I like Gary Vaynerchuck – I love his new video podcast Ask Gary. But Gary put up an important blog post yesterday titled “Are experts the only people who should put out content?” and he argues that expertise is subjective, that it doesn’t objectively exist. I disagree and think it’s important enough to write a blog post.
Just because he’s seen several ways that people have been wrong about their assessments of expertise does not mean that the concept of expertise is invalid. TL;DR: I believe you can build expertise through consistent participation in global discourse on the social web. And I think that’s pretty awesome.
I am a social media expert (Gary is too), despite people saying “there’s no such thing as a social media expert.” I’ve written thousands of blog posts and I’ve gotten progressively better results from them. I know a lot and can do a lot more than I was able to do 10 years ago when I started all this. Now I run a company that finds influential experts on any topics. If you do marketing or market research, you should go request info about it right now at GetLittleBird.com.
I like Gary and I often think he’s right, but I also think he’s often wrong. About this I feel strongly enough to write a blog post about it.
In summary: I think you should publish content right away and consistently but you should do it in a way that helps build expertise, which is real.
Gary says: Put that content out! Having that body of work is incredibly valuable. You’ll be able to look back it; your grandkids will be able to look back at the it. Plus, you’ll be able to see how things evolved. Your final destination will have a ton more value and context when there’s a trail of wins and losses lighting your way.
Marshall: This part is definitely true in my experience. I first learned about social media from Dawn Miceli and Drew Domkus, the creators of the Dawn and Drew Show comedy podcast. It made a big impression on me years ago to hear Drew say that when he listens to their first shows, he’s embarrassed. When I look at my first blog posts, I’m embarrassed too. But you’ve got to take risks in order to score victories.
I do think those early risks, those successes and failures you build upon, can be taken with dignity and humility though. But you’ve got to work through them.
Gary: So this notion of expertise is clearly subjective. Nobody’s an “expert” unless some other “expert” deems them one. Either that or you need to be consistent enough that a wider audience begins to defer to you instead of their own opinions.
Marshall: Is this the end goal – to get people to defer to you instead of their own opinions? I’m not so sure. For a different perspective, I offer VC Hunter Walk’s take. Walk says that you should write blog posts not to show how smart you are, but to get feedback on your thoughts from other smart people – because that’s a great way to learn.
I think a combination of both approaches is best. Convene smart people in order to learn and be consistent about putting out your own contributions to conversations with them.
Gary: I’ve often had people compare me favorably to other “experts” who are way more qualified than I am. On the other hand I’ve had my legitimacy challenged by people who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. It’s totally a perception = reality play.
Marshall: This is where I really disagree with Gary. Social media has made it easier than ever for anyone to publish their ideas and get a big audience. Not just experts any more. But does that mean that no one is an expert? No, I don’t believe it does.
The dictionary definition of expertise is “Great skill or knowledge in a particular field.” Is that subjective? Maybe when people are right on the line – but it’s pretty clear when people are on one end of the spectrum or another – having great skill or knowledge or not having it.
If there’s no such thing as expertise, then why is that the first time I do many things it takes me 10 times as long, gets 10% as many results and has 10X as many mistakes as result from when I do something for the 10th time? That’s not subjective, that’s of great strategic importance.
The fabulous Kathy Sierra spoke about this at Inbound 13. She said, “What is expertise? It’s not experience. Given a representative task, experts perform better and more reliably than experienced non-experts. Real experts make consistently superior choices and actions.”
But after a certain amount of experience, it gets more competitive.
“After 18 to 24 months, studies say, experience is a poor indicator of success,” says Sierra.
There are clear ways to become “more bad ass.”
Deliberate Practice. Specifically, experts practice better, differently than other people. Deliberate practice is a bad name but it points to a progression through 3 stages. 1. When you can’t do something 2. When you can do it with effort. 3. When it’s mastered and automatic. Half a skill mastered, she argues is better than a whole skill half-mastered.
Deliberate practice is a specific kind of exercise that goes from “can’t do” to “95% reliable at some level of quality” within 3 sessions max of 45 to 90 mins each. Those sessions need to have clear criteria of success and immediate feedback.
If you can’t reach 95% reliability in 3 sessions, you should stop trying, because you’re just making bad habits more permanent.
If we can help people practice at a higher level than they’re at, that’s great. We should talk to users about how to get better at what they want to do and help them find resources. It’s not about how good your content is, it’s about how good our users are.
The second way to become more bad ass is through magical unicorns. Experts get better by being around people who are better at what they do. Brains are learning something through pattern recognition even if we’re not conscious of what we’re learning. Chicken sexing is taught this way.
Motivation is rarely the problem.
Someone always has to tell snowboarders that the first day is hard for everyone and it will get better, or else no one would snowboard a second day. Some things are hard. We understand!
Gary: So should you be scared to put out content if you’re not an “expert”? NO.And when’s the best time to start putting out content? NOW.
Marshall: Should you put out content and get feedback to build expertise? Yes. When’s the best time to start? Now, or at least once you’ve done some listening already first so you have something relevant to contribute.