Lately, I’ve been working on the concept of “virtual resident experts.” I define the term like this:
People participating in an online group with identified and respected skills.
In the offline world, groups of friends manage to identify who the expert is within their groups on various topics. For example, you know who to turn to if you’re looking for a great restaurant recommendation, a trustworthy car repair shop, a great bottle of wine, home buying advice, fitness tips, or fashion advice.
However, when you first met your friends, you didn’t know which of them possessed specialized skills like those listed above. And you didn’t know which ones talked liked they knew something about a topic vs. those you truly knew what they were talking about. Over time, this sorts itself out in the real world through referrals and trial & error.
In the offline world, the one skill that you know your friends possess is the skill needed to do whatever they do for a career. They must be sufficiently competent at that to be employable, right?
Moving that same group of friends to the online world opens up new opportunities for sharing “resident expert” expertise. As your friends start building out their profiles online, you discover specialized skills your network of friends possess. It turns out that one tunes pianos as a hobby, another is a master gardener, another has been to Belize, and another is an expert on home brewing.
There are unidentified resident experts in your network.
Having relatively direct connections to people with expertise in areas that either interest you or fulfill a need makes the world smaller. Technology accelerates this process by allowing people to turn in their specialized skills and interests through their profiles or blogs.
Do today’s websites make this work? Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook certainly help, as well as personal blogs where this type of content may be revealed. However, I think the concept of “virtual resident experts” is still in its infancy online.