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How to spot a Fakexpert in five quick steps

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How to spot a fake expert

A recent editorial about whether the web is leveling the playing field so much that we no longer value experience and knowledgeable people spurred my own response, after which, I began to think of how professionals can help protect potential customers and clients from going astray.

Not for any altruistic reasons, mind you. I’m a bit lazy, you see, and since most people come to me as a fixer, I thought it might be smart to head the mess off at the pass, resulting in less work for me. See? Pure selfishness. Let’s get you fixed up first, then we’ll get a team of psychiatrists to work on my issues later…

1- They fail the due diligence test

When you find a new place to buy from, it’s critical that you do what is called “due diligence” by some of us silly people on the web who think the term bears any meaning outside our techie circles.

It simply means this: do basic investigation of the person or company you want to buy from. Google the CEO’s name, the name of the company, their book on Amazon if they have one, their KikScore profile, reviews of the product they’re offering, etc. Ask for references to other people who have used the service you are researching.

If a book is available, a perfect positive score is just as suspicious as mostly negative scores. There are very few books that have all five star reviews on Amazon, and so it is with ratings of other items. Mostly five and four star reviews is a possibility, but all fives is probably the work of friends and family.

The more people they claim to have served, the higher the likelihood is that some people should be at least slightly unhappy.

2- Messy “social proof”

Social proof is the presence of positive commentary by people like you who use a certain service or product. Often in the form of testimonials, reviews, statistical “evidence” or case studies, social proof is meant to tell you that other regular people (and occasionally, celebrities or fellow experts) have found the promises made by the product or service you wish to buy to be true.

My favorite example of faulty social proof is in search. Every few years or so, a person who has lucked out in the struggle to maintain search rankings in Google will share the steps they took, and show that they are number one out of x million results.

In some cases, an obedient monkey who is skilled at hitting the enter key can get number one results out of 6 million terms.

The number of terms isn’t actually of material significance until it gets over 50 million, and/or yields consistent, targeted traffic to a website. Some terms with 100 million competing terms are easier to attain than some with only 60 million listings. A seasoned search professional knows this, and will often include independent scores of keyword difficulty, or an average number of visitors who visit a site for a certain term.

In addition, methods that work on one type of site that has a certain set of circumstances, won’t work for another site that’s in a different format, or is not equipped to attract the same kinds of links or visitors. It’s sad, because most small businesses don’t need to rank for a highly competitive term or have more than 200 targeted visitors a day to meet their financial goals. So the hyperbole is unnecessary if the method actually works.

The focus should be on whether the conditions for success have been tested and if so, can be duplicated for long term results.

3- Uneven peer/colleague approval

When a company on the web is good at something, they often form strong alliances with other companies that have a web presence, sometimes even from competitors.

In offline life, you’ll find that great doctors know other great doctors and refer business to each other. They aren’t shy about doing this because, well, it’s good business. A cosmetic dentist in Dallas isn’t threatened by his peer in Atlanta. An excellent brain surgeon at Washington Hospital Center is happy to recommend his cardiovascular colleague when it’s warranted.

Online, if you run into a PR person who has nothing good to say about other PR professionals, marketers, search or social media professionals, you have a reason to be suspicious. These professionals often work in teams together – a professional with no allies is either brand-new and inexperienced, or has some issues they aren’t telling you about.

On the other hand someone who appears on the surface to be great friends with everyone may be suspicious as well – but again, due diligence can ferret the sketchy cases out.

4- They don’t take their own medicine

Would you go to a veterinarian who hates animals? Eat food made by a chef with a weak palate? Shop at a store the employees warn you not to patronize? Use a therapist who hates people? Hire a nanny who has never cared for children? Buy a car from a salesman who has never driven?

For the most part, of course not. It’s laughable to think otherwise. And yet we do it online, all the time.

We hire the social media intern with no experience, even though we aren’t qualified to train them, because it costs less, and how hard could it be? We read publications run by people who aren’t familiar with our field — we just never think to check.

We sometimes even read reviews for movies from people with taste that varies widely from our own, not bothering to find out whether they make the distinction between not liking a certain type of movie or the film itself.

We’re so used to getting high volumes of data from the web that we no longer take the time to be sure we can trust it as information. At least, we did in 2010. Times are changing. We’re starting to realize that every review, evaluation, and expert opinion is not created equal. And the sooner we learn to tell the difference, the better.

5- Talking down others, not proving their results

Here’s one that’s very easy to spot… A remnant of the old age of marketing, everyone from politicians to bad PR representatives think that mudslinging still works to gain clients, if it ever did work in the first place.

