12 Most Convincing Characteristics of New Media “Expertise”
Expert has become a dirty word in many corners of social media. Not quite on the level of such inherently ludicrous labels as ‘guru’ or ‘rock star’, perhaps, but a cause of some consternation nonetheless.
In its purest form, however, expertise is simply a significant base of knowledge in a given field, relative to the comprehension level of those seeking help. Bold proclamations of unparalleled expertise may be unattractive but an assuredness, a depth of knowledge that many others lack, is both desirable and important in those we hire for advice. Expert advice.
That said, here are my 12 most convincing characteristics that should guide you to an appropriate expert, particularly in the realm of new media:
1. Ability to answer questions
You’re going to be coming to this person with all manner of queries, so you need to know they have the required depth of knowledge. A little probing early on goes a long way to ensuring your hire isn’t all talk.
We always feel better when others have tested the waters before us. The more positive reports of existing satisfied clients, the better you can feel about your expert. Don’t be afraid to ask about, even call these folks. If they’re genuinely satisfied, they’ll be happy to explain their recommendation.
3. Verifiable portfolio of work
As with testimonials, it’s helpful if you can easily dig into an existing body of work for reassurance that your requirements will be met. Look for examples that match your own needs and creative approaches that impress you.
4. Jargon free
Over use of industry speak usually means one of two things; either your expert is trying to blind you with the science of their profession to make a sale, or they lack the ability to communicate with you in plain, every day language. Neither of these will lead you to positive long term results. Choose someone with whom you can exchange ideas seamlessly and who explains even complex matters in a clear manner.
5. Listen more than speak
A common trait of overblown expertise is to continue selling long after a potential client’s requirements should have been discussed. If the first conversations aren’t centered on them listening to what you need to achieve, how can they deliver it in the long term?
6. In the loop
Sharing relevant articles about you, your industry, and a variety of factors that affect you in the new media world is a big reassurance that you’ve chosen someone who both understands and cares about the success of your project.
7. Customized services
Though there’s something to be said for niche specialists, new media is a broad and ever-expanding field of work. Your guide in this area should recognize this and be ready and willing to tailor services to the areas that best match your needs, whether that means expanding their own knowledge or bringing in additional help to do so.
8. Speak your language
Beyond avoiding industry jargon, better still if your expert is able to communicate in a manner that comes naturally to you. Not only does this demonstrate that they understand the way you work, to some extent, it also means that they can communicate with your new media audience effectively, should that be one of your requirements.
9. Hype free
The buzz you feel about your potential consultant should largely be driven by points 2 and 3 on this list, not by the expert himself. Genuine client praise and reputed bodies of work should impress. Overenthusiastic self-proclamations of rock stardom should not.
10. Good on the gut
Often overlooked, that instinctive feeling you get about someone is frequently proven right. If something feels wrong about your expert in early encounters, it’s probably only going to get worse.
11. Ongoing support
It’s easy to maintain enthusiasm for a project during the sales process and early days, but the really valuable advisers will keep that up right through the length of a project. If you find this waning in those you hire, or hear reports of it from other sources, alarm bells should be ringing.
12. Follow up
Sure, this will be in the closing stages of — or perhaps even after — your project, but continued check-ins and support late on remain a valuable characteristic. Not only will you benefit from any last minute adjustments, the insights could come in very handy for future work and hiring. For the expert, they can be the final proof for the client that she should be recommended to others.
What do you think constitutes an expert? What single quality is most important in selecting one?
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Featured image courtesy of Espen Klem via Creative Commons.