Is your social media expert really an expert?

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Co-written by Peter Shankman and Sarah Evans

There’s a new phenomena of people declaring themselves social media experts. We’ve actually heard from firms who pushed someone to become their resident social media expert because the person was on Facebook. There is no endorsement or accreditation to set apart legitimate industry leaders from bandwagon opportunists.

Social media is a hot topic. We get it. And we don’t want to see people getting scammed by self-touting experts ready to make a quick buck.There are very few people who could, or should in all honesty, be called social media experts. We’re sharing this list with our networks, including those not yet involved in the social media world to give them a helpful guide.

Ways to tell your Social Media “Expert” Might Not Be An “Expert” After All

1. They call themselves an evangelist, guru or expert, and no one else does.

2. They use “expert” or “evangelist” or “guru” or our personal favorite, “influencer” as any of their user names.

3. They “discovered” social media in the last six to 16 months, and there’s nothing online from them in the social media space prior to that. (Remember – Google is your friend.)

4. All of a firm or agency’s “social media strategists” come from traditional PR or Marketing agencies.

5. Everything they learned about social media they learned by reading blog posts (i.e. no application). You can learn a ton about sex from reading Kinsey’s manuals, but I’d still rather be with someone who has some practical experience.

6. They haven’t done anything of significance using social media (i.e. demonstrating they know how to apply the tools). Again, see point on Kinsey.

7. They keep shouting about “widgets.” (Or worse, they’re still talking about push marketing.)

8. Their resume doesn’t include anything that has to do with social media (i.e. no results using social media). And no, having a Twitter account doesn’t cut it.

9. Their sound bites eerily resemble what you just heard from Chris Brogan and Brian Solis. And quite frankly, following them and a few others (including Sarah) can usually answer 95% of your social media questions to begin with.

10. Their firm has added social media as an additional service (as opposed to integrating it into a comprehensive PR approach). If they say “And we’ll do Facebook and Twitter!” beware.

11. Any use of the term “MySpace” unless you’re only targeting 14-year-old males, or independent bands.

12. Their networks don’t reflect that they are connected. (You should probably research them before hiring them. If their blog hasn’t been updated since 2004 yet they tweet every time they take a slurp of Yogurt, something’s up.)

13. When you Google them, it’s difficult to find them. If they don’t show up on the first page of Google, how are they going to get you up there?

14. They never talk to you about free ways to monitor your online presence (like Google alerts and Twitter search). Perhaps they’re afraid you can do it yourself?

15. They don’t maintain an active blog (at least two posts every month).

16. Any case studies they present only involve very big companies with very big budgets

17. Their lead social media strategist is “this kid we picked up after his internship ended.”

18. When they talk strategy, there is no approach that encompasses a discussion about: communications, marketing, advertising, business development, internal communications and/or customer service.

19. They see “Social Media” as a replacement for customer service, when in fact, only good customer service propels positive social media.

20. They want to charge you to get you signed up on social media sites (yuck).

21. There’s a pay structure that includes a pay-per-post model. Run very far away, very fast.

22. The strategy they provide you primarily includes a Twitter profile and a Facebook fan page.

23. Measurement to them means building up lots of followers and fans.

24. After you work with them you’re just as confused as when you started.

25. They’ve never used Help a Reporter Out (added by Sarah, not Peter). To Sarah’s point, they’ve also not suggested any of the wonderful free services out there before they recommend paying.

This is our list. We’re not saying you have to agree or disagree, just that people acknowledge everyone who calls themselves an expert, isn’t. The list doesn’t end here, either. Share your own “red flags” to identifying social media “expert” posers.

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