And yet, it’s been theorized that the person or company that gets the most attention, positive or negative, who wins the election, is the one who fights the dirtiest? Why? Studies show that we are more likely to pick what is familiar when we have too much information to remember who is best.

What today’s consumer looks for is proof of concept- we want to know if the solution you’re proposing will work for us. If you tell us bad things about your competition, we’ll go check it out. And we may forget why we are there or that we arrived through a detrimental review.

We also want to work with companies focused on what they can do, not on what others can’t.

The takeaway

The rise of social media was hailed for its leveling of the playing field, and suddenly, through blogs and social networks, a small independent contractor had the same means and ability to reach a consumer as a Fortune 500 company – no longer were expensive television and print ads the only means of reaching consumers. Match that level playing field with consumers experiencing information overload and no legitimate means to verify fakexperts’ claims, and thousands of dollars are being spent to fix the digital presences of companies that have been destroyed by fakexperts.

These fakexperts are not hard to spot, but you do have to know how to spot them, lest you or your company waste money on junk services and products.

Tinu Abayomi-Paul is the CEO of Leveraged Promotion and a member of Network Solutions Social web Advisory Board. Her website promotion company specializes in reputation management, and engineering demand generation system for businesses, integrating search, expertise marketing and social media.

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30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Greg Taylor

    February 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    The first thing I look at is the Take Their Own Medicine. Nothing, nothing — makes me crazier that seeing someone sell services that they don't take advantage of. Just a quick generalization, if they call themselves a Rockstar, Guru or (worse yet) a Jedi — run away fast.

    Thanks for the great article.

    • Tinu

      February 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      Thanks for the feedback – LOL at Rockstar/Ninja/Guru – it tickles me to see someone call themselves a Ninja especially. The visual pops into my head and from that moment on, I can't take them seriously.

  2. Eric Estate

    February 20, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Just because someone has a twitter account doesn't make them an expert. I really don't beleive there are any true social media experts out there. Why? It's too new. There are lots of people who have good results using social media, but that hardly makes them a true expert.

    • Tinu

      February 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      True, but I don't look for expertise in social media – like you said, it's too new. If we go by most standards, few people are alive today who could have put in the hours to become an expert at more than one of these technologies. 10,000 hours is about 38 hours a week for about five years. So by that standard, for a person to truly be able to claim expertise at just Twitter, they'd have had no time for a life outside it – and what good is Twitter, disconnected from the rest of life? I'd rather work with someone who has duplicatable results that apply to my business, and was an expert in their own right at some more relevant field like PR or sales conversion. Having someone who can put positive results from using these tools in the proper context would be far more valuable.

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Social Media

Instagram flaunts new features, including a decked out desktop experience  

(SOCIAL MEDIA) It’s been a time of exciting product and feature announcements for Instagram with additions of Collabs, fundraisers, and desktop posts on deck

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Instagram displayed on a desktop

It’s been a time of exciting product and feature announcements for Instagram on both mobile and desktop.

Collabs Feature

“Collabs” allows up to 2 accounts to co-author a post or Reel, both sharing joint ownership of what is ultimately published. The post or Reel will show up equally on both users’ feeds with the same amount of engagement numbers, but combined, including comments, view numbers, and like counts. This is initiated through the tagging screen and the invited account will have to accept the offer before the collab can be complete.

Examples of adding a co-author in Instagram Collabs feature

Fundraiser & Reel Features

Instagram was quick to jump on the short-form content trends taking the social media world by storm. With the rise of TikTok, the Insta platform that was originally focused on static photos added Reels, along the same wavelength of short 15, 30, or 60-second videos, though the competitor has now expanded with the option of 3 minutes. Even so, Instagram is taking the time to improve music-related features within the Reels section of the app, adding “Superbeat” and “Dynamic.” The first adds effects to the video matching the beat of the chosen song, while the latter offers unique and interesting ways to display the song’s lyrics on screen. In addition, they are beginning to test the option to run fundraisers on a post by clicking the + button in the top right corner of the interface.

Examples of Dynamic for Reels feature

 Desktop Feature

FINALLY! Instagram is now realizing just how many users truly enjoy the desktop experience. If one were to compare the platform on the mobile app vs. desktop, they would see the slew of differences between the two with the desktop interface looking like the 1st year Instagram was even introduced. Functionality is no comparison; they only just added the ability to DM on desktop last year. As one can see, there is an extremely limited experience on desktop, but Instagram is now rolling out the ability for users to post from their browsers. Catch us enjoying posts on the big screen!

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Social Media

Truth Social: Trump’s long-standing battle against Big Tech backfires

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Truth Social is an example of how a new platform, though necessary to keep competition alive, can prove to be fallible before it succeeds.

