Shanna Mallon

Experts, Social Media, and Non-Advice

By: Shanna Mallon | January 23, 2014 | 

Experts, Social Media, and Non-AdviceBy Shanna Mallon

These days, self-proclaimed marketing “experts” are everywhere.

Unfortunately, helpful advice doesn’t always come with them.

It only takes one negative experience taking (or worse, paying for) the wrong counsel to know how much bad advice can cost you.

How do you protect yourself?

Are there ways to know who is trustworthy?

Where can you go for reliable advice?

To help answer those questions, let’s look at a things worth remembering:

The Proof is in the Results

Just because somebody says something doesn’t make it true. Always look for proof.

If a marketing article tells you to start an email newsletter, it better say why, and it better back up the claim with some evidence.

If a blogger tells you to invest in quality website design, ask yourself if the reasoning makes sense.

Here are a few examples of legitimate ways for experts to back up their claims:

  • Statistics: Do you know Vitamin C is good for you because you say so? Or is it the countless studies and statistics showing it to be the case? When an expert says you should blog every day, what’s the reasoning? Before you go jumping on a ship, ask yourself if there’s a good reason to do so.
  • Testimonials: A surefire way to know if an expert is actually one is simply listening to what others are saying. What have readers who followed the person’s advice said? What do past clients say? If a “guru” has no testimonials, it’s a warning sign.
  • Portfolios: You have much more reason to trust a marketing expert or company when it offers an established portfolio of successful work. Pay attention to track records. If an expert is truly so, it will show in the results.

Find the Real Experts

There are a few reasons working with an agency makes sense: They have real experience. They have staff dedicated to specific tasks from content marketing to search engine optimization. They know how to align tactics with business goals.

Before you hand over your marketing campaign to someone else, be sure to ask these questions:

  • How long have you been doing this?
  • Can I see some of your work?
  • How will you communicate with me?
  • What is your specific game plan in my campaign?
  • What goals will you meet?
  • What kind of guarantee can you offer?

Marketing is an art and a science, as Jennifer Shaheen writes at Small Business Trends: “There’s no way to guarantee your audience will respond the way you want them to.”

Sifting through Social Media

A Twitter profile with the words “marketing guru” does not tell you that you’ve found a person to trust. Anybody can say he or she is an expert.

That’s why you need to know how to sift through the chatter and find real value.

Signs that someone has a legitimate social media presence include:

  • Numbers: Numbers are not the only test for social media knowledge, but they are important. Social media is about engaging fans and building relationships. If nobody’s following, they’re not a social media expert.
  • Activity: Real social media experts know social media requires activity — regular, consistent posting and responding. See how the “expert” is engaging on social sites.
  • Published Articles: Experts will be recognized by other leaders in their industry. Take a look at articles the person has published. Where are they being posted? Only on a personal blog? Are they publishing on industry-relevant websites and blogs?
  • Resources: Leading social media experts publish eBooks, video tutorials, and share their knowledge. If a so-called expert you’re evaluating shares their knowledge freely, you can check to see how those resources are received.

Have you found it hard to wade through the sea of self-proclaimed experts online? What filters do you already use to know whom to trust?

Image courtesy of Antigone on Flickr

About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a writer for StraightNorth, a Chicago web design firm providing specialized SEO, Twitter marketing strategy, web development, and other online marketing services. Follow StraightNorth on Twitter @straightnorth.

  • Shanna, great points.  Recently our house cleaner overhead me discussing a shared media job opening. After I was off the phone, she rather seriously asked about the position. Why? Because she’s “all about some Facebook and Instagram.”

    She’s very engaged on social networks, but that doesn’t mean she’s an expert. A lot of people can “do social media” quite well. That doesn’t make them an expert. I love to cook and my nieces never complain about what I prepare. That hardly makes me a chef.

  • Shanna, as always, I love your posts. And this one made me giggle. I think my family believes I “do Facebook for a living” – LOL – it’s so hard to explain what digital marketing/social media outreach really means to people who don’t work in these fields. And lord knows, I would never proclaim myself an expert. In fact, I do most of my work in the evenings, after I finish cleaning ClayMorgan’s house! (jokes!) 😀

  • If there’s a topic always worth discussing again and again, it’s this one. As social media continues to mature, I think the industry will largely self-correct and shake off the “experts” (quotation marks absolutely intentional). 

    I still believe that the rise of so-called experts was directly linked to the Great Recession. Everyone was trying hard to carve out a niche.

  • Ack. How much do I adore this post! Soooooooo freaking much! The problem is one of education about the industry and really ‘what the heck we do’. And that’s a hard one to solve. When we are working with prospective and current clients we work really hard to help them understand the whys. A good portion of my time is doing just that, even sometimes when they don’t want to understand, they need to, at least to a certain extent. That’s part of their responsibility in the client/agency partnership we build. Unfortunately the ‘gurus’ have created a situation that encourages lack of responsibility and understanding on the client side and tends to focus on ‘magical’ metrics vs. actual ones. Sure not everything we do is directly measurable, but a lot of it is and accountability for those things, as well as the goals laid out in the relationship are part of our job.

    It’s amazing how completely level headed, savvy business leaders will fall for these voodoo pitches. As I mentioned in Gini’s post on Guest Blogging yesterday, the ‘magic diet pill’ and ‘get rich scheme’ don’t work, when trying to lose weight, make money or create an effective communications plan. We are all fans of rainbows, unicorns and glitter, but as a business decision maker and leader it is probably best to leave them out of your decision making process when choosing an agency to work with. 

    …well except maybe unicorns, there is always a place for unicorns, but after that look at the facts.

  • jasonkonopinski I disagree, I don’t think it will self-correct. I think the nature of what we do makes it an easier industry for ‘experts’ to prey on.

