Up front I should tell you. I'm a Baby Boomer. Born in 1959. I have been working in social media marketing for the past ten years. Of course back in 2004 it wasn't labeled as such.
In my 25 plus year career as a PR/marketing guy, I've come across a variety of "experts." Some good, some not so good.
But it wasn't until social media came along that a new form of expert started appearing: what I call the Nextpert.
Members of Generation Next (or X, Y or Millennials), these Nextperts believe that they are experts in social media - and social media marketing - because that's all they've ever known and they use social media all the time.
They grew up using social media. They most likely wouldn't know how to communicate without Facebook and texting.
I know this from experience, and the experience of my colleagues and friends. Here's a story that illustrates the point:
In 2007, when Facebook was just becoming a dominant force in social media, and companies/consultants where starting to tout the platform as a way to reach new and current customers, a friend who owned an ad agency called me one day with a request:
"Do you know anyone with Facebook marketing experience?" he asked. "I have a large retail client that wants to try Facebook as a way to reach their customers."
I told him that that wasn't me - I was just beginning to establish my LinkedIn credentials - but I would think about it and get back to him.
I found a young professional I had met recently who claimed to be what my ad agency friend was looking for and introduced the two.
Fast forward to several days later when I contacted the contact at the ad agency to see how the meeting with the "nextpert" went.
"Oh, he blew out after the first question in the meeting!" was the response.
Flabbergasted, and slightly embarrassed, I asked him what the question was...
It was simply this: "Have you ever had a real job?"
What my friend was driving at, and probably could have phrased better was: "Do you have business or retail experience at the corporate level?"
The self-titled expert responded with this "No, but I've been on Facebook since I was in high school, and know it very well."
My friends response summed it up for me: "That's all well and good (he probably said son here) but you can't relate to my client and their customers."
Harsh? Probably. Illustrative of the issue? Definitely!
I have MANY friends who are millennials and who have done amazing things with their careers - from rising through the ranks of corporations to creating new businesses (several of them more than once).
I don't want to come across as someone who has "age prejudice." Direct opposite.
BUT I do believe that there are a plethora of nextperts in social media marketing who tout their capabilities based on the fact that they "grew up with (Facebook, Twitter, you name it)."
I would challenge these nextperts to tell me how often they put down their smartphone/tablet/device and pick up the phone and talk to someone. Or meet someone in person to work through a business issue.
Boomers are born networkers - we know how to hold a conversation that lasts more than 140 characters, or isn't peppered with acronyms and text shorthand.
We enjoy meeting people in person, and in most cases, love to build relationships - not the number of likes we get on our page.
Ted Rubin, the true expert in social media marketing is the one who coined "Return on Relationship" or RonR. He says: "RonR is used to define and educate companies, brands, and people about the importance of creating authentic connection, interaction, and engagement."
To me the key there is authentic connections.
So the next time you need social media marketing help, or feel intimidated by the younger nextpert you meet spouting off information about Facebook or Twitter. Stop them a second and ask them these two simple questions:
"How many real jobs have you had?"
"When was the last time you had a long conversation on the phone with a social media connection?"
Chuck Hester is the Chief Communications Officer for Big Think Innovation, a business architect consultancy that helps companies plan, grow and build their futures. He is also a LinkedIn trainer and speaker, helping businesses get the most out of LinkedIn, while teaching them how to communicate effectively. Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Need help with LinkedIn? Feel free to message Chuck and ask about one-on-one and group LinkedIn Executive Training.