Are you a “fill in the blank” Expert?

As you probably know from reading previous entries on this blog I work for a digital marketing services company called Zeta Interactive.  And if you didn’t know, well, know you do.  Working in the digital marketing space is great and I love every minute of it.  The digital medium is constantly changing and innovating so it really helps keep things fresh and exciting.  Not to mention challenging.  Working in the digital arena I of course consume a lot of the different channels that it offers.  You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, and of course you can reach me via email. (I even got my very own email address on Friday…I know…I’m an email geek)  Being a participant in all of these areas I read a lot of posts, tweets, emails, and anything else in a digital format.  The other day I came across a conversation on Twitter between a few of my followers regarding what constitutes an “expert” in a particular discipline.  In this particular conversation it was regarding social media…but it made me wonder…can there really be such a thing as an “expert”?  What does being an expert mean?  How do you become one and who anoints you an expert? defines “expert” as the following:

– noun –  a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority: a language expert.

You’ll come to find that when discussing a term…I love going to the dictionary to start with my analysis.  What better way is there to start to build a definition than to find out exactly what the word means and then break it down from there.  It also runs in my family…so a bit hereditary.  Anyway…back to the twitter conversation…

In this conversation a statement was made that a 23 year old person could not be a social media expert.  I’m not certain I agree with that statement.  Here is why.  It’s been about 10 years since I left the hallowed grounds of Villanova University…and since then…things have changed.  Facebook would not come out until two years later…Twitter two years after that…as well as numerous other technological enhancement.  The reason why I set the stage in terms of timing is a matter of curriculum.  I know from being an active reader of the alumni newsletter from Villanova that they are constantly changing their course offering to align with the latest and greatest technology, learning, and insights to produce the most well-rounded graduate they can.  Social Media is one of these new areas of study.  Now I am not saying that taking a course in social media makes you an expert but it does give you a wealth of knowledge about a subject or field that could qualify as “special”.

Bringing this a bit closer to home…I’ve worked in email for over nine years.  Am I an expert?  I don’t consider myself one but I would say that I am knowledgeable about the medium and have certain perspectives on the topic.  Does that make me a “subject matter expert”?  I don’t know.  Do I have to work in the channel for 10 years before earning the title of expert?  Is there an committee of other experts that I need to apply to in order to become an expert?  To be honest…most of the experts I’ve met over the course of my professional and educational career do not call themselves experts.  Are they knowledgeable about their given trade or discipline…sure.  Do I consider them an expert?  Most definitely.  So maybe that is what makes an expert…validation from colleagues or contemporaries that an individual does have a special skill or knowledge about a subject.

Which leads me back to the tweet…I don’t know what background there was to the statement that a 23 year old is not a social media expert.  It is certainly possible that the individual in question was not an expert.  However if the statement was solely based on the age of the individual…I disagree with the statement wholeheartedly.  Being an expert is based on the measurement of knowledge, not years on this earth.  I’ve met plenty of people I consider experts that are much younger than I am.  So…are you an expert?


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