We know them, we love them, we get a kick out of the grammar mistakes in their Twitter profiles. They are the self-proclaimed experts, specialists, trainers, speakers, and gurus who craft careers as social media marketing specialists from their parents’ basements. Who are these people? There are legitimate experts out there — those supremely savvy digital communicators and marketers who can take your websites and businesses to the top of the search results and iTunes apps charts. Unfortunately for all of us, there are far more imitators than innovators. With only a Twitter account and marginal creativity, you can be one, too.

 

Or better yet, don’t. Social media brings with it infinite possibilities. We’re seeing a slew of young, exceptional entrepreneurs building major companies and innovative products with little money but major technical savvy and skill. This has encouraged a generation of ambitious but underskilled imitators who promote themselves as experts and specialists. They do have thousands of followers — let’s give them at least that. But those of us who live online know that a high numbers of followers doesn’t equal success at anything more than manufactured popularity.

 

Make sure your specialist is truly qualified before making hiring decisions.

Make sure your specialist is truly qualified before making hiring decisions.

Amusing as these frauds may be, impersonation is dangerous. Large companies know better than to base an individual’s capabilities off his or her Twitter profiles, but there are others out there who aren’t as savvy. Image isn’t everything in the digital age: it’s anything and everything. The “you can be anything you want to be” mantra we’ve been chanting in the United States since the birth of the nation has come full circle online.

 

It’s easy to find public relations “experts” who bungle their ways through YouTube promos with only their stilettos to support their substantial “track records,” and there is no lack of social media “specialists” who measure success with retweets. They’re blissfully ignorant and dangerously predatory. However, they’re impeccably dressed, and when image is everything and anything is possible online, being impeccably dressed is enough to build an extensive list of dissatisfied clients.

 

When choosing your PR, marketing, or advertising team, be sure to keep both eyes open and to consider the qualifications of the team on paper — away from their flashy attire and web presence. Think of these people as your own employees, rather than extensions of your company or a specific project, and be critical of their self-proclaimed skills.

 

Have you run into an internet “expert” who turned out to be a fraud? Let’s talk in the comments about what it really takes to be an expert, or find me on Twitter @nataliepetitto.