One. People come up with cracks on self-proclaimed social media experts.

Two. Some influentials get emotional when people dismiss their talents.

Three. Then people laugh and bully and then they laugh some more.

Four. Soon, someone comes along explaining the word “expert”… duh.

Five. People loose themselves in whimsy meta discussions.

As the ball gets rolling, which it does at at least once every year, it follows a strict narrative that’s both easy to follow and to predict. But each and every time I wonder; aren’t people worried that someone out there with half a brain will think that they’re just plain stupid?

Probably not.

Everyone thinks they’re smart, everyone thinks that they’re opinions are not only important, but that they have merit and substance, too. If someone calls them out, well… then they have to be stupid, right?

Standard reptile brain conclusion.

It’s human nature.

I don’t mind all that much really, if nothing else it makes for valuable data that can be harvested and analysed for companies who wish to have their products and services landing well in this highly irrational landscape.

But it concerns me that so many people doesn’t seem to be the slightest bothered that they out themselves as complete buffoons.

No, I’m not taking sides in the “social media expert” debate. Both sides does on rare occasions present one or two substantial arguments. But mostly, they don’t.

Here’s a good analytical filter that you can use.

Distinguish between these three groups:

Social Media Pundits

Social Media Naturals

Social Media Experts 

All three groups can have a massive following online. All three can be so-called A-listers. And all three have truckloads of advice for you.

But the social media pundits have earned their following by talking. They are often very witty, opinionated and rhetorical and they do often bring a serious entertainment value to the scene. They’re drawn to current topics where there’s a lot of heated discussion going on.

The social media naturals are just great at online networking. The same way some people are great at public speaking or convincing on the phone, some has just discovered their preferred medium in social. They’re simply talented in using social media for themselves and it comes very easy for them.

The trait of social media experts is that they bring you value, and they listen to you. You follow them not because you feel that you should be best friends, nor because they’re funny as hell.

Experts are followed because they help people, expertly.

And here’s the problem:

People mistake social media pundits and social media naturals for social media experts. And both of these two groups love the attention, so instead of bringing any clarity to the discussion, they tend to add more wood to the fire just for the sake of it.

In short: Social media experts can be blamed for a lot of things, for sure. But we can’t take the heat for everything anyone with an online following is doing — or saying.

So, if you’re in the mood for throwing some stones, how about practicing some aim first?


  1. I dislike being labeled that too, since firstly, I think I’m a greenhorn when it comes to social and secondly, the people who actually do social media for a living is not of a substantial number in my country. My problem though is when I see obvious amateurs touting themselves as experts – a quick 5-minute discussion leaves much to be desired and one feels a little lost, career-wise.
    My solution is to spend more time with bona fide digital marketers – so far, I’ve found that these guys are social media gods and yet will never think of calling themselves “experts” on social.

    • @jsncruz I do the same. Sometimes I get a little discouraged, but then I make sure to hang out with people that know what they’re doing and then it suddenly feels a bit better to be in digital again! :)

  2. Well put. I Believe that a lot of the commotion comes from when individuals play more than one role i.e. naturals that become pundits or naturals that become experts and sometimes all three. Then it becomes really hard for their audience to relate in a predictable way. Much because the old dichotomy of personal vs professional is dismantled, I believe.
    An observation is that I’ve seen a lot of naturals become pundits and experts, but few the other way around. Maybe it’s really because there is something contra-intuitive in exposing oneself of more risk by increasing the exposure, when one have obtained a relatively sense of safety by a clear separation of roles. All the redundant “I tweet as myself” in Twitter bios suggests that it’s a hard rooted social habit.

    • @mattiasostmar Interesting, yeah I think you’re right. It often moves in just one direction.
      Thanks for the comment Mattias, did you see my earlier post on Kurzweil? Would love your take on it.

  3. Good post. Though I’ve never much cared for the title “Social Media Expert”. It doesn’t really mean anything at all and provides no clue as to what such a person’s offering would be. Business developer makes more sense. And if you’re a business developer you sure as hell better now something about social media. So if you aren’t prepared to call yourself a business developer, you’re probably not yet an expert :)

    • @axbom Yeah, I’ve never used that title for myself either. It’s pretty pointless. I’d rather call myself an expert in digital marketing, because marketing is something one actually can do. However, if I’m presented as a social media expert I rarely argue, because like… I write a blog about social and I work primarily in social day in and day out. But as you say, it says nothing about what I actually do! :)

    • @axbom I agree that “expert” is a much wider category than what I understand as both naturals and pundits. I spoke to Ulrika just the other day about writing about different types of expertise/know-how in social media and then this post surfaced… From a business perspective I can at least differ between the market side and the technology side where there are different perspectives on social media and Internet. And, maybe, research or intelligence. They all have the same ends though, as I Think you point out.

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