Sunday, July 31, 2011

What Do Real Social Media Experts Think of the Posers

As @NeilGlassman (blogger for SocialTimes and Principal Marketing Strategist at WhizBangPowWow) states:

“Active Twitter users cannot avoid contact with those who purport to be able to make you a "Social Media Rock Star" by dramatically increasing your Twitter follower count.”

Since the prominent rise in social media marketing, there has been a sharp increase in the number of social media experts and gurus everywhere in the past 6 months. Many of them are indeed legitimate community managers, strategists, and public relations specialist, but a large number of them are self-proclaimed “specialists” who don’t seem to know what they’re doing.

Some of them are easy to differentiate as they spam sales-y tweets every minute, send auto DMs, and do not interact at all with their followers; but others, with high follower counts, who understand interaction but not necessarily marketing/PR strategies are a little more difficult to point out.

As a soon-to-be graduating Public Relations student focusing on social media marketing, I see this as a rising issue, making it difficult to differentiate myself from other “social media gurus” in the hiring process for corporations that know little about social media.

What do experts think?
After having short interviews via Twitter (J yes twitter), and emails with various experts such as:

Frederic Townes
CTO of Mashable

Amber Avines
Former Broadcast Journalist @CBS and Los Angeles Times

Neil Glassman
Blogger for SocialTimes and Principal Marketing Strategist at WhizBangPowWow

Jason Sem
Corporate Social Strategist at J.B. Sem Consulting, LLC.

James Dabbagian
Freelance blogger and copywriter.

There seem to be a host of other issues with this dramatic rise in the number of social media experts.

1. There are WAY too many of them
The barrier to entry for social media is very low – it’s usually free, and the only thing you dedicate is time and brain juice. This allows a lot of stay-at-home employees, unemployed individuals or social fanatics to jump on the wagon.

It’s a free-for-all chance for success with little monetary investement.

“There are too many self-proclaimed social media gurus out there who know NOTHING & teach people incorrectly.” @Wordsdonewrite.

2. They are giving out the wrong idea about social media marketing!
For a beginner in Twitter, it’s easy to be distracted by the immense number of followers that some of these social gurus have. It is easy for them to fall into the trap of following the gurus’ footsteps in aiming for quantity over quality or spamming auto-DMs and retweets.

The most common misconception is that followers are EVERYTHING. Although a large size of followers are immensely important as it increases exposure and the size of your reach, it’s not the only thing that matters.

Here’s an article about good social media strategies:

3. “Lots of companies contract out social media help, but don't know how to screen to get the most knowledgeable people.” @Wordsdonewrite

“The thing is that social media has been such a disruptive technology (but necessary) that most companies are way behind the curve and are looking for help. Any help.  Unfortunately, some turn to these gurus and find out pretty quickly that they're all talk and no action. This is where the social snake oil salesmen come out and pray on the confused marketing execs.” @Jbsem

Then how do we sift through the gazillion social gurus?
“I think you need to unbundle those who respond to questionable (perhaps, false) gurus and those that have a strategy that may overemphasize building numbers.” @Neilglassman

“Real strategists will cultivate KPIs relevant to the campaign/project at
hand if possible, more importantly, they will be specific about the aims they have for a campaign or project. For example, if trying to increase awareness for a social good project, did donations increase by some specific percentage as a result of engagement on twitter?” @W3edge

It’s about success stories, like in any other type of marketing. What kind of experiences and results do these people have in their pockets that they can showcase?

Here’s an article about how to select a social media agency to manage your brand:

How does Klout scores come into play here?
The general consensus is that social media metrics definitely show influence, but should a host of other variables should be considered.

“Klout scores are 1 of MANY tools that can be used. Frequently, scores don't accurately represent engagement. Look @ big online pic.” @Wordsdonewrite

Here’s an article regarding how to effectively measure social media results:

A different perspective:

How are these spamming social media gurus different from the classic infomercial tactics or do-it-yourself/ get-rich-schemes others have succeeded in promoting?

“If we are speaking about the same "experts," it actually appears they might be doing well. Those presenting social media, and Twitter in particular, as a do-it-yourself, get-rich-scheme are not much different than others who have done the same over the years for other industries.” @neilglassman

The reason why the late-night infomercials or online get-rich scheme ads still exist is because they still work, meaning there are obviously people who buy that type of content/promotions. If this is the case, the same would indeed apply to social media.

Of course, I’m not trying to say that everyone who focuses on quantity over quality is a snake oil salesperson, but I simply wish to warn employers who are trying to catch up with the social media wave the caution they should take while hiring social media experts to manage and represent their brand.

It may sound cliché, but social media marketing truly involves attention to detail, engagement, carefully planned strategies, campaigns and a host of other traits.

This is just the beginning of outlining some issues the rise of “social media gurus” will arise.

For now, keep in mind that a little skepticism goes a long way.

Thank you @DaveKerpen and @Caraizzle for edits!


  1. Great advice, Mazy! You've done a real public service laying out this information for your readers.

    Just because someone proclaims themselves to be an expert, doesn't mean they are. As a matter of fact, real "experts" rarely call themselves such. Others do it for them, hence validating the claim that those folks really know their stuff.

    In many ways, social media is still the Wild West. Lots of people, such as the snake oil salesman mentioned above, are all too happy to take advantage of people with little knowledge and money to burn.

    As with most things, buyer beware. Look at people's entire online presence. Google them. Look at their profiles. Do your homework. Make sure they're walking the walk and not just talking the talk.

    Thanks for interviewing me for the piece, Mazy! And keep up the great blogging!

  2. Mazy,

    Nice post.

    I see there being two generations on the playing field. 1. The young professionals who have grown up using social media as an extension of themselves. 2. The current older professionals that have had to adapt and learn social media to stay relevant.

    It will be very interesting to see how these two generations co-exist in the next few years, and who resorts to using the tricks you've spoken of and who uses transparent communication.

    Look forward to following your blog!

  3. Nice post. Thanks for sharing. waiting for your new post.
    Social Media Expert

  4. It’s about success stories, like in any other type of marketing.

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