I would like to bring to your attention that a once majestic species is on the verge of extinction. I am talking about the Social Media Expert. It was only a couple of years ago that a lack of knowledge about social media proved fertile ground for the rise of scores of these self-declared experts. If you believed them, these lone predators-for-hire were raised by the internet itself and were a one-stop shop for digital success! But something has changed. The number of these “experts” is declining and one cannot help but wonder what is going on here.
The habitat that was once so inviting to these “experts” has changed. The ignorance about social media and digital communications is gradually making way for a general level of basic understanding. A lot of the expertise that the experts claimed is now freely accessible online. Furthermore, companies are realising that digital communications, like every form of communication, are no exact science. The very concept of communication hinges on the most unpredictable parameter of all: people.
On top of this, digital communications have additional difficulties to cope with. They are indirect, lack a supporting context and take place in a landscape that is subject to rapid changes. It is now clear that “expertise” is a false claim. How can you master a subject on which the book is being written faster than you could ever hope to read it?
Is there no hope then? Are we to stand by and watch this once majestic species fall? Will companies have to stumble around the internet blindly, hoping for a kind soul to illuminate a portion of the treacherous path they’re walking? Do we throw in the towel and roll over the floor crying because there will be no one left to help? Of course not.
Luckily for us, a new species has risen: the Digital Strategist! Strategists, as opposed to their solitary predecessors, live in communities and refuse to boast complete knowledge of social media. They base their decisions and recommendations on experience, data analysis and shared knowledge. By continuously gathering and sharing experience, they can partially predict the unfathomable course of digital communications.
Undoubtedly, there are some very smart cookies out there, but unless they become part of a network that actively shares experience, best practices and data analyses, their position will become untenable. The isolated experts, whatever the level of their expertise may be, will have to make way for strategists that are supported by a wider network and have access to a sufficient pool of data.
So will the “experts” go extinct? As a species, yes, but we can find comfort in the thought that the brightest of them will find a new home in a pack of strategists. As my favourite scientist of all time, Dr. Ian Malcolm, once said it: “Life finds a way.”