Once in a while, I get introduced by people as a “social media guru.” I know they mean well when they do that; perhaps they even intend to compliment me when they say it. But that title—”social media guru”—never sat well with me. And it probably never will.
At first, I thought that my annoyance with that term stems from the “guru” part. There’s something about that word that feels pretentious. It suggests false expertise. It also suggests a know-it-all attitude, which I hope I don’t actually project.
Recently, however, I realized that the “social media” part is equally problematic. “Guru” reminds me of a buddha: wise, calm and serene. But add “social media” in front of it and the new term reminds me of a sly person trying to sell his (outdated) books to the masses.
What does “social media guru” mean, exactly?
The bigger problem with “social media guru” is that it has become meaningless. What does it mean, exactly? That you know how to tweet? That you have a high Klout score? That you know what hashtags are and you know which Instagram filters work best?
For younger professionals like me, “social media guru” is also limiting from a career perspective. First of all, I’m not a social media expert—I’m an expert in social media marketing. The addition of that word might be trivial for some, but it’s actually an important one. It communicates that I know how to use social media for marketing purposes—that I don’t work in social media just because I like tweeting.
Secondly, does anyone actually want to be known just a social media person? Senior positions in strictly social media roles are rare. Even more disturbing: the growth of social media jobs is stalling, suggesting that we’re nearing the saturation point now that most employees are expected to have some social media knowledge. If you’re limiting your expertise to just social media, you are running the risk of becoming obsolete in the near future.
Finally, it’s rare that marketers who have some social media responsibilities only do social. Many of us manage corporate blogs, write different types of content and help shape the marketing strategy of the company. Some of us even have PR-like duties: ghostwriting for executives for articles submitted to publications, blogger and influencer relations, etc. “Social media guru” simply doesn’t capture all of that.
So what’s the solution?
Let’s begin by not calling people a something-something guru. Or ninja. Or maven. Or rockstar. Let’s be more specific and less vague and pretentious with what people do.
If you work in social media, I wouldn’t suggest correcting people when they call you a “guru.” A better approach might be to intentionally broaden your expertise—to evolve from a social media pro to a full stack, strategic marketer. From content strategy to marketing manager roles, there’s a lot of opportunities for you to evolve to. Take the opportunity to grow in your marketing career and don’t limit yourself to just one aspect of it. Be #epic.
Of course, all of this isn’t to say that people who refer to themselves as a “social media guru” are bad people. I just think that the title has earned a bad reputation over time—and for a good reason. It’s simply not a title that I relate to.
What do you think? Are you comfortable being called a “guru”?