How to call BS on a social media guru (event)

Next week I’m speaking at Seattle’s social media club, on How to call BS on a social media guru.

The basic idea was this: what happens if you combine How to call bullshit on a guru with Calling bullshit on social media, and make a talk out of it?

Event details:
Date – May 25, 2010
Time – 6-9 p.m.
Tickets – $15 includes a drink and appetizers (cash bar will available)
Register –
Location – Hale’s Palladium ( – 4301 Leary Way NW, Seattle, WA 98107

I’ll be putting the talk together over the next few days, but if you were to give advice to someone about this topic, what would you advise?

How can someone who doesn’t know much about social media tell the difference between someone credible, and someone selling snake oil?

In specific, I’m looking for examples of the most egregious hype you’ve seen on the web.

25 Responses to “How to call BS on a social media guru (event)”

  1. Todd Henry

    Scott, I love the idea behind this talk. Very, very cool. The bit of input I’d give is already in one of your linked posts – ask the social media guru to show me how they’ve been effective at DOING something with their advice. (READ: NOT just getting a bunch of followers, because who cares if they’re not really interested in you, and NOT just creating a bunch of useless hype that doesn’t help you accomplish anything.) Getting a bunch of Twitter followers doesn’t equate to being a social media expert.

    Working my way through your Confessions Of A Public Speaker right now and…you…nailed…it. I love your honesty and your transparency about the whole biz. Very cool. (And I can tell you’re taking your own “naming” advice with this talk.)

  2. Joe Scarpati

    I would love to hear this talk. Here are a couple of questions I would advise people to ask when trying to identify social media BS:

    – Did the “social media guru” take an accepted truth, wrap it in buzz words they created, make it specific to social media, and pass it off as an innovative social media strategy?

    – Does the guru discuss specific strategies and tactics or talk in vague generalities about “listening and joining the conversation”?

  3. Scott Berkun

    Todd: Good point – you reminded me of a thread of ideas I’d forgotten for this topic!

    Glad you’re enjoying the book – hope the rest of it doesn’t disappoint.

  4. xian

    they try to get their followers to write their talks for them?

    i kid! i kid!

  5. helly

    I run when they mention Web 3.0

  6. Payson Hall

    One of my tests is, “Does the person acknowledge when they get to the edge of their experience?” At 51, I have packed a lot of living into my life, but there are things I don’t know and things I haven’t done. I’m always surprised when I run into a 30 or 40 something “guru” who has hundreds of years of experience in a wide range of contexts and seems completely assured of their infallibility.

    Another test is, “Does the guru TELL me, or ask me very insightful questions?”

    Socrates was arguably the best question-asker in the history of the Western world. Dale Emery and Jerry Weinberg are probably the best I know of today.

  7. Dave Williams

    Now that is a tough call, who is a guru in such a young (even relative to the internet) medium?

    I would think the call would have to be on specifics;

    Do they know more than a handful of social media sites?
    Which sites/communities cater to which industries?
    Do they know the jargon, ie. Face book metrics are called Insights?
    What knowledge/expertise do they bring to the table outside of Social Media; a marketing expert would have a different spin/feel then a communications specialist.
    Do they admit it

  8. anna smith

    Xian – ha, ha

    A friend of mine wrote a great post:

    Social Media isn’t social at all – it’s creative:

    “The real issue lies not within the media, but within the creative — so maybe we should be referring to the wave of interest as ‘social creative’ rather than ‘social media.’ Social media, no matter how you slice and dice it, is just media and media is nothing more than a distribution platform for messaging.”

    I also like
    and love following her on twitter. Her posts feel genuine and are not boring/regurgitated.

  9. Bryce

    Pity I can’t make this event, damn being on the other side of the world.

    Would have been great to access your knowledge on the topic. Any chance of a copy of the slides/presentation?

  10. Carolyn

    My BS detector pings for any kind of guru who uses the phrase, “It’s all about ______.” It’s such a vague phrase that indicates the person using it does not have constructive ideas, only vague ideas about how things should be run.

  11. Drew Boyd

    Scott, great topic. I see this gap ALL the time, especially with corporate “social media” experts and agency “experts.”

    Here is my simple test:
    1. Do you read blogs? How do you find blogs to read?
    2. Do you have an RSS reader? How do you keep it current?
    3. Do you feed Twitter keyword searches or other searches into you Reader? How do you do it?
    4. Which social bookmarking site do you use? Do your social bookmarks show up on your blog?
    5. What screen name do you use most often on social sites? How available is that screen name on other social sites as determined by tools like Are you managing your personal brand effectively?


  12. Jen

    Methodology: They need to present the *process* they would use in order to develop a strategy and then implement it. Things the prospective client should look for in the process:
    – Are they considering my business goals?
    – Do they seek to understand my target user’s and their goals?
    – Are the solutions user-centered or simply based on the technologies that they know?
    – Do they define success metrics and how they will be measured?
    – Does the process include workflow design and required resources to maintain the social media strategy?

  13. Jason O'Keefe

    Demonstrate how to quantify the results of using social media; a real guru will have trouble with this answer – me thinks.

  14. Jason O'Keefe

    Demonstrate how to quantify the results of using social media; a fake guru will have trouble with this answer – me thinks.

  15. Veronica Sopher

    Scott – LOVE the title of your talk! I’ve heard you speak at PresentationCamp at UW and at Ignite Seattle. Can’t wait to get a healthy dose of your BS-free take on social media next Tuesday!

  16. rodica

    lots of good questions in the comments here :)to me, it’s more about how social media fits in the rest of the marketing, PR, and legal activities. nothing lives in a silo.

    more of a personal test – i also learned that folks who don’t ask me questions about goals of social media for my brand are also not the right ones. as a marketing manager, i’m not expecting a best-practices guru, i’m expecting someone who can take their expertise and apply it to help problem-solve a particular challenge my brand is facing. as such, they shouldn’t do most of the talking – they should be asking a lot of questions.

    i also tend to respect those who think about how to react if something negative pops up in social media world – which team members do you alert? how and when do you craft a reply?

  17. Scott Berkun

    Thanks guys – great stuff here.

    I’ll make sure the slides get posted – I believe it’s being recorded, and assuming that will go online at some point as well.



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