Call me jaded or cranky – I don’t care – but I have had it with self-proclaimed social media experts. And not because they are one of the most ego-driven bunch of (un)innovators that I have seen in my entire career. After all, I have been able to live through the age of A-listers and following exclusionary eras of social media without getting too caught up in it. I’ve had it because they are hurting the reputation of people who truly understand this wave of innovation by giving their clients and customers bad advice.
The only thing I used to do was to follow a simple rule to help me decide whether or not to friend someone on social networking sites. Besides some other rules that I use for various sites I would not accept people who called themselves social media experts of gurus. Maybe it’s time to step that up.
So what got me so riled up? A post by Chris Kieff (who I normally enjoy reading), about what makes a social media expert. In it he describes how you cannot call yourself a social media expert unless you have a set number of followers on facebook, twitter and LinkedIn, and how you need to have a certain level of Facebook fans to qualify. In other words, another piece of bad advice for companies who are trying to recruit people to help them make sense of this current wave of innovation.
On Chris’ Facebook posting about the blog post I said “You can be all that and when a CMO comes along and asks how to leverage the social as part of lead gen or product innovation be at a total loss…or when a CIO comes along and asks how all this impacts his infrastructure (CRM, PLM, etc.) be completely clueless. Social media is about “the social” and humans know what that means…they have been hardwired to behave that way for eons. What is hard is how to embrace all this social activity into a business environment – and to do that you need a deep understanding of business processes and how business people measure success…they do not want to measure the impact of social media in customer service by the number of followers – they want to measure the impact the same way as you measure the impact of a call center…” I then added “…the metrics you use may in fact not be a good indicator to evaluate an expert…I agree that you learn by doing, we are aligned there…but in this case that is not enough. In fact there are people with huge followings that are a) business clueless and b) socially awkward – neither one of those profiles would be a good hire if you are trying to leverage the social as part of your business…”
Others, including Danny Brown weren’t quite as delicate in telling Chris that this was bad advice – and I really cannot blame them. Chris came back with a lame rebuttal, typical of self-proclaimed social media experts’ discourse with the pot calling the kettle black – calling the feedback he got coming from the “social media echo chamber.”
It is not good for our industry to tolerate people putting out bad advice – it hurts us all. Customers who listen to that advice end up disappointed, hurt or confused. In writing our book, The Hyper-Social Organization, I talked to a well known and social-media savvy CMO who asked for my opinion about popular social media experts. Not knowing where he was going with that I played it safe and said “I know a lot of those people and I am friend with some of them, but there are many people out there who lack real business experience,” to which he responded “EXACTLY – most do not understand my business, and much less what my role is.”
That of course, is not good for the reputation of the industry as a whole.
How many dead corporate blogs have you seen out there? How many company-centric corporate-speak spewing twitter feeds? How many corporate Facebook pages with fans that come only because the company distributes coupons on its page? Those are some of the best examples of what bad advice can lead to. At least they are not hurting the companies that deploy them. But even those best case scenarios hurt those organizations and consultants that can truly help companies leverage social media as part of their business – those that understand that social media is not about the media but about the social, and those that realize that to succeed you need to power your business processes with people – not enable your marketing processes with a new social media channel.
Sorry Chris for using your posts as examples – they are the posts that made me reach my tipping point.
What do you say?