The world is beginning to fill with self proclaimed social media experts and Trust Agents (even though Chris Brogan and Julien Smith warn against calling yourself such things). These people can not possibly be experts. We are all learning in this space. Yes, some have a true uncanny ability to connect and build communities.
An expert though, by definition, is someone who knows everything about a subject. Social Media is such a new frontier that there really is no way that someone could honestly claim to fully understand it. It is constantly changing, and rules of the game are continually being remade and broken.
Like climbing guides, a good consultant is someone who has survived a few impressive journeys and now wants to offer help to others. And like a guide, they usually fail when they become too cocky. When I was growing up, my dad would tell me stories of pilots who died because they were too confident. The good ones are always learning, always correcting and experimenting.
Recently I was watching an episode of Globe Trekker. Adventure diva Holly Morris had chosen to attempt a personal life goal of climbing the Matterhorn. She could have tried the climb alone with some chance of success. She chose wisely though to use a trusted Mt. Guide, Ricky Andenmatten. Her guide is what caught my attention. He was humble, kind, and most of all knowledgeable. He also offered a sense of safety and confidence to his client.
Guides are simply people who have gone before us. They come back from the journey and offer us the chance to succeed where we might have failed. They also offer tips for avoiding some of the least obvious pitfalls, as well as nuggets we might miss if trekking through the web on our own.
Guides can range from seasoned veterans to those just starting out. Right now we have a new frontier still being explored. Some of us have been to the far reaches and are now offering our help to others. Others are just starting out. If you have survived, offer what you found, but please leave the expert out of your title. Let others call you an expert, trust agent, or guru.
*Matterhorn image used under the flckr creative commons nordique