With the exciting democratization of media, anyone who wants it has a pulpit from which to critique, analyze, rant, and promote. This is a beautiful thing, because the cream does tend to float to the top. Numerous individuals producing quality content have gained rightful recognition for the value they provide. But this media access tide has lifted all boats, greatly increasing the noise surrounding valuable signals. And there is one member of this new media community that lurks in the dark corners of every channel, hanging out with retired infomercial hosts and sleight-of-hang magicians.
I refer to “gurus”; not in the personal religious teacher sense of the word, but in the “recognized leader in a field” sense. You would think field leaders would be well-known, widely recognized, and a rare occurrence indeed. But search Google or twitter and lo and behold: gurus seem to be a dime a dozen. How could this be? How could so many experts exist in every field imaginable? My guess (as well as yours, I hope) is that many of these “leaders” are trying to misrepresent themselves as “leaders” in the hope of it becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe they’ve watched “The Secret” too many times. Who knows…
Anyway, this post had to be written as a kind of rant. I love twitter, and it is always interesting to see what type of people you get as followers. Maybe someone retweeted me, or found one of my tweets through twitter search, or perhaps I am the subject of a marketer trying to gain as many followers as possible: It happens. It is this latter class of twitter users that tend to be self-identified as gurus. Now, I don’t blame these people for trying to hustle (right @garyvee?). However, there is a right way and wrong way to hustle. For all of the WineLibrary TV and Gary Vaynerchuk fans out there, you know that Gary knows wine and is passionate about sharing his analysis and insights on the topic. Maybe you consider him a “guru”, or maybe you reserve that title for someone like Robert Parker. Either way, he brings real value (through quality content) to the wine world. He has become a prominent figure because of his quality content, plain and simple; not the other way around. Had Gary started out claiming to be a “wine guru” without the quality content to back it up, he would be written off by level-headed people as irrelevant. Instead, he has built a reputation on a solid foundation, just as one would construct any physical building. Conversely, most “guru”-types try to build a skyscraper without any planning or foundation.
So how do you know if you’ve encountered a guru? Here are a few indicators:
- When someone tells you that they are a guru. As an example, here is one twitter user's profile description: "Marketing guru turned social media expert". Really?!?
- When you are offered executive level income within 30 days with little to no effort. Example: http://www.top-biz-reviews.com/
- When you come across an ebook or "program" that will help you become a guru too (making load of money [using new technology] in the process).
- When you get an unsolicited offer to help you become successful, just like he/she did.
So, I am alone in my sentiment towards these “experts”? Definitely not. Here is a funny tweet from @onehipmama: “Whatever would I do without the "Social Media Gurus” lecturing on how to use Twitter so that I can properly Retweet them?(Eye roll, yawn)."
So why dedicate a blog post to this topic? Well, simply to express what many others probably feel. I am sure many of the gurus are great people, I am just not a fan of misrepresentation for exploitation (something that is easier than ever to do).
My advice to this insidious crew: Create quality content, and the reputation will follow. But then again, I am no guru ;–)
UPDATE (October 2, 2009): My coworker Adam just sent this video to me, and it resonates so strongly with this post that I had to update it. Enjoy.