i am not a social media guru

A couple weeks back, Fort Wayne had its first Social Media Breakfast. Brad Ward and Howard Kang from Bluefuego came to town to talk about “what’s next with the social web.”

About 100 people showed up. Brad and Howard did a good job. They even helped me understand a couple things.

I don’t say that to be arrogant. It’s just that I have tried lots of things and read lots of things and talked with lots of people involved in social media. In fact, I’ve realized that I talk regularly with some of the brightest and most experienced people in social media (including some social media gurus).

When the floor was opened for conversation, the first guy to speak didn’t have a question. He pitched the value of networking, talked about how much leverage social media people can have by getting involved in networking groups, and offered his business card. After that, people had real questions. I realized that I knew most of the answers, had played with most of the social networking platforms being identified. I wanted to say, “here’s why you would use that. Here’s what you could say that way. Don’t go there.”


Even as I was thinking through those things, I thought, “Why do I really want to get into those conversations?”

Like many people who have used social media tools, I have built experience that could be helpful to other people. I have ideas of what may work and not work for a variety of organizations. In fact, I could probably help nonprofits in particular. In fact, I have one such group asking me to be part of a marketing committee.

But I am not a social media guru.

I’m not talking about the self-identified kind, the person who is selling themselves by proclaiming their expertise while not using technology. No, I’m talking about people who have made a discipline of knowing how to use social media effectively regardless of the message. I love them. I read them. But I’m not one of them.

When it comes to social media, I’m a social media chaplain. When I’m doing what I love to do, social media is a tool, not a subject. It’s the method, not the goal.

People. God. Confusion. Clarification. That’s what I’m about.

Or what I ought to be about.

pie chartTrouble is, it’s fun to be a guru. It’s fun to get caught up in the conversations about the means of communication. And I do like communication conversations. I love saying, “what if you tried that. If you shot it this way, and then said this…” You can help people be effective that way. You can impress people that way.

You can get distracted that way.

This is where the last sentence goes, the catchy phrasing that ties the pieces together. But there isn’t one yet. Social media the method and social media the goal are easy to confuse. And depending on your calling, there isn’t one right order.

I still working to remember mine.

Of course, so are you.


18 responses to “i am not a social media guru

  1. I’m definitely not a SM guru either, and hope to never be one. ๐Ÿ™‚ My random thoughts on this post, which I truly enjoyed.

    Howard and I actually talked about you and a handful of others on our way to the event who had followed us ahead of time on Twitter. We were reading through blogs, tweets, etc. and we could definitely tell there would be two levels in the crowd: those who “get it” and those who are still at the beginning And most of the time, the “get it” crowd is in the minority. (Especially those who were on Twitter pre-2008.. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

    True story: A gentleman came up to HK after the event to ask about a problem he was having with getting his username on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. He said “I just don’t understand…. I’ve had my AOL username for 9 years now!!!” It took a second to realize that this gentleman believed his AOL username should transcend to all platforms because he had already claimed it there. These types of questions come up all the time.

    “Itโ€™s the method, not the goal.” I love that. As Howard puts it, “Chase the goal, not the tool.” That’s what we’re striving to be about in 2010, but when we’re asked to speak at a beginner level to those just arriving to this new medium, there has to be an understanding of the tool before understanding how they can support the goals and objectives.

    It’s certainly a tough place for you to be in as a participant of the crowd. I would have *loved* to break into a deeper discussion with you and a handful of others in the room, but I know we would have lost a majority of the audience who are still at “What is a Like on Facebook?” There’s a very fine balance to moderate.

    I’d love to have deeper conversation, and I know I could learn a ton from you re: higher ed, faith, and life in general. Your blog has been the new favorite in my reader since SMBFTW. It’s a fresh breath of air in a web world where, as one new client recently put it, “I’ve been running into so much buzzbuzz and bullshit around twitter and self-appointed gurus and the next must-have…”

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

    PS – I was really wondering where Q&A was going after that first one… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. hey, thanks Brad.

    I did hear that conversation. And finally realized what he was saying. He lives down the street from us. I think he was there because they attend that church.

    And that is, in fact, part of the challenge. Awareness of social media and faith and life in any audience runs from none to total immersion. You handled it very well that day.

    I wonder, sometimes, about starting with the tool. I did it when I taught speech. I do it all the time now. But I think sometimes that starting with the why in almost every situation is more effective. Way more time consuming, but effective.

    Welcome back to this side of the globe. And thanks again.

