The Trouble With Experts

Somebody, please tell me what I’m doing wrong!

I'm A Chronic Twitter Enthusiast

In the nineties the only way to get media attention was to be a self-proclaimed ‘expert’. Interestingly there were a plethora of ‘expert experts’ educating people on how to be the expert in their given field. You didn’t have to know a lot; you just needed to know how to communicate well. Media outlets could impress their audiences by using the term and applying it to yourself somehow lent credibility to you – by association, if nothing else.

I cannot help but think much of the magic associated with that particular term has since waned. Log on to Twitter and watch the deep suspicion with which self-proclaimed ‘social media experts’ and ‘SEO (Search Engine Optimization) experts’ are treated. Both from other ‘experts’ and the general public as a whole.

Heavy handed marketing exercises involving ‘experts’ have left a bad taste in many people’s mouths. Some ‘experts’ have been more interested in broadcasting at people rather than communicating with them. They maintain their way is the only way and that anybody who diverges too wildly from their methods doesn’t know what they’re doing and certainly shouldn’t be trusted with your business!

Others have attached the mantle of ‘expert’ to themselves to lure unsuspecting people into short-lived but profitable scams.

Our economies are founded on the premise of ‘specialisation,’ the idea that we all do something well and other things perhaps not as well. Rather than try to be an all-rounder, we spend most of our time and energy focusing on our specialisation and outsource those other tasks to suitably qualified people. However I put to you that the way we source and consume information has changed considerably. Few people are searching for a ‘guru’ for the sake of having a guru to follow. We are all searching for answers to specific problems within our lives and businesses. The way information is stored and catalogued now (on the internet) means that in a given moment we can easily locate advice on a very specific query.

This has considerable implications for all teachers, advisors and consultants. Suddenly the need for somebody who has read everything, who ‘knows’ everything, is significantly reduced. We don’t require the services of a person who knows everything, simply the person who knows the answer to our current question. Search engines take the information we provide them with, make some assumptions and suggest sources which may or may not be relevant. The process isn’t perfect but it helps us filter information and reach our own conclusions, and the investment of time – and money – is significantly reduced.

The other thing to appreciate is that even if you do have the right answer to an individual’s current dilemma there is no guarantee of a continuing relationship with that individual. It may be that your specialisation is not something that particularly interests the individual, though at one time they had need of a specific piece of advice or information. (A lot of ‘experts’ currently have audiences that consist primarily of other would-be experts in the same area of specialisation. Sometimes you have to wonder if businesses are meeting genuine needs or merely perpetuating their own industries. Internet marketing is particularly notorious for selling internet marketing affiliate programs to other internet marketers.)

Knowing a lot of things and being able to communicate them well may no longer be enough to sustain a relationship. The internet may necessitate new, more social dimensions to what were previously exclusively business relationships. It may mean you need to be inspiring and encouraging, rather than merely instructional.

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