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9 Points on Why I’m Not a Social Media Expert

Bad social media advice about experts

Over at Chris Kieff’s blog today, there’s a post on how to evaluate a social media expert in 9 ways.

It offers tips on how to spot if your social media person is an expert or not, and uses the likes of Twitter lists, Google, Klout and Facebook fans to determine your expertise.

I’ve seen Chris write some good stuff before but this post is off in so many ways. I left my take on his post in the comments, and it’s repeated here:


For the most part, your stuff is usually good, but you missed the ball game completely on this one.

To your points:

1. Google. I can use blackhat SEO (I don’t) to not only help me own Google, but ruin the reputations of my competitor “experts” into the bargain. Scratch this one from the list.

2. Twitter followers must be over 2,000. Awesome – I’ll get Justin Bieber to market my company today – do you have his number? Or, I’ll get TwitterAdder to get me over the magic number and then I’ll be good to go (once I finish high school, obviously, unless I can get a note from my mum).

3. Twitter Lists. This can be useful, but again, it depends on what you’re being listed for. If I’m on 100+ lists, but 25 are for my Batman comics, then I’m not really going to be much good, am I?

4. Klout score of 30+. There’s so much wrong with basing a reputation on an automated measurement tool that I’ll just leave it at that.

5. Facebook friends of 1000+. Curious – how do my college friends, ex-lovers that hate me but haven’t removed me from their friends, my baker and the newspaper delivery boy that are part of my Facebook friends make me an expert in social media? Some of my ex-girlfriends would say I’m anything BUT social…

6. LinkedIn network of 500+. Have you worked with each of these 500+? Have you made their business more successful? If you’re only connected with them because you have LinkedIn’s icon on your blog’s sidebar and you’ve never really connected otherwise, then they’re faux connections.

7. Facebook fan page 250+ Likes. I can buy 1,000 fans for $197 from uSocial – does that make me an expert at social media, or an expert at gaming the system?

8. An active blog with active comments. Don’t disagree too much here, except don’t get caught up in the comments game. Two words – Seth Godin.

9. Profiles on every other site. Um…. yikes! Where’s the strategy in this? Where’s the benefit? Where’s the time management and being focused on where you need to be? Say you set up on 100 networks, have a basic profile, then are only active on 5. The other 95 are now dead, but anyone stopping by and seeing you haven’t updated since 2009 will then ask, why should I trust this guy with my social media needs?

I can see this comment as coming across as snarky, and to be fair, it probably is. Because I care about things being done right, and sorry, but your advice in this post isn’t.

Just my four cents.

Snarky? Like I say in the comment, probably, but stuff like this really pisses me off and devalues everything good people do. You know, the ones making sense of everything for their clients and bringing them success?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just getting old and bitter.

image: notsogoodphotography

Join The Conversation

  • Sep 27 Posted 5 years ago Lucie Battaini (not verified)

    Thanks Danny,

    Your post was really valid. It is just not about numbers, basically just because a particular social media site records a number of activities, doesnt mean that the person is an expert of sorts. I am surprised I havent come across a blog like this before. Anyway, kudos mate!

  • Dec 20 Posted 6 years ago shane (not verified)

    Great post, Danny. I concur with Tia's comments, above. I've not had time to gain my own klout and such - I'm too busy being part of the team of my clients and working on them. Numbers are one thing, but I agree, common sense is key. The companies I work with could very well do what I do - I don't deny that - I just help take this piece of the marketing pie off their plate, allow them to focus on running the rest of their business. Thanks for the post. Keep them coming. 

  • Nov 29 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Hey there Tia,

    I think this comment of yours sums it up perfectly:

    If I were a small business owner looking for someone to help me grow my business, I would choose someone with common sense, an aptitude for technology, a sense of what the trends are, and with a solid strategy for growing my business.

    Like you say, numbers related to success trump numbers related to showing off any time.

  • Nov 26 Posted 6 years ago Tia Peterson | ... (not verified)

    You make some great points, Danny.

    I think we focus way too much on tools and not enough on results from those tools. Spending all day and night optimizing a Twitter experience, or gaining all of the SEO expertise in the world, doesn't matter if the business is still dying.

    Many successful marketing consultants don't necessarily have massive followings because that takes a long time, and I for one am too busy working to take the time to build and build and build my followings. And like you said, followers and fans can be bought and often are.

    Anyway, well said. If I were a small business owner looking for someone to help me grow my business, I would choose someone with common sense, an aptitude for technology, a sense of what the trends are, and with a solid strategy for growing my business.

    The notion of a social media expert is hype, good for selling books and increasing subscriber lists.

    That's my four sense!


  • Nov 26 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    I like the tribal scars option ;-)

    Personally, I'll always go for results, pure and simple. Have you helped clients in my industry? How did you do it? What obstacles did you face? How did you overcome them? How will you make my approach different for my niche customers? And so on.

    Give me field expertise over war-room tactics any day. It's easy to say one thing from behind a protected buffer of numbers (war room) - it's harder to make these tactics work in battle (clients versus competitors) when the battlefield (customers) keep changing where they are.

  • Nov 25 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Ha, now I want to know more about Pellini! :)

    I guess you could possibly blame the likes of IZEA and Klout for making popularity as attractive to advertisers as proper influence (you know, the type where you actually know what you're talking about).

    Here's hoping it doesn't get too crazy...

  • Nov 25 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Thanks Annie :)

    Agreed, we all have levels of expertise - why not concentrate on that and make that work for you, as opposed to numbers that can be artifically inflated?

    Sure, numbers might get you brand awareness, but if they're not the right kind of numbers (eyeballs), do they really matter anyway?

    Cheers again!

  • Nov 25 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Great point, Bob. Everyone has differing levels of expertise - it's why we use outsourced contractors when client projects need them.

    Why don't we celebrate our levels as opposed to trying to inflate what counts? All a client wants is the best person/company for a given project - numbers don't necessarily mean anything there, unless it's years worth of experience...

    Cheers for your thoughts, sir!

  • Nov 25 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Agree with the "stop bashing" from a personal viewpoint - I actually wrote a post on that over at my own blog.

    However, I still feel we should challenge ideas we think are wrong, especially in the case of Chris's post that could lead to a lot of businesses being taken for a ride. I'm all for learning and developing, but not when it comes to somene's livelihood.

  • Nov 25 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Ha, awesome analogy Stacy - not a lot to add to that :)

  • Nov 25 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Exactly, Chris.

    Anyone looking to use any platform (social media, direct mail, PR, etc) needs to first understand what the client goal is. They then need to identify which platform will be right, and map out a realistic timescale and roadmap of what's working, what's not, what returns are expected, what losses for what gains, etc.

    Knowing where your strength will be is a much more solid approach than hoping strength in numbers will overcome.

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts, much appreciated.

  • Nov 25 Posted 6 years ago Chris Deary (not verified)

    Totally agree with this post, particularly the bit about volume of followers/friends. I'd be much more interested in what a social media expert has achieved on behalf of other companies/organisations etc rather than their own personal accounts. Specifically I'd want to know what the goals of those organisations were and how the 'expert' interpreted them, then designed and implented strategies to achieve them.

    Sure, if someone has no profile on Facebook, that would raise a question mark, but I wouldn't care whether they had 30 or 3,000 friends. In fact, if anything, if someone has only 30 friends on the basis that they've analysed the platform and decided that having limited friends is how they want to use it, that to me shows better understanding and knowledge of social media than someone who simply friends everyone they've ever shared a Tube carriage with.

  • Nov 25 Posted 6 years ago Stacy (not verified)

    Is there really such a thing as "social media expert".? Just because you are good at finger painting doesn't make you Picasso.

  • Nov 25 Posted 6 years ago Social Boy (not verified)

    Hi Danny, I agree with your article. The problem with Cliff's article is that it gives the run down on the opposite. As with any new tool medium, people have to start somewhere. Some become experts quickly while others drag on. The skill base of an expert will not be 10/10 in all areas, everyone is learning and experimenting... 

    Its the understanding of how the networks can be used to enhance the brand, getting customers to engage with them and for them to engage with the customers. Having a window for interaction is the 1st stage, its better to have someone who can do this 1st stage of the setup. Many businesses have no idea where to start or how to start.

