I frequently field this question: “How did you become a social media expert?”

The very notion still makes me a bit uncomfortable – I guess I’m not completely over the delusions of mediocrity that used to plague me just a few years ago. I often have to stifle a retort such as, “I tweet a lot,” because that isn’t really helpful or all that respectful of the asker.

So in this post, let me share some no-nonsense insight into how I think I became rated Top 10 by Forbes for my social influence, and how I’ve gathered much of my expertise and reputation in this field.

Ready? Here goes. This is how you can become a social media expert, too:

1. Focus on Your Passion, Rather Than on Social Media

My passion is business leadership. Yours may be golf, or IT, or helping foster kids find college scholarships. Focus on that, and use social media to… um… do it.

2. Use Social As a Tool (that’s all it is, you know)

Social media is a fantastic way to get your thoughts to an ever-widening audience. Social has always been… well, barely an afterthought to my main message, which is all about better leadership in business. What’s your message?

3. Despite What I Wrote in Number 2, DO NOT BROADCAST!

Please, don’t use social as a shouting platform, like a billboard or a late night infomercial. Talk to people. Find folks who care about your passion. Build relationships.

Take years building those relationships. I’ve taken six so far. Most have not borne any fruit yet – most probably never will. So? I like people. Getting to know them is fun! Have fun with this.

4. Take Time to Tend Your Social Garden Every Day

Stephen King writes 365 days a year – yes, even holidays and his birthday, and (gulp) even on his wife’s birthday. I get up at 5 and do some vital social stuff 365 days a year, too. It’s obsessive, but it works for me.

5. If You Want To Become an Expert (at anything), You’d Better Be Obsessed

Want to become a social media expert like me and the other folks who end up on lists? Use it. A lot. Just like us. Do it every day. Just like us. Focus on your passion, not on social. Just like us. It’s not hard; it just takes a lot of this stuff.

The perseverance? That’s a little difficult, especially at first. With practice, though, it becomes easier all the time. I’m a habit-monster, a routine-drone. Are you? If so, take advantage of your natural stick-in-the-muddishness and you’ll thrive. If not? Well, as my Grandpa Reg always used to say (before he died of chronic hypertension), “You gotta whip yourself.”

Now, none of what I’ve shared today is sexy or a very enticing shortcut – I’m sorry to have had to disappoint you. Here’s my last bit of advice, though, and then you’re done:

I’m pretty sure you won’t become a social media expert by focusing on the media part of this medium. Focus on the social. Different media will come and go. Maybe Facebook will go the way of Friendster in a few years. Maybe LinkedIn will wallow in obscurity as MySpace does today (yes, I checked, they’re still there).

Maybe my beloved Twitter will fade away one day – which is one big reason I’ve branched out to my daily Two Minutes With Ted YouTube videos.

But who cares? The platform might go out of fashion, but your network, your friends, will still be around – they’ll migrate to a different platform, that’s all.

People are social, and the series of tubes we call “the Interwebs” has helped us become more of what we already are, nothing more. So enjoy it. Unless they close the electricity plants, we’ll be enjoying social media for a while yet.

A version of this first appeared on Ted’s previous blog.

About Ted Coiné

Ted Coiné is CEO of The Extraordinary Network, a group that is rewriting all the rules of influencer marketing by cutting out agency middlemen to work directly with B2B and luxury brands. Proud “bleeding heart capitalists,” he and his team have built support of a great cause into every for-profit campaign they undertake.

His entire career, Ted has collected fascinating people, most notably other thought leaders who also have a large and loyal audience of large enterprise leaders. He has watched the Wild West that is influencer marketing until he realized an opportunity to fix this broken system, and give influencers the sway they need to move markets together, and to get paid what they’re deserved for this power they bring to bear.

An Inc. Top 100 Speaker and one of Business News Daily’s 15 Twitter Accounts Every Entrepreneur Should Follow, Ranked #1 authority on the Social CEO and #3 in the Future of Work, Ted is also a serial business founder and CEO.

Ted is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership gave Ted a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive.

He lives in Naples, Florida, with his wife and two daughters.

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