Personal Passions vs. Professional Expertise

“It’s important to not confuse personal passions for a new medium vs professional expertise.” – Jeremiah Owyang (Web Strategy)

I read this article from Jeremiah and it immediately resonated with me because he points out that social media consultancy is an extremely saturated market.

Here’s the truth should you choose to accept it. People are lazy. Everyone is looking for the silver bullet. They see Shoemoney’s ridiculous adsense check, and watch videos of Frank Kern talking about how he surfs all day long and they think that because they’ve had a Facebook page for six years and 5,000 followers on Twitter that they can get rich just telling people how to use these ‘new tools.’

This isn’t going where you think it’s going…

I’m not going to bag on everyone that thinks they’re a social media consultant. I think they’ll start to disappear as the economy starts to turn around.

The actual point of this post is to challenge you to evaluate your own personal passions with respect to your professional goals. I mention the above because I do not want you to fall into a similar trap. I like to think I’m a great fantasy baseball manager and I routinely dish out a lot of advice to my friends, but I’m not quitting my job to become a fantasy sports writer.

Maybe you’re passionate about gardening, or fitness, or something like interior design. I encourage everyone to pursue their passions, and there are studies that show that people who do (pursue their passions) will ultimately be more successful and even make more money in the long run. I guess I should link to one of those studies eh?

But before you take the leap make sure you’re prepared and that just because you grow the best watermelons in the south or have the best six-pack in your gym, that you understand that turning those things into a business or even a career entails a lot more.

You’ll need a business model, you’ll need other people to help and learn from, you’ll need to read everything you can get your hands on, and you will need to distill what is important and continue to think about (and execute) relevant strategies.

If you’re in the media space, then there are huge opportunities on the horizon. Can you come up with a new way to change the playing field? Can you find new ways to measure social media? Can you evolve a specific niche like community evangelism, relationship marketing and/or content marketing?

Don’t confuse passion for professional expertise. Use your passions to drive the professional expertise. The second you let yourself think you know enough, the moment you get content in your space is the moment you become obsolete.

Further Reading: Follow Your Passion? The Blogger Round-Up – Chris Guillebeau (The Art of Nonconformity)


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  • Reason I’m here: I love reading about marketing with a social media twist. Reason I’ve stayed? The writing, passion and interest that Ryan displays. (Doesn’t hurt that his sarcasm kicks ass either)

    Granted the field is crowded but if someone wants to hire an idiot with a myspace page to enact their campaign…I have faith that company won’t be making decisions for much longer. Just be diligent and patient…hopefully companies will begin taking a critical look at the charlatans and rewarding people who know their stuff.


    admin Reply:

    @Stuart – Thanks for the kind words. I spent the vast majority of my life being unabashedly me, but I’ve spent the last 4 months in the workplace taking the edge off, filtering myself. Good or bad? I don’t know. The more I read Seth’s “The You Show,” the more I think it’s time to let the passion bubble up and take the lead.


  • Good points Ryan. I commented on Brendan Wilhide’s post ( earlier in the day about something very similar. Just because the idea of social media is fairly new, that doesn’t mean we forget basic principles of business. You have to have a plan that integrates all of your marketing & PR efforts. I personally do not want someone who doesn’t understand these basic principles guiding my business just because they like posting comments on Twitter! Keep up the good work! On a side not, I love golf, but nobody would want to take lessons from me!


    admin Reply:

    @Tim – Brandon’s done a good job with Sports in 140, I’ll have to check out his post. I think the key point in your comment is INTEGRATION. Any company that TELLS YOU what they can do for you without hearing your business goals DOESN’T GET IT.

    A great consultant completely emerges themselves in the business they’re helping. They understand that company, their goals, their culture, etc. so that they can seamlessly integrate what they have to offer into the company’s current goals.


  • I can understand people who get passionate for football or motorsport or gardening or travel. I can’t really understand anyone saying that they are passionate about social media.

    I don’t think that the economy has anything to do with the prevalance of the worst of these people; most of them feed on ignorance. There are plenty of people to con into the belief that they are missing out and they need to jump on the bandwagon.

    The people to trust are the ones who are passionate about solving problems, or creating great marketing campaigns. People who are process and technology agnostic. People who can see the power of social media in certain situations and apply their expertise. In that Sense I passionately agree with Owyang.

    If however your passion is football, or jewellery or Yacht Racing and it really is your passion, not just the thing you like at the moment because it is cool, then you can create a great business because your passion drives your expertise and gives you an advantage over someone who is technically good, but doesn’t have the same inate feel for the subject.

    So in other words – great post!


    admin Reply:

    @David – I think you’ve successfully re-iterated and even probably clarified some of the points I was trying to make prevalent. Thanks David. You always had a lot of value with your comments.


  • I think David has a good point about something being a true passion versus something that you are passionate about at the moment.

    When Ryan says, “Use your passions to drive the professional expertise,” I think that really applies to the true passions that stay with someone for a long time and are a part of who they are.


    admin Reply:

    @Brian – I think those ‘true’ passions come calling. How many pastors do we hear say they were ‘called?’ There are people ‘called’ to walk away from their high-paying corporate salaries to teach America’s youth, change the world, etc. I think this ‘calling’ is partially our own mind coming to terms with what we’re truly passionate about.


  • I think Jim Collins says it best in Good to Great: The goal is to find your Hedge Hog concept. What are you passionate about? What can you be the best in the world at? How can you make money with it?

    Once you fine the alignment of these three things, world domination will be in your grasp. Or at least happiness.

    I included you in our ranking of Top Ten Gen Y Marketing Blogs. Hope it drives some good traffic to your site.

    – Jun Loayza


    admin Reply:

    @Jun – That Jim Collins is a pretty intelligent man eh?

    Thanks so much for including me in your ranking. I know it’s a subjective ranking (of which I’m curious to see/hear the formula), but nonetheless I’m flattered to be included.


  • You are exactly right about people making themselves too available. They are becoming a commodity. In the world of commodities, price rules. The best way to avoid that trap is to be a leader and like David said, be a problem solver.

    Happy Cinco de Mayo my friend! Another great blog to show exactly why I follow your work. Great stuff Ryan!