The 9 Types Of "Social Media Experts" - Which One Are You?

RohitBhargava
Rohit Bhargava Founder, Influential Marketing Group

Posted on March 22nd 2010

There is a fundamental problem among social media experts today. Some people have argued that the problem lies with people who are rushing to call themselves an expert without having the necessary experience. Others create some sort of artificial metric to try and put some parameters around who should be allowed to call themselves an expert and who should not. The easier way out (which I myself have taken on occasion) is to excuse yourself from the entire debate by saying that no one is REALLY an expert and we are all just people who use these tools and try our best. Since coming back from SXSW, I have been thinking about this and realized that none of these methods really works because they all assume that a "social media expert" is a single type of person.

To be sure, there are some people working in social media who really shouldn't be - but I don't believe this number is as high as others would say. Instead, I think that many people who could be great at certain roles are simply trying to fill the wrong role. So, to help, I thought I would share what I think the 9 types of social media experts really are. And in true social media fashion, since 9 is such an uneven number ... let me know what you think the 10th would be. I will add the best suggestion for a 10th to this list.
  1. The Pretender - This is the person who everyone loves to hate. The newly arrived and minted "expert" who has barely used any tools beyond Facebook and Twitter, has hardly any friends or followers, and bases most of their thinking on what they just read from the dozen or so social media "gurus" who frequently share free advice on their blogs.
  2. The Trainer/Teacher - Being a great teacher is a gift, and not many people truly have it. If you are a natural trainer or teacher, you have the ability to make complex ideas that are part of social media easy to understand. After listening to your direction, someone new to using the tools and thinking about social media will feel dramatically more comfortable using the tools and (most importantly) why they should even bother.
  3. The Professional Speaker - Popular sentiment is to treat these people as the biggest blowhards in the industry because they get up on stage and get paid to talk about social media. It is the existence of this type of expert, however, that often creates the inspiration and excitement about social media as a whole. Once again, not everyone is necessarily good at taking this role - but listening to a great speaker about social media can create a real impact across the entire industry. Speakers may be the rising tide that can lift everyone else's boats in the entire industry.
  4. The Content Curator - I have blogged at length about how I believe content curators will be among one of the most important social media jobs of the future. While some may equate the job to that of a digitally savvy librarian, I see the role of a curator as much more of an editor about a particular topic. The curators are the ones that can help us make sense of the exploding amount of content online. The almighty search algorithm won't be enough.
  5. The Event Organizer - In social media, there are lots of great events. From the more official conferences and summits to the less formal meetups and tweetups. If your gift is in creating really engaging moments for people to gather in real life and to facilitate those moments, you might fit this category. The Event Organizer, too, is vital for the social media industry to thrive because they are the ones that drive the real moments where virtual relationships become real.
  6. The Community Manager - Having a great community manager may be one of the most difficult roles to fill on a digital team, because the skill set can be quite elusive. A great community manager is dealing with real conversations in real time and reacting to those conversations transparently. If you happen to have these skills and use them well, you could easily grow into the very center of an organization's entire social media efforts (a great place to be).
  7. The Content Creator - This is one of the most public types of social media experts because their expertise is on display consistently. Content creators are great at writing thoughts in blog posts, sharing their every thought via Twitter, or creating video. In the right role, content creators can become indispensible assets to a team and generate highly original content to engage an audience.
  8. The Marketing Strategist - If I have one intention with this post, it is to point out very distinctly that not every social media expert should automatically be put into this category. If you are a marketing strategist, you know the best way to use social media to achieve a marketing objective such as promoting a product or service. You don't blindly create a "platform" for a client with every social media tool, or consider "start by listening and then engage people in a conversation" actionable strategic advice. Instead, you are able to solve a real business problem with a smart plan for using social media, and entirely capable of admitting which business problems social media may not be the best solution for.
  9. The Designer/Builder - In some ways, this is the most important type of social media expert - because these are actually the people who make real solutions. Strategy is great, but at some point you need a real execution plan and these are the experts who can get it done. More importantly, they will also be able to provide advice based on experience for how you may want to implement your plans, and what strategy or tactics you may want to stay away from.
You might be tempted to read into this post that there are certain types of experts that are more valid than any others, but except for the first type I strongly believe that each has an important role to play as organizations and businesses of all sizes get smarter about how and when to use social media.  If you work in the industry or interact with those who do - my simple plea is that we all need to get better about understanding which of these roles we are particularly good at and focus on that.  As a whole I can think of nothing better to help legitimize and grow the entire area of social media and the groups who are able to benefit from using it well.
 

