3 ways to make sure that social media expert is really an expert

This post is by Darren Woolley, Founder of TrinityP3With his background as analytical scientist and creative problem solver, Darren brings unique insights and learnings to the marketing process. He is considered a global thought leader on agency remuneration, search and selection and relationship optimisation.

In the past 12 months it seems that social media experts have been coming out of the woodwork and turning up at industry conferences espousing their ideas on social media strategies.

In fact just last week in Sydney there was an industry forum on social media and of the ten speakers, two openly admitted to not really understanding social media as they did not use it, and six more had no twitter account I could find, or any obvious sign of social media authority to speak on the subject.

Earlier this year I went to a industry function where the keynote speaker was a brand marketer who had recently set up as a consultant on building brands using social media. A quick check showed they had less than 200 followers and a Klout score of 16. (Klout is one measure of social authority. Others include Kred and PeerIndex)

In the US I attended a Social Media conference where not only did the organisers provide a #hashtag but every speaker had their Twitter Name on the program so you could check their Klout, Kred or PeerIndex score of social authority.

So when you are reading, listening or watching someone tell you all about social media, how can you tell if they are everything they say they are?

Well here is a quick step by step way to find social authority provided by Mike Morgan at High Profile Enterprises @meetmikemorgan (Klout Score 57)

Step 1: Gmail and Rapportive

Set up a Gmail account and install Rapportive. Rapportive will give you a rundown of the person’s social media profiles – LinkedIn, Facebook Twitter which you can visit with a click even if the profile doesn’t use their actual name. It also gives the person’s position and organisation. All you need is their email address – try “their name@their company dotcom”

Metrics to look at:

Twitter – how many followers, tweets, interactions, frequency of use

LinkedIn – number of connections, frequency of content, interaction

Facebook – business pages as well as a personal page? Number of fans, level of interaction

Step 2: Vanity search

Type their name into Google (if they have a common name add a modifying word based on what they do) – e.g. “Darren Woolley social media

What to look for:

Do they dominate the front page for their own name with trade press, their own websites, social media profiles etc?

Do they have a blog and how often is it updated?

Step 3: Influence measurement

Look at their Twitter name on social influence services (not on Twitter? They are not on social media). You will have to connect your Twitter account to look for these:

Klout – anyone calling themselves a social media speaker should have a minimum of 50 (at the very least)

Kred – minimum 650

PeerIndex – minimum 50

Many speakers are challenged by the thought of a measure of their authority to speak on social media. But with so many people purporting to be social media experts I think it is important to be able to understand with what authority  they are presenting themselves as specialists or experts.

As an interesting footnote Forbes recently published this article on the social media authority of CMOs in the Fortune 100. What they found may or may not surprise you – only 12 had a Klout score of more than 30 and 76% had no Twitter following.

What do you think?

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About Darren Woolley

Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com
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30 Responses to 3 ways to make sure that social media expert is really an expert

  1. Mike Zeederburg says:

    Ratings and scores like Klout and Kred, and an evaluation of their personal social media presence simply tells you whether or not the person in question uses social media to promote their own personal brand- a lack of this doesn’t indicate that they don’t know what they’re talking about – it simply indicates that they don’t do it for themselves personally. They may well have extensive experience using social for clients or businesses that won’t show up in personal tags. Both Klout and Kred are pretty easy to “game”. Just because Taylor Swift has an extremely high Klout score doesn’t mean she understands how to use social media for a corporate brand, it just means she’s popular with lots of followers and retweets of every word she says. You’re suggesting that evaluating someone’s ability to self-promote on social media is a good way of assessing whether or not they are any good at using social media for brands. These 2 things may not be aligned at all.

    • TrinityP3 says:

      Hi Mike, thanks for your comment. I agree that the algorithms have flaws. It is the nature of all models to be wrong to some extent. As I responded to Bernie, the issue is are they still useful. Again as George Box also said “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.” In the case of Taylor Swift, if I was looking for popular signer / songwriters or even celebrities, then would her Klout of Kred score not be valid? So in the absence of any measure, this is a good starting point.

