I’m an Internet Rogue, thank you.

How many times have you read a Twitter profile where the person is a social media guru/expert/rockstar/superstar? I guess we’re all used to it by now, something that we just skim, shrug and more on. Pete Cashmore reflects on this self-description phenomenon today…

That humorous observation raises a legitimate point: A growing industry needs trust and reputation. With social media growing so rapidly and no certification yet established, how do we go about establishing reputation?

Without it, such stats provide fodder for those who would say that social media — which is touching every industry from entertainment to air travel — is simply hot air.

[From There are 15,740 Social Media Experts on Twitter]

I guess if you think you’re a social media expert you are. Good thing we can’t say the same for doctors or lawyers.

When people started this trend I was using the title “Social Media Concierge”, but I dropped it eventually as more and more people were getting into the whole social media consulting game. This isn’t to say that I don’t do social media consulting, which I do on occasion, I felt that when everyone and their brother was jumping into the pool the best way to stand out was to just get out of the pool. Pete’s point about building reputation is bang on, much like being a “web expert” in the past. There isn’t a gauge of who is and who isn’t, and those who don’t use the title are often the ones who actually are the experts in the field. There is a Catch-22 to building a reputation as an “expert” in social media, which Mack Collier might call the “rockstar” factor and I’d call the follower factor regardless, it’s the same thing. We are most likely to pay attention to the people who are already getting a lot of attention (i.e. lots of followers on Twitter). Maybe we need to consider as well Mack Collier’s call for looking for fewer rockstars and more great ideas:

So how do we change this and bring more voices into the mix? I have some ideas, but definitely want to hear yours as well:

1 – Spend less time identifying the ‘rockstars’ and more time focusing on the great ideas. I am as guilty of this as anyone. I want to make sure that everyone knows how smart my friends are, but by labeling them ‘rockstars’, we are unintentionally ranking people. If David is a rockstar with 20K followers and 15K blog readers, the unintentional message may be that your ideas are less valuable if you only have a fraction of his followers/readers.

2 – Stop focusing on numbers to determine influence. I get why this happens. It’s quick and easy, it’s score-keeping. You can quickly compare your number of readers or followers or comments to someone else. But it isn’t always (ever?) accurate. Is it an absolute that if I have more Twitter followers than you do that I am more influential there than you are? Or if you have more than I do, that you are more influential than I am? Of course not.

3 – Listen closely to new ideas from new voices, and magnify both when you hear them. So many of us complain about the ‘fishbowl’ mentality in the social media space. A great way to counter that is to bring new voices with fresh takes into this space. Introduce your network to someone they might not have heard of previously. Yes we all know who the ‘rockstars’ in this space are, so show us who’s next.

I’m not going to claim to be some kind of social media saint following, retweeting, and linking to anyone and everyone. Not a chance. I have the friends and colleagues that I follow and pay attention to. I know that like most people I have my own little fishbowl that I swim in and look at the world through. Trying to claim otherwise would be just as dishonest as saying that I know all there is to know about social media.

I think we can all strive to pass along the links of people who just have great ideas. I’ve been upping my RSS feed subscription numbers and looking for new blogs to read. I used to subscribe to tons and tons of blogs, only to skim most and mark read half the time. Now, I’m making more of an effort to read and share more. I’m sharing through Fever now so you can subscribe to that feed. I don’t always share the most obscure stuff, but I try to share.

And…what’s the point?

So it’s hip and cool to be a social media expert. It’s fun to gather Twitter followers by the thousands for fun and profit. What Pete and Mack are both getting at is that maybe we’re reaching expert saturation. We’re all experts. And so if we’re all experts maybe what we need more of are…

more teachers.

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