Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's resolution #1: no more "social media gurus"

What the communications world needs less of in 2011 are social media gurus.

The fact that people who are not spiritual teachers are calling themselves "gurus" makes me cringe.

"Ask them if they need a social media guru," somebody wrote to me last year when they heard I had begun a new consulting gig. Frankly, I would be embarrassed to even use that phrase in soliciting my patrons.

A guru is a guy with long flowing robes who sits on top of a mountain, and periodically somebody climbs that summit to ask them some deep question and ideally they'll receive an answer which will be startling and eye-opening, a step to true "self-actualization."

Why scale the Andes to get answers when in this day and age, you should have a pretty good idea of the answers yourself.

Titles in the business world were getting out of hand already for years -- employees fighting for "associate," "assistant," "senior," "manager," "VP," "director" or "EVP" and any combination of those terms.

The only reason we now have "social media gurus" in the corporate lexicon is because nobody has spent the time truly learning what they are supposed to know, so in come the so-called "gurus" to make up for those shortfalls.

Weren't the gurus the first guys who went running for cover when the world was coming to an end in the film "2012?" Wasn't that Mike Myers' last starring movie role where he wasn't doing a cartoon voice... and see where it got him? Anybody even remember that film?

"Guru" is just another silly title that is being bandied about in far too serious a manner. What's alarming is that there are surprisingly still so many PR firms and corporations which are behind the curve in social media knowledge, that getting one person to parachute in to solve all their online reputation, Twitter and Facebook problems is ludicrous.

"Let's just put this guru in front of our client and they'll know we are right in the social media game."

Why should the burden be on one person? The fact is -- no "one" person should be a guru. There's too much buck passing to the "guru" and not enough self-motivation to learn the craft on its own.

As always, the lack of direction starts at the top.

If supervisors continue to look the other way while their publicists blast e-mails, write sleep-inducing press releases and unnecessarily annoy journalists, who is going to teach them basic search engine optimization skills, how to use strategically monitor Twitter hashtags or create a unified group blog?

Having a Facebook profile does not mean you have social media chops. Just because you check in on Foursquare doesn't mean you know how to create an online branding program.

Hey, let the "guru" handle it!

You have to be the guru. The whole company should be the gurus. Don't even say the word "guru."

Let your skills and savvy speak volumes instead of relying on newfangled titles that are apt to raise eyebrows and frankly, are too dependent on one so-called "expert."

UPDATE: Mike Trainor at S&A Cherokee in Raleigh-Durham, NC suggests the following titles also added to the scrap heap: "rock star," "evangelist" and "maven." Couldn't agree more. Thanks, Mike.

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