The thing with labels

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Dennison Label Sheet. Calsidyrose/FlickrThere are many that would say that I was a social media expert. There are others that would say that I’m an expert blogger. I’d never consider myself either one.

I shy away from both labels (and probably will for some time still to come) since I don’t feel as though I’ve earned it. I have this weird opinion that if you ever think of yourself as an expert you’ll feel as though you don’t have to learn anything else – that you know it all. In a field that seems to change once every couple of days, I have a feeling that’s not going to happen for some time.

That said, perhaps since there are others calling me an expert I should probably feel comfortable using the term to describe myself. I doubt I would, but it may ease some of the concerns that were addressed earlier today over on Social Media Birmingham.

While I do feel that the fishbowl has gone over this topic with a fine tooth comb (including one person whom I consider an expert explaining why they stopped using that label to describe themselves and what an they’d want an expert to know), it is important to look at it from the point of view of the client or consumer.

This field of digital communications for all intensive purposes is essentially 15 years old. In our “run-from-one-place-to-the-next,” “we-need-it-NOW” lifestyle, we’d assume that by now someone has to have a concrete set of standards for people to be able to accurately measure the intelligence of the person or company that you’re asking to handle a portion of your marketing and outreach campaign. We don’t – and I don’t think we need to (per se – but that’s for another post); but…

…people put trust in labels. They believe what they are told. It is a trust economy nowadays after all.

The problem seems to exist because of how labels develop based on the situation around their recipients.

Perhaps if you’re in a city that’s beginning to embrace social media, an expert is someone who can go over the basics, like how to set up an account and some initial trends that are going on. Maybe for that situation, you’re their expert.

For those in another community where they have been fully embracing all of these tools for some time there’s a person that can explain how to measure the effectiveness of the messages and the conversations as well as recognizing opportunities to connect offline as well as potential use of print materials. They’d be that community’s expert, but they may not be what the other community wants because of the level of knowledge being sought (and vice versa).

These “experts” are people too and they have different levels of skill. Let’s appreciate that, do good work, and let that speak for itself in terms of where you fall in the pantheon of folks practicing an ever-changing craft.

That said, I’d add one more thing – speak in your own voice and appreciate the authentic voices of others.

Or I could just let Jason Falls say it much more eloquently or maybe even much more succinctly than I just did.

I look forward to seeing what else I can learn from others out there while I have my own shingle hung on the door for business.

Photo: Dennison Label Sheet. Calsidyrose/Flickr


One Response

  1. JasonFalls

    January 29, 2010 11:51 pm

    Well said, my man. We're all learning. We have varying levels of expertise. But “expert” isn't possible for anyone in this field. And the landscape will dictate there never will be. Bravo.

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