In Defense of the ‘Silent’ Experts…

by Mack Collier

I wanted to go slightly off-topic today to discuss ‘experts’.  For the last several years in the social media space there’s been constant hand-wringing over how we vet who the ‘real’ experts are.  One of the common themes is that when people claim to be experts that really aren’t, it makes it more difficult to find and value the true experts.  The ‘fake’ experts are drowning out the voices of the ‘real’ experts, as it were.

Honestly, this is a problem.  And it does dilute the value (or at least the perceived value) of ‘real’ experts.  But it also creates another problem that I don’t feel we spend enough time talking about.

In order to deal with this idea of people promoting themselves as experts when they really aren’t, we’ve come up with a qualifier:  The larger group has to identify you as an expert, you can’t promote yourself as such.  The logic is that the true experts don’t need to promote themselves as being experts, because the larger group recognizes their expertise, and promotes them accordingly.

So by extension, if the group doesn’t call you an expert, then you aren’t one.  This addresses the ‘fake’ experts that promote themselves as being experts while the larger group does not.

But what about the ‘silent’ experts?  The people that have a level of expertise, and aren’t aware of it, or they are, but don’t feel comfortable promoting themselves as being experts?  I see this constantly in the social media space.  Often, these people are smart enough to qualify as being experts on some subject, but don’t feel comfortable speaking out as such or speaking out period, because the ‘group’ has told them that if they aren’t identifying them as experts, then they aren’t.  This leads to some people that truly are experts not voicing and sharing their expertise, because they don’t have the confidence in their own abilities.

A few years ago I was talking to someone in this space about #Blogchat on the phone.  She was telling me how much she loved the chat and I realized that she would make the perfect co-host for #Blogchat.  She was an expert in a certain area of blogging, so it made perfect sense to have her co-host on that particular topic.  She was delighted and we started talking about what her topic could be and how the #Blogchat she would co-host would be structured.  She just kept thanking me for the chance to co-host, and I tried to thank her for agreeing.  She then paused and I’ll never forget what she did next.

She started crying.  She started crying because she was so grateful to be put in a position of being acknowledged as an expert.  She felt this was truly an honor that she didn’t deserve.  But she did.

This period was an expert.  The ‘group’ wasn’t identifying her as such, but it was obvious to anyone that knew her and what she had accomplished, that she was an expert.  But because the ‘group’ didn’t feel she was, by extension she didn’t feel as if she had the ‘right’ to be treated as an expert.  She felt I was doing her a huge favor that she didn’t deserve by letting her co-host #Blogchat, when in fact she absolutely deserved to co-host, and I was thrilled that she would.  She was actually doing the #Blogchat community a big favor by agreeing to share her expertise with us.

It worries me that there are so many people out there, so many smart voices like my friend, that are afraid to share what they know, because we are telling them that their voice is not worth sharing.

Here’s some of the rules we are creating:

There’s a problem with ‘fake’ experts.  You can’t promote yourself as an expert, so if the group doesn’t tell you that you are an expert, then you aren’t.

There’s too much content out there.  So you should ONLY create new content that is original and that creates value for others.  Never never NEVER create content just to be creating content.  If your content isn’t epic, don’t share it.  IOW, don’t share your content unless you are an expert…..but remember that you aren’t an expert unless ‘we’ tell you that you are.


I say this is bullshit.  Instead of being worried about how many ‘experts’ are out there (real or claimed), instead we need to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their voice.  Where no one feels that they need permission to share their thoughts and ideas.  No one should feel like their ideas aren’t ‘good enough’ or don’t pass muster with someone that others have identified as being smarter than they are.  There’s no one arbiter of what ideas are and are not worth sharing.

Yes, that means there will be more ‘clutter’ and there will also be more ‘experts’.  There will also be more content and more distractions.

This is ultimately about what we value.  If we push for less ‘clutter’ and less content, by extension we will also get less expertise and less thought leadership.  Less means less of everything.

I say we should strive for a space where everyone feel comfortable sharing their voice and ideas.  When we start to throw up rules and boundaries to idea and information-sharing, then we all lose.

What do you think?

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