News of the Tweet: Social Media Gurus

Codswallop, gibberish and hogwash

By Seb Kemp

Inspired by Guy Kawasaki's input from last week’s #NOTT, I thought I'd look into some of his thoughts and theories about social media.

I found this wonderful (yet terrifyingly long) video interview from the ChaseLive show. In it, Guy Kawasaki explains his thoughts on social media ("Twitter for business, Facebook for family and friends, Google+ for entertainment") and what the future will bring.

Note: Chase Jarvis might be quite the idiot savant when it comes to his work and utilizing emerging technological trends for his own self-marketing, but as an interviewer he has a lot to work on. It's almost cute how every point the guest makes can be summarized by an analogy from Chase's own life, that he tries to take what the guest has said and repackage it (either as his own or because it appears he thinks the audience are as dumb as doornails), and that what can be said in five sentences usually takes Chase five minutes. Like this paragraph.

Now, although Guy Kawasaki transcends the cult of the Social Media Guru, some people have described him thus, which, is awfully unfair of them. What this does do is serve as a gentle segue way into this phenomenon.

This is how a lot of people regard Twitter but there are people that do take Twitter very seriously. Some of these gurus are as famous as Lady Gaga in the social media world (actually, that's not true, Lady Gaga's following went up from 30,738,799 last week to 30,844,413 followers this week) and have quite a lot of punch. But why? What is a social media guru, a Facebook oracle, Twitter swami, Instagram unicorn?

Well, a guru is supposed to be a teacher who imparts their knowledge, wisdom, and intuition. Sonia Simone of CopyBlogger makes the argument that the term "social media expert" is too broad a term and that just because someone thinks they need a “social media expert”, it doesn’t mean such a thing actually exists.

She says, "'Social media expert' is like being an 'internet expert.' It's too broad, therefore it's meaningless… Businesses that need help with blogging strategies, content marketing, social networking presence, and real-time PR usually don't know enough to look for those terms. They look for 'social media experts.' You can make social media pundits happy and change your tag line to something more precise. Or you can find customers by calling yourself a social media expert, then educate your clients about what that actually means."

A social media expert, in other words, is a figment of our own creation.

The video below is an advert for Adobe's social media measuring tools but clearly says what we all think: social media gurus are jargonists with something to hide.

Peter Shankman wrote a wonderfully illuminating (and sidesplitting) piece for the Business Insider called Why I will never, ever hire a "social media guru". My favorite line is "Being an expert in social media is like being an expert at taking the bread out of the refrigerator. You might be the best bread-taker-outer in the world, but you know what? The goal is to make an amazing sandwich, and you can't do that if all you've done in your life is taken the bread out of the fridge."

What he means is that there is no point having a social media guru if that guru couldn't market themselves out of a paper bag. Social media gurus often know about social media, but can not relate social media to the broader needs of the companies they are hired by.

While reading around the Internet for some solid gold examples of social media gurus and what they actually do, I came across this link. The author calls himself a "startupper, social media guru in Italy, strategist, trainer, web 2.0, visionist, #SSM, marketer" but I have no idea what half those things mean. It must be really complex social media lingo that is over the heads of us web 1.0 lackeys.

Anyway, to illustrate what a "visionist" and social media guru he is, the post about his 'Top Ten Social Media Gurus on Twitter You Should Follow' contains a smiley face and a very poorly-formatted web post. Surely, a social media guru could do better?

Zoobar is a digital media training company so the above smells of backhanded shit talking. What they do say is that most social media gurus are generally people with very little experience of the subject matter, but who have read a few articles so feel they can impart that "knowledge" or that they are experts in their field, but can't communicate their expertise. It's the old Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach adage.

Sometimes, being a social media winner is just a crapshoot.

The lesson from all this? Well, if someone says they are a social media guru, they probably are not one.