social business blind leading the blind

It takes a lot to get me riled to the point of writing a blog post. I believe this is my second in history for The Marketing Nutz blog. The driver of this post is an Ask Gary Vee episode that I recently watched that told a story of a young kid in their early 20’s that told Gary they wanted to be a “Life Coach”. You can imagine his response. Essentially – how the BLEEP (you know Gary) can you be a life coach if you haven’t lived life! You idiot! Or something along those lines. You can insert the Gary Vee yelling voice in your head while you read this if you want to. I've posted the video at the end of this blog post for your viewing pleasure.

Here follows my thought. When Pam Moore (our CEO whom also happens to be my wife) left her 15+ year corporate career to found our agency, Marketing Nutz, she did it because she had an immense depth of experience running corporate marketing programs that delivered business and consumer value. For companies large and small like GE Capital, SUN Microsystems, Hitachi Data Systems and MessageMedia (where we worked together and e-mail marketing was brand new). She was building global communities in the SUN developer network and driving social programs before there was the term “Social Media”. Pam understands integrated marketing intimately.

She understand the foundational needs of marketing organizations and teams – not associated with social media, but associated with good business.

Naturally, when Pam went out on her own and started sharing her ideas and thoughts around social business and marketing, people gravitated to her and our agency grew almost immediately. Her following grew, and over the past 5 years we have enjoyed the fruit of the relationships and leadership she has established online. She is Legit.

I have been watching the SXSW feed a bit this week, and they have lots of panels. Panels with “experts”. “Experts” with panels. And in the past couple months there have been some lists. With “Experts”. “Top people” in social media.

And I got to thinking. That in itself is a miracle, but bear with me here. Before these people or self-proclaimed “experts” in social media were “experts” – what were they doing? I mean REALLY doing?

Were they leading businesses and teams? Were they driving results for organizations and other firms? Have they successfully taken their preach into practice and made a difference in more businesses than their own?

See, we are a lazy society. If someone and a few folks around them call them awesome, they are somehow suddenly awesome. We all swarm around this person, and tell them they are awesome.

Then that person believes they are awesome. And tells other people that they are awesome. And the people believe them. And the circle of awesomeness ensues. With no real reason they are awesome.

This blog post does not take away the fact that many of these “leaders” are kind, change people’s lives and are overall good people. But my question is, should you be allowing them to lead your business down a path they have never been down themselves? We have all heard the term “blind leading the blind”. Some of us may have heard (with annoyance in her raised voice) from your mother “if your friend jumps off a bridge does it mean you should too?!”  Why would you take the risk and listen to a guide that has never been down a path? Its just simple laziness and stupidity.

Now, before you start trolling me and making excuses about Wild West doctors learning the baby delivery craft because they had to – then they got good at it over time, give me a chance to show you some detail.

I took a couple top 10, 20, 50 lists (list not referenced to protect the innocent, er guilty) parties. Within the lists I did the “double click” on LinkedIn for lots of profiles. I encourage you to do the same. What I found was quite interesting.

A large majority of the folks on these lists are legit. I mean, true to form kick butt, business building legit. And you should jump at the chance to hire them to help form your strategy.

The second majority are people that are in media and have written books, and since they wrote a book on the subject a few years ago they have somehow become an “expert” in social business (See Awesomeness paragraph above). I have no idea how being a book author somehow equates you to being a business leader, or someone that can make change in business. Traditionally you are a business leader first, then write a book about the subject. See, that is how as a society we have learned to trust books. Publishers vetted a book as good (or they wouldn’t publish it), marked it as non-fiction and we took it as truth.

With the advent of self-publishing, shared authorship, and all kinds of other shenanigans the days of trusting anyone simply because they wrote a book are, or should be gone. And if you are still in the school that you hire someone because they have published a book, you are being stupid.

The third, and happily after my look are the minority. Usually these “leaders” are in the below top 15 of these lists, but not necessarily. I saw some social media experts that list no experience at all on LinkedIn except to be an “expert” and work for themselves over the course of a few years. I also saw lots of others that claim to be change makers, and drivers of business that have worked for companies, yet only as individual contributors in mid level roles. No access to strategy, or the needs of a team over all. This to me is the most worrisome of the bunch because they can tout brand relationship yet in reality had no role that would associate with helping to drive business.

Working for McDonalds corporation as a burger flipper, although an important job doesn’t have the same needed long term experience to help drive your business success as them being the McDonalds VP of marketing strategy. This third group is rounded out by a couple folks with experience in low level roles, completely unrelated to marketing then followed by being a “social media coach” then followed by the next 6 jobs working for themselves in different social media roles and types of experience. No clue how they got where they are, but good on them for their hustle.

Look, I don’t doubt that at some level all of these folks drive value. I just want to encourage those that are searching for a company to help with your social business strategy to do the deep dive and learn who you are working with. Do I want you to work with us? Heck yes! Even if you don’t work with us, do yourself and your organization a favor and do the research. Find someone that knows how to drive change in your organization. There are lots of choices – some good and some “awesome”.

Thanks for listening to me. Would love to hear your comments or stories good or bad. Both Pam and I will be at Social Media Marketing World next week. Hope to see you there.