Yesterday a fellow colleague shared an enlightening story with me about a consultant who touts herself as a social media 'expert'. The reason this person uses the word 'expert' when describing herself is that a national media publication bestowed her the title of social media 'expert'. Ok, I can buy that...until I read her articles touting her social media knowledge. She got her facts wrong - glaringly wrong.
I don't claim expertise or perfection as an Internet marketing consultant and copywriter, but I can admit when I make a mistake. Last week I was called on the carpet about misinformation I posted on my blog, which I immediately followed up with a correction. I do my best to present correct facts so I dug around and conducted further research. This was a good lesson for me, and reminded me that business professionals actually READ my words (which is a good thing).
In the case of this social media expert, she presented confusing and misleading social media information that was way off base. She was steering business professionals down the wrong path which could negatively impact their marketing strategies - and ultimately, their bottom line (not good).
Where does that leave you, the reader, when shifting and sorting out information? Reader beware? I'm not downplaying the ethical industry professionals out there. There are amazing consultants who write stellar industry articles packed with meaty information. However, slapping on the title of 'expert' next to your name doesn't make it so.
The Internet has blurred the ethical lines of fact versus fiction. Expert is an overused word in the professional world and people have grown wary of the 'e' word. By the valuable information you present, you set yourself up for success. As a result, your industry knowledge speaks volumes about your brand. You want people to trust and respect you, but you don't earn that trust by screaming to the world that you're an expert. You have to earn that trust, and you have a responsibility to your readers to present well-researched, factual information (as I was reminded last week by my blog readers).
If you have an online business presence, your reputation management needs to be a top priority and word-of-mouth travels fast! Before you add the word 'expert' to your LinkedIn profile or business card, you might want to think twice and consider a different word.