No, Having A Blog Does NOT Make You A Social Media Guru

EricaFeatured, Social Media27 Comments

Buzzword Hell

A couple years ago my friend Bryan created a site called Buzzword Hell. This was, naturally, where all good Buzzwords went to die. Only – they didn’t die. They went mainstream. And suddenly everyone was using terms like Web 2.0 and AJAX. And it didn’t matter that they had no idea what these words meant – using them just felt cool.

Each year at SXSWi there is a series called: “How to Bluff Your Way in _________”. In 2005 it was – “How to Bluff Your Way in CSS”, 2006 brought us “How to Bluff Your Way in Dom Scripting”, and by 2007 we were bluffing our way in Web 2.0.

The idea behind this series – is to learn just enough jargon about a particular topic to fool your friends and collegues at parties and social gatherings. And though it’s all meant in good fun – the sad truth is that’s what a lot of people are doing in Social Media today.

In the late 1990’s, Life Coaching became popular – and suddenly everyone was a Life Coach, Creativity Coach, Executive Coach, or Lifestyles Coach. Now don’t get me wrong – some of these “coaches” were amazingly effective at helping their clients achieve their goals. In fact, I had a “Life Coach” for several years – and am extremely grateful to her for helping me to become the person I am today.

However, not all Life Coaches were created equal. And a fair many of them were capitalizing on a fad. They figured out that “Coaching” was the latest fashion – and so they dressed themselves up with the latest jargon and buzzwords – and they found out that it worked! Suddenly they had paying clients – and were being billed as experts. And because “Perception is Reality” a lot of times – they got away with it. The trouble with wearing the latest fashion trends – is that sooner or later they are going to go out of style.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen the exact same trend with Social Media. And so has my friend Brian Solis – who posted a similar article today entitled “Get Rich Quick with Social Media“. 3 months ago – hardly anyone in my little neck of the woods had heard of Social Media – now there are “Social Media Gurus” popping up all over the place. And let’s not forget the “Blogging Coaches”, “Podcasting Coaches”, and even “Web 2.0 Gurus” <– YUCK!

I’ve been working in New Media for nearly 7 years and in web design for nearly 15 years. I started my first blog in 2001. I know a lot of the people who created the so-called “Web 2.0” tools that are popular today – and I’ve private beta tested more applications than I can even begin to count. But guess what? I’m NOT a Social Media Guru. Not even close. And the truth is – I’m not sure I want to be.

The problem is – Social Media is NOT about technology or Web 2.0 applications. The first question a potential client usually asks me is “What is Social Media?”. Here’s the answer I always give.

Social Media is Word-of-Mouth or Community Based Marketing that leverages technology to enable conversation.

Let’s break that down.

First and foremost Social Media is Word-of-Mouth Marketing. This concept is by no means new. When my Grandma Opal was young – chances are she went to the same stores as her mother went to, used the same mechanic, bought her meat from the same butcher, and got her hair cut at the same beauty salon. Why? Because her mother recommended them – and what’s more – she already had an established relationship with them. Relationships mattered. People mattered.

Social Media also helps people to connect and create communities around, well, almost anything. Pick a topic, product, service,idea – or even an “object” – and you can use Social Media to create a living breathing community. Of course the health of that community is only as good as the people and ideas who make it up – but that’s another post all together.

Social Media Leverages Technology. Did you notice that I didn’t say Social Media IS Technology? Social Media uses the power of online tools and social networks to help people communicate. Period.

The Tools – the Technology. They only do one thing. They enable conversation. And conversations help build relationships between people. And Social Media is about relationships. People want to do business with people they trust. And people don’t trust strangers. So once again Relationships Matter. People Matter.

So if you want to participate in this new Social Media revolution. And you want to be more than just a fad. Then it’s time to find your own uniqueness, stop using jargon and buzzwords, and start being authentic. Maybe then you’ll become a classic.

27 Comments on “No, Having A Blog Does NOT Make You A Social Media Guru”

  1. Nicely put Erica. I also see Social Media going quite a few slices deeper than just marketing. It belongs all over the place, in HR, purchasing, engineering, competitive intelligence, security, maintenance, you name it. Inside & outside of business, wherever people can better connect and relate to mutual benefit.

    Really, I expect it to weave itself into the fabric of our lives every bit as much as email or the telephone did.

  2. Yes, we want to be a classic, not a fad. But recognize, fads DO make money (pet rock, anyone?!). So, what happens if your industry, your profession, suddenly becomes the fad, and all the charlatans move in? Because, for sure that will happen. What advice to you give then?

    Hmmm, I’ll have to think about this – it’s happened historically in other industries, so how was it solved elsewhere? Part of the solution is aggressively separating the wheat from the chaff. And being careful who you “endorse” or associate with (I like the George Washington post on that subject). Beyond that, I dunno. Worth further thought, for sure …

  3. @pistachio – Thanks! Interestingly enough I just read this article today about Social Media for Recruiting and HR:

    @briansolis – No, thank you for being one of the good guys and for helping to pioneer the Social Media Revolution 😉

    @kevin – I’m scared our industry has already become a “Fad” in many circles. And that’s what I’d like to fight against. Any ideas or input is much appreciated.

