A Rubric for Social Media Expertise

People at All Levels Are Teaching

The Living Web

As the living web begins to seamlessly integrate into our concrete cultures and as our lives become globally intertwined, businesses are beginning to investigate what this means. Though the idea of markets as conversations may have started with Cluetrain ten years ago, but it has only become business credible with the advent of what we’re calling Web 2.0 and social media.

In recent years, major enterprise, telcos, cablecoms, and mainstream media have found more reason than not to look at social web models as unsound. Meanwhile we’ve been exploring concepts such as influence, authority, transparency, permission marketing, and experimenting with social media tools and networks to understand how a customer-centered market actually works.

It’s a story of a

  • returning to the culture of a village,
  • reversing the marketing paradigm,
  • and changing the scale from
    what was set in concretely in time and space
    to what is virtually asynchronous and instantaneously lasting.

It’s totally different from what went before and yet, in many ways, it’s still the same. Can you spell paradox?

Now companies are investigating how social media might move them forward. They’re hiring people to show them how to use social media tools and networks in the most effective and efficient ways.

How does a company recognize an expert from a beginner?
How do we explain that we know what we know?

A Rubric for Establishing Social Media Expertise

The development of any intellectual skill set follows an ordered sequence of Cognitive steps that was published in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom and a team of cognitive psychologists at the University of Chicago. Bloom’s Taxonomy was laid out to measure capability in three domains — Cognitive (mental), Affective (emotional), and Psychomotor (physical). In Bloom’s Taxonomy, it’s understood that each level must be mastered before the next level can take place.

Since Bloom’s is thought to be the most widely applied rubric for building and measuring educational and training programs to this day. It makes sense to use it when building a rubric for a field of knowledge or thought, such as social media expertise. So pulling from educational background and a couple of decades at using Bloom’s taxonomy in writing critical thinking programs I apply it here now.

This chart is outlines the Cognitive Skills.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Chart

Social Media Knowledge — Recalling data and information.

If we’re working at the knowledge level we can name the social media sites and their uses. We can probably repeat the demographics of Digg or StumbleUpon and recall the differences between those sites and Flickr. We still have a problem explaining or interpreting the appeal of one tool over another.

Social Media Comprehension — Understanding the meaning of the data, translating the experience, interpreting instructions, and restating in one’s own words.

If we comprehend the use of social media tools and sites we’re able to explain why people use the various networks. We can generalize about how the tools work. We’re able to introduce the tools to a new user. We can summarize the rules, generalize the codes of behavior, and even model how to use them. We’re still exploring the depth and breadth and variety of uses for each of the tools. We’re also discovering the pros and cons of using each of them. However while we’re still gaining comprehension, we’re not ready to explain the return of specific tools to a specific client situation.

Social Media Application — Putting abstract thought to work in new situations.

If we’re at this level, when like problems are mentioned, we no longer automatically offer like solutions. We’re beginning to ask more questions. We’re looking at each tool to see how it meets goals. We might start with a benchmark plan, but we modify it as we gain information. Predicting outcomes with certainty is mostly luck while we’re at this level.

Social Media Analysis — Troubleshooting a plan, separating the whole into component parts to understand the most efficient course of action. Finding hidden fallacies and untested assumptions.

This is the point at which we get to the “concrete” of the situation. We deconstruct the tools to their component parts. We start to describe the kinds of traffic, the kinds of social sites, the kinds of sharing and conversation. We look to the time lines of engagement, the ROI of participation, and how they apply to each client’s schedule and budget constraints. We can talk about what works and what doesn’t. We can identify the influencers, the common wisdom, and the myths that cause problems. We know what what we should be tracking and testing. This level is tactical. True strategy requires more experience.

Social Media Synthesis — Building a pattern from the bits of information, forming a new meaningful whole that we can articulate.

When we’ve synthesize the experience of working with the tools, sites, and culture of social media, we’re able to predict and develop true strategy and process. We can design business models that we can rely on with some confidence, because they’re backed by history we recall, understand, have applied, analysed, and can articulate. This is strategic integration. It doesn’t mean we can’t make a mistake or misread a situation.

Social Media Evaluation — Judging the value of ideas, performance, process, or products. Testing, constantly testing. . . .

And it scaffolds up again and again through the cognitive skills levels. Just as we think we know something, we’re learning more again.

This is part of the reason we end up specialists. You get to synthesis on Twitter and FriendFeed is waiting around the corner.

Naturally, if you come to social media with years of marketing or customer service background, you’re probably at the top of the scale. But in a new frontier no one can claim full status quite yet.

How to Use the Rubric

What’s the use of this information? Change those “We can” statements to questions and you’ve got an evaluation or appraisal tool. Use it as it is to benchmarck a starting point or to frame the outcomes for training clients. Check your current practices to see whether you’re offering training in the right order.

What would you add to this rubric? How can we make it more useful for us and our clients?

–ME “Liz” Strauss

Work with Liz!!

PART TWO: Have You Organized Your Social Media Thinking Lately?


  1. says

    Note to self: swallow coffee before reading comments from the remarkablogger

    Liz, this is definitely a post-coffee post. I tried to read it before I was properly caffeinated, and my brain started hurting so I had to come back. It will be a week or so (translation: 20 pots of coffee) before I can formulate a proper response.

  2. says

    This is an amazing way to not only evaluate people/organization’s social media expertise – but a great guide to ensure that you have your A-game on! I can’t wait to see what more you do with this!

  3. says

    A great application of Bloom to social media. Although I keep that progression of competence in mind when I design lessons overall, I hadn’t consciously applied it specifically to social media.
    Thanks, I have a new model to consciously apply to my lessons and my students progression.

    BTW, you have a typo at “This chart is outlines the Cognitive Skills.”

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