Posted November 2, 2009 10:24 am by with 47 comments

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There’s not much going on in the internet marketing industry this morning. I suspect everyone ate too much candy.

While they recover from their belly aches, I’m going to do a little "belly aching" myself.

I’ve noticed–as have others–that there’s a growing number of people referring to themselves as social media "gurus," "experts," and "geniuses" (OK, maybe I made up that last one). What’s interesting is that many–note, I said "many" not "all"–of these self-labeled gurus have achieved nothing more than fame for being famous. In other words, peel back that first layer and you discover that they’ve not actually accomplished much in their social media guru career.

In fact, many of them remind me of Lovelace from Happy Feet. He was in the right place, at the right time, and managed to convince his peers that he was a wise and gifted seer. The same goes for many social media penguins.

Sure, they have lots of Twitter follower, but that’s easy to do–when you follow everyone back. Yes, they share lots of links, they speak at lots of conferences, and are the first person to whip out their iPhone at a Tweetup. But, ask them about their business successes and all they can offer up is that they helped such-and-such to "engage" their followers, or added a 1,000 friends to Company X’s Facebook fan page.


Where’s the increase in revenues? Point me to some of your client successes. Heck, show me where you’ve personally made money from your social media skillz!

Not that there aren’t any social media experts out there. Of course there are, they just don’t go around telling others how connected they are. They simply roll-up their sleeves and get on with it. They are in the trenches. They’ve used Facebook to add actual dollars to their bottom line. They’ve created a blog that increased the number of newspaper mentions. They’ve measured a decline in customer service costs because of their Twitter account. In other words, they’re so busy making social media work for them, they don’t actually have time to care about becoming the Mayor of the local Starbucks on Foursquare.

So, why am I writing this? As I said, it’s a slow news day. 🙂 OK, seriously, why am I writing this? Because I see far too many people that are the real experts in social media, but feel dejected, deflated, and despondent, because they don’t have 100,000 Twitter followers, don’t speak at the latest "we’re all great social media pros" conference, and don’t get the recognition from their boss–let alone their peers.

So, this is not so much an attack on social media gurus, but a pat on the back and an "attaboy" or "attagirl" to those of you that have much to show for your efforts–even if the only Twitter List you’ve made it on, is your own. You’re doing great. You’re as much as a guru as anyone else. Keep at it!

As I write this, I’m fully aware that the above is in some ways no different from the "SEO snake oil" commentaries I have been quick to attack in the past. If you feel that’s the case, go ahead and attack this post. But keep in mind, if you have the time to critique this opinion piece, you might just be one of the ones that I’m talking about. Those that are truly the social media experts are busy building their business, so don’t have time for debates such as this. 😉

PS. I am not a social media expert or guru. I just try to get the job done.

  • wow …. a lot of people are chatting about this in CLT. Lots of ‘experts’ are popping up around CLT.

    I think SM people should have a marketing/public relations background because anyone can learn how to work twitter/FB or some other SM tool/site.

    I really like this part of your post which reminds me of some SM experts ….

    “He was in the right place, at the right time, and managed to convince his peers that he was a wise and gifted seer. The same goes for many social media penguins.”

    Great Post Andy (aka Social Media Black Belt)

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  • Agree with Robert, my favorite part of this post is, “He was in the right place, at the right time, and managed to convince his peers that he was a wise and gifted seer. The same goes for many social media penguins.” and your final note of encouragement to those who are actually working in the trenches achieving results for their clients. Friends and I were just talking about feeling insignificant because we don’t travel the “pat-our-backs” speaking circuit — we can’t. We’re too busy actually working on projects. This is a much needed post!
    .-= Maria Reyes-McDavis´s last blog ..Google Social Search Experiment is Live =-.

  • Great post! Thanx!!! Back to work now 😉

  • Great post Andy, hit the nail on the head….

    I think that many of the “gurus” are convincing people that those followers/fans are the end all be all without trying to help companies find how social media can best help them (ie. reducing customer service time etc).
    .-= Pat Strader´s last blog ..One Really Cool Thing About Digital Marketing =-.

  • That post sounds a little bit like the Powazek post on all “SEOs are spammers and opportunists”. I disagreed with Powazek post though, but do agree with you Andy with those Social Media Gurus: I just don’t trust them!
    .-= Philippe´s last blog ..Advertising on Tube Study Case: Call to action, Incentive and vanity Url =-.

