Credit: Conversation Marketing – good post, Ian 🙂
Years before I started my own firm, I clearly remember a great question designed to trip me up at a job interview:
“So Brian…how many hours of experience do you have on Visio?”
After a chuckle, I regained composure and replied:
“About 4-5 years. Do you catch a lot of people on that one?”
“Yes, I do,” he said with a smirk.
Which brings us to the point of expertise. Lots of people throw around needlessly unqualified labels about how so and so is a guru, maven, or expert. Question is, how do you know someone truly is an expert? Especially in social media – a field so near and dear to our hearts?
The answer? Experience.
I’ve recently read (and re-read several times – ask my wife, she can attest 🙂 a book called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. You have probably heard of another one of his works – The Tipping Point – but this is also a must read.
Mr. Gladwell does a wonderful job of challenging the conventional way of thought on the coveted “self-made man,” rags to riches stories, and innate geniuses (they get help along the way too, read the book for more on this point). Without giving away all there is in the book, he talks about how people don’t come from nothing to success. Even if they are geniuses. Rather, it comes from opportunity and experience.
So, How Much Experience is Enough?
This may sound weird to you, but if you look across all sorts of fields of knowledge, they all converge around a single number. 10,000 hours.
Here’s the kicker. Social media is such a new field, that people could not have been expert practitioners until recently.
Let’s say you started 3 years ago and consistently work your butt off to the tune of 70 hours per week:
- 70 x 50 (give yourself some vacation and sick time) = 3,500 hours
- 3,500 hours per year x 3 years = 10,500 hours
Got that? Testimonials from customers aren’t enough. News mentions. Interviews. Even past performance on a client – you could have just got lucky. The true measure of expertise is this 10,000 hours rule.
Conclusion, and a Bit More
And here is what I have to add to Malcolm Gladwell’s argument – it isn’t just the 10,000 hour rule, but rather how quickly you got to the 10,000 hours. Total immersion, i.e. getting 10,000 hours as quickly as possible is an even greater predictor of success. Keeping in mind that social media is such a new field, many so-called “experts” are eliminated right from the start.