Sunday, May 17, 2009

Social Media expertise is hard to find

Beware of people claiming to be experts and offering dubious training

It seems a day doesn’t go by when there isn’t an email solicitation, a tweet or a Facebook status update offering the services of “a Social Media expert,” “a Social media guru” or “a Social Media marketing authority.” But who are these people?

With the notable exception of a few universities and some fairly new institutes and academies there is not a lot of professional teaching of Social Media going on. So how is a business or individual to decide which “expert” to hire?

In Microgeist’s excellent blog post What a Social Media Expert Should Be explains that a Social Media Expert, SME, will likely need to be well-versed in (among other things) the wide range of Social Media tools, the correct way to use each of these tools, a broad knowledge of trends in the rapidly changing world of SM and be able to offer a wide variety of options for any given client.

But there is more to consider … and it really is more about the SME’s approach to Social Media.

A flyer I recently saw promised that in less than a day a particular seminar would teach participants how to “gain the competitive edge in Social Media” and “position yourself as an expert.” It goes on to say that in just a few hours seminar participants will learn to “leverage the power of Social Media marketing to grow your business.”

This seems counterintuitive because Social Media is about:

· Being social, not being a marketer or a salesperson.

· Helping others, not gaining a competitive edge (presumably at the expense of someone else – a decidedly anti-social approach)

· Growing your relationships, not growing your own self-interest (business and otherwise).

Yes, Social Media is a powerful new tool for connecting with others. And it will by its nature allow relationships to sometimes lead to commerce. But when someone offers a seminar lasting a few hours and promises to make you an expert and show you the “secret” of using Social Media to grow a business … be careful.

Many of these people are well-intentioned, but some are just in it to make money and grow their reputations. Before spending your hard-earned cash here are

5 Questions to Ask Any Prospective Teacher of Social Media:

1. What are your credentials to teach Social Media?

2. How long have you been in Social Media? (And where can I find you in Social Media – which platforms?)

3. How successful have your past seminar participants been?

4. Among past students who recommends you and where can I contact them?

5. What is the potential for follow up once the course/seminar is over? (Will the instructor be available for further consultation?)

An unsatisfactory answer to any of these questions should be your first red flag that you are dealing with someone who wants your money more than your Social Media success.

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