Love it or hate it Social Media is a buzzword that is having an impact. Social media practitioners are hammered, envied, praised and defended.

I can call myself someone who has something to do with social although I come from an event planning background and I dedicated my higher education to marketing.

I started investigating the possibilities of applying marketing in social media in 2004. This is not too long for those who can be called ‘experts’.

Nonetheless, I developed a great interest and spent everyday (12 hours a day, weekends included) for the subsequent 6 years investigating, learning, tweeting, blogging and coding (a little coding I must say).

My theory is that no matter what, 5 key characteristics define qualities of those who can be taken as legitimate social media practitioners.

1. Inclusiveness

Scarcity and unreachability define someone who is maybe a good PR person, but not a good social media practitioner. Lots of ‘I am social’ types do not reply to tweets or emails. Apart from the rudeness of the behaviour, I think this is a clear sign the person is not fit for the job. How can a customer service representative be arrogant by nature? How can a comedian be dull? Some skills you can’t learn. In some instances I have never got replies from people I wanted to hire, silly.
Seth Godin always replied to my emails in my early days. Chris Brogan used to although it looks like he is a bit busier lately. Update: Chris Brogan still does, despite the incredible volume of contacts.

2. Technical knowledge

Knowing the tech development that fueled the rise of social media and social networks is fundamental. I am not saying a social media expert should be a developer, but they need to understand the technical implication of going open vs proprietary, supported or unsupported. They need to know what’s new in APIs, why Ruby on Rails got popular, what jQuery achieves.
Knowing the technology aspects has saved the company I’ve worked with thousands of pounds, dollars and euros. This is about making the right choices. This is key when there are a number of agencies and vendors willing to sell ‘revolutionary’ services readily available for free on the market.

3. Have a blog

I am sorry but a twitter profile with 12K followers is not enough. It can easily be achieved with automated tools. The fact you share links about social media, does not make you an expert. What I impressed by is a well crafted blog with an original point of view. A good take on social current affairs is welcome. Popularity come and goes. Your opinion stays.

4. Being a geek

Slightly different from knowing the technology, although most of the time intrinsically connected. Being a geek to me means analysing, deconstructing and giving alternative answers to common issues. How to avoid paying premium on particular social networks and achieve the same results is a way of being geek. A posh picture with a drink in hand is usually the opposite of that.

5. Non-conformity

Real social media buddies do not necessarily conform to traditions. They understand that conformity means they are out of job. They innovate and adopt early. On the same perspective, disobedience is quite a useless opposite extreme. I have seen dozens of free spirits, citizens of the world becoming literally homeless because of their independence. This is not a skill, it is a weakness.

I wrote this post because I redefine everyday what my title means – I guess this was 2010.