  3. Jon: Fantastic. You have hit upon what I’ve tried to explain to many others. Use the tools to be good at what you do, but don’t confuse the tool for the end result. Social media is part of a box of tools/implements that we use to accomplish an end goal.

    If it is through the channels that we send our message. I often ask people, “when you pick up the phone to speak to someone, do you need to know how the phone works? Are you going to actively engage in making sure the lines are connected to the poles, the switches are clicking at the phone company, or that the person on the other end uses a specific brand or type of phone?”

    I’m certainly no expert or guru. I’m a social media evangelist, for sure, but I would never proclaim to know how it all works. As long as they get me to the results I want, I embrace the opportunities available.

  4. I love being the guy who knows the answer and saves the day. It just feels good. And sometimes its necessary and literally, you save the day (happened this weekend). But I think I do get a bit distracted sometimes, looking for how I can help others instead of how I can accomplish my own purposes. Thanks for a reminder to focus. And thanks for being being who you are and not who you are not. Who you are is awfully helpful to a lot of people.

  5. It is easy to get confused isn’t it? I think part of is trying to figure out the ways in which social media might be able to help with [people, God, confusion, clarification… ] and also the ways in which it might get in the way.

    I mean, as well as you working as chaplain through the medium, which you undoubtedly do, you also explore with us (and experiment for yourself) ways in which it works / gets in the way… and ways we can keep learning to make it work better, to achieve things that matter in the world.

  6. ah, but rich. Here’s the challenge. move from social media to music. You understand the safety message you are creating music to send. But at some level, you are also interested in the music, why a 7th chord feels like it does, for example. You get music. You know how it works.

    Now, do you want to be a music consultant, helping people figure out where to put the notes, or a story consultant, or a story-teller. It’s tough, right, when it’s that close to your heart?

    Thanks for stopping by and engaging in the challenge.

  7. thanks Chris. and being the savior can be addicting.

  8. dear joanna. this is a post I wrote for me. I had to answer a request for help and I knew I had to write in order to find out what I thought. And I thought of you while I did it. Because you understand that completely.

    And you are right. I am experimenting, not in a “lab rat” way, but in a deliberate practice, test the skills, way.

    i remain, your grateful co-rhetorical epistemologist jon.

  9. You’ve hit the nail on the head Jon. And judging by the comments above, you and I aren’t the only ones who needed to hear this.

    Wow – your words resonate with where I am in the journey. I “can” talk about social media. I understand the solutions and the strategies. And it’s pretty cool being the go-to person for all things social media (at least in my circles).

    But social media is not my calling. I think there’s a post coming out of this…

  10. It’s *exactly* what you are–a social media chaplain. I love it. And we need it.

    I don’t think of myself as a social media chaplain, but I do think I’m going to post this sentence where I can see it daily, because it sums up what I want my blog to be about, too:

    “People. God. Confusion. Clarification. Thatโ€™s what Iโ€™m about.”

  11. well, i would hope there’s a post coming out of this, Cheryl. This does flow your thinking often.

  12. Kristin. Thank you for calling out that sentence. I wrote it. But I didn’t call it out that clearly as a statement. And, if I may be so bold, I like it.

    And it is what your blog is about. Exactly.

  13. Jon,

    You’re right. It’s really quite amazing how often your posts speak to exactly where I am on my journey.

  14. My degree was in “Design Communications”… the forward-thinking head of that department knew that communication was the heart of what good graphic design is all about.

    Social media is much the same – the tools can be the focus rather than their end use.

    And Jon, it’s easy to take joy in people appreciating our expertise. Sometimes that’s good – but we can take it too far, as you describe so well.

  15. Design communication sounds like the word I once created. Communaesthetics. Thanks!

  16. Jon –
    this post made me uncomfortable. Because I feel like I know a lot of the answers. And I like to share the answers. I know I’m not a guru, but I do learn quick. It’s just lately I’ve realized that organizing the information into packets that others can use is a skill I possess. I’m stepping out with a business partner and presenting a social media summit for small businesses this June. Yeah – not being the guru, but putting the right people together. What’s uncomfortable about that? Keeping my ego out of the way, making a difference, getting people excited about this new marketing — can I do all of that? Yes, I can. Just gotta watch that I don’t put on my cape too much ….

    as always, you rock.

  17. ah Deb. Guru doesn’t have to be an ego thing. Hey, when I searched that term even Chris Brogan is identified as a social media guru. He just never calls himself that. (He’s a typist). What you are doing is making social media a goal for you, at least at times, and that’s exactly what to do, for you. So go after it, friend.

    and don’t worry about the ego part. There are plenty of people who will be more than happy to fight that.

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