Why you’re not a social media guru / expert / architect whatever

I wont beat around the bush, once again it’s time for a bit more expert & guru bashing. I need a release and a few new thoughts and observations have come to me that I want to share.

So on with the bashing. When it comes to pseudo wannabes there are 2 categories. The bandwagon jumpers and the plain stupid. Both can be found on twitter and without having to read their tweets, you just know by a quick read of their bio which category they fall into.

The bio’s never cease to make me laugh. Here’s the best SoMe expert one I’ve ever had “Bio: Physician and social media expert”, ‘and’, ‘AND’??

So here’s a few thoughts:

You think your a social media expert (SoMe from here in , acronym kindly ‘borrowed’ from Ann Hawkins) because you’re signed up with Facebook, Twitter AND linked in, oh and you do the odd blog post.

No that’s called normality these days, nothing special about that.

You have added a fancy noun after the words ‘Social Media’ in your bio that self proclaims your awesomeness. To name but a few: Expert, guru, architect, evangelist (one of my personal favourites), pioneer, explorer, mentor, artist, engineer, wizard, shark, authority, specialist, sage, scholar and the list goes on…

No that’s what you’re calling yourself not what others are calling you. If you have to tell others that’s what you are rather than proving it then get a grip you’re a bandwagon jumper and nothing more!

You’re a SoMe expert because you’re nice to people and people like you.

No that’s called being human. I don’t think being human has ever been a specialism (although plenty fail at simply being nice)

You’re a SoMe expert because you work in marketing.

Sure that makes perfect sense just like farmers are experts in small garden landscaping?

Definitely an expert if…

However you are definitely a SoMe expert if…

  1. You don’t practice what you preach.
  2. You’re followed by 20,000 people…. and you follow 25,000.
  3. You’re twitter follow auto reply has a link to your blog in it, nothing else mind just the link.
  4. You don’t come up with any original content and retweet tweets from respectable experts from further up the food chain, often.
  5. You’ve switched your comments facility off on your blog, that will teach those crazy spammers!
  6. You’ve set up a facebook page but never updated it.
  7. Your Klout score is THE most important thing EVER!
  8. Your family, 3 random school friends and your pet dog are your only fans.
  9. No one has ever recommended you. Well when I say ‘no one’ of course your family, 3 random school friends and your pet dog has.
  10. You once were an SEO expert but hey that’s so 2008 and no one needs SEO any more.
  11. You were mighty relieved when Google buzz came out because the work was drying up and Quora should see you through to Christmas.

Well I always think it’s better to give than to receive so there’s my opinion, free to you.

As ever comments are welcome


I love: Norfolk | Food | Cooking | Community | Speaking | Marketing | My Wife x | Great customer service & engagement | Running a business (or 2) | Humour

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Related posts:

  1. Social media is dead, long live social media.
  2. Preaching to the converted
  3. Tweetboard – Good idea, bad idea or ugly idea?
  4. Is Twitter making the world smaller?
  5. The foursquare backlash


  1. The pity is, if you invent trains, you invent trainspoters. The saying that time heals all wounds holds true even in this world of the SoMe [what and ugly term]. I time, the wound of the SoMe would be healed and all these hangers on would find something else to latch on to – is there a new diet system round the corner. I was convulsed with laughter on reading #7. Thanks for the post, glad I’m not alone in praying for an end to this sillines.

  2. excellent article, you put in to words exactly what I have been thinking for ages now.

    • Thanks Caroline, I know there’s plenty out there thinking it but not many saying it aloud. Doing this SoMe ‘stuff’ is just about being human and I think many humans have made it over complicated for their own gain.

  3. So does this make you an expert on who is not ;-)

  4. Heather Townsend

    Great article. You’ve missed one off…

    You are running your own social media training sessions based on the training you received personally.

  5. Graham Townsend

    Wonderful article Gary, and yes there are so many ‘experts’ out there now. Have to agree with all that’s been said, it’s just something else to ‘latch’ on to, IM experts instantly become social media experts, must be true as it says so in their signature! Can’t help but smile that one so called expert is advertising getting you a 1000 targeted followers for just a few dollars .. You know I just knew I didn’t understand the term. Great read!