      But you seem to have overlooked two of the three option I am suggesting. Vanity searches, especially in relation to the topic being presented is useful. In my time as a research scientist, your academic credibility was based on the mantra of “publish or perish” which was subject to peer review. Is not social media peer review on a wider scale?

  2. I disagree on a couple points

    1. There are zero, Zero, with a Capitol Z, “experts”. The platforms are evolving so fast that no one can claim expertise in ANY single one for more than 24 hours. So the very premise of the article is faulty IMHO

    2. As a direct result of the above statement, the algorithm’ for Klout et al are, at best, arbitrary. Heck the Analytics behind most of the major social media platforms is based upon demographic schema developed in the 1950’s. If the big boys in Social Media haven’t got it figured our yet then how can any solid statistical formulation have to evaluate the “value” of any follower. I won’t beat this dead horse as plenty others have already

    3 Filter Bubbles. Not all searches yield the same results. If a speaker caters to a niche audience then they should show up withing their target speciality for SEO.

    4 Twitter followers. Really? Quantity over quality? I can buy 1000 followers for $20. I know some “experts” who have done it.

    …. There’s more that I take issue with, but I think this should suffice to start

    • TrinityP3 says:

      Hi Bernie, I agree with you on the first point. The reason for using the term 'expert' is that this is how many are positioned by the conference promoters trying to encourage punter to part with their hard earned bucks to attend. On the second and third point I think that the argument that nothing is better than a flawed metric system would eliminate almost all measurement models. Statistician George. E. P. Box wrote that "All models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful." Sure, people can game Twitter and many of these algorithms, but doing some research on the people presented as subject matter experts is the foundation of critical thinking. That would be a good be a good start. I am sure the next point you are going to raise is that like the cobbler's shoes, if you are good, you are too busy doing this for others to do it for yourself. But I think your first point has value here. This is a constantly evolving category where the practitioners are all learning on the run. So should your clients and customer be the ones paying for you to learn from your mistakes? Or should you be demonstrating your commitment learning by investing in keeping abreast of the innovations? Personally I would take the leap of faith with someone who has invested their own funds and placed their own brand at risk before I would a self appointed 'expert'.

    • Debi A. says:

      I totally agree Bernard. I take issue with the term Social Media expert. It is such a fast-moving target. I do think if you hire speakers though, you should do some due diligence on their level of expertise in the medium. I fit all the criteria above but I would in no way consider myself anything but a practitioner. I would hope that I am viewed as a thought-leader on a narrow range of topics dealing with the Social and Interactive sphere.

      • TrinityP3 says:

        Debi, I think it is actually incumbent on the conference organisers to 1) Vet the credentials of the presenters they invite to speak and 2) provide some sort of ability for the attendees of the conference to determine for themselves that presenters credentials.

        Beyond the same usual highly edited and generalised bios that get trotted out, I think providing the attendees with some way of accessing that persons social media presence allows you as an attendee to determine for yourself some insight into there experience, knowledge and even perhaps their personality.

    • Administrator says:

      Agree with your points about "experts" or "gurus" (another title I despise!) who seemingly pop up as fast as a new trick in the platform is created. The terms are simply diluted, over saturated, and becoming meaningless. The bottom line is are clients satisfied, are they learning, are they moving forward towards their goals. Speakers on the subject should have some good quality experience with the topics they are teaching others.

      Personally, I'd rather have quality engagement with those I know will benefit my goals and the goals of the clients I serve over thousands of meaningless followers.

      • TrinityP3 says:

        Delilah, do you realise the huge assumption you are making, and that there is some direct correlation and the level of meaningfulness? You statement that you would rather have a 'few meaningful relationships' rather than 'thousand of meaningless followers' is as ridiculous as 'I would rather be poor and happy' than 'rich and sad'. Do you think Guy Kawasaki (K=86) has meaningless followers? Seth Godin (K=75) does he have lots of meaningless followers? Or is the fact that they have high Klout scores indicative of the quality of the knowledge and expertise they have and the level at which they share it and the number of people who recognise that expertise? I am glad you want a 'few' quality engagements. But if you put yourself up to speak in public where people are paying to hear from your expertise then I think it is only fair that they have a way to evaluate how 'expert' you are on the subject you are expounding on.