    @pchaney – Thanks. And I still think blogging is important. As Debbie Weil says – BLOG stands for Better Listings On Google.

  4. Hi

    I’m new to Erica’s blog and it’s very interesting.
    And yes, I’ve seen many “gurus” following the “next big thing”. Anyone can get the same books, blogs, articles etc about any given topic and suddenly “A new star is born”. That’s one of the benefits of having access to info/knowledge and share it ,btw that is one of the reasons why I love this century!

    But to me,one thing is clear: Social Media is going to be different than other trends/fads because it takes much more than technology and traditional marketing to keep a community engaged, and to establish and DEVELOP relationships. That takes talent from other disciplines.

    Managing technology is “easy” but managing relationships (in the context of marketing) is a new world because you need to speak/appeal to people’s motives and needs in order to give them the meaning and emotion that we all are looking for when we interact with others.

    My thesis in Grad school was in Relationship Marketing, and it’s fascinating

    Thanks Erica

  5. “Any ideas or input is much appreciated”. Hmm, maybe I should write my own post on the subject, where I’ll have more space than this tiny comment box. But something immediately comes to mind: many, many years ago, I worked for a company up in D.C. that specialized in Total Quality Management consulting. Back before TQM was a buzzword. One day, though, the president confided in me (I was young, but we were pretty close – later, we co-authored a chapter of an Economics book ) “we’re going to have to stop calling ourselves TQM consultants ; it’s starting to become a fad”.

    And indeed, it did, and the charlatans flooded in. Our work was serious, rigorous, Deming-based. The quacks coming in had no rigor, no statistical methods, and in fact made TQM very wishy-washy. But they were making money at it! At least in the short run – before the backlash from lack of results started biting back. The president didn’t want to be part of the backlash, so he moved to separate ourselves from the trendroids – changed our terminology that we used, our pitch, etc.

    You can’t stop the fad from happening. It’s going to happen, and if there’s money to be made, it definitely will happen. It’s how you separate yourself and your work from the faddists that makes the difference.

    Just a thought.

  6. Very well said Erica, Social media tools and buzzwords will come and go, but at the core of any relationship online or off is trust. Whether it is a relationship between individuals or a brand and its customers. There is an old adage that trust is built from three Cs – Character, Competence, and Caring. I think this holds true today, just as it did in the days before blogs, twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc. Eventually, posers are exposed because they break the trust rule, and they are brought down just as fast as they appeared.

  7. I think the biggest issue facing the Social Media movement is that things are simply moving too damn fast for anyone to truly have a grasp of the applicability of this idea or that idea. It’s almost like the Googles, Yahoo!s and Microsofts of the online domain have become the almighty overlords, and there are just a bunch of little guys with great ideas waiting to be picked up by the big guys.

  8. Amen Sistah – well you already KNOW my mantra on this stuff.

    Technology changes – human [behavior] does not – i.e. it aint about the bling.

    I describe Social Media [i prefer Web, but sometimes yah gotta choose your battles] – technologies that facilitate interactions between people – i.e. RELATIONSHIPS.


  9. This is a great summary of a problem that persists every time there is a new fad or a new technology.
    The problem is that many people do not see through the technology to what it is to be used for. Everyone forgets that the new social media technology is just a much more efficient way to network and connect to others. In the past this would have been done by going to networking meetings, having real conversations, collecting business cards, and calling the contacts.

    Now, we “collect” online contacts, and “converse” via blogs, twitter, etc. As long as the underlying goal of developing trusted relationships is there, the social media is a more efficient manner.

    I am a newbie to the new social media scene. There are so many moving, interlaced parts, that I am having trouble wrapping my arms around it all. I do understand that it is a way to get my ideas out to people I trust, and build my number of trusted relationships.

    There are far too many people who place the emphasis on having as many LinkedIn contacts as possible. They don’t question how those contacts can be utilized to increase, not only their business, but also their reputation. Unfortunately, social media spamming has already started. “Gurus” are manipulating the system, and it will soon get to a point where a new technology will be required.

    This is equivalent to attending a networking event with the only goal of collecting as many business cards as possible, without really getting to meet the people who give up the cards. They will probably receive a canned email the next day, and delete it. I, on the other hand, am asking questions and learning more about the fewer people I meet, and am able to send a message, or set up a coffee meeting because my contact with that person is predicated on a real desire to develop a relationship.

    Social Media is just a way to have that networking meeting all the time, all over the world.

  10. Nominated for:

    Best Definition of Social Media, Best No-B.S. Breakdown of Social Media Space, Best Social Media Blog Post Title, Best Closing Paragraph in a Blog Post

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  12. I love your definition of social media. It’s not too fluffy and it uses language my target audience would understand. Brilliant!

    I vote that you update the wikipedia definition of social media with your own. You’ve got my vote.