    • Yeah, I had Powazek’s post in mind, when I wrote that last paragraph. I’m not saying that social media marketing is snake oil–far from it. But, there are a lot of “gurus” that are pretty vacuous.

  • Andy,

    Well done. I hope their are more slow news days to we get more of these thoughtful posts from you!

    .-= Kipp Bodnar´s last blog ..Optimizing B2B Facebook Content For The New Facebook News Feed =-.

  • Rex Jarvis

    Agreed, Seth Godding for example springs to mind. Is he not just famous for being famous? He may be a good speaker and writer but he earns his money just telling everybody he is a good speaker and writer. Mind you, wish I could do that.

  • “I am not a social media expert or guru. I just try to get the job done.” Well said, sir. Well said.
    .-= Jeremy´s last blog ..Under the Dome – Stephen King’s Newest Novel is a Social Experiment =-.

  • The complaint has been mentioned again and again, in countless blog posts by many others.

    Why gripe about what others do? Why do you care how people identify themselves? Are the self-proclaimed gurus taking money away from YOUR business? Are they somehow detracting from YOUR own personal brand or prestige? And if they are…is that their fault, or yours?

    I doubt that just being in the right place and the right time made anyone in business successful. It doesn’t hurt, but you are discounting all the hard work that likely went into that success.

    And please point me to a bona fide social media expert who has confidence issues about their own abilities, because I haven’t met one yet who is sincerely dejected about that! The ones I know seem to have pretty healthy egos, and plenty of followers, as well. They work hard for it, too.

    My advice for the next time you get frustrated by someone who professes to be a social media expert — and you personally don’t think he/she makes the grade — is to just keep your eyes on your own paper. Those things get sorted out by themselves, in the natural business cycle, and it’s a waste of your energy to dwell on it, when you could be working on your own, more productive projects.

    • “My advice for the next time you get frustrated by someone who professes to be a social media expert — and you personally don’t think he/she makes the grade — is to just keep your eyes on your own paper.”

      I agree! As I said, my post is designed to encourage those that work hard, but can’t find a place in the spotlight.

      • If you’re trying to encourage people, then give them tools. Best practices. Tell them how to fix their problem of non-visibility with strategies they can use (hint: if they’re really that good, they don’t need it).

        BUT if you’re bashing other people (the self-proclaimed gurus) to make other people feel superior (the ones you feel don’t get their props), you’ve not done what you say you’ve set out to do.

  • I’ve posted on this subject before that what’s missing is any kind of credentialing in social media. Everyone’s just assigning themselves titles willy nilly. I agree that the folks who really know what they’re doing don’t care about the title, the glory, the spotlight — they just want to get the job done. Reminds me of the Harry Truman quote: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.”

  • Great Article! – So very true! Monetizing followers and Engaging and continuing to engage is the key!
    .-= Brent Pohlman´s last blog ..Sunshine | Dry Weather =-.

  • Excellent post, Andy. Sadly, it’s the self proclaimed social media “gurus” that just won’t “get it.”
    .-= Sheila´s last blog ..Hawaii Vacation News Roundup: November 2, 2009 =-.

  • Thanks for consistently getting the job done every week Andy. Your blog is an excellent resouce and your social media insight that you share inspires. I would say your pretty close to a “SM Guru” – LOL…
    .-= Mark Harai´s last blog ..It’s Not What You Know; It’s Who You Know That Matters =-.

    • Thanks Mark. I appreciate your support!

  • @Andy – What?! You’re not a guru? I quit 😉
    .-= Frank Reed´s last blog ..Under Staffed, Over Worked, Under Paid and Under ‘Passioned’ =-.

    • There’s also no Santa! Bad day for you, huh? 😉

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  • @Andy – WHAT?!?!?! If you say one word about the Easter Bunny then it’s go time!
    .-= Frank Reed´s last blog ..Under Staffed, Over Worked, Under Paid and Under ‘Passioned’ =-.

  • Andy,

    Great article and so very true. I do hold myself out to be an expert, however I deliver my clients successes ultimately in brand leadership, networking organization and ultimately assist in their bottom line. A current example is a new client (NYT best selling author) is releasing a new book soon. We’re building a brand new social network marketing campaign designed around moderate follow growth of specific types, monthly promotions and webinars. Book signings receive a geo located campaign to raise further local interest. Plenty of fun contests and give-aways.

