Saturday, April 10, 2010

What makes a social media "expert"?

Social Media Matters
By Brian Cormier
Friday, April 9, 2010
Moncton Times & Transcript
Metro section

Social media "expert":

There's a lot of debate online whether or not such a creature even exists. Social media is such a vast area with so much conflicting advice and so many platforms that it's pretty much impossible to be a true "expert".

What is a so-called social media expert? Someone who knows how to use every platform perfectly? Someone who has lots of followers? A technical person? A content-oriented person? Someone who makes money at it? Someone who writes a column about it? Someone who spends every waking moment online?

The answer is that it's pretty much impossible to be a true expert on the entire gamut of social media. You may know Twitter and Facebook very well and have them down pat, but LinkedIn and YouTube are complete mysteries. You may be a brilliant technical person but useless at content -- or the other way around. Maybe you're already famous and automatically acquire a following because of previous work. An expert?

Maybe you need to know a lot about computers... or a lot about relationships... or a lot about business. The bottom line is that it's difficult to find any true experts on social media because the area is changing and evolving at the speed of light. Am I an expert? No, but I know a bit and can hopefully talk about social media intelligently enough to help some beginners wade through the mystery of it all. And if I don't know the answer, I'll find it. Columns like this aren't for everyone.

Many people know a lot more about social media than I do and this may be a bit too simplistic for them. For those who are more advanced than the rest of us, feel free to send in your advice for readers and I'll gladly give you credit. For those who need help and advice, send in your questions and I'll gladly answer them or find someone who can. In the meantime, let's have fun talking about social media. By sharing our mutual experiences and advice, everyone will win.

How are you doing on Twitter?

A site that I recently discovered is a good barometer at telling you how you're doing on Twitter. was developed by international public relations firm Edelman. Although it's still currently in beta (or "test") mode, it can give you a pretty good indication of some of the things you're doing correctly or incorrectly on Twitter.

Just enter your username and TweetLevel will give you an overall influence score based on popularity (how many followers you have), engagement (how many conversations you are participating in) and trust (how often people are retweeting your content). You may be surprised to see how well -- or how badly -- you're doing compared to some of the people you follow. I scored higher than some of the people I thought were amazing... and lower than some I thought who were not so amazing. Regardless, it's a good touchstone to see where you're at.

Negative people online:

What to do about annoying, negative or overly critical people on Twitter? That's always a very touchy subject.

While I have no problem simply unfollowing people, it's obviously something you want to do selectively, especially if they're people who live in the area. It's a small town, after all.

Then again, if someone is being negative, I prefer to avoid them like the plague and I don't apologize for it. I have no time for that garbage -- and neither should you! Local consultant Dave Gallant (Twitter @davergallant) reminded me about the use of lists on Twitter when commenting on my blog. You can create lists of followers in categories, as in people from work, personal friends, people from a certain geographic area, etc. Creating lists on Twitter is easy. Just check out the FAQ section of whatever platform you're using (HootSuite, TweetDeck, etc.). If you follow many people, it can be a more efficient way of tracking different people for different reasons rather than lumping everyone into one long newsfeed, which can become difficult to keep track of.

I don't use lists enough, quite frankly. It would probably make my Twitter experience much more efficient and relegate some of the more negative people to some obscure list that I only check occasionally rather than having to take the drastic step of unfollowing and/or blocking.

Facebook fan page versus group versus regular profile:

I rarely, if ever, accept a friend request on Facebook from an organization, rather than a real person. If "ABC Disease Association" wants a presence on Facebook, it's easy enough to start a group or a fan page, whichever is right for them. If they set up a friend profile, however, I tend not to accept them for the simple fact that they would then have access to some or all of my personal information. (I don't tend to use "limited profile" for any my Facebook friends.) That means I'm never sure who's on the other end of the line, so to speak.

Last year, an organization set up a profile and tried to add me as a friend many times. I kept refusing until I finally snapped and told them to bugger off.

The thing is, if this organization had a fan page or group, I'd gladly join it. But no, I'm not going to accept them as a friend, give them access to some of my personal information and then not know who's on the other end. Is it staff member A, B or C? And what happens if they hire someone less than honourable to start messing around inappropriately?

Whenever you accept a friend on Facebook, you can put them on "limited profile" in your privacy settings. By doing this, you can block access to some or most of your information. As I said, I personally rarely use this. And if I notice that someone has me on "limited profile", I promptly unfriend them. If they don't trust me, then sayonara!

My own view is that companies and organizations should have fan pages or groups on Facebook, not personal profiles like a "real person."

1 comment:

Ray Hiltz said...

Great column as usual, Brian. I've been researching social media for just over a year now and have recently opened a new twitter account and blog that I will use primarily for that topic. (Leaving my personal views and peeves on arayinthelife blog.)

I have had the opportunity to address some groups on the subject but when anyone refers to me as a social media expert or "guru" I wince.

The internet is a cacophony of so-called social media advice from SEO companies, as well as Marketing, PR & Communication Firms. One thing that I have concluded is that 99% of these high profile communications professionals would never call themselves social media experts - specialists, maybe.

I'm not a technical person. I can barely keep up with all the new programs and I can barely spell HTML let alone write it. What interest me most about social media is the "social" aspect of it. How has this new level of engagement made possible by this media affect how we communicate with our friends, family and co-workers?

For me social media is a trip down the yellow brick road, I just hope I don't find a charlatan hiding behind a curtain at the end of it.

(I know, I know; that analogy was way to predictable ;))

Have a great weekend.