches from a typewriter to a computer, changes from a yellow legal pad to a Moleskine notebook, or even switches favorite brands of pen. You read her books because she knows how to tell a good story.

    Computer programmers don’t lose their skills and experience just because they got a new computer.

    The tools don’t make a bit of difference. As Chris Brogan once said, no one ever asked Hemingway what pencils he used to write his books (actually, he typed them, but that’s beside the point).

    You’re not an expert because of the tools, you’re an expert because of the knowledge the tools unlock.

    It doesn’t matter whether you’re proficient at Facebook or Twitter. We’re reaching the stage where saying you’re good at those tools is like saying you’re good at using Word or a web browser. You’re expected to know how to use Word and a web browser. You’re getting to the point where you need to know how to operate Facebook and Twitter.

    The question is do you have the skills to use them effectively. Because the tools are going to change in a few years, but the skills will still be important.

    Focus on knowing how to communicate and reach people the most effectively. If you can do that, then you can be an expert at it, because the tools won’t matter.


    is the owner of Professional Blog Service, a newspaper humor columnist, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing, and The Owned Media Doctrine.

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    6 comments on “Tools Don’t Matter, Skill Does
    1. avatar
      Ted Grigg says:

      Thought provoking writing here.

      I’ve always contended that strategic thinking, planning skills and principles are the important things and not the tools themselves

      If only employers and hiring managers had the inclination to think outside the box with more objectivity! They might actually build awesome companies more frequently and with greater predictability.

      Instead they hire people based on the flavor of the month and for tactical rather than strategic skills.

      • avatar
        Ryan Crappa says:

        I agree with that sentiment completely. This article shows just how uneducated someone is if they are hiring based on what the new trend of the moment is, and not looking to see if they have the ability to adapt and use any platform or tool long term

    2. avatar
      Brian Fey says:

      While I’m inclined to agree with some of what you say — I think your Hemingway/Pencil analogy is nonsense.

      Why do we always have to pick one over another? Right v. Left? Blue v. Red? Tools v. Experience?

      As usual (I believe) the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

      I’m a 30-year marketing executive — and I know how to operate cutting edge CRM and Marketing Automation technologies (which I stay very current on because it’s important).

      I feel like I can not only develop strategic business marketing plans — but I can also implement them flawlessly.

      Air Power + Boots on the Ground. We need both.


    3. avatar
      John Peltier says:

      I tend to think of this as a statement about using inbound marketing for personal branding. If you know how content marketing works, and understand the way you can increase visibility to one’s peers, you can learn about the specific tools.

      Having said that, for novices, some like Twitter require more learning than others. I think that’s where the real “expertise” is called for.

      • avatar
        Jim Barkley says:

        I have been trying to make this point to anyone who would listen. Seems that there are a lot of people out there doing the screening for job posting that are fixated on what tools you can check off their list. I have frequently succeeded where I began working on a situation where I was a complete zero on the tools needed for the specific situation or was unsure enough to doubt my knowledge/facility level. How do I over come this linear blinders mentality I seem to run into regularly.

    4. avatar

      One thing that I’ve learnt is that you can have all of the tools that you want but if you don’t have the skills to operate them effectively you won’t get the most out of them!

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