  13. I am a communications professional. Social is just one of the tools I am trying to work into my arsenal. I am the one has been chosen to start learning how we can use these tools to achieve our communications goals in my workplace. In discussions on the projects that I am working on, I do a lot of explaining to a very non technical audience what Social Media is, and how people are using it. SO…these people keep referring to me as an “expert”. I hardly feel like the expert. I am just the one picked to figure this stuff out and report back. I wonder if some of these “Guru’s” are being talked into their elevated positions. It is easy to develop an inflated ego, when someone is helping you pump?

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  15. What’s wrong with a blogging coach? They’re just another coach. A coach holds you to your goals and gives you hints on how to achieve them. I know somebody who used to have a fat personal trainer – it’s not necessarily about how good they are themselves, just how good they can help you become.

  16. I know what Social Media is. But what is a Guru? What is a Guru not? You said you are not a guru, why? Is a Guru something more than just be knowledgeable? I’ve been blogging myself since 2002 and have private beta tested numerous “web 2.0” applications but don’t call myself a guru, coach, or “New Media and Loyalty Marketing Specialist” either. Is it the titles we should be afraid of, or the competition (regardless of what they call themselves)?

    I too think a Guru or specialist or coach or whatever needs to have clearly stated qualifications but I don’t know what they are. Do you? Somebody in the comments said “aggressively separating the wheat from the chaff. And being careful who you ‘endorse’ or associate with”. I’m not sure what that means other than be careful who you hang around with and make sure you look good doing it. When it all comes down to it, Life is about relationships.

    Anyway, I’ll stop brain dumping in you comments. Just posting some thoughts to ponder.

  17. Lovely expressions of important topics, Erica. I like to think we can be intentional in our activities in the virtual world, and lead by example. You’re certainly doing that here.

    I hope that social media is part of a larger trend of individual responsibility and empowerment, from the latest rise of democracy (I’m talking 1700s and not the backsliding that’s been going on in America in the last decade) to the availability of publishing and now communications technology.

    I tend to lose sight of the fact that We The Connected are still a tiny elite class in terms of overall world population. But it’s growing. And we have both the opportunity, and I think the responsibility, of creating online spaces that enable authentic dialogs.

    I’m pleased to be able to participate in this one 🙂

  18. After seeing you at the networking event last night…I had to come on here and check your site out. I love it…keep doing what you love because your Dynamic! Thanks Erica I enjoyed!

  19. Regarding Laura’s comment at the beginning — social media already *is* an essential part of the fabric of our lives. It has been since, well, forever. It has gone by many different names – networking, socializing, the list goes on and on. In the 50s, a housewife would ask her friends who was a good seamstress and get recommendations. Today? We go to Twitter.

    We aren’t inventing something new. We’re just packaging it differently. Relationships and recommendations have always been a part of life.

  20. This was brought up just yesterday when I had breakfast with erica and I agree with her completely – especialy considering her definition of a guru. I too shun the health and fitness guru title because we are all just pieces to the puzzle and connective homo sapein hubs that connect each individual to their unique needs and goals. She may not be a guru, but damn that girl is good at what she does. Just like that passionate desire to learn how to ride a bike when we were kids, we need a few folks to run beside us when we are tripping, falling, and swerving through the social networking world for the first time. Thanks Erica, and everyone please read my resoponse to her blogger’s block. Hopefully it will bring to life that Jerry McGuire movie quote; help me, help you, help me, help you.

    “Breakfast with Erica”
    I would go as far as to say that Erica could never have an actual ‘block’ when it comes to blogging. Just yesterday we finally got together at Le PeeP for a meeting and discussion on this very subject. Well, being the greenest of all green horns in this venue, I thought it was all about the writing, reading, follow up, content and seemingly endless time spent juggling all of this. She clearly spelled out that social media is exactly what what it states. She said, “It’s really all about relationships”. And THAT’S exactly what I am enjoying with my start up company, Body of Knowlege. When we first met about a year ago, I remember telling her, “Not sure what we will be doing together, but I like your energy”. And from this and many other relationships I have made at mixers and networkting events, the symbiotic cirlces of enthusiasm and passion are growing exponentially. Just one problem. TIME. Damn that 4th dimention! Wish there was a way to make more time, minimixe travel………
    Thanks Erica! Einstien was wrong. Blogging and other social networking platforms transcends space and time (sorry Lenny Kravits for borrowing that lyric). I look forward to making more relationships, reaching out to more people, and helping more to reach thier goals than ever before.
    Oh, one more thing. I have a tangential thought process that is extented when I write without editing, but will make always make an effort to tie things up at the end.
    Erica, how could you EVER have Boggger’s block since this is an oxymoron according to your definition of socal networking? The only way you could ever have an actual blogger’s block is if you blocked yourself from entering one.

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  23. Hello,

    I appreciate this post is 2+ years old, but the core point is very much valid and easy to relate to.

    Often it seems that using the word "expert", "guru", "master" etc, preceded by a current buzzword, is enough for some people to validate themselves as one.

    I've recently created a post titled "social media charlatans" based on similar content.

    Anyway, stumble across your blog and it appears to be very well thought out and articulated, so thank you. You've just gained another reader!


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