Straight Talk on Social Media Gurus


By Stanford Smith, Contributing {grow} Columnist

I love experts.

These folks have invested their own time and money learning something so I don’t have to.  All I need to do is read their blog and get valuable insights for free (or at a  fraction of the true cost).    Some of these experts have become “huge” in their respective niches benefiting from years of consistent work and reaching critical mass.

I tip my hat to them.  I never disparage someone for working hard and taking risks.

My problem is with you.  Specifically, I think you are learning the wrong lessons from social media luminaries. Instead of carefully evaluating the advice you are getting, you are leaning too much on their experience.  I’m afraid that your over-reliance on the gurus might be causing more harm than good.

Here are three common “crutches” that tend to mess up “expert groupies”:

Thinking That “They Are Just Like Me!”

Most social media experts haven’t been “just like you” for years now.  They have huge email lists, social followings and a steady income from products and services.  They have benefitted from years of experimentation.  Although they may do similar things that you do,  they are doing it with superior resources and expertise.

What this means:  Realize that you are going to have to learn new lessons and make new mistakes.  You can’t compare your experience to the A-listers.  The best you can do is relate to them as fellow travelers on the same road.

Different Times – Different Strategies

I learned early on that starting a blog in 2010 was a lot different from starting one in 2006.  According to Nielsen, in 2006 there were approximately 34 million blogs, by the end of 2011 this number ballooned to over 174 million blogs.  Getting attention and attracting readers is exponentially harder today.

What this means: Be careful when a guru says that everyone starts out with nothing.  While that may be true, the first person to offer ice cream on a hot day does a hell of a lot better than the 100th guy.  You have to find, vet, and deploy techniques that match today’s market not yesterday’s.

Case Studies and Best Practices

I hate case studies.  They distort reality and offer false hope.  Simply because some other company saw great results doesn’t mean that they have created the only path to success.  In fact, blindly implementing someone else’s strategy can have devastating effects.  While case studies and best practices can help upper management get their head around a platform or technology, they shouldn’t be used as blueprints.

What this means: Don’t unfollow all of your Twitter followers.  Don’t abandon your blog to dedicate 100% of your time on Google+.  Don’t think that collecting social data like Dell will lead to Dell’s results.  Instead, experiment daily with your own product and customers.  You have to be your own case study.

How to Pick the Right Role Models:

I put my role models into two buckets: 1) Foxhole Cohorts and 2) Ivory Tower Generals.

The Foxhole Cohorts are wrestling with the exact same challenges that I face everyday.  They are building an audience, growing their lists, and hustling like hell to get new customers, leads, and readers.  Foxhole Cohorts are vigilant and are quick to warn me of danger.

Ivory Tower Generals won their stripes by successfully fighting yesterday’s wars.  They are wise and offer amazing perspective.  However these folks haven’t been in a back-alley knife fight in quite some time.  Although they tell me to blog less, promote less on Twitter, and “be epic,” I smile and talk it over with my foxhole cohorts first.

(Quick warning:  Ivory Tower Generals will often come down to the battlefield to show everyone that they still have “the stuff.”  Learn all you can from them when they do.  But remember that they have huge resources and ready-made fans waiting for their new ventures.  You don’t.)

I’m Not Mad At Ya

I have a sharp pen so I might sound that I’m being tough on the “experts.” That is not my intention. My goal is to be tough on you.  I want you to be sure that you are learning the right lessons.  80% of your tools will come from YOUR experience.  Make sure you pick the right role models for the other 20%

Talk to me.  Who are your “Foxhole Cohorts?”

Contributing Columnist Stanford Smith obsesses about how to get passionate people’s blogs noticed and promoted at Pushing Social, except when he’s chasing large mouth bass!

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