Over the weekend I had a spirited Twitter convo with a contact of mine about social media experts and the books they have, are planning to and eventually will publish. His premise was that it was all nonsense and that these self help books were written by people that don't care about you. All they want to do is make a quick buck and they are pretty much taking advantage of the reader.
I agree with this and don't agree with this. Here's why:
I would never call myself a guru. You don't see me on the social media circuit just to be seen (mostly because I have two young kids and I'd rather be home at a decent time and my other work responsibilities are a priority over tweet-ups. Now, this isn't to say that I haven't done these things, but I just choose to do them sporadically and when time really allows. Other priorities -- real or because I want them to be a priority -- get in the way. I'm fine with that and it doesn't hamper me at all from being in tune with the pulse of social media.
The gurus that are out there, that are on the circuit and that attend all the industry conferences, trade shows and tweet-ups are doing it for a few reasons. One, they want to be seen on the circuit. Two, they need to be seen on the circuit for branding and sales purposes. And, three, they like to be seen on the circuit. Social media is an ego feeding beast. The more followers you have, the more blog subscribers you have, the more retweets you get, etc. all feed the beast. You want to feel proud about your work and you want other people to give you praise for it. It's human nature. I get it and am doing it a bit myself. I like when people read my blog, give me feedback, say how cool it was to meet me, etc. As long as I'm providing some sort of value to their social web experience, it's a win win.
So, why am I in agreement that these social media books are full of you know what? Well, it's mostly because I know the space and I think I know it very well. Does this mean that I don't read these books? Nope. I read them. Of course I read them. I want to see what these folks are talking about. I want to learn where their minds are at in terms of where this space is headed. It helps me form my own opinions and own thoughts about the future of this business. What you have to realize is that these books are written for people that need the 101 training. These books are written for people that weren't on Twitter in 2007 when I, and most of the "gurus" out there joined. So, yes, I think these books for the most part are a waste of time, only because I know about three quarters of what's going to be in them before I read them. However, what's left is valuable enough for me to make the purchase and hopefully pull something out of it that will be useful.
Not In Agreement
On the flip side, I'm not in agreement that gurus are taking advantage of people. What they are doing is being smart -- seeing a market opportunity and capitalizing. You can't blame them for being out front and creating an opportunity for themselves. Every item that is sold -- whether it be a tangible item or a service -- is created and sold because there is a market opportunity. If one is presented to them, typically the market opportunity is created by virtue of the product, i.e. the iPhone and all the third party stuff that was created as a result.
Typically, naysayers are just those that were upset that they didn't come to this realization before the others did. Could I have written a book about trust? Absolutely. There is two reasons I didn't -- one, I didn't see the market opportunity and two, I don't have the street cred to pull it off AND get it to sell. Both reasons work in tandem.
Overall, the social media space is getting crowded. It's chock full of gurus, experts and thought leaders. The great thing about the space though is that it's build for collaboration. Instead of spending the time drinking the hatorade, concentrate on pulling content out that's relevant for you and that makes your social web experience better. Wasting time crapping on someone else's market opportunity just shows jealously and unprofessionalism.
Lesson learned: if you have a little idea or big idea, foster it. Let it grow. Create your opportunities because the opportunities won't present themselves to you.