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December 29, 2009

Are Experts in Your Field Multiplying Like Rabbits?

Perhaps it was the last networking event that I attended in Raleigh, North Carolina. Someone came up to me, interrupted a conversation I was having and said “So you are like the guru of careers and personal branding around here, right?” Yes, I was polite but I don’t think of myself that way.

In the conversation this person pointed out that they were laid off in January 2009 and had recently started a career services business. Fast forward. At the end of the discussion with the “career professional” the person asked me what they had to do to get consideration by clients (to pay him) and companies (for outplacement contracts). The person said: “In other words, how do I become a guru like you?” Pretty bold statement, right?

I answered it this way – Don’t think of yourself as an expert or a guru. That’s for someone else to say about you. I still consider myself a student of my business and career after 18 years. If I think I know it all I cannot be the best for my clients. 

In working with and watching the personal branding etiquette of many people in their profession, online and in person I find it increasingly difficult to follow the idea of the day mentality. The advent of social media points out the ridiculousness of the claim guru or expert.

I agree with people like B.L. Ochman (www.whatsnextblog.com) who points out that:


Self-Proclaimed Social Media Gurus on Twitter Multiplying Like Rabbits

In May 09 when we first used Tweepsearch to count of the Twitter bios of self-proclaimed social media gurus, experts, superstars and ninjas there were 4,487. A mere seven months later, we were shocked to see that there are now nearly 16.000. They are multiplying like rabbits.

Here’s a breakout of the 15,740 self-proclaimed social media gurus we discovered in our most recent search:

As your company or agency scrambles to get up to speed on social media, it is wise to remember that “guru” is something someone else calls you. The consultants others are likely to call gurus:

bring experience to the table;

sell solutions, not formulas;

don’t promise that social media will provide a quick fix for your bottom line.

Pete Cashmore adds to this discussion on the blog Broadstuff points out that “This represents a 3.5x increase every six months. Projecting this growth forward means that there will be nearly 30m social media experts etc on Twitter by this time in 2012.

That humorous observation raises a legitimate point: A growing industry needs trust and reputation. With social media growing so rapidly and no certification yet established, how do we go about establishing reputation?

Thank you for that great question Pete.

The central question that should be answered on this issue is the last one, stated by Cashmore and it applies to nearly any consultant, any industry. Who you listen to matters. Build your own criteria for who you listen to or hire. But if they call themselves an expert or guru and claim that title maybe you should move on.

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