  3. I think Darren's general point is that you can't have expertise unless you actually do it. Mike's point is a good one in that you could be doing a lot of social media work for other people and building your expertise. But I would be surprised that someone in this position wouldn't be writing a paper or two illustrating their expertise and putting it out there for people to find. If they weren't doing that themselves their employer would be doing it. It's how value is created from expertise.

    Experts need to drink their own champagne (or eat their own dog food).

  4. Mike Morgan says:

    It is interesting how polarising social authority measurement can be and the debate has been raging for some time on social media blogs. Love or hate influence measurement it does have a role to play. I recommend anyone interested in the topic read Mark Schaefer's book "Return on Influence" for a balanced, non-hysterical view.

    The old chestnut about Justin Bieber having a Klout score of 99 therefore it is not a system with any credibility does not wash. Justin Bieber is hugely influential with teenage girl pop fans. Influence measurement does not need to be strictly related to marketing.

    I also think it is disingenuous to select individual elements of the step by step checks discussed. As with all data analysis you need to take information from different sources and make judgements based on a range of results. If the combination of social presence and use, search results and influence measurement sees very little return I have to say the speaker is probably not qualified.

    The other oft-repeated cliche is that if you have a large following on Twitter you must be gaming the system by buying followers or using software. In some cases this is correct as shown in a recent post by Rand Fishkin where he asks why the Followerwonk results for SEO in the bio seem to give people he has never heard of at the top of the results. But if you look at social media thought leaders like Brian Solis, Ann Handley, Danny Sullivan and many others they all have what would be perceived to be a huge following. This makes total sense – they are authorities and therefore attract a large number of followers.

    So, why would a presenter at a social media event expect that they do not have to even use social media to be qualified to speak about it. What other verticals would invite speakers who have very little experience with the topic?

    And I'm sorry a traditional marketing background does not automatically mean you understand the intricacies of inbound marketing.

  5. davidbranded says:

    While I might not agree with every point, the overall message is a good one. Don't assume anyone is who they say they are, do some checking on your own before spending time or money listening to an "expert", the web is still a new frontier and unfortunately not everyone is honest about their credentials. Using Kout, Kred or Peerindex is a starting point… ok, but they are flawed in there own right as well.

    A good Rule of Thumb, if they say they are an expert… they most likely are the furthest thing from an expert. Walk the walk.

    • TrinityP3 says:

      Hi David, that is my point. As event organisers people have a responsibility to make sure they put the best speakers forward. But nevertheless it is still important for the attendees to check and determine the speakers credentials for themselves. With the increase in the number of these industry events (many run by companies strictly as profit making exercises) we are seeing more and more people professing to be 'experts' when in actual fact they are simply pushing their own vested or in some cases narrow and ill-informed point of view. This is particularly important in fields like social media which is evolving so fast. I think it is essential for attendees to check the credentials of these presenters prior to attending. You can do this with the vast amount of information available on-line. But I also think it is vital for conference organisers to make it easier for the audience to do this by going beyond providing a bio and start providing easier access to the speakers online profile – Twitter, LinkedIn etc

  6. Karen Baxter says:

    i think you can write content, post tweets and photos with dead on descriptives – and completely satisfy some companies and individuals, this is such an odd way to define and analyze a social media expert when there are many layers to it and just as many variations on needs, wants and goals for social media.

    • TrinityP3 says:

      Karen, the suggestions are not perfect, but then show me any measurement system that is perfect? But your point of understanding how to create content that 'completely satisfy some companies and individuals' does that not prove you have some social media knowledge? Of course it is more complex than some simple measures. But at the moment simple measures are not being used and people are taking much of what they are told at face value. The purpose of the post is to make you think more critically.

