ImageThe coalescence of technology and social interaction to create value has built a social authority that can no longer be ignored if business is to succeed. This has yielded a cornucopia of self-proclaimed social media experts touting valuable advice on how to grow your business. However, with the recent fast paced evolution of social media and its continuous reformation and divergence, how many social media ‘gurus’ are legitimate, and most pertinently, how can one distinguish between a true guru and a charlatan?

What kinds of social media experts stand out in the digital marketing space?

Xuan Thai, creative director and strategist at BMCA, applies a Star Wars analogy in her recently penned article, “May the social force be with you”:

  1. The Jedi Master ‘Influencer’. Wise, influential and highly respected in his field, his views are taken seriously.
  2. The Obi Wan Kenobi ‘Teacher’. Knowledgeable and well-versed online strategist with a clear purpose: to teach.
  3. The Darth Vader ‘Pretender’. Deceitful, calculating and parasitic, he is purely money-oriented and possesses no real craftsmanship.
  4. The Han Solo ‘the Explorer’. Adventurous and likeable, he is consumed by the desire to learn, do and evolve.
  5. And finally, the Storm Troopers ‘Followers’. Harmless, creatively impotent, often choosing quantity over quality, they always need an authoritative figure.

According to Thai, the majority of the social media bubble is comprised of Storm Troopers, who believe long term use of facebook and twitter renders them experts in the business field.

How do you avoid those Storm Troopers while looking for Obi Wan Kenobi?

In the words of Erica Ayotte in “How to spot a media ‘expert’ who is full of it”, here’s what to look out for:

  1. Buzz word dependence and inability to explain the relevance of social engagement for your business.
  2. Hazardous social media activity of their own, flooded with hash tags, links without commentaries and frequent misuse of @ reply.
  3. Inability to fit personal social media experience into a business strategy. While they may have effective personal branding skills, they may not possess the necessary levels of copywriting, project management and analytical expertise that befit a successful corporate social programme.

What is a good social media strategy?

Brad Smith, the founder of FixCourse, teaches organisations how to grow using digital marketing. He sums it up for us, introducing a simple course of action that could save you time sieving through the social media contenders for that one superstar.

  1. Make people come to you: Self-made social media ‘gurus’ will want you to go out and connect, but the best strategy is to make people want to connect with you by: creating content for other websites and organisations; providing non-profit assistance in your area of expertise; using money to create a marketing asset or offer to sponsor a promotion.
  2. Don’t spread yourself too thin: social media is an endless deluge of tweets, trends, roll outs that everyone has to know about, however participating in all of the latest updates will bring only mediocre results. “You need to focus on one or two marketing assets that will appreciate over time and help you fuel social media.”
  3. Don’t Jump on the latest hot bandwagon: Be selective in adopting the latest trends. They may attract superfluous traffic; lack significant impact due to low user numbers; or may even land a demographic mismatch. Hence, while your social media ‘expert’ is off running after the latest trends, he will be “neglecting basic marketing fundamentals that will actually make your business money.”