The whole social media expert/guru thing

Guru (photo courtesy the UK National Archives on Flickr Commons)
Guru (courtesy the UK National Archives on Flickr Commons) Photo taken by Felice Beato on the Nile Expedition to relieve Khartoum, 1884/5

I cringe when I see terms like “social media guru,” “maven” or “expert” in someone’s bio.

People in my personal geek circles do a lot of eye-rolling at such terminology; most of us consider ourselves ongoing students of ever-changing social communications.

We have to hustle to keep up, and we’re reluctant to claim any sort of Olympian heights of knowledge for fear of looking like conceited idiots.

I’d rather say “I have expertise” instead of “I’m an expert.” Sure, it’s hair-splitting, but the right words matter.

The problem is, no one wants to hire speakers or trainers or consultants who are “students.”

They want the damned guru.

Although I never use such rah-rah terms to refer to myself, as a speaker I’m occasionally introduced by others as some sort of social media savant/guru/wizard/whatever.

Inwardly wincing as I walk up to the microphone, I wonder if some errant tweet by an audience member will make it appear that I said all that about myself.


Am I over-reacting? What do you think about who is really a social media guru? Drop a line down in the comments!

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8 Responses to The whole social media expert/guru thing

  1. MissDazey says:

    Boy, oh boy…do I have an opinion on this. I agree with Sheila 100%. I am wondering where and when the term “guru” started. I told someone once that calling yourself a guru, it similar to saying I have Phd without going to school. Means nothing.

    It seems too easy to claim to be a social media expert online. I would think that title should be backed up with provable data, examples of work, and real references. (not your online friend praising you in exchange for your praising their company.)

    I will come back and read the comments. I want to hear what others think.
    MissDazey´s last [post] ..Floating Along

  2. Sheila says:

    Thanks, Miss Dazey. I don’t want to undervalue what I know and what I can do, but “provable data, examples of work and real references” are not at all unreasonable things that clients should ask about.

    Social media is not magic beans; it’s just a powerful way to communicate.

  3. Todd Barnard says:

    Those terms are mostly used by those who feel most threatened by the power of the web, as it democratizes the entire world.

    I remember first seeing “social media guru” pejoratives in job postings by Old Media. Obviously trying to belittle and marginalize their usurpers.

    I have been in computing for so long, I remember when big corporations referred to anyone who could write HTML as “webmasters” circa 1995. No one says that anymore, so expect to see “social media guru” usage trail off as old dinosaurs get hit by the proverbial meteor and go extinct.

  4. Sheila says:

    Thanks, Todd.

    Wow, I know about 2 lines of HTML – I can haz “Webmaster” title, too? 🙂

  5. Hairywom says:

    Thank you for your article,
    I to lament at the ease that anyone on the net can call themselves and expert or guru.
    The problem that i see with this is that it is just to easy to claim a title that in the end really means nothing, as most of what they say is unverified and way off into the future where they are not held to account to their predictions. We have a constantly changing technology at our hands and no one person can lay claim to knowing everything, this i believe is what makes a guru.

  6. Oh, I couldn’t agree more. And I would be doing an inner cringe too if introduced with the word “guru.” I’m sure that the first few instances of using the term “guru” beyond its original definition were very flattering. But now? Nope, too many snake-oil salespeople have used the word and eroded its meaning.

  7. Sheila says:

    Yep, it’s getting to be a stomach-turner, for sure.

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