    One thing we need is to stop bashing each other, lets allow the markets to flush out whats good and whats bad. Everyone expert or guru needs that space to learn and develop...

    I'm new and learning... with that list I'd never get a job or a client... :-( as i don't have such high number of fans/followers, or the time to link to more than 4 networks....

  • BobSchecter's picture
    Nov 24 Posted 6 years ago BobSchecter

    Well said Danny.  In every industry, those without real skills attempt to fall back on credentials.  After all, if one can claim a certain level of success, even if they themselves have set the bar, there is the perception of expertise.  And to the unknowing, perception is reality. When it comes to social media, some are better than others, and some simply have more time than others.  The giants of social media are but a myth that you have deftly busted.  Thanks.

  • AnnieInfinite's picture
    Nov 24 Posted 6 years ago AnnieInfinite

    Danny I would have to agree with you on all point and add one, I am not sure if there is such a thing as a social media expert!

    Social Media being such an evolving platform that no-one is really an expert! there are however some who know how to play with it well, to use the tools adeptly and to keep up with what's happening and these are the people to watch for.

    I am not sure at all that there is any way to measure a social media mavens authority other than in conversions for his or her clients services and/or product in the marketplace as you so rightly point out followers/friends/likers are not necessarily listeners or buyers and this arbitrary measurement is no guarantee that they are successful or that you ought to hire them to take on your social media.

    Perhaps if brand awareness is your only outcome, but for most businesses this is only the first outcome.

    BTW- great post!

  • Nov 24 Posted 6 years ago Chris (@cniermann) (not verified)

    I remember reading Chris' blog and getting angrier than Nebraska football coach Bo Pellini on the sideline, thinking, "like, what man?"

    A week later I see this response on Twitter and all I have to say is "thank you" - for putting into words, my exact thoughts at the time.  Numbers of fans, friends, followers and lists?  Your score on Klout?  Skewered metrics?  When did social media become a popularity contest?  An "expert" in social media makes it work for whatever ways other want it to work for them, IMO

    Thanks again!

  • Nov 24 Posted 6 years ago Erik Deckers (not verified)


    When you say "skewed metric and inconsequential numbers to portray yourself as an expert," I agree with that completely. I know people who have 40,000 followers on Twitter, but I know way more about it, AND I get more engagement than they ever will.

    Big numbers don't mean expertise. But conversely, very small numbers say to me, "I don't know enough about what I'm talking about to actually put it to work myself." Someone who has 100 followers on Twitter probably won't be able to teach me as much (there may be exceptions), any more than the person with 40,000 followers and 3 months worth of tweets.

    I think we need to find a happy medium of engagement, followers/following, RTs, and reach. Klout seems to be the closest to finding that, and they even agree that they're not quite there yet.

    But I think this is an interesting discussion: what DOES constitute an expert, or at least someone with above average proficiency at social media? You can always game numbers, and you can even get lucky with clients and your own ROI. So what is it, number of books written? Income earned from giving talks? Scores on Farmville?

    Personally, I think it should be defined by numbers of tribal scars, but I haven't had caffeine in a while.

  • Nov 22 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    I agree, Erik - nothing wrong in being proud of your accomplishments and using that to help you win new clients. But this post isn't about that - it's about using skewed metrics and inconsequential numbers to portray yourself as an expert, or someone with a certain amount of expertise in a niche. Big difference.

    FWIW, I've seen a ton of people that don't need to show off with numbers or claims win clients and projects. Humility can work, especially when tied with previous results and success.

  • Nov 22 Posted 6 years ago Erik Deckers (not verified)

    I think the false humility, "aw-shucks-ma'am-I'm-not-really-an-expert" attitude is only going to hurt this industry. As big companies and large corporations are starting to embrace social media, they don't want to screw around with people who say "there's no such thing as a social media expert." They want someone who can step up and say, "damn right, I am." They don't want people who misquote the Malcolm Gladwell "10,000 hour rule." They don't want to know the inside baseball bickerings of social media experts vs. gurus vs. ninjas vs. superheroes. They want experts who know their stuff and aren't afraid to say so.

