Identifying the Real McCoy

When you need a plumber (or a hair stylist, specialist doctor or SEO expert for that matter), how do you go about finding one?  There’s the telephone book, of course, and these days even some plumbers have websites.  But who spends time flipping through the yellow pages anymore?  If you are like me you simply ask your friends and family who they use. Recommendations are an incredible tool.

And online…well that’s a different story.

Many of the services we require don’t need to be rendered in person.  Everything from accounting, investment advice, life coaching, bill payment, personal shopping, and vacation bookings are being done online.  The trend isn’t changing, either.  In fact, I’ve never even met my personal assistant (but I love seeing her smiling photo via Skype).

So who can we trust?  Who is a real expert online?

It takes more digging, but finding your true blue expert isn’t necessarily so different from identifying the goods and services you physically encounter.

So though out those yellow pages – I am going to arm you with your new toolkit.

LinkedIn is an incredibly useful tool.  A professional social networking community, this is precisely the place where people list their resumes and qualification – AND receive recommendations from people who have worked with them or benefited from their services.  If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, it’s easy to create one and locate friends and colleagues of yours who are already online.  Because the website is relational, you might actually be able to find an expert who is linked to you through other friends – making it much easier to get an honest opinion from someone you trust.

Search Engines – it seems like common sense these days to google anyone who you’re thinking of hiring, but many of us forget.  This quick and easy search can reveal a lot about a person.  How many web pages come up about them?  Have they been published?  Have they been in the news?  Do they have a blog?  All of these factors together paint a more complete picture of the expertise that a person claims to have.

Expert Aggregators – there are many websites that serve as expert directories.  They may be industry-specific (e.g. marketing consultants, doctors — even plumbers have a directory), or they might be general sites that allow experts to post a profile.  More often than not, these aggregators have gone through some sort of vetting process for the people they represent, and this can serve as an extra assurance for you.

It’s always going to be a ‘caveat emptor’ world.  But things are improving every day online, and soon it may very well be a lot easier to identify the genuine articles.  How do you find your expert online?

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