Real Social Media “Experts” Stay In School

By now we have all heard the phrase “There are no experts in social media, just students.” The world of social media is evolving so rapidly that even the “gurus” we have come to admire and respect today, are in a perpetual state of learning. Whether you consider yourself a journalist, public relations professional, or marketer; as communicators we must all learn to navigate the world of social media. But if the goal is to become, not an expert, but a student, how does that change your approach? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Pay attention to kids in class. Just because there are no experts, there is a lot you can learn from users at all levels. Figure out who your role models should be.
  • Raise your hand. Ask questions. Share your thoughts and opinions. Don’t be afraid to to admit you don’t know everything. You’ll be surprised how quickly you learn this way.
  • Perfect attendance. Having a Twitter handle, Facebook page, LinkedIn presence, blog, etc., means little unless you are using these tools to engage on a regular basis. Improve your attendance and learn more.
  • Study hall. Strive to learn something new every day. Make a conscious effort. It is easy to get stuck in a comfort zone with Twitter, or the blogs you routinely read. Don’t.
  • Field trips. Get out there and meet people in person. Find a local Tweetup or attend an un-conference related to social media. You’ll develop stronger relationships with the people you interact with on line, and you’ll learn a ton.

Teachers are everywhere. While no one is an expert, I have found nearly everyone is a teacher (whether they know it or not). Some teach practices worth adopting; others teach you mistakes to avoid.

Do you consider yourself a student of social media? What steps do you take to further your social media education and what are the biggest challenges?

Valerie SimonValerie Merahn Simon writes a national public relations column for and also blogs for BurrellesLuce, where she serves as a Senior Vice President. She can be found on twitter @valeriesimon.
(Image Credit: Final Exam by dcjohn)


  1. I don’t think this topic needs to be restricted to social media – it just seems to be the flavour of the day to have a go at social media expertise at the minute. 🙂

    If you stop learning in any field – business, scholastic, personal – then you may as well give up the ghost, since you’ll be left behind by those that continue to learn and share together.

    It’s all about levels of expertise. You may be more of an expert at a topic than I am, and vice versa. But things change on a constant level, particularly the likes of marketing, PR, social media, etc. So, being a full-on expert? Probably not. Having levels of expertise? Definitely.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. Once you reach the point where you start calling yourself an expert, you’re pretty much saying you have nothing left to learn. There are some exceptions – Nobel Laureates come to mind – but for the most part, this holds true. Plus those geniuses never stop learning either, so the argument holds true.

  2. Absolutely! I first heard the statement that “we are all stdents” via a tweet. It was something Brian Solis had just said at the Digital Impact Conference and was tweeted by conference attendee @sjshannon. It really resonated with me. And I have been applying it to all aspects of my life … including motherhood 🙂

    Although I have heard this phrase many times since, I have not really heard the “so what/ how does this change my approach.” I have found that striving to become a student, rather than an expert is very different.

  3. You put it so eloquently. I am learning and since I am trying to teach myself PR and SM I am learning a lot from people in the field. I chose the wrong major admittedly in college which took me so long to graduate. So I am teaching myself what I should have learned all along. This is an interesting journey!

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