    Any other discussion is disingenuous at best. A few weeks ago, I wrote about a company in Washington DC that is looking for a really-and-for-true social media expert (, and they won't screw around with anything less.

    I think we need to put this discussion to rest because the people who are going to suceed are the ones who can look the big corporations in the eye, and say "yes, I'm an expert. And that's why I'm worth so much." The "I'm not an expert" people can keep working at Starbucks. As long as we're still talking about it, we won't get the credibility we deserve from the most important people: companies who have a budget to start doing social media.

  • Nov 22 Posted 6 years ago Misty Funk (not verified)

    "Some of my ex-girlfriends would say I’m anything BUT social…" LOL!  You must be doing something right!  ;)

  • Nov 20 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Hey there Allen,


    That's a fair point, and I agree, I was snarky. Yes, it has to do with passion, but it also has to do with the amount of SME's that I've spoken with that have been burned by this kind of advice. Business owners are looking for solid advice and proper help - I didn't feel Chris's post offered either.


    But, agree on expansion - follow-up post to come. :)

  • Nov 20 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Agree, mate. The original post seemed to be more on what you're good at (getting numbers) as opposed to what you're good at for clients (getting them numbers, as in financially). Hey ho...

  • Nov 20 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    If you compare it to the armed forces, Mike, you could say it's the covert ops guys that get the results, and often lay the path for any success that follows. Not too different from business - though it's nice not to come under fire from real bullets, just professional ones ;-)

  • Nov 20 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)


  • Nov 20 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Sure, you could use numbers to say you must know your stuff. But if I buy an abacus does that make me a Chartered Accountant? ;-)

  • Nov 20 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Cheers, sir, appreciate the compliment. Agree, mate - all numbers (raw numbers) tell you is a figure you can compare to another one. It doesn't tell you the story behind the numbers, just the layer cake that are the numbers. Which doesn't tell you much at all...

  • Nov 20 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Gretkzy was awesome! As for a good social media coach, be open to correction. You're there to teach, obviously, but someone might have foung a great use for a network or platform that you hadn't even thought of. So be the student as well as the teacher.

  • Nov 20 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Hey there miss :)


    Thanks for the compliment (and it is, coming from your good self). I was told I went a little over the top in my response. Maybe I did - but would I change it? No. For exactly the reason that I read and listen to people like you - honesty. Chris may have felt he was being honest in his post - I felt it encouraged the less-than-honest marketers to take advantage of those who need this kind of help the most.


    And one we go... ;-)

  • Nov 20 Posted 6 years ago Shelly Kramer (not verified)

    When you read a post and there's nothing left to add - because it's so great - it's good and bad. I feel kind of lame saying "brilliant" or "spot on" or "word!" ... but that's all I've got. You are 100% correct, Danny. And the the world we live in, this kind of advice could not be more off the mark.

    Well done, my friend.

    Shelly Kramer, @shellykramer

  • Nov 19 Posted 6 years ago Mike Handy (not verified)

    Like a good publicist some of the best guys in this field will hangout under the radar... They dont want to be known by everyone, they want their clients to be known. I personally want to be known (you can find me on twitter @mhandy1) ... but thats because I like speaking and I like networking.  I know of at least a few really really excellent minds that don't! They don't want to be approached while having coffee at the local shop for free tips, they don't have the time to tweet because its not their mission. 

    If you really want to know how good someone is look at what they have done for their clients/ what they are telling you does it logically flow! 

  • Nov 19 Posted 6 years ago Richard A Marti Jr (not verified)

    The thing that jumped out at me was that these measurements, even if they were a measurement of the social media consultants reach, they have nothing to do with the people the client needs to connect with. Isn't is about the client and improving their communications with their clients/suppliers/industry partners etc?

  • Nov 19 Posted 6 years ago Allen Mireles (not verified)

    I agree that Chris' posts are generally very good and was a bit surprised to read this one, which struck me as being somewhat simplistic and missing some important points. To be fair, I think I understand what Chris was trying to convey. For companies new to social media, and unsure of how to judge the calibre of the consultant they may choose to work with, it can be confusing to know what to look for. My sense of Chris' post was that he was trying to provide some simple guidelines to start with.