  6. I’m intrigued as to why you’re so annoyed by this ? Surely there’s always been “pseudo wannabes” and surely there always will be. Isn’t it best to accentuate the positive rather than eliminating the positive ?

    DW x

    • Not particularly annoyed (although granted it may come across that way), it is meant to be more of an observational piece. Agree about the pseudo wannabes, one edit I did to the article was to remove a part of a line about ‘You were an SEO expert and before that a ZX Spectrum expert and before that…’ in reference to that very fact but wasn’t sure the ZX Spectrum bit was required so it fell to the cutting room floor.

      I don’t do a lot of ranting, please allow me this one guilty pleasure :)

  7. To be fair on your own blog you’re allowed as many guilty pleasures as you can manage !

    I’m not sure if you sure Charlie Brookers programme last night on BBC2 last night ? If you haven’t you should – it was basically about TV raising people’s expectations to hideously over inflated levels and perhaps the “guru” and “expert” tags are related to this. People seem to feel the need to over sell themselves and as a result completely overstate their skills and standing in the world.

    Like the “genius” tag in the world of music – how many people have you seen described as a “genius” when in fact they’re nothing more (ha) than really good !

    And finally – what’s wrong with train spotters . . .

    DW x

  8. Great piece Gary – we all know of someone who fits the bill! I’ll be interested to see if any “experts” join in the debate.

    BTW you missed “debunker” off the list…. sorry just had to say it first!

  9. Fab piece Gary. You’ve said what many of us have been thinking. Love the term SOME. Personally, I hate the term “guru” – anyone seems to be able to use it. Yep, it’s all about “being human”

    J x

  10. “Quora should see you through to Christmas.” heeheehee

    I was only thinking yesterday that everyone who really irritates me seems to have latched onto Quora. Great post.

  11. I like this so much I’ve put it on my blog. (Thanks Gary – content is king!) Interesting in this London Social Media Week to see that many people who inhabit this world (and really are experts) share your views of the crap that is being pedalled. I recommend following @Twankers for on-going debunking of the ‘gurus’
    Looking forward to your piece on train spotters ………….

  12. Nice work Gary, I have similar views around gurus etc. I know many people in real life that fall under the category and seem oblivious. Bad place to be! You can read my slant on it all here – http://bit.ly/cqVkK9

    Glad I found your blog!

  13. Great post Gary…I like the way you’ve captured what many of us have thought for ages. Today on Twitter I saw someone calling themself a Brand Strategy Guru and that adding the word ‘guru’ had ‘cut through the brand recongnition wall’ or somesuch piffle. Some gurus live up poles to seek enlightenment…I wish some of the new gurus would join them…

    • Gary’s post is a good one. I retweeted the link, but also made the point, that, as it happened, my firm is called Brand Strategy Guru, and it’s been a very successful brand name for us. This seems to have irritated Richard Maun: who has actually re-invented what I said in order to make his point. I never mentioned “brand recognition wall” in my Tweet at all. What I actually said was that the use of the brand name Brand Strategy Guru gave us brand cut-through virtually overnight. Richard may not like that, but it remains true. One of the interesting things about all of this (and similar debates) is the amount of energy poured by some small business owners or practitioners into attacking others who might reasonably be thought of as peers. You’d think we’d all have more positive things to do.

      • HI Simon,

        Thanks for stopping by to comment. Obviously the post itself is aimed at social media gurus and in a broader sense internet technology, I mention SEO as another area. I hadn’t thought about any other areas when I wrote it where the word guru has been used. However this does raise an interesting point. I’m thinking it and I wonder if you are, does the wider and wider use of the term guru as a self appointed title of knowledge undermine true expertise? The term was once respected and seen as a ‘taken as read’ trust in one’s expertise but as 1000′s water down that does it cause a problem? Especially for someone who is using it as a brand name?