  7. frontfootconsulting says:

    Agree Darren, it's a good starting point. People need to walk the walk not just talk the talk. Another dimension is how their social media influence sits within their overall knowledge of Marketing and Business. Being a marketing consultant I see a lot of companies and agencies excited about social media, yet not grounding it in a marketing strategy that aligns to a business strategy. Can someone create a new dimension of each index that takes this into consideration? Otherwise social media being 18% of my Top Kred Communities, and marketing being 17% goes someway to letting you all know that I ground ideas and action in business reality. For the record my Kred is 606, Klout score is 51, Peer Index is 56, I've owned a Commodore 64 Computer, and my age is 41. I must be a partial expert 🙂

    • TrinityP3 says:

      Anton, you have social authority. The search of your name would show what is ranked against your name and this gives an insight into what you have authority in as well. The point of the post was not to say just use Klout, Kred or PeerIndex, but to do some research into a persons authority beyond just taking their word for it or assuming that just because they work for a large corporation that they personally have credibility and authority in the subject they are talking about.

  8. Steven Bradley says:

    Great article, agree on the most part … However it is hard to maintain and have a job.

    As long as my score is higher then Mike’s I am happy 😉

    • TrinityP3 says:

      It is a good point about the time taken. People gaming social usually take short cuts and it ends up showing. Those producing high quality content and sharing this as part of how they operate build social authority as part of their work rather then instead of it.

  9. frontfootconsulting says:

    Me too Steve! 🙂

    Yes agree with Darren, that people simply don't do enough due diligence these days. We're generation light – skimming across the information overload.

    • TrinityP3 says:

      That is why we need to pressure event organisers, publishers and the other channels that tout these 'experts' to make it easier / faster / simpler to be able to evaluate the quality.

  10. Jane Wong says:

    My biggest issue with those who claim authority in Social Media is their inability to effectively apply it to other people’s businesses. I find it galling witnessing social media panels and speakers who have limited knowledge yet are so confident as to adopt an expert mantle.

    One can get up to speed with using the more popular social platforms and espouse expertise in using them by publishing niche white papers. But this does not strike me as expert.

    One can have apps, measurement tools and developers. But this does not strike me as expert.

    For some their expertise runs to a string of single campaigns or projects built off the back of an ATL campaign with heavy traditional PR support. But this does not strike me as expert.

    It appears very rare that an integrated social strategy which includes content generation and management, strategic and tactical marketing, CRM, LAM, eCommerce, PR, R&D, media placement in social channels and governance is put forward. Let alone attention paid to niche communities and mobile channels or to audience psychographics.

    This is because few comprehend the bigger picture for businesses. And often because the ‘expert’ hasn’t considered a cultural audit of the brand or target market before putting forward a recommendation.

    They just have a standard bag of tricks to use on those for whom social media is mysterious. And that’s how they make a crust. They’re not experts but they have their niche.

    Given Social Media is a huge time thief I am also wary of the social media exponents who seemingly spend many hours on self promotion online.

    If you’re effectively assisting businesses in social media they become your PR, your advocates.

    You needn’t be constantly pushing content into an already crowded space. And this is where metrics fall down, they are reliant on heavy activity and possibly the assistance of a community manager and team to manage the flow.

    Also, users of online channels have become content fatigued when it comes to social media PR. Heavy usage and repetitive content is now a turn off, so more users employ filters to narrow what is read in their streams, which cuts the interaction required by measurement engines.

    So perhaps it is more effective to apply an old school method? To look at the conference speaker’s practice and their proposals. Or for long term social media exponents, the online influence or understanding generated for clients could be examined.

    • TrinityP3 says:

      Jane, excellent and thorough response and valuable contribution to the discussion. However, I question a couple of the assumptions that you make. That having others doing your PR does not build your social authority? I thought that references, links, retweeting, commenting – in fact genuine engagement – is what Google and many of the other social metrics are trying to measure. Sure it is possible to game any system, but all of the recent changes to SEO is about recognising valuable content and not simply empty activity. In regards to expert, I think most informed people would agree that it is a difficult space to be truly expert in. And in fact that you define expert as requiring knowledge and experience across such as diverse range of skills from PR to eCommerce to LAM to content generation just proves the point that it is not about being an expert, but it is about proving some type of credential to proffer a point of view other than you were once sent a tweet and you are a consulting CMO. The point is that, as you say, speakers / presenters should be judged by what they have done and what they have achieved before being let loose on unsuspecting audiences. And their are a number of ways to do this. @thewongnumber I would listen to you because if you are speaking on food, wine or advertising you have a Kred score of 667.

