Social media gurus, experts and whales: the incremental expansion of expertise

Back in 2004, before blogging was as mainstream as it is today, and there were perhaps 2,000 bloggerati putting up links and opining views (and many more people doing their personal community thing on xanga and live journal), the whole concept of business blogging blew up.

Suddenly, there were business blogging conferences, and 200 + bloggers who hung out shingles to tell the world–especially companies with money–about blogging and why it mattered to their business (and why they had to hire these folks to tell them this stuff.)

Fast forward 5 years and we have many more people using social media tools on the web, and many more twitterati, and now we have 10,000 people, instead of 2,000, who would classify as hard core social media users, and we have 2,000 people, not 200, telling the world–the business community in particular–to hire them so they can teach everyone–especially companies with money–how to use twitter and all the other tools to support closeness to the customer, viral marketing and the new new transparency.

One take here–which has some truth to it–is that the noise to signal ratio has gone waay up, and that 50% of the people putting out their shingle don’t necessarily know what they are talking about.

But another take–which I think also has some truth to it–is that there are 2,000 people across the country who really are expert in using social media, and they all have something to teach. After all, if the premise of Web 2.0 is that users can be the center of the toolset, why would it be surprising that growing numbers of users would actually become expert?

Or that there’d be an incremental acceleration of skilled users (and free agent consultants) since the tools were getting both more intuitive and better marketed (now that we have five or seven leading tech news blogs).

Of course, there is a moral to this story(sparked both by reading this post and by a chat at the Oakland meet-up yesterday): If you ARE a social media expert type, and you are looking for clients, DON’T go hang at the social media conferences–most of the customers will be elsewhere. Go somewhere else and get away from those 2,000 peers; your client pipeline will be so much better.