        Love to hear your thoughts


        • Hi Gary. I realise your original post was aimed at a particular area, and I liked it, which is why I why I retweeted it. It was the knee-jerk response to my Tweet which made me bite back.
          Your point about watering down is an interesting one. But what I’ve learned over the last two years of using the Brand Strategy Guru brand name, is that the very fact that is has a slightly outrageous, utterly self-assured (and a bit tongue in cheek) feel, has given it remarkable stand-out (with clients, with the media, with publishers etc.). I won’t bore you with what has happened as a result of adopting the name, suffice to say that it took the firm into a different league.
          I advise people about brands for a living. My brand is a high-risk one, but only in the sense that I have to live with a little teasing and the odd dumb comment. And I couldn’t give a damn about that as long as the great projects keep coming in. One of the reasons (among many of course) that small business owners (particularly in the area of any kind of consultancy) sometimes don’t achieve their ambitions, is that they care too much about what the crowd thinks. In a sense you have to divorce yourself from your brand. It’s not me that’s a guru (obviously). I’m just a bloke. The name is a brand. That’s all.
          Actually I don’t mind how many people call themselves experts or gurus: I am not remotely threatened by it. Most of them, like us, are trying to jostle for their place in the market. If they’re interesting I’ll willingly learn from them, and if they’re good they might have success. If not, well it doesn’t matter what they call themselves. You can’t protect language.
          Anyway, thanks for posting an interesting piece in the first place.

  14. I *love* #10: “You once were an SEO expert but hey that’s so 2008 and no one needs SEO any more.”

    A few of us were talking about that just a few weeks ago. It seems so many of the “SoMe Experts” were, and many still are, touting their SEO expertise and they decided to run after the Social Media crowd. The sad part is that these folks actually convince people to hire them and give respectable firms a bad reputation.

  15. Boy, that just made my day. I truly couldn’t have said it better myself and I applaud you for having the courage to say something.

    I do a lot of work with social media, and I educate clients on how to use these tools. I speak at events all over the world and I have written my first book. I basically live online, using social media tools from Facebook and Twitter to Path and Netflix. (Yes, Netflix is a social network too.)

    I am not an expert. I have never claimed to be an expert. Others have called me that, some have even called me the “King of Content.” That is nice, and I appreciate those votes of confidence. But I am not an expert.

    The typical “expert” must spend 10,000 hours using a service or a product to be considered an expert. If that is the case, and you worked 40 hours a week, only using Twitter posting content, you would still not have the hours it would take to be considered an expert.

    Anyone that calls him or herself an expert is doing more harm than good. You want to be an “expert” in this field? Then show me how to use it, show me how it makes me money (as a direct ROI), and show me why I “can’t live without it.”

    Thanks for posting this sir. Much appreciated. But I do have one question for you. Because I knew how to read your blog post, does that mean I am an expert reader? Love it buddy!

    • EXACTLY! While we teach this “social media stuff”, and are immersed in it for *hours* each & every day, we’re all still learning! But maybe too few are humble enough to admit that…or they are actually convinced that they know everything. The day I know everything is the day that life is no longer an adventure.

      • How many customers and clients do you think you would get if you put ‘still learning about social media’ in your bio…?

  16. Selena Larson

    I have sat in some interesting meetings with social media “gurus.” It’s a bit frustrating because here I am, a PR student, with the same, if not better ideas and strategies for using social media.

    But I am not calling myself an “expert.” I am a 21-year-old student of the media that happens to be on the Internet. (What?!)

    What bothers me is when these people claim to be experts, but the only content they post is self-serving or completely irrelevant. Tell me something I don’t know about social media, or introduce me to something new and different. Until then, don’t expect me to #followback.

    Thanks for posting!


  17. Know of any organizations offering Social Media Certification? ;-)

  18. Funny how “bashing” is the order of the day…I wrote a blog on this topic a few weeks back declaring that I am qualified as a SM expert. Check it out at http://bit.ly/hgqiML


    • Hi Suzen,

      Bad news I’m afraid. You’re neither an expert nor qualified. Whilst I hear what you are trying to say (I too have been using these tools (forums, bulletin boards etc)to engage with people for over 10 years, long before they were called ‘social media’) it is not you who decides if you are an expert it is those that you engage with. I’m not an expert, unless others wish to call me that and value my expertise.

      As for qualified well then unless you’ve done a doctorate and social media was your thesis there is no qualification. Yes I know it’s a black and white view but there you go.

