It’s hard not to hit a like button and come across a Social Expert, Guru on Ninja.
Even the discourse around the value of job descriptions like that has taken over the Social Media conversation over the years. I’ve been called one (if not all) of those titles many times over the years, and it has always baffled me. In 2003, I started a Blog, Six Pixels of Separation, because my marketing agency needed some clients and my background as a journalist/writer fit in very comfortably with the emerging popularity of Blogging. My company, Twist Image, sells marketing and communications services (with a focus on the digital/online channels). The Blog’s content covers Social Media simply because I’m fascinated by what this New Media has brought into the marketing mix. If I could self-define myself (and, wouldn’t it be grand if we all could?), I’d simply call myself a "marketing professional" and/or an "entrepreneur." If I could define my Blog, I say that it’s about "business, marketing and new media." Ultimately, I use Social Media as a publishing and engagement platform to create attention, awareness and interest in my company. It also fits the values of our business (open, collaborative, experimental, strategic and creative).
Where the Social Media Guru thing comes from.
In the past short while, I’ve come across some very smart, clever and strategic entrepreneurs and business professionals who have leveraged Social Media to circumvent some of the more traditional advertising channels to not only get their brand message out, but to become celebrities in whatever niche industry they serve. It’s a true marvel of marketing evolution when you think about it: suddenly, by the sheer prowess of talent and a commitment to create content and engage with those with consume it, a select few can become the Donald Trump‘s of their industry. These micro-celebrities are racking up hundreds of thousands of friends and followers in places like Facebook and Twitter and they’re generating millions of views in places like YouTube and Vimeo. It’s come to a point, where even traditional media calls upon them as subject matter experts. Last year, I was attending a pharmaceutical marketing conference and one of the organizers asked if I had met a specific individual. When I said that I hadn’t, they shot back, "you should… they are the Seth Godin of the pharmaceutical marketing industry." As much as I am a Seth Godin fanboy, that comment made me realize that because of Social Media, it has become increasingly difficult to even define who is a guru, expert or black belt master (it’s not like Social Media is regulated by the federal government or anything… yet). It’s also indicative that Social Media has created many new layers of experts or gurus through the simple power that comes from the push of a publishing button.
The Social Media pivot.
What makes these entrepreneurs and business professionals even more interesting is how they take these titles and positions of power (self-anointed or otherwise) and pivot them into the business of selling their Social Media skills and abilities to others. One second, the entrepreneur is the Social Media Gordon Ramsey of dishwashers and the next day, they’re running a Social Media consultancy agency. I know what you’re thinking: "Mitch is worried about the competition." Not at all… there is room enough for many more marketing agencies, I’m just fascinated with why so many of these people give up the amazing opportunity and position they’re in to start a completely different business. Prior to Social Media, how many business people who were featured on TV suddenly quit their jobs to show other business people how to be great on TV? Beyond that, I’m fascinated with how a brand can scale, so just because an individual can get many people to follow them on Twitter or comment on their Blog, it doesn’t mean that they have any ability in helping a brand to get the same result.
Bash. Bash. Bash.
What usually happens next is the discourse around who, exactly, should be called an expert and who is a fraud. You can have that debate if you like, but the real value is in figuring out how we move media forward in a world where many of us (and I am raising my hand here, too) are so fascinated by this new media channel that all we want to do is help other people see how great it is. Perhaps, we need to think about that a whole lot more in the context of the history of media and how we move the needle forward? The bigger idea here is that while it’s nice to get drunk on the Social Media Kool-Aid and point fingers at those who have gained exposure and popularity through it (both positive and negative), all of that pales in comparison to the fact that we still don’t even really know just how powerful this new media is. We also don’t really know how much more it is going to evolve in the coming years… and, consequently, how much that is going to change us.
Let’s just hope that it’s for the better.
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post called, Media Hacker. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here: