So, Who Died and Made You An Expert?
As I do a few times a year, I'm taking off my weight loss hat today and putting on my business owner hat to write about one of my pet peeves (hey, we all have a few, eh?): The self-anointed expert. And, boy oh boy . . . there sure are a lot of ‘em, especially when it comes to social media.
In her post, Rise of The Instant Expert: 16 Tell-Tale Signs, Andrea Luquesi-Scott, nails it when she writes:
Anyone can and does claim that they are the expert on just about anything, especially with the impactful influence of social media.
In his post, How You Become Expert, when Josh Hoffman says:
Whether or not I’m an expert is up for you to decide, but I can tell you that I know more about social media than everyone else in this room.
. . . he conveys the point which I agree with 100%: People will perceive you as an expert if you know more about a subject, and if you have more experience with it, than most other people. No need to crown yourself as an expert (especially when you're not).
One of the best articles I ever read on this subject is from the 2007 Harvard Business Review, and I encourage everyone to read it: The Making of An Expert. The authors open with a recounting of how in 1976 an English-owned wine shop in Paris organized a blind tasting in which nine French wine experts rated French and California wines—ten whites and ten reds. The results shocked the wine world: California wines received the highest scores from the panel. Even more surprising was the fact that, during the tasting. the experts often mistook the American wines for French wines and vice versa.
Two assumptions were challenged that day. The first was the hitherto unquestioned superiority of French wines over American ones. But it was the challenge to the second—the assumption that the judges genuinely possessed elite knowledge of wine—that was more interesting and revolutionary. The tasting suggested that the alleged wine experts were no more accurate in distinguishing wines under blind test conditions than regular wine drinkers—a fact later confirmed by laboratory tests conducted by the authors.
Fast forward to today.
The word ‘expert’ is bandied about way too often in all areas but, and as I said above, more so when it comes to social media. I see that self-attribution a lot because I constantly read on that subject to keep up with all the dynamics of the ever-changing social media landscape so I can apply them to my business and share my continuing education with my colleagues. So, from a social media layman’s small business owner perspective, it is quite obvious that calling oneself a social media expert and actually being one are two very different things.
Simply having an opinion, and/or voicing it loudly and/or repeatedly, doesn’t make a person an expert. If you Google ‘Twitter experts,’ you’ll get almost 50,000 results. Want to bet that if you go to the Twitter feeds of most of those ‘experts’ you’ll see no recent tweets? Or you'll see more re-tweets than original content being tweeted? In April, I did a LinkedIn search for “LinkedIn expert, NJ” because I was looking for a speaker on that subject for an event I was hosting in May. I don’t recall how many names came up, but I definitely recall that when visiting the profiles of so many of them, I was disappointed to see that these so-called ‘experts’ had no recent activity on LinkedIn and/or had no long-form published posts on LinkedIn. Experts? I think not . . . no matter how high of a social media pedestal they put themselves on.
Calling oneself an expert doesn’t make you one. Being an expert is defined not by one’s opinion of him/herself, but by the opinions and perceptions of their peers, as well as when people (peers or not) start turning to you for advice. I, for example, think of Josh Hoffman as a social media expert, because it’s obvious to me that he knows more about his industry and business than the majority of his peers here on LinkedIn. He also practices what he preaches: he consistently touts all the benefits of the various aspects and platforms of social media, he tries new things and he is actively engaged on all the social networks.
I have had that ‘expert’ tag attributed to me over the years, and I cringe when I hear it. I thank people for giving me that great compliment, but assure them that I am ‘only’ exceedingly experienced in and passionate about what I do, I practice what I preach to set the example for my clients, and I go above and beyond to service them and to operate my business. Nothing more . . . and that’s OK with me.
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