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So You Want to be a Social Media Expert?

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Okay – here is the thing. Everyone is complaining about how many social media experts are popping up these days. I agree. It is indeed a little freaky to me when people who came to hear me speak two months ago and asked “what is tweeter?” are now social media experts on Twitter (pronounced correctly this time). I remember playing on Twitter when it was first released. There were like 3000 of us. This is pre-Oprah and pre-Kutcher of course. But, you know what? Just because we came early to the party doesn’t mean that the party is now over. But – it does mean you have to work harder!

One of the reasons it was easy for some of us earlier players to establish our expertise and presence in the field was because well, we were IT! When 10 people are talking about social media in the world – they are all experts. When 10,000 start proclaiming overnight expertise, it gets tougher.

So, here is what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to sit here and look down on the newcomers. 80% of them MAY just be jumping on board because they think its the “next hot thing.” But, I do believe, that at LEAST 20% are genuinely interested in helping others get social media and want to be part of a growing industry. As I heard at least a dozen times when we were interviewing candidates – “I want to work for you guys because this is the future.” Fair enough.

What I DO want to do is give those who are genuinely interested in social media a few pointers in getting started.

• Be Honest. If you’ve recently started using social media, be honest about it. Hey, in all fairness, it is a new field and nobody has it all figured out. You don’t get bonus points for pretending to have been at it for a while.

• Practice what you Preach – In some fields you don’t have to walk the walk to talk the talk. This isn’t that field. Social media happens in the trenches.

• Don’t Rely on Shortcuts – A social media certification doesn’t make you an expert. It may teach you a few things, but there are no shortcuts in this industry. I love what Chris recently wrote about making hard work sexy.

• Train Yourself – If you are determined to make it in the field, you will have to train yourself. Here are the books you MUST read (this is just to begin with).: Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust , Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day , The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly , The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue  (I am including my book not out of a sense of vanity – but because a lot of newcomers to the social media field have shared with me that they found it valuable). Conferences to Attend: Blog World and New Media Expo and SXSW Interactive.

• Learn from Others – Let’s face it. There is always someone out there who knows more than we do. Or, people who have a different take than us. Learn from them! Follow their blogs, interact with them on social media sites, go listen to them speak if you get the chance. When you do learn something from them and decide to share it – just be sure to give them credit.

• Convey the RIGHT information – It’s important that you deliver the right information to your clients. It’s a big responsibility. If you aren’t sure about something, double check and then tell them. Tell them what social media can’t do. Tell them that social media is a long term strategy and it does come LAST. Remember, you aren’t just helping your clients, you are representing the industry as a whole.

• Find your Niche – Social media used to be a niche within online marketing. It is now big enough to have its own sub niches. You may be new to social media, but what are you an old hat at? Perhaps you come from the world of retail. Focus on how social media can best benefit retailers. Perhaps you come from a family of dentists and know their world inside out. Focus on helping dentists understand social media.
The truth is that there is ALWAYS space in any industry for newcomers – well, talented and hardworking newcomers anyway.

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