Posted January 8, 2013 9:07 am by with 12 comments

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GuruTiny rant here that will likely upset some but that’s OK. We’re all big kids here and wear long pants, as they say.

AdAge’s B.L. Ochman reports that SEOmoz’s Followerwonk shows there are some 181,000 profiles in Twitter that use the terms that have made the social media industry look sophomoric as compared to other professional disciplines. These include guru, maven, ninja etc. Ugh, it hurts just typing them out again. Whether these are actual people or bot generated whatevers it is a little sad to see this is still happening to this degree.

As a public service, I like to periodically check in on the number of self-proclaimed social media “gurus,” “ninjas,” “masters” and “mavens” on Twitter. Why? Well, it seems like an important metric, an indicator of something.

Whatever it means, this is one indicator that is most definitely on the rise. In January 2013, the number of Twitter users with “social media” as part of their bio has grown to epic proportions. The list now tops 181,000 – up from a mere 16,000 when we first started tracking them in 2009, according to FollowerWonk.

I know I am not alone in asking for this to end but it looks like it still needs to be said if there still exists this kind of proliferation of these idiotic monikers. It’s a little embarrassing actually.

Imagine you are someone with 10 years of rock solid marketing experience and then you invest in your professional development and get an MBA to advance your knowledge and your stature. You bring a strong store of knowledge about analytics, attribution and more. You are tasked with running a marketing department that has to design, develop, implement and be held accountable for plans that involve millions of marketing dollars. Then you get the call from someone ‘upstairs’ and they say,

“Hey, I read about this guy/gal who is some social media ‘guru’. They wrote a blog (not a post mind you but a blog, ugh) and it looks they got this social media thing figured out because they have thousands of followers and you don’t. It’s a bit vague as to where they have actually done this stuff but they seem impressive. I want you to talk to them.”

That is a nightmare scenario and I suspect it has happened more than any of us would admit. Look, degrees don’t make someone smarter than someone who doesn’t have them. That’s not the point. What is the point is that the self-proclamation of being a social media mystic of sorts is just, well, sad. What’s worse is that people buy it.

If this kind of ‘attack’ on these lame titles that make our industry look like a bunch of hacks bothers you, I’m not sorry. In fact, I would recommend you take a look at how you view social media if you think this kind of juvenile titling is professional enough to present to real business people.

OK, enough from me. Do you care about this stuff anymore? I am just hoping that this kind of thing starts to truly fade away because as social media’s stature grows as a valuable marketing and promotional tool its reputation needs to grow proportionately and in the right direction.

Agree? Disagree? Could care less? Let’s hear it.

Oh and for a little completely NSFW (for language) fun, do you remember this one from 2009?

  • While I agree with the rant, I feel like complaining about these titles has become almost as annoying as the titles, themselves. There seems to be less and less of it going on, but I’m still regularly stumbling across articles like this. Just let it go, my friend. I don’t think they’re fooling people with those titles anymore anyway.


      • I.can’

        • Also, there is NOTHING going on in the Internet marketing world that is truly ‘news’ . January slow times makes for bad posts. Only 23 more days ………

  • This phenomenon isn’t new. Before the era of web development, project managers knew to regard “experts” with suspicion when hiring programmers. Human resources never had the insight to be able to tell badasses from professionals. Eventually the social media culture will evolve to include the same sort of skepticism. Common sense will win out and people who let their past and current work speak for itself will be rewarded. In the mean time feel free to use “Social Media Badass” in your LinkedIn profile.

  • Hi Frank – the whole point of writing these periodic posts about how many self-appointed social media gurus there are is to say “enough already.” Apparently this hit a nerve since it is now the most read, most emailed, most re-tweeted post on the AdAge website.

    I’ve been doing these updates since 2009.

    I would say, generously, that there are 150 people in the world who could be called social media gurus – by others of course. Because guru is something someone else calls you!

    • Thanks for doing it, B.L. I enjoy seeing the information even though it tends to make me see red.

      I have come up with a title for myself which defines where I see my place in the social media ‘ecosystem’ (another over used phrase if there ever was one). I go by the title of ‘life long learner’. There is no way to know all that there is to know about everything. Heck, most of the developers of the applications we are supposedly ‘mastering’ don’t know all the ins and outs.

      I suspect this trend will continue to escalate for a while longer since there is one born every minute. I just don’t want the social media industry to get the same treatment that the SEO industry does:

      Q: What’s the difference between a used car salesman and an SEO salesman?
      A: The used car salesman knows when he is lying.

      Social media is getting a reputation for hucksters and snake oil salesmen and that kind of dirt doesn’t clean up very easily.

      Keep up the great work!

  • Tammi

    I could have sworn something something very similar took place. We attended a webinar that the HQ hired a guru to run, but there was nothing different or new that we didn’t already teach our sales teams. Difference is, they got paid big bucks to do it.

  • Rose

    I have a friend who recently started calling herself an online marketing master and is starting up her consulting business. (a master with 0 successes? dress for the job you want, I suppose) I still haven’t figured out what to say to her. I’m in the industry, she’s new to it – she did some courses wherein I suppose she was granted the title – or perhaps told she wouldn’t land any clients unless she called herself a master. I’m sure she’ll figure it out soon enough without my interference.

  • Joseph Diaz

    Wha I’m old and hate things! The only thing more tired than these titles are the slew of articles that people wrote about 3mo too late for them to matter. Print is dead, your whole generation of marketing was based on a non-performance media. I can call my self a search-buttmunch if I want, with the way our media performs! If your generation had been AT ALL agile, you would have all the jobs like in every other industry following the recession. Instead everyone pretended that TV and Print would never die, and so me and a bunch of twenty-somethings “took’yer’jobs!”

    You want to talk about growing up and wearing long-pants? Stop crying about progress in a blog dinosaur.

    • FrankReed

      Uhhh, what?

    • I’m curious as to what this means too.