Beware of the Social Networking Charlatans (Guru’s)


Lately it seems I can’t go anywhere without running into a gaggle of social media consultants bloviating about the wonders of social network marketing. Sure, you’ve seen ’em, too. Slick shake-and-bake “experts” promising to help you leverage the power of Twitter and Facebook to raise your profile and, inexplicably, boost your profits. But scratch the surface on most of these claims and they instantly crumble. Meanwhile, it seems the only people making any money in social media are the consultants themselves.

For anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand bucks, you can hire a social media consultant to come to your office and put on a training seminar for your staff. They’ll spend an hour or two pontificating about the power of social media to raise awareness of your brand and the magical benefits of building closer relationships with your customers in 140 characters or less. They’ll probably even offer you a few “insider tips” based on their “deep expertise” in the field. The only problem? It’s a load of bull.

Unless you define success by the sort of loosey-goosey standards that might make your horoscope appear to actually predict the future, the real measure of any business undertaking is that it increases your profits. But in the vast majority of use cases, neither Twitter nor Facebook stands any significant chance of doing that for business users. And if you’re a small business that depends on, say, actually selling real products and services to actual paying customers, wistfully tweeting about your daily specials is almost certainly a waste of resources.

But time spent typing 140-character updates about your company is nowhere near as frivolous as time and money spent listening to a self-styled guru blather about how to do it.

Everyone’s an Expert

Combine a rapidly growing trend of social media adoption with an economy that has forced hundreds of thousands of workers to reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for consultant overload. Since nobody seems to know what the hell’s going on with Twitter anyway, nearly anyone can pass themselves off as an expert on the subject. So suddenly all those poseurs who might otherwise have bilked the hapless with offers of life coaching services or Feng Shui consulting have jumped on the social networking bandwagon. You can hardly swing a stick on the sidewalk nowadays without smacking one of these guys in the head.

In fact, shortly after I began typing this, I received a message from a fairly typical consultant offering to give me some expert insights in relation to another article I’d recently written. A quick look at this person’s Web site revealed a career in a totally unrelated field followed by a sudden turn to social media consulting on the basis of being an “avid” social networker. Among this supposed expert’s credentials: an admitted lack of technical savvy and a claim to be able to make businesses more productive through social networking.

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