  11. In Latvian we have a proverb: "Shoemaker without shoes." It refers to a fact that many professionals while working for clients (and doing a good job) sometimes forget or neglect to upkeep their own estates.

    While these things might hold true, they're not definitive. Klout messes up things, for starters. Also, Klout can be easily gamed (ok, for that you need some knowledge which would mean that person knows at least something)
    Vanity search is ok and it should be done, becouse anyone (who's opinion matters) has some kind of trace on the web.

    But overall, nice article with few directions to look into. As Darren said, these are good starting points. But your opinions shouldn't be based entirely on these.

    Good luck, Darren!

    • TrinityP3 says:

      Thanks Maris. And you are right, these are just starting points. The main thing is that in a category that is developing and where there is clearly a strong desire for knowledge and information, it is dangerous to just take the word of any self-proclaimed expert. As for the shoemaker without shoes, there is also the saying about the skinny chef. I would think a shoemaker with well maintained and more importantly comfortable and supportive shoes would be a better endorsement than one without shoes at all. Because not having shoe could just be a sign of poverty due to poor business acumen.

  12. Nina says:

    I am a social media expert, however I don’t rely on sites like klout and kred to determine my expertise. It’s always funny when other quote on quota social media experts give me a look when I tell them I am not into Klout and Kred. I focus on building relationships that focus on results. While they are playing on Kred, I am getting product sales, coaching clients and offering value on Facebook. I can count the sales I got on Facebook. I can’t say the same for Klout. So don’t discredit a social media expert because of their low klout score. Instead ask them for case studies and testimonials from satisfied clients. 🙂

    • TrinityP3 says:

      Hi Nina, the post was not just about Klout and Kred, it was about how to determine if someone is a Social Media expert or just a wannabe. For instance, how would you suggest that the people who are looking to use your services determine your level of expertise? I checked out the website, but that is content you provide. I did a Google search on your name and SEO writer (Nina Lewis SEO Writer) and your site was on the first page (a good thing) but not much else was obvious. And if you are speaking at a conference on SEO and Social Media, how could someone attending that conference determine if you really knew what you were talking about or were just another person jumping on the bandwagon? What would you recommend as a way of checking a persons credentials in these circumstances NIna? Because it is all very worthwhile saying you spend your time working hard to do a good job for your clients, but how can I validate your self proclaimed level of expertise?

  13. Jens Holvoet says:

    I usually only check on search engines. You'll notice very easily if people really are who they claim to be. I've never heard of Rapportive before. Will check it out.

  14. warrenwhitlock says:

    This post has some good ideas to try when evaluating just about any potential hire today. Especially any job with front facing responsibilities. If I were hiring a hostess for a diner, I'd want to know if they were mentioned on Yelp for the last place they worked.

    The influence scores are far from perfect, but give some indication. A potential hire may have been working on the program that made Bieber a star or in a position that caused a restricted use of Twitter while building 10,000 Linkedin connections. Either of these wouldn't reflect their influence in there world even though they used these tools daily.

    Having nothing, or bad news ffrom the search would be a cause for concern. If you are hiring someone name Justin Bieber though, even the search results would not confirm what that unlucky named person can do for you.

    There's one test that work best. After running through the above, TALK to the person. Do thay understand you and your business? Can they explain their ratings you see on this post, or show you how they would do it?

    And most of all, do they have an idea of what it will take to achieve your business goals?

  15. Chris says:

    This is an interesting article Darren.
    I also do have doubts on Klout. Influencers are thought leaders in my opinion, and often those people are too busy to constantly be updating their social channels for the sake of updating them.
    I also noticed that I found this article via Twitter about 15 minutes ago…however this article is dated 2012. This makes me ponder the subject and content slightly.

    • Darren Woolley says:

      Hi Chris, it is interesting that you think that those that are thought leaders are too busy to be contributing to that thought leadership through social media. If you look at all of the true thought leaders in technology and communications, social media is a prime channel for them to share and participate in the conversations on which they are considered thought leaders. As for the fact this post is now more than 12 months old, I think this is proof that the topic remains current. Thanks for participating n the conversation.

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