Are Social Media Consultants Clowns? Or Heroes?
Social Media Is More Than Marketing

Social Media Experts Come Under Attack By Social Media Mean Girls

I was going to title this, Attacking Social Media Experts without naming them is bullshit, but I didn't want to be so mean. 

A spiking trend in the social media world is for pundits, authors, speakers, and people whose careers have been elevated by social media to lash out at self-proclaimed "social media gurus" or some other version of the word rockstar, ninja, expert... giving the latest regurgitated hash about social media really being about solving problems/making money/learning to listen. 

It isn't new. Jason Falls writes about the bashing trend way back in 2009.

"While the harsh tone then and now will be interpreted incorrectly by some, I still feel that way. However, my frustration has turned more toward those whining about the 20-something trying to make his or her way in the social media world, hoping to ride the wave like other digital natives and put food on their table. I don’t fault the uninformed for claiming to be something they aren’t. We’ve all spit-shined our resume a bit much at one point in time, I’d bet. I hope brands and companies are smart enough to see through that."

MeanGirlsSo why is it still happening? It's a form of status elevation every teenage girl would recognize.

You attack a defenseless person with a strawman argument designed to show what you wouldn't do.

 "I may let a boy feel me up, but I don't tell everyone.  Only a slut would do such a thing."

 And then all her friends nod their head and talk about how awful, "those girls" are. Maybe it's my high school reunion coming up and maybe it's watching too many Glee clips on Hulu, but I'm hard pressed to come up with a defense of how bashing someone for what they call themselves isn't high school one-upmanship worthy of a Mean Girls 3 script. 

Trashing your industry, or better yet, trashing a skill set that has boosted your ability to make money is not speaking truth to power.  It doesn't gain you credibility, keep you real, or make your voice authentic. 

Especially when you talk about a problem that doesn't exist. 

One of the hallmarks of Mean Girls is they don't attack others in their social circle.  They don't attack peers, for fear of backlash.  They attack those lower on the social chain.  This is why you don't see social media pundits attacking each other by name.  They attack faceless, "self-proclaimed social media experts," and to prove I'm not a Mean Girl, I'll be specific.

I'm talking to you, Peter Shankman.     

Peter's website announces he's on Bloomberg radio discussing a post he wanted to title, "All Social Media Experts should go die in a fire."

"I was going to call this article “All “Social Media Experts” need to go die in a fire,” but I figured I should be nicer than that.

But my title stands. If you call yourself a “Social Media Expert,” don’t even bother sending me your resume.

No business in the world should want a “Social Media Expert” on their team. They shouldn’t want a guru, rock-star, or savant, either. If you have a “Social Media Expert” on your payroll, you’re wasting your money."

That's a very clever piece of writing, but it's not particularly helpful to anyone, from job candidates who put "social media expert" on their resumes to clients who supposedly are out hiring "social media experts" to their detriment. 

Let me go ahead and ask.  Does Peter Shankman have that many Fortune 1000 clients whose biggest problem in social media is they're so stupid they are tricked by people who put "social media expert" on their resume but actually have no experience?  That's a real question, because Peter felt the need to go out and write a bunch of words describing how stupid you have to be to put social media expert on your resume.  How many resumes is he getting that have this in their title?  Is it really that big a problem?  I get resumes with embellishments on them all the time.  It's fun to make fun of them, but it's not an industry wide trend that deserves some kind of special recognition.  

At the time of this post, Peter's post has been Liked 1000 times on Facebook, Shared almost 1000 times on Twitter, and has attracted 175 comments.  Did Peter write something groundshaking here, or are people piling on, Liking, Sharing, and whooping it up because they want to make sure they're with the cool kid? 

Are there hordes of companies spending millions of dollars wasting money on "social media experts?"  Or was this just an attempt to gain credibility stating the obvious?  And just who in the corporate world has someone with the title "social media expert" working for them?  

They're not of course.  The problem most social media consultants face is they're broke, and trying desperately to find some way to pay the bills.  Most of the people I speak to haven't taken a check for any consulting, and their experience in-house is limited to creating profiles online without any backup from their company.  These are not threats to the social media industry. They are just folks trying to make a living - marketing themselves.   

The problem companies have is the public is taking social media seriously for their own purposes, severely altering the balance of power between seller and buyer.  Companies know they have to do something, but they won't do it without proof it works.  Companies are dipping their toes into the water, but that means they don't have the budget to pay what Peter Shankman charges.  If someone calls themselves a social media expert to get their foot in the door, and that gives them access to a company that knows nothing about social media but wants to, how is that a bad thing?  Companies get what they pay for.   

What's worse is that Peter is on record talking about trying something new in social media as the secret to its success.  Who does he think is going to do that?  I've seen a lot of dumb ideas from small practitioners, but I've seen massive failures from major brands backed by million dollar a year agencies.  Maybe the companies should be spending $1000 for some local social media expert to brainstorm instead of paying $100,000 to a highly-sought after integrated digital and creative corporate marketing consultant, speaker, entrepeneur, and investor, as well as thought-leader, trusted friend, bacon and dog-lover. How is the second title any different than the first? 

You know what Peter calls himself?  A worldwide connector.  What exactly is that?  Is there a degree for that?  A course in the MBA curriculum?  Let me go ahead and say this.  If you're going to put worldwide connector on your resume, go ahead and don't send me a resume.

We know what the word means. It's a semantic device you use to elevate yourself above those nameless, faceless "social media experts" who never had a chance of selling your clients in the first place. 

You know the worst part of this?  Peter is right.  Companies should be asking how they can run campaigns that make them money, and most of the experience out there in social media lacks the ability to run integrated campaigns.  Oops, what I meant to say is that most of the peoplee in social media marketing lack the experience of running a campaign, the heft to drive solutions through a company over the objections of the employees, and the ability to then charge a fair market rate for it.  Maybe we should be doing more to hire and train young people, instead of simply insulting them and suggesting they practice self-immolation.