Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Finest Expose (Ever) Of The (Fraud That Is The) Social Media Guru

This morning I awoke to the greatest article I've ever read on the fraud that is the social media guru. I hope you all will read it and understand why this "industry" is an industry of nothing. It is an industry of liars and failures in other careers now selling air.

I've been writing about this for a long time, wondering if anyone else saw what I saw. Some did, but many are just so enamored with the possibility of making money that they don't care that the industry is a complete fraud.

Milo Yannopolous has, and here's some spectacular observations from his article:

He begins: On the outskirts of a regional city in Britain - Bristol, perhaps - two hundred people gather to discuss "radical engagement strategies". They are oddballs: a mixture of chippy girls with unruly fringes and sweaty, overweight blokes with bits of burger stuck in their beards.

These are the social media gurus, a rag-tag crew of blood-sucking hucksters who are infesting companies of all sizes, on both sides of the Atlantic, blagging their way into consultancy roles and siphoning off valuable recession-era marketing spend to feed their comic book addictions. They claim to be able to improve your relationships with your customers by "executing 360 degree reignition programs". But who are these people? Where did they come from? And how on earth have they managed to hoodwink so many big companies so quickly and so comprehensively?

So the gurus are hired, and promptly set about cutting and pasting "social media strategy guidelines" into Powerpoint presentations and swanning around the office instructing secretaries about "social media for social good" and how Twitter's going to change the world, all the while leeching off the productive bit of the organisation.

He says that beneath the social media guru cover are layers of life coaches, yoga teachers, acupuncturists and feng shui consultants. That's the level of business insight and mission-critical expertise we're talking about here.

He nails it on why these frauds are able to exist: One of the conditions that has allowed the faux-academic colloquy of the social media industry to grow so fast is a lack of checks and balances online, especially within social networks. Highly questionable practices go either unremarked upon or purposefully ignored by the Twitter bubble. When someone gets caught with their trousers down, you're more likely to see messages of support than opprobrium. Plus, the industry is well mobilised, and dishes out a number of ludicrous awards to itself.

Milo sees the groupie nature of these scam artists, referring to it as poisonous cult of the social media guru.

He then makes the point: Social media consulting amounts to little more than mastering the art of the bleeding obvious and no company, no matter what its size, should even consider hiring external social media consultants. Internally, the most you need is a couple of interns with laptops.

All is not lost though, Milo predicts the end of the social media guru. I hope he's right. Fortunately, there are signs that the window of opportunity for all this silliness is closing. Firms are cottoning on to people who misrepresent and overstate their achievements and add no value to businesses while showing off to other "like minds" about how many Twitter followers they have.

In descrribing social media conferences, Milo says the red thread running through these events is, "I can't believe we're still getting away with this."

As said in Jerry Maguire: "Finally! - Someone said it."

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark


Anonymous said...

Jeez, get a bit of burger stuck in your beard once and you're tainted for life. Thank god I didn't fart.

Anonymous said...

Do media gurus also sell magic beans?

Michael O'Horo said...

I'll start by saying that I don't sell social media advice, but not because I think there's anything inherently wrong with doing so.

It's inarguable that in any emerging, fast-changing field there are no barriers to entry, so you're going to have some Wild West aspects to it, some hustlers and empty suits. That, however, should not disqualify the medium itself.

Marketing is nothing more exotic than sustaining meaningful communication with those who share your interest in topics of significance to them. Those who, through significant exposure to your thoughts, discover that they also share your viewpoint, will sometimes give you a chance to help them with some aspect of it. That means your marketing has worked.

Social media is nothing more or less than a new medium or channel. It's inherently no more legitimate -- or not -- than TV, newspapers, cable, radio, fax, email, newsletters or the old quill-pen-written letter.

This new medium enjoys two significant advantages over its channel forebears, however: interactivity and "the network effect." People who receive your printed newsletter can't comment on it directly and immediately. While they may occasionally forward a particular email-distributed item to an acquaintance or two, they never republish- and distribute it to their entire network; it's too difficult and would usually be unwelcome.

Your blog is closer to social media than to traditional media, as this Comment function shows. And, if I chose to, I could Share your blog post with my entire network via social media such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

It's just a medium. Those offering advice on how to use it are no different than those counseling how to make best use of TV, radio, direct mail or any other communication tool. Some of those are full of shit, too. That you've observed and cataloged some particularly egregious abuses attests more to its newness and accessibility than to its innate merit.

Whether you find this wave to be a positive or negative, it's definitely a wave.