Expertise Without Experience: Enough is Enough

This afternoon I was browsing the website of a higher education professional association. One of the upcoming events was a webinar on how to effectively manage your institution’s social media presence. I hadn’t heard of the presenter, so I did a quick search on Twitter. I found a person who hasn’t tweeted since April and follows approximately 50 people. I can’t find the person on Facebook. There’s a profile on LinkedIn, but no recent status update. I’ll admit, I made a snap judgement. To check my perception, I tweeted the following question.

Do you think people who aren’t active in social media personally can effectively manage an organization’s social media presence?

I got a couple of responses that really made me laugh, and made me think.

Although social media management is not life and death, Brian and Tim are right. Would you visit a pool patrolled by a lifeguard who can’t swim? Learn to fly from a pilot who’s afraid of heights? Why then, would you pay to learn about social media management from someone who hasn’t demonstrated personal competence in social media?

I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m sticking with my instincts. I don’t think it’s possible to effectively manage an organization’s social media if you’re not participating in social media personally. There’s a culture and a language that you need to understand. It’s very hard to learn that culture when you’re tweeting behind a logo.

I looked into the institutional social media presence that this person manages. I found a Twitter account that’s linked to Facebook, a Facebook page littered with likes of its own content, and a QR code on the institutional homepage (it makes no sense to put a QR code online!). This presenter may be very nice and knowledgeable, but I would not pay for this webinar. I would, however, congratulate the presenter on landing a paying gig ahead of people who are eminently more qualified.

I would (and routinely do) recommend presentations or webinars presented by many of the people I’m sure are reading this blog. I’ve interacted with you for months, maybe even years, and I know you know your stuff. You’ve built up “street cred” online that a flashy bio can’t fake. People with access and connections who lack expertise should no longer be the ones teaching social media strategy to our colleagues.

I believe that the title of “expert” is not something you can bestow on yourself. You become an expert when others look to you for your expertise. Many of you reading this are experts, whether you realize it or not. Take your place at the table, and provide better training and inspiration than is currently being offered in a lot of pay-to-learn opportunities.

If you’re already contributing to quality training in higher education, how did you get your start? What was your first step? If you’re an expert without training opportunities, what’s holding you back? What questions do you have?

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11 Comments on “Expertise Without Experience: Enough is Enough

  1. Liz, I wholeheartedly agree with this post. You already know how I feel about fluency and experience when it comes to technology and “doing” the job and everything you said made complete sense. Thanks so much for writing it my friend 🙂

  2. I completely agree. You do need to have a personal presence within the social media sphere if you are going to build “expert” cred. Although I additionally think that it’s important to rip down the wall between the professional and the personal personas. I’m not saying that the branded institutional presence isn’t important but I think that having the customer deal with a person versus their organization or their organizationally branded account is sometimes more important. Having the mix of personal and professional activity within a single account is something that can be intimidating but I would rather pick a hosting services or take career advice or buy snow tires from somebody who is just being themselves online than somebody hiding behind a persona. Maybe these kinds of norms will be worked out over time as people get comfortable with new kinds of publicness.

  3. Excellent post, Liz! Unfortunately, I believe that many institutions tap employees on the shoulder who may be in a PR or marketing role who have little to no real understanding of how to use social media to its fullest extent. It then becomes a task rather than mediating interaction, engagement, excitement, and truly being part of a culture as you put it (which our students are definitely a part of!) Good luck on the Ph.D., and always let me know if you need any help.

  4. Yes yes yes! This perfectly encapsulates why I distrust some consultants and nearly all self-anointed experts in all kinds of areas. It’s especially bothersome when these claims of expertise gather momentum and previous (unfounded) claims are used to support new (unfounded) claims. It’s like building a giant house of cards and I can’t help but feel that we’re complicit when we’re too polite, embarrassed, or enthralled to ask tough questions that might upset the flimsy structure.

  5. Great post Liz!
    I have so many thoughts…I’ve been presenting forever…always new topics & new interests. I started by presenting with co-presenters who rocked both content & delivery-I learned so much from them & am so grateful.

    Some things I’ve learned…
    *Likeability trumps expertise- people invite & ask people they like, trust, & who will respect the presentation participants
    *Know your arena- are you instructing or influencing-big difference here in the depth and breadth of knowledge required
    *Choose complimentary co-presenters (different styles/appeal/perspectives)
    *Every speaking opportunity creates new opportunities & doors open if you deliver

    There are so many opportunities to speak – some paid/some comped registrations & travel/some to just share your knowledge. There are so many conference, institute & workshop planners who need someone to do “Social Media 101” while others who have been there done that and want something so much deeper. So many of you in the #sachat community have both the content knowledge and the skills to deliver these messages and can step forward. So to all of you reading…if you are interested in speaking(instructing or influencing) and not sure where you fit or want to get access to more opportunities I’m happy to assist. T

  6. Pingback: Me, an expert? No! « timstjohn

  7. I am late reading this, but also agree that in order to know of what one speaks, one must do! Too many people have tried to jump into social media without understanding the implications. Keep up the great work! Hope to see you at SXSW!

  8. Excellent post and great follow-up comments from others. How can someone present a topic well if they aren’t passionate about the topic, and if they’re not actually an active practitioner on said topic, how can they possibly find that passion?

  9. Thank you for saying what needs to be said! I would extend it to include an extreme distrust of people who call the,selves gurus, ninjas or blackbelts in anything related to social media.

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