The people at LinkedIn are having a field day. Due to the large numbers of people currently on the job market, online resumes and connections being made on the granddaddy of professional social networks are surging.

If you're in the marketing field, you'll also note a surge in the numbers of people identifying themselves as "social media experts" or "social media gurus." Be wary. Social media, without a doubt, is both a monumental force in communications and a harbinger of claimed talent. To me, any expert in the communications business is one who transcends the executional skills of the medium's tactics and produces actual, measurable business results. Let's be quite frank about this. Social media is by and large a fledgling field. Proof of this can be seen at the countless seminars and conferences all referencing the same case studies of Zappos, Comcast Cares, and Shaquil O'Neil (no kidding on that last one). A mature field is rich in case studies -- this one is not. Yet.

But I'm not writing today to take on the ingenuity of those finding work. More power to them. I am concerned, on the other hand, with those people who may hire them. As our former president once attempted to say, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. (Won't get fooled again.)" The opportunities to make significant improvements in how you market and sustain relationships with customers are too numerous to take the chances many companies will on self-proclaimed experts.

To make sound decisions regarding not only social media but all forms of new media, you can't sit on the sidelines. You need to be in the game. I think of it this way. I've never played a minute as a player in a competitive hockey game; how would I expect myself to coach a hockey team? Yet, right now, there are marketing leaders leading teams who have little personal experience using these forms of new media themselves. They are the ones prone to being duped into unstrategic new media boondoggles.

So, you leaders out there - don't give the new media guys too much credit for being brilliant. Here are three simple steps that will save you considerable consternation and risk.

Be Curious
Nothing makes one more of an expert than anyone else other than simple curiosity. The barriers to using emerging tools like Twitter and Facebook are few, requiring nothing more than Internet access and a little will. It's nearly impossible to understand the value of Twitter, for example, until you've set up an account, posted a few items, and gather some followers. Twitter won't provide you with an "out of body" experience. You'll see the value once you use it. In fact, it'll make perfect sense. It's not hard, and there's no "expertise" required to get going. This goes for Facebook, LinkedIn, and any other new fangled buzzword that will come along. If social networking was hard to do, no one would do it. And that's certainly not the case with these platforms.

Be Skeptical
Most social media gurus would have you believe that all old media is in a permanent death spiral. It's true that many forms of traditional media are having a tough go of it right now as advertising dollars flow into newer forms. But is this true in your business or for your market? Let's consider for a moment that Twitter, once again, only has 10 million or so users. Granted, it's grown 1400% this year, but in the large scheme of things it's a small universe. It's healthy, once you've personally used a tool like Twitter or Facebook, to be skeptical about whether or not they have wide-ranging applications for your organization or more surgical, targeted uses. You'll notice that I didn't say whether or not Twitter or Facebook has any application. They do and will, but the immediate applications may be more limited than your social media guru will tell you.

Be Rational
During times of unrest -- whether it's the economy or radical changes in how we interact with each other -- there's nothing people working in organizations appreciate more than knowing there's a rational, steady hand on the wheel. And yet, too often we hear that the fire drills in companies are often created at the very top when a negative blog mention or Tweet tips off an irrational set of dominos that consumes entire departments. Unless that blogger or Twitterer is Anderson Cooper or writing for the Wall Street Journal, the rational response should be much less alarming and more appropriate. Once again, by being involved yourself in this new media environment, you gain a common understanding of its impact and offer a unique perspective that no one else in the organization can - a strategic "forest" (rather than trees) view. People will greatly appreciate your rational approach to the constant change they're experiencing.

There is nothing to fear in this brave new world. The only difference between the "haves" and the "have nots" is a little bit of personal experience in using new tools to connect with one another. That's it. Don't believe anyone -- guru or not -- who tells you it's anything more than that.

On May 11th, Andrew (Twitter @aeklund) will be leading a forum for leaders entitled "Radical ROI: Seizing the Potential of the Digital Marketplace" at Midland Hills Country Club. Speakers include Paul Douglas, Joel Kramer, Phil Hotchkiss, Jan McDaniel, and Graeme Thickins. More details and registration at