There’s No Such Thing as a “Social Media Guru”

March 17, 2021 Liezel Stephanie Lawagan
a "social media guru in a business suit

When I think of the word “guru,” I think of a spiritual teacher, or yoga, or meditation. Never in the world does my brain put “guru” and “social media” in one phrase. And yet, unlike Gretchen Wieners’ “fetch” in Mean Girls, the term “social media guru” has actually caught on (between the two, we’d rather have “fetch” in our vocabulary more than the other). People are using the term with abandon to anyone who has ever worked in social media. You can even just send out a few tweets here and there and declare that you are a social media guru. The worst part is that people think it’s cool. Let me tell you now, though—it’s not.

While it may sound complimentary, calling a social media marketer a guru, a wizard, a ninja, or whatever you want to call them is the exact opposite. Think of it this way. If your director of sales closed a huge deal, you would never credit their work to magic or being a ninja or a guru because there is no mystery with how they did it. It’s their job, it’s what they trained for, and it’s what they learned to do. It’s the same thing with social media marketers.

What Does Being A “Social Media Guru” Really Mean?

The biggest problem with this title is that it’s too vague and too broad, making it meaningless. Does it mean that you can send out tweets? Does it mean that you are great at commenting on other people’s posts? Does it mean that you’re great at getting clout? Does it mean that you know which filters and which hashtags are trending at the moment?

As defined by the internet dictionary, a guru is someone with knowledge and expertise, and adding it to any field to create a title makes sense. But in terms of social media, it would also make 12-year-olds today eligible and probably much more qualified for the title than actual social media marketers. Because if you boil it all down, the title social media guru just means someone who is an expert at social media. It’s just like calling yourself an internet expert. And well, there is simply no such thing.

Social Media Marketer vs. Social Media Guru

It’s just one word, but it makes a whole world of difference between the two. As a Snarketing 2.0 blog post accurately puts it, “social media does not make you a good marketer. Good marketers figure out to effectively use social media.”

You may think, “Duh! It’s obvious,” once you read it but let me assure you, it is not that clear-cut to everybody else.

We social media marketers don’t just take over a brand’s social media and do the tweeting, Instagramming, and whatnot. We strategize, we research, we test the market, we create content, we drive conversations and engagement, and plenty more. In addition to that, most of us don’t just have social media responsibilities. Most of the time, we’re also responsible for content writing, shaping the company’s marketing strategy, and even PR duties. Simplifying all that to “social media guru” just doesn’t cut it.

Why Being Called A Social Media Guru Is Not A Compliment

I know a lot of people mean well when they call us or someone a social media guru. It might be their way of expressing admiration for a campaign that worked or for a viral post that got them more customers. But more often than not, it is just discouraging.

For social media marketers like us, the title can be significantly limiting from a career perspective. We are not social media experts. We are experts in social media marketing. Those two phrases might sound the same, but the addition of the word marketing implies that we don’t work on social media because we create mean tweets. It makes it clear that we use social media for marketing purposes. Also, simplifying all the things we do to social media guru is downgrading.

Second, business owners and marketing leaders often attribute the results we produce and the work we do to magic with this title. Not only is this discouraging (given the amount of time and effort we spent to gain knowledge and skills), but it also reveals how much (or how little) these people know about social marketing.

They forget that we don’t just pull these social media metrics out of our asses and that, like them, we had to learn a lot of things to do what we’re doing.

Hear Us Out

When leaders can finally remove terms like guru, wizard, ninja, or whatever from their dictionaries in terms of social media marketing, they can fill in knowledge gaps, build better and stronger relationships with their social team, and get overall better results for their brand.

Instead of calling us social media gurus, let’s be more specific and a lot less pretentious and simply call us social media marketers. Better yet, consider researching and learning what social media marketing really looks like. Hit up #MarketingTwitter or look up what social media marketing covers. Read up on the difference between community managers and social managers and things like that. If you’re still a little confused about the ins and outs of the field, talk to a social media manager, or better yet, ask your social media team. Soon enough, you’ll realize that there are other words like strategist, analyst, and creator that are more apt than guru or wizard.

More than what you call us, though, learning the role that social media marketing plays for your business creates opportunities for your broader marketing efforts. Once it’s clear that we don’t just provide magic results, we can discuss metrics and recommendations to move your business forward. Plus, your social media teams would be able to easily ask for resources and support without feeling like they have to defend their proposals or reeducate the people leading them on what they contribute.

When leaders and social media marketers are finally on the same footing, they can better collaborate and create better business results. Not only that but demystifying the social media marketer’s role would empower them and create a stronger relationship with their leaders. And this all starts with answering the question, “What do social media marketers do?”

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