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RohitBhargava

Rohit Bhargava

Founder, Influential Marketing Group

Rohit Bhargava is a trend curator, founder of the Influential Marketing Group, and the author of five best selling business books on topics as wide ranging as the future of healthcare, how to build a brand with personality, and why leaders never eat cauliflower. He has advised hundreds of global brands on marketing strategy and is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing at Georgetown University. A two time TEDx speaker, Rohit has been invited to keynote events in 27 countries and is regularly quoted in media outlets including The New York Times, Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR.

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Comments

Kimmo Linkama
Posted on March 22nd 2010 at 11:25AM
Rohit,

 

Would I be totally wrong in reading into your statement about Content Curators being "the ones that can help us make sense of the exploding amount of content online. The almighty search algorithm won't be enough" that your opinion is services like Yahoo (human-validated directory) will become more important than those like Google (automated search)?
BretSimmons
Posted on March 22nd 2010 at 1:34PM
There are a lot of speakers, trainers, and agency types that are just pretenders. I tell folks don't take any advice from someone that does not practice what they preach.
SherryClouser
Posted on March 22nd 2010 at 2:44PM
One option for number 10 is "The Bridge." This is the person who is skilled at helping others to make connections and sees appropriate niches for everyone she meets.
Mike Johansson
Posted on March 22nd 2010 at 6:19PM
Great job Rohit! I absolutely applaud your sentiment that not every expert in social media should be considered an expert in social media marketing. Just as I shudder when I see people who are very good at selling offering classes called "Everything You Need to Know About Social Media." If the focus is just about or mostly about using social media to sell how can they claim, with a straight face, that they are teaching "everything?" I also greatly appreciate your final comment about all kinds of experts having a role to play. Thank you for as thoughtful and well-written post.
BrendaSomich
Posted on March 23rd 2010 at 1:22AM
Definitely agree with your #10 pick Sherry.  There are many people who are good at seeing opportunities for and connecting others.  Personally I see a huge value in the Content Curators as without them, the core message often is lost in the stream and/or difficult for others to decipher. 
TerryCrosby1
Posted on March 29th 2010 at 6:30PM
Thank you for taking the time to break down the "social media expert". Apparently, I am the trainer.
TerryCrosby1
Posted on March 29th 2010 at 6:30PM
Thank you for taking the time to break down the "social media expert". Apparently, I am the trainer.
DeborahHymes
Posted on March 29th 2010 at 10:28PM
Wow, what a fantastic way of parsing the whole "expert" thing. Very insightful!

I'm definitely the marketing strategist, through & through -- I'm all about solving specific business problems. I recently wrote a blog post saying "Beware of Experts." Now I'm going to have to rethink my position. ;)

Thanks for a great article.
laurafilipowicz
Posted on April 6th 2010 at 10:17AM
Love It!  I suppose I am the #10 and The Event Planner. wrapped into one!. what do you think?  http://www.bagladypromotions.com
jessiebruce
Posted on June 9th 2010 at 4:20AM
Haha...I guess I am none of them for I am not even an expert..
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sophia11
Posted on August 22nd 2010 at 10:28PM

I think promoting strategies is great, but at some point we need a real execution plan and these are the experts who can get it done. More importantly, they will also be able to provide advice based on experience for how we may want to implement our plans, and what strategy or tactics we may want to stay away from.

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Posted on November 11th 2010 at 1:18PM

The Content Creator - This is one of the most public types of social media experts because their expertise is on display consistently. Content creators are great at writing thoughts in blog posts, sharing their every thought via Twitter, or creating video. In the right role, content creators can become indispensible assets to a team and generate highly original content to engage an audience.

The content creator was awesome and I also enjoyed all the points.Plasma Cutters