    There are many social network guru’s who preach getting you thousands of followers indeed. Anybody can click “go” on twitter follower steroid software – but few have the ability, patience and practice to handle enterprise level software with the finesse to deliver their client a continuous stream of loyal customers. Most importantly…understanding planning and how to act in a social network.

    Keep up the good work!


  • Wow. So much Hatorade. So much for writing good examples of Social Media peeps, eh? Or is that scheduled for a follow up post just to get some more attention? (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself)
    .-= Jason Rundell´s last blog ..jasonrundell: another test from tweety =-.

  • I think your point is great! At the end of the day it’s all about increasing the bottom line. So many “consultants” tell people that you HAVE to be in social media and I’m constantly attacking it. In fact I’m talking about on my blog over the next couple of weeks. Sadly, in the world of social media today anyone can claim to be an expert with little to no actual evidence of being so. My stepmother and her company (real estate developer) were taken advantage of by a “consultant”. They had a nice canned booklet and ppt about social media and what their people (real estate agents) should be doing to engage buyers. Sadly, there was nothing about branding, no marketing strategy behind it and pretty useless when you broke it down. It left all of the agents confused and the corporate people pushing a non-directional policy.

    I detest this stuff and am starting to tell people that social media is worthless without a brand direction and marketing plan in place. Even then, it may not fit into it. If I hear another person say, “You have to be on Facebook and Twitter,” I might go postal. Well, probably not postal.

  • As a wise old branding expert used to tell me, “just because they follow you, doesn’t mean they wanna buy from you”. Oh, Rex Jarvis, Seth Godin isn’t famous for being famous. Do your homework 🙂

    .-= Fraser McCulloch´s last blog ..Designing product pages for ecommerce sites =-.

  • Love the 4square reference, too funny. These are the same people that complain about getting Mafia requests from others, but spam people with being the mayor of something. If you call yourself a guru or whatever, you probably are not. When others call you one, that is when you are legit.

  • It’s many of the people who don’t claim to be social media gurus (including you Andy) that know a heck of a lot more about social media than the self-proclaimed gurus.

    • Thanks Todd. I agree, the ones that are quietly helping their business–and not bragging about how awesome they are–are the ones we can learn from!

  • I’ve always felt that if you consider yourself to be an expert at anything, particularly web technologies or marketing strategies, then you’ve probably put to much effort into mastering something that is already obsolete or irrelevant. You should embed this video at the end of your post, it does a great job of explaining the problem you’re talking about.
    .-= Joseph Corbett´s last blog ..ReThink Fundraising – A Webinar For Building Your Own Online Fundraising Strategy =-.

    • Yeah that video says it all–and then some. I didn’t include it in the post due to the “colorful” language. 🙂

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  • Hallo Andy! I haven’t commented here in a while..but boy i really loved this post! I agree with you completely and i believe that most of the clients does as well..
    .-= Saad Kamal´s last blog ..HOW TO: Change Your Facebook Username =-.

  • The whole web is smoke and mirrors. Money seems to fall into this empty abyss and never reappear. As a relatively new industry it’s populated with people churning out anecdotal evidence and grandiose proclamations of genius as proof of ability. Don’t be confused.

    The rant is well deserved. Keep it up.
    .-= Oliver´s last blog ..Saving Myspace – here’s how =-.

  • We call these people “SMEGs” where I come from. SMEG = Social Media Expert Guru. They are easy to spot. Telltale characteristics include 1) a self-appointed expert or guru status, 2) lack of quantifiable results, 3) ego large enough to fill a zeppelin. The problem is, zeppelins are notoriously prone to crashing and burning.
    .-= Andrew Miller´s last blog ..My Favorite Questions for New Clients =-.

    • Hah!

      Ever watch Red Dwarf? #SmegHeads 😉

  • this is why we provide case studies to all our clients and post many (not all) on our website .. kinda separates the big dogs from the puppies ….

    if more clients asked for case studies and proof of concept, results etc. i think most of these so-called gurus would vanish


    great post

  • Hey, if my previous post seems self promoting, please take down / edit as you seem fit


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  • Great post! Thanx!!! Back to work now 😉

  • Andy, I do agree. This very amusing youtube video is a sendup of the social media guru – its funny and rude and resonant!
    .-= Nick Garner´s last blog ..Twitter – has the decline begun? =-.

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  • Great post Andy..! Thanks!!! Back to work now
    .-= Eri Ricaldo´s last blog ..Get 100 Dollar from Paypal by Share Your Wishlist =-.