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Calling Yourself a Guru and More Things Social Media Consultants Do Wrong

When asked whether Facebook should seek revenue in The Social Network, Justin Timberlake (as Napster founder Sean Parker) gave an iconic reply – ”You don’t even know what the thing is yet. You don’t want to ruin it with ads because ads aren’t cool.” It’s too bad that self proclaimed “social media gurus” don’t seem to grasp this.

Social media consultants can be placed in two boats – One boat defines themselves as THE center of the universe in this new profession and the other acknowledges that their is still much to learn (and screw up). Not only are these “gurus” usually overconfident about their own abilities but they fail their clients where it really matters. From auto-bot messaging to shameless attention-whoring their clients, many miss out on the real value of communication through social networking and community building. Here are some of the biggest mistakes these managers are doing and how to stop it:

You’re Not Communicating with Your Audience
Social media has become the last stronghold for ad-free content. Virtually any content you consume is motivated by the dollar someway or somehow. Comedian Bill Hicks used to have a bit about marketers – every time he expressed his disdain for the profession (and wish that they kill themselves) a marketer would come back with an explanation of why he feels that way. A marketer would deduce that Hicks is simply targeting the “anti-marketing dollar” – a huge market.

This is exactly what social media marketers turn these communities into. Just another outlet to plug their product. The benefit of expanding your social media isn’t just expanding your reach and engagement numbers – it’s to truly connect with your customers, the friend’s of customers and the friend’s of friend’s of customers. Engaging with customers is a two way street. Responding to every comment is a start. Watch out for managers that want to automate postings way ahead of time using Hootsuite.

You’re Promising a # of Likes/Followers/Subscribers
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney found himself in hot water over the 100,000 followers that magically appeared on his Twitter account. It was revealed that over 70% of President Obama’s followers were fake in response. There is no magic land where managers can pull enthusiastic followers from thin air. Community managers manipulate these numbers to make their numbers look better. Bewildered clients see their social numbers grow and assume it’s paying back.

To be fair, President Obama has a huge number of fake followers as well

Consultants justify this by saying that a high number of followers means instant credibility. It is the number of enthusiastic followers that matters. No matter how saavy your consultant is, your boutique fragrance shop will never reach more followers than The Body Shop. A business is not better off through this deceptive method. You may as well be buying databases of emails online to send spam advertisements to. Focus on attracting your customers to your social media channels. Then you can look for friends of friends and establish a real presence with incentives and content.

Not Creating Content
This sounds like beating a dead horse with the content creation. You’ve heard it before and it still rings true. Content is what drives social media power. You’re a dime a dozen if you aren’t creating something fresh. Establish a channel where users can tell a story. Again, provide incentives for content to be created. A blog is immensely helpful in getting started with this. Provide the user a reason to look further into your posts or tweets. Content has become more and more important for businesses because the market has became saturated with pages and pages full of sales letters. You have to stick out.

Here is a great example of content marketing done right. is just an average car sharing start-up in Los Angeles. They created a guide to driving in LA that is short and sweet with a quick blurb about their service at the end. Short, succinct and to the point. Awesome!

Posting Too Much
You never should post too much. I often see Twitter users that post every 30 minutes! This is just begging for attention and taking yourself way too seriously. Posting once every day to two days generates the most “likes” on Facebook. Tweeting twice a day may be just enough for a smaller business. You don’t want to burn out your audience. Of Facebook fans that have unfriended a company, the highest percentage (44%) was due to posting frequency. Every company is different and a good social media manager should experiment to see what that magic number is.

Taking on Competing Clients
They say if an agency takes on two clients in the same industry there’s a conflict – if they take on more than two it becomes a specialty. There is value in working within a specialized field. The conflict comes when someone is marketing for competing products and services. The point of hiring someone to do your marketing is to get a jump start on the competition to do things that they haven’t done. How can you do that if you are hiring the status quo? Someone with an outside perspective and experience in a diverse group of fields will have new ideas from the get go. In the fast changing field of social media, the last thing you want is a consultant that thinks staying their old rhythm is good enough.

Ignorance of Copywriting and Design
Short sentences; say “you” more than “me”; avoid light colors over black background. Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, WordPress, SEO, HTML… Copywriters and designers spend years honing their craft. I’m not asking you to become experts in these categories but it is important to have knowledge of these tools.

Learning basic copywriting is a must. Books like Hey Mr. Whipple, Squeeze This and Hypnotic Writing will help any novice get started. Most of the social media process is coming up with good taglines for your content. Who is better at short and sweet statements that get an audience interested? Copywriters.

Knowing design is powerful as well. Most large companies use branding guidelines that any in-house designer could use. You work with the channels that many of these designs go through. Not only can you take on a quick design project for a co-worker lagging in time but you have the basic design chops to filter  their work as well. This works better at smaller companies and companies with less of a silo across departments.

A little photoshop skills go a long way towards making everyone’s lives easier

Spreading Yourself Thin
The average large company has 178 corporate social media accounts. Keep it simple. Too many companies I see managers compelled to create a Pinterest, Four Square, LinkedIn, Google+ and half a dozen more social media profiles. You often see these on company websites and blogs screaming to be clicked. Unless you’re a global brand you do not need to have a presence on most social networks. By spreading yourself thin you don’t get the opportunity to truly excel on any individual network. Communicating with your customers takes longer and quality decreases.

For most businesses a simple Facebook account and the option of a newsletter or blog is an effective start. Twitter is a great place to expand from there as does Four Square for local companies. Depending on the company’s needs and demographics is where you should further decide to expand to. Tech company? Google+. Cosmetic company? Pinterest. Car dealership? Instagram may be your thing. An all of the above strategy rarely works so don’t do it.

Promising Instant Results
This is when a supposedly savvy marketer will promise an influx of customers following a campaign. These kind of promises should spark red flags. Social media is not a deadline based business where quotas are met. It’s a fickle monster that needs to be treated with experimentation and personalization for each brand. Establishing a presence is the start. Creating powerful content and attracting customers is the next step. Remember that you aren’t creating sales – you are creating leads! Don’t fall under the impression that if you make a sub-par service/product that social media will solve this. A crap product is still crap no matter what you sprinkle on top.

You’re Calling Yourself a Guru… Or a Ninja
Historically, a guru is someone who attains followers usually through spiritual means. You aren’t changing the world by knowing how to plug a company online. Even if an experienced marketer that uses the term “guru” tells me they are way behind the times. Also what is with people calling themselves ninjas now? A ninja is known for treachery and aloofness – hardly qualities you want in a consultant.

The internet is big but it will never be big enough to fit the heads of all of these self proclaimed gurus and ninjas. These tactics are nothing more than a deceptive sales technique to increase their own personal brand.

In this industry you can’t take yourself too seriously. Social media is supposed to be fun. Remember, it’s all about the audience. Most problems on social media can be traced back to communication. Communication has to be there. That starts at having a mere presence and revolves around listening.

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