      If you wish to prove your expertise then lets hear your voice, your comment, your thoughts on the matter. Expertise can not be claimed it must be proven.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, I appreciate it even if we can’t agree, this time.

      • I just knew someone would chime in and claim to be an expert. But Gary, she wrote a blog post about it. And she used a bit link. She MUST be an expert in that case.

        I have to agree with you on this one. She is NOT an expert. No one is. And thank you for bringing up the ROI part of this equation.

        I have used these efforts to produce dollar bills. I have proof that my efforts have produced an ROI. Does that make me an expert? No, it doesn’t. It makes me smarter than the guy beside me who couldn’t figure it out. But what did I do? How did I do it? I used the tools as they were presented to me. That’s called survival.

        Thank you for being the first to say that she was in fact not an expert. The one thing that gets me is when it begins to become a competition. When these “social media experts” try to be better than everyone else. Isn’t that sort of defeating the purpose of even calling it social?

        Support those around you, help them learn and to grow. And stop calling yourselves an expert.

        Man, thanks again for this post Gary. Love it!

    • I read your blog post Suzen and while I can happily ignore most of it, I can’t let you get away with the casual comment that Ida Lovelace and Charles Babbage were lovers. I have studied biographies of both of these exceptional people and there is nothing in the writings of some very eminent biographers to support such a notion.
      Ada Lovelace was just 17 years old when she met Charles Baggage, aged 41, at the home of her tutor.
      While romance is not uncommon with a young woman and an older man, the aristocratic English society of the 19th Century that Ada lived in would have made any romantic liaison impossible without a huge scandal.
      The fact that Ada had a very respectable marriage to Lord Lovelace makes your claim even more unlikely.
      It may make the story more romantic in your mind but if you invent facts like this, it brings into question the validity of everything else that you say.

  19. Hmm, kind of a double edged sword this to be fair..

    How do people think the biggest organisations in the world today got where they are? By telling everyone their products are works in progress and could be better? No they said we are the best, we have the best.

    I have no problem with people saying how good they are, and they can brand or package how they want. They just need to back that up.

    If you want to tell the world you are still learning or wait for other people to spread the word about how good you are then you will be waiting a long time to become successful in what ever industry you choose.

    Life and work is about making the most of what we can, yes people like this annoy me, but maybe the wider problem is the people that buy products and services from them because we as a community are not educating people to a high enough level of understanding.

    • I totally agree with you on that last paragraph. Education is vital and that is true in every industry really, each with it’s own cowboys and charlatans.

  20. Annnnnd! The follower / following ratio thing pretty much means nothing. Unless you are a worldwide brand you will need to follow people in order to get people to follow you back.

    Going back a couple of years, it was nearly considered best practice for people to follow back (assuming you were real) and most people did it.

    There is one UK person, who I am sure most of you people know of, worship and consider a ‘social media expert’ who looks like everyone follows him. However he did used to follow back and then one day removed everyone he follows to boost his own ego. And for me ‘that’s just not cricket’…

  21. Great blog Gary and one similar to mine on the same subject. I do like your writing style.

    It astounds me how many people are offering SoMe services for essentially profile creation, and what’s even more astounding is that some are paying for it!

    It’s not complicated, it is about conversations and being engaging.


  22. Just came across this! Brilliant! The more I bitch slap the gurus, the more I find others needing/wanting to do the same. Give the Gurus/Experts in SoMe a big gold star for interacting…part of “everybody gets a trophy”- especially with this:

    You’re a SoMe expert because you’re nice to people and people like you.
    -No that’s called being human. I don’t think being human has ever been a specialism (although plenty fail at simply being nice)

    Brilliantly stated! Glad to have come across this.

  23. Just realized that I didn’t leave a comment on this post the first time around.

    Well played, there are far too many in the expert space that love to self-proclaim.

  24. The ONLY good thing about Gurus is that they’re not “Rockstars”.

    If you’re claiming to be a rockstar, you’d better be clutching a guitar.

  25. Just to let you know there’s now a ‘revisited’ version of this post available here http://garydickenson.com/2012/05/why-youre-not-a-social-media-expert-revisited/


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