How to not get fooled by a social media expert con artist

14 May

I live in Germany.

We are not exactly known for being a social media friendly country.

Some rightfully call us Blurmany, since our not-so-tech-savvy government forced Google into pixelating Street View images on home owners’ requests.

Also, we usually come a bit late to the Web 2.0 game, while letting Silicon Valley take the lead.

Lately, I noticed a disturbing trend in the timelines of my various social media outlets: More and more German Social Media Experts pop up out of nowhere.

While I strongly believe that given the pretty short history of the Open Social Web, nobody really qualifies to hold an “expert” title just yet, it’s interesting to see how many folks are bluntly trying to jump on the bandwagon.

Sure, there’s money to be made. Companies strive to invest their dollars into seemingly new holy grails. Advisers have been living from riding on trends for decades. Hence the Social Media Expert boom.

Fortunately, there’s one subtle difference this time.

Social Media is largely driven by transparency and the public availability of data. It’s way easier to verify, whether somebody trying to teach you, actually has a track record in the art of social media or just pretends.

In this article, I try to give some by no means expert tips, that hopefully help you to unmask your next Social Media Expert con artist. For the sake of brevity, I call them SMECAs for the remainder of the post.

1. Check out whether your SMECA believes Social Media equals Facebook

Oddly enough, I found many SMECAs confusing social media with just Facebook.

Strictly speaking, Facebook isn’t even a media outlet. It’s the largest social network in the world. It might turn out to be a great source for learning about behavioral targeting. And finding out whether people actually want targeted ads and offers. Early studies show, they might not!

But Facebook is not the only important player in the game.

So, if you find a SMECA talking 99% of his time about just Facebook, ask him about his experience on Twitter, Quora, Foursquare, Buzz, Digg, StumbleUpon, Amplify and others. While you’re doing so, ask for links to his profiles on these services.

If it turns out he’s not present over there, he might be an avid Facebook user, but unfortunately doesn’t have a clue about Social Media.

2. Check out your SMECA’s history

Things on the web move fast.

I’ve seen SMECAs being almost inactive on Facebook and Twitter for years and literally becoming hyper active when they wanted to get into the Social Media Expert business.

Now, you don’t become social overnight.

Social is all about building and maintaining relationships. It’s about long-term commitments and leveraging valuable networks. It takes time.

Unfortunately, Facebook does not provide an overview about a users activity over time. Try this: Visit the profile of your SMECA and switch to her or his Wall. Click on the little link named “Older posts” at the bottom of the News Feed. Click again and again. You’re moving back in time within the News Feed.

If you reach the beginning of his social media lifeline within less than 20 clicks, he’s a newbie. And maybe can learn about Social Media from you. But should never pretend being able to consult. We also don’t trust our businesses to first-graders.

Also, if you recognize that large parts of the older timeline comprise just so called mini-activities but at a certain point in the not so recent history, you see a sudden spike in daily posts – mostly sharing links from Washington Post and the likes – you likely talk to somebody who just got into the game. As he likely missed the impact of Social media for months and years, how good are the odds, he can help you develop a successful strategy?

Thanks got, it’s not easy to pretend a long standing history in Social Media. Even if hiring an expert PR person for the topic, aggressively pushing out messages on ones behalf, Twitter and Facebook timestamp every move. If you haven’t been part of the Social Web for long, this will remain pretty obvious.

3. Check out whether your SMECA actively participates in the Social Web

I’ve said this before: If your SMECA just lives on Facebook, drop him immediately.

Ask for a link to his Twitter profile. Check his followers, not only the total number but also who is following him. Do you find familiar experts like @scobleizer and @chrismessina following back your expert? These folks usually don’t easily follow everybody. Also, check the Twitter lists your SMECA is on.

While the total number of Twitter followers is not a straight indicator for Social Media expertise, in Germany if you’re having less than 1.500 followers, this usually means, you’re watching the game, but not driving it. Simply speaking, the expert voice you’re having doesn’t seem to attract a great enough entourage.

If your SMECA – for whatever weird reason he might give – is not present on Twitter or inactive, drop him immediately. He’s gotta go back to school.

The next thing you might want to check, is her or his blog.

The Social Web is one of the hottest topics in tech these days. Blogs still play a vital role. In fact, they are the most linked-to content sources on Social Networks. Real Social Media Experts usually have a lot to say. And they are eagerly sharing their thoughts. Not just by quoting Washington Post, but by voicing their own ideas.

Thus, almost every Social Media Experts maintains a personal blog.

If your SMECA states, content creation is not his specialty, or hides behind a huge multi-author company blog, invite him for dinner, but don’t ask for advice.

This post got longer than initially planned. I hope the next time, a Social Media Expert approaches you, you’re prepared to ask some key questions.

What’s your experience? Have you seen folks in your network trying to participate from the hype, lately? Do you have anything, I might want to add to this list? Feel free to voice yourself in the comments!

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© Copyright 2017 by Ralf Rottmann.