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Man holding iPhone with Truth Social app download page up, as well as the stock market and Trump in the background on computer screens.

Former President Donald J. Trump announced a new social media platform, dubbed “Truth Social” last week. The platform has since been the recipient of cyber attacks by hacker collective Anonymous and the Software Freedom Conservancy has accused the Trump Media and Technology Group of violating the terms of their software agreement.

The circumstances plaguing Truth Social provide a small (if nuanced) look into the rigors of creating and sustaining new social media platforms in the modern-day. While expanding the number of social media platforms available creates more competition, this platform, in particular, raises some questions about the wisdom of investing in a service that creates an ideological echo chamber, as well as demonstrating that not just anyone can run a social media site.

There’s no denying that this new entry into the world of social media is off to a rocky start. Cyberattacks just hours after Truth Social’s test run left the site in disarray, with fake user accounts for Mike Pence, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump appearing at various stages of the launch. Truth Social’s hosts eventually took it offline, and the sign-up process is halted for the time being.

Woman holding iPhone showing Truth Social's feed.

Truth Social also has some interesting rules regarding user interactions on their platform, including a non-disparagement clause and the assertion that users can be sued for the content they post, Time reports.

“In addition to terminating or suspending your account, we reserve the right to take appropriate legal action, including without limitation pursuing civil, criminal, and injunctive redress,” says one section of the Truth Social terms of use.

This clause is in stark contrast to the ethos behind Truth Social – a platform that, according to the press release, was “founded with a mission to give a voice to all” and “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.”

The disparity in messaging versus reality is an understandable mistake, as much of Trump’s mindset was most likely impacted by criticism levied against him on mainstream social media when he had his accounts – and anyone in the same position might reasonably make the same call. However, restricting users to agree with one set political ideology is a perilous precedent to set. Echo chambers aren’t particularly conducive to longevity.

iPhone showing Trump's suspended Twitter account.

The Trump Media and Technology Group also violated the terms of their open-source software of choice when they uploaded the pilot version of Truth Social. According to the licensing agreement associated with Mastodon – the software company TMTG used – users must have access to the source code for the product in question (in this case, Truth Social).

Since the initial users of Truth Social did not receive that access, the social media platform is at risk of permanently losing its rights to the code.

While some of these pitfalls feel proprietary to Trump insofar as his high-profile battle against social media is concerned, the truth is that any development of new social media entries will be messy and fraught with obstacles. Truth Social is just one example of how a new platform – something that is absolutely necessary to keep competition alive – can prove to be publicly fallible far before it ever succeeds.

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Social Media

Instagram Collabs: New feature fosters the ability to co-author content

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Instagram is rolling out a few updates, including a new post format called Collabs, giving users a new way to co-author feed posts and reels.

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Instagram stock images of collab feature.

Instagram is rolling out a few updates, including a new post format that many can benefit from. Called Instagram Collabs, this latest feature gives users a new way to co-author feed posts and reels. This isn’t the first feature Instagram has rolled out to promote collaboration between users, but we think it will be a beneficial addition!

How to use Instagram Collabs

Using Collabs is very similar to how you tag someone on Instagram. You can start by choosing to create either a reels video or feed post. After recording your video or taking your photo like you normally would, you head over to the “Share” screen and select “Tag People”. On that screen, there is now an “Invite Collaborator” option!

By choosing to invite a collaborator, the account you add will be able to share your post to their profile grid and their followers. Additionally, the names of all the collaborators will appear in the feed post or reel header, but before their username shows up on your post, the collaborator will need to accept the collaborator invitation first.

Keep in mind, only public accounts can be tagged and there is a limit to how many tags you can use. You’re able to tag up to 20 accounts, including the number of tagged users and collaborators.

Instagram stock photo of how to use new feature, Collabs, with iPhones showing the sequence of how to add a co-author.

Benefits of Instagram Collabs

Collabs makes it quicker and easier for everyone to share content on the platform. From local artists working together on a project to businesses working with high-profile influencers to promote their brand, content is shared instantly. Gone are the days of screenshotting or using third-party apps to repost that same content on your profile.

Along with making sharing easier, the feature makes it clear and simple to give credit where it’s due – all authors are given credit. When it comes to branded sponsorships, instead of adding hashtags or brand tags that can become cluttered, along with the user, the names of brands are neatly displayed in the header. Before this feature, it was a little difficult to distinguish a regular tag from a business, but with Collabs, that is no more.

And last, but not least, collaborators will all share views, likes, and comments. By sharing engagement signals, content creators will be able to maximize their reach and businesses will have more transparency with their customers.

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