I’ve been meaning to drop a note to Beth Harte about her Online Media Boot Camp coming up this week, and as usual, one click led to another which landed me on her blog about Social Media Experts and the growing practice of describing one’s self as an expert. Also as usual, my comment got wordy, and so here’s my ten minute take on the topic.
My entry to marketing was accidental, through an independent manufacturer’s rep firm in the electromechanical component industry back in the mid 80’s. I was straight out of the Air Force where I’d just spent four years flight testing guidance systems for the B-1 Bomber, and the firm was looking for an unblemished trainee with military chops.
Within a few years, I’d become a regional marketing “expert” of sorts, and with my intimate knowledge of the local market, I was able to fine tune the corporate marketing strategies and tools provided by our principles to create effective strategies and tactics — in my neck of the woods, the Mid Atlantic market.
I wasn’t the only guy who knew the Mid Atlantic inside out, but I became one of the good ones. My strategies and tactics improved over time, and in addition to learning from my mistakes, I stood on the shoulders of some truly brilliant men and women in the field from whom I’d learned, and continued to learn.
It bears mentioning that this was pre-Internet, when sharing and collaboration was confined to educational environments, a small handful of industry associations, and a smaller handful of good-old-boys clubs. It was uncommon for guys like me to write traditional print articles telling our contemporaries the secrets behind our success.
Twenty years later I find myself in a similar situation, only different.
I have a quietly growing list of clients in the entertainment and literary industries, and while I know the social media tools and tactics I’ve helped them learn and implement aren’t going to rock the planet, all my clients have been able to establish a high quality, professionally crafted social media footprint out there, rendering their work searchable and shareable in a way they would never have been able to had it not been for my guidance, and the years of energy I’ve invested in learning about this stuff.
Does that make me a social media expert? Not by a long shot, but that’s because I know how much I don’t know. I know how much I still learn every day, and how much I have yet to learn about social media and its effective deployment as a component of a company’s marketing, public relations, or customer service strategy.
My clients, on the other had, would disagree, and I frequently have to remind them not to call me a social media expert when referring me to potential new clients. To many of my clients, I’m the only person who was able to demystify the world of social media for them, one baby step at a time, until they could envision the opportunity and run on their own.
I’m the guy they come to when Facebook changes their look or TOS, or rumors circulate that Google might buy Twitter and they want to know “What does that mean for me?”
So what do I call myself? I’m a social media consultant. Period. I’m the guy who takes the time to learn about this stuff every day, and help my clients apply the tools and tactics to their unique objectives.
When a client engages me they get 100% of what I know and 100% of what I can pull from my network of rock stars. Whatever else their situation may require, we learn together; by making mistakes, by being successful and by knowing in advance that NOBODY in this business knows everything.
And what’s the point anyway? It’s gonna be a little different tomorrow.