Remember back in the days when it seemed like everyone in the world was on their way to becoming a social media guru? Blogs were filled with posts about building your tribe, and it seemed hard to find a Twitter profile that didn’t tout a person’s social media expertise, often in conjunction with their skills in “real estate investing.”
I remember that like it was yesterday. Oh wait, that’s because it was yesterday, and today as well, now that I think about it. But the heyday of the social media gurus may have reached its zenith, because there’s a new, contrary, position gaining momentum. It’s the “who the hell are these people to call themselves experts” movement, and it is spreading all over the web, in well-reasoned posts like this and this.
I place a lot of the blame for the social-media-guru-explosion, and the resulting backlash, on the rising popularity of Twitter. In the old days (something like 18 months ago), the only way to demonstrate your understanding of social media was to do something with it. You had to help companies learn how to use social media to better understand their market or improve customer service. Or you had to create tools that made it easier for people to connect with other like-minded individuals and share information. Or you had to write or teach about the use of social media and its impact on our society.
But Twitter added a new, less demanding metric for proving your social media bona fides – followers. So the would-be gurus accumulated followers with a vengeance. What did they tweet about? Mostly about accumulating followers, of course, and how their large number of followers was evidence of their social media knowledge and understanding. Of course, by helping to increase Twitter’s popularity, the new experts also sowed the seeds of their own destruction, because the backlash against them seems to closely parallel Twitter’s recent emergence in mainstream society, and it’s dramatic overexposure in the traditional media.
That’s not to say that there aren’t legitimate social media experts out there. There certainly are. But in general, they are the people that are experts in using social media as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. Social media is a tool. Sure, it’s a powerful, multifaceted tool, but do you know what else fits that description? A hammer. And I don’t think that there are more than a handful of “hammer experts” in the world. Most people who are great with a hammer make something with it, or they teach others to make things with hammers. They don’t spend a lot of time puffing up their hammer credentials.
The positive thing to take away from all of this? Under the now-crumbling guruocracy, it was sometimes possible to fall into the trap of believing that social media was the sole province of experts and specialists. Now, as the era of widespread social media guruism comes to an end, we can get back to using social media to help achieve real-life goals, whether those goals are finding clients you want to work with, and who want to work with you; raising money for a good cause; or just finding people with similar interests. And we can feel confident that these tools are legitimate parts of a well-rounded marketing or business plan, and not things that only work if they are flogged with a single-minded intensity.