  • Well, its all clear that finding an expert in social media or content marketing depends on the company or individual. We just cannot afford to be sloppy when discovering what should make sense and what should not.
    Taking time to find proofs of expertise professed by an individual or a company is needful.
    The ideas shared in this post are spot-on and they readily remind us and re-align our thoughts on what we should do to get the best from social media experts. 
    The above comment I have also left in – the content syndicaton and social aggregation website for Internet marketing where this post was shared and bookmarked.
    Sunday – contributor

  • LauraPetrolino It won’t ever *completely* self-correct, but the importance of integration and serious strategy will reveal the chinks in the armor for those “gurus.”

  • I always say a social media expert is someone who has a Twitter account and a keyboard. Just because you know how to use the tools does not an expert make. I know there is some debate about Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of work = expertise theory, but I am on his side on that one. Until you have real experience – and lots of it – you aren’t an expert.

    Also, calling yourself an expert is like saying you’re the smartest person in the room. If you have to say it, it’s probably not true.

  • Excellent Shanna!  Our company has focused on proving our worth using the very criteria you mention: numbers, articles, resources and activity.  I see so many self-proclaimed social media gurus and marketing professionals with a lackluster following on their own social media channels. It’s the first thing I look at when evaluating their skills, and I KNOW it’s the first thing my clients look at when evaluating mine.  Thanks for the reminder and advice!

  • ginidietrich Gini, I’ve always struggled with expert. I’ve spent 12 years in the field, and feel confident I have reached the 10,000 hours. I put a tremendous amount of time into learning and development because I know how important that is. But I haven’t figured out this one… how do you share about your expertise without using the word expert?

  • belllindsay ClayMorgan Hah so true Lindsay. Everyone I know thinks I get paid to type things on the internets and make phone calls. Which, strictly speaking, isn’t wrong.

  • ClayMorgan If this has been discussed elsewhere on SS, I’ve missed it and someone can feel free to point me in the right direction. For someone like the house cleaner who is “all about some FB and IG,” what would be some logical steps for someone to take to transition that type of engagement and passion into a more professional role in social media?

  • Shanna Mallon

    jolynndeal Yep, it only makes sense to look at what a so-called expert does before trusting him or her!

  • Shanna Mallon

    LauraPetrolino That’s a good point, Laura, a lot of professionals are still fuzzy on what social media is and why it matters, so of course it’s hard to know who to ask for help. But, like you say, while not everything is measurable, some is–and that is what’s key.

  • Shanna Mallon

    belllindsay ClayMorgan Thanks so much! I know just what you mean!

  • Shanna Mallon

    biggreenpen ClayMorgan That’s exactly the question I would have, too. The house cleaner, like anyone else, *could be* awesome at social media, but the proof is in the pudding. You want to be good at social media? Use social media. Put the principles you see as good into practice, and let the results be demonstrated. If the house cleaner has a million engaged Twitter followers, I want to hear what she has to say.

  • JoeCardillo belllindsay ClayMorgan “…and other assorted duties.” LOL

  • Shanna MallonbiggreenpenClayMorgan good thoughts Shanna. You know, a tweeting house cleaner could be a concept ………… 🙂

  • Hi Shanna, this is a great topic that I think needed to be called to people’s more immediate attention. So many “experts” talk the talk in generalities and fortune cookie statements. Go to a local social media seminar and what do you get? The experience of watching a dynamic presenter at work. Nothing more or less. I wonder how many of these experts could take a struggling company and turn it around…or for that matter, do anything outside of the context of marketing their books…highly doubt it.
    Here we go with more resolution content fodder. Since this buzzword is a pet peeve of mine, I just can’t resist using it… 
    My guru “manifesto” for 2014 is to consider them guilty until proven innocent. FAR more critical assessment and thinking are needed rather than accepting anything they say out of hero worship!

  • mike coombs

    Here’s the social media expert problem IMO.
    If you are a busily engaged social media expert in say… promoting your self, does that make you knowledgeable, or give you the capacity to handle a different type of business model?

    I’m comfortable with “I’m a social media expert in manufacturing B to B two step distribution models” or ” consumer product loyalty” or “consulting lead generation” or any specific business application.  Knowing the tools? Cool.  Being great at promoting your own social agenda? Cool.

    But does your time and talent translate and scale to other arenas?
    Maybe.  Maybe not.

  • Interesting because whenever I am using ManageFlitter to fine-tune my targeted following, I skip anyone who lists “expert” or “guru” in their bio as fast as if they said #TeamFollowBack. Many of these gurus also have less than 1,000 tweets and even less followers. Who buys this pitch?!?

    And I still chuckle at the ones who will find me 1,000s of followers – and they have about 200 followers.

    I check the bios and timelines – and that includes ensuring there is some actual engagement there versus just posting links (even if those links are well-curated).

  • belllindsay JoeCardillo ClayMorgan Hey, I am *very* good at getting coffee

  • dbvickery I do the same….and for considering whether to work with someone or not a great question to ask is “what don’t you know but are thinking about?”
    I read a travelogue a while back where the author pointed out that you know you’re dealing with someone worth talking to when they can tell you what they don’t understand or don’t know about. He was referring to maps, but I think it’s still a good point.

  • JoeCardillo dbvickery Great point – I always say the most productive leaders are those who know their limitations and are willing to find resources to bridge those limitations.

    When it comes to consultants, the best ones will never know ALL the answers, but they will have a strategy on how they intend to GET those answers.

  • dbvickery JoeCardillo Amen. That last point is the difference between good and great.

  • guptaabhijit318

    This is a great topic. I appreciate your words. Thank you for sharing this post.

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