    However, in my opinion he missed the mark on several, as you have pointed out. I agree with Mindie's comment about being to show strategies with successful outcomes. It's important that a social media consultant have a strong online presence and be able to demonstrate his or her solid understanding of the tools and how they can help a business achieve its objectives. It's also helpful to have a social media consultant who has experience in more than using the current social media toolset. Being able to understand the prospective client's industry, to help the client identify the objectives that social media will help achieve, to create a strategy that integrates well with the existing marketing plan and offline campaigns--these are all important qualifications.

    I understand and appreciate your passion for doing authentic and valuable work in the social media space. It's an admirable quality and your work is impressive. I'm less sure, however, that you couldn't have commented on Chris' post and written a post of your own that added to and corrected what he was trying to express--with less snarkny-ness. 

    So there you have it. My two cents.

  • Nov 19 Posted 6 years ago LauraJ (not verified)

    I agree with you 100%.  The real question to ask any specialist or "expert" is what their background is and how they have been successful for their clients.  If your "expert" doesn't have a background in marketing/advertising they're probably going to fail miserably at social media or any other type of online marketing.  

    Thanks for setting Chris straight.  

  • Nov 19 Posted 6 years ago Anonymous (not verified)

    So true. Results speak louder than likes or fans. The way you just examine the "expert," is how look at the "influencer."

  • Nov 19 Posted 6 years ago DannyBrown (not verified)

    Hi Mindie,

    I agree, and the comments in the original post reflect that strategy is key. I've written tons on using strategy:

    These are just two examples. The reason I don't mention it too much in this post is that I just wanted to offer a counter as to why these examples are pretty much bunkum.

    I agree with you that lists can count when cultivated properly. But too many have bought numbers to make these lists less important than they could be, which is a shame.

  • Nov 19 Posted 6 years ago Mindie Burgoyne (not verified)

    Both you and Chris make some good points, but I think you missed the most important point in evaluating a social media expert ---> Succes with a strategy.  Your social media expert should be able to demonstrate to you that he or she has seen results, particularly revenue through being successful with social media.  I'd ask, "What do you have in your life that is measurable because you've entered into social media practices?"   And the expert shouldn't simply point to speaking engagements or writing assignments.  He or she should be able to show the network stream.

    Secondly, don't know the capability of getting facebook friends and fans (#5,#7).  While you are correct - that we can "collect" friends and fans that mean nothing - the friend list, when carefully built and the fan base when thoughtfully built can be an indication of success.  These are powerful tools that can make a huge difference.

    The results of using social media should weigh heavily (along with the points both you and Chris shared) in determining expert status.

  • Nov 19 Posted 6 years ago The SocialPilot (not verified)

    Well put Danny!

    The power in a social media coach depends on how they can articulate or educate others on the "art of interaction".  The social media landscape (technology) is changing so fast people need to know the fundamentals of online interaction instead of just growing friends and getting lots of likes.

    Wayne Gretzky was one of the best hockey players in the world yet he never had the hardest shot, the most accurate shot, or was the fastest skater... then how was he so good, he always went where the puck was going before it got there.

    Make sure your social media coach has a nack for "positioning" rather than strategies that strictly involve growing your network numbers.

    Danny what do you think makes a good social media coach?

    Take care


  • Nov 18 Posted 6 years ago Brent Pohlman (not verified)


    This post is absolutely right on!!   Too many people are focused on these type of figures/ratings/numbers.  What does it mean? How real are you? Do you ever talk to anyone or are you too busy watching numbers go up. You are so right on here. The best think I like about you and your posts are that you are real.  If I question one of your posts, you give me your side of the story..  I hope more people read this post. This might be one of the best posts you have ever written.



  • Nov 18 Posted 6 years ago Russel (@russlol) (not verified)

    Hi Danny,

    Couldn't agree with you more. Apparently to be an expert according to that previous blog, you need to focus on quantity over quality. I'm actually quite surprised this is still being touted as a measurement of success. In a time where there's so much argument over ROI and measurement (what should we be measuring, can you measure, of course you can measure, etc.), I hope most social media users are focusing on the why and who rather than the how (many). 

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