Expertise in Social Media

In his most excellent article, The History and Evolution of
Social Media (, Cameron Chapman states that the precursors
of SM started with Usernets (Newsgroups) and BBS’s (Bulletin Board Services) as
early as 1977. According to Chapman, modern SM started with dating sites and
forums 20 years later (1997), including sites such as Six Degrees and
LiveJournal, as well as MMORPG’s (Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing
Games), like World of Warcraft. He further states that the first true online
community network was Friendster, in 2002. At the time of this writing, that
makes Social Media as we currently know it less than a decade old.

Such information makes claims of having 10+ years of
experience in SM somewhat dubious. Giving benefit for argument to the contrary (with
allowance of credit for activity with earlier outriders), anything greater than
14 years experience is disputable.

Expertise is defined by Wikipedia (
as, ” … a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research,
experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study.” The keyword
here is and. Both real world practice and formal education. ( describes an expert as skilled and

While it is difficult (for me, at least) to determine the
earliest Social Media/Internet marketing educational programs, the text,
e-Commerce: business. technology. society, by K.C. Laudon and C.G. Traver, was
published in 2007, by Pearson – Prentice Hall. At best, this places formal
training curriculums beginning at or about mid-decade.

There is no argument that SM professionals exist. Such
industry leaders have in fact elevated Social Media to its current status as
the most used function of the World Wide Web, even surpassing the access of
adult content. However, time to become a defined expert with both an advanced degree
specifically in Social Media, as well as having enough work place participation
to qualify as an expert, has not  passed;
some human resource executives describe authentication levels as: graduation to
3 years, entry level; 3-7 years, experienced; greater than 7 years, expert.

The protests against the need for academics in Social Media
that are often offered would seem to fly in the face of concerns about ROI in
online media marketing efforts. One communications administrator said that SM
was simply another form of communication, like cell phones, and certainly no
schooling was needed for their use. Yet, would one hire programing, Web design, or network maintenance/security personnel, without proper training?

Proposals for innovation in SM marketing and management
practices can be found aplenty. The majority of postings on such sites as
Social Media Today, Social Media Club, SocialMediopolis, etc., are listings of
what successful SM campaigns should or should not be. Yet such agendas rarely,
if ever, mention the need for scholastics.

It is easy to imagine that in the future the need for
education in SM will become a given. One observant person said that change is
akin to the mating of elephants: it takes place at high levels, occurs amidst
much stomping and shouting, and requires two years to produce results. 😉  That recognized experts will one day man the helm of Social Media management seems destined. For now, we will have to wait.


About Grannelle

eMarketing Scholar
This entry was posted in Social Media and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Expertise in Social Media

  1. Thanks for linking to this post in your comment on my Social Customer post on social media experts (originally published on Your emphasis on the need for both experience and training to develop expertise is interesting, and certainly at odds with the many who claim no education or training is necessary.

    Coincidentally, earlier today I published a follow-up post entitled “Social Media Education and Training: Where We Are. Where We’re Going.” I invite you to take a look and share your thoughts there as well.



    • Sorry. Here’s a link to the follow-up post:


      • Grannelle says:

        Thank you, Courtney!

        I would also point out Courtney has researched this issue, and her findings can be accessed via request. Please see her post at the above URL for further information.


    • Grannelle says:

      Deepest appreciation, Courtney! Secondary to current salary levels it is understandable that few wish to institute educational requirements in Social Media. However, without standardization, the field will be unable to achieve true professionalisation. Incredible amounts are being expended, and at some point ROI will dictate acaedemic mandates for justification.

      Enjoyed reading your thoughts in the Social Media in Organizations blog, and invite all to follow you there!


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