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Gini Dietrich

I’m the Smartest Person In the Room!

By: Gini Dietrich | October 26, 2010 | 
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There is something happening online that really bothers me. People are calling themselves experts, mavens, and gurus. With no real experience or case studies to back up their claims. This is not new – I noticed it was rampant a few years ago when I began participating online. But last night I was reading a list of the top 25 women who both tweet and blog and, in the comments, more than one person said, “Why didn’t you include me?” But, most weren’t that nice.

Imagine walking into a networking event and exclaiming, “I’m the smartest person in the room!” How many people would line up and wait for hours to get to talk with you? Imagine going to a conference and, in front, of all of the attendees, from the back of the room, standing up and asking, “Why wasn’t I included on this panel?” How many times would you be invited to speak?

Isn’t it better for someone else to tell people you’re a guru, an expert, or a maven? Isn’t it better for someone else to say you’re the smartest person in the room? Isn’t it better for someone else to recommend you for a speaking opportunity?

In the case of lists, they’re so subjective and dependent on the relationship you have with the person that wrote it. Sure, you might have been missed, but it’s likely your friends will tell that blogger or journalist you were missed. Why do you have to ask? Instead, comment on the blog, read more posts, comment on those, compliment the blogger or journalist. Develop a, gasp!, relationship. My guess is, without having to say anything, you’ll be included on the next list.

If you’re good as you think you are, they will. If they don’t, perhaps you should examine your engagement, your relationships, your content, and the way you behave, both online and off. As my friend Lisa Gerber says, “No one likes Type OO.” Output Only.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

122 comments
WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

Love this! So very, very true.

There's actually someone on Twitter with nearly 100,000 followers who says in his bio that he's knowledgeable about social media. But, get this, he'll never responds to anyone. Just a few tweets with his friends, but otherwise he's what you call OO. Ridiculous.

Thanks for being on the rational side of this discussion. Down with gurus!

Amber

FYI - I was referred here by Julia Zunich

Ike
Ike

When I find myself on a list, it usually means someone messed up.

Seriously. I'm not joking.

My site, my musings, my tweets -- no matter how entertaining nor insightful nor clever -- don't fit in an easily-described bucket. If you put me on a "Awesome PR Peeps" list, then you're not reading me. If you put me on a "Mondo Marketers" list, then you've obviously missed that gaping white space on my resume, which is filled with many words that have nothing to do with marketing. If you put me on a "Social Media Rockstars" list, then you don't know Poison from Polka.

The only list I belong on is Top 60 Curmudgeons Under 60.

Now, stop talking about lists, and get off my lawn.

AbbieF
AbbieF

Gini -- Mimi, Jay and I were having this conversation over lunch the other day. And I mentioned it in my PRSA presentation. Guru, expert - not possible yet, certainly not when we're talking social media. I agree with you, descriptors like this just don't work for me. Do what you say you're going to do and do it to the best of your ability. I'd rather people say they can trust me and count me than call me an a guru.

JulesZunich
JulesZunich

Thank you for writing this! I have mentioned the everyone is a guru hype and it bugs me to no end - especially when it comes to social media, where the changes happen on a near daily basis. There are several over-hyped people that I do not follow/read because they seem to take their press section description a little too seriously. i don't like spin. I don't like buzz-words. And I don't like self-professed gurus.

Ricardo Bueno
Ricardo Bueno

"Expert" status isn't a title you can claim for yourself. It has to be bestowed upon you by someone else. You have to earn it, ya know.

marianmangoubi
marianmangoubi

Love the many great points made in your post and the comments. Although 'expert', 'maven', 'guru' are strong words, they also hint at someone who is all-knowing. If you're all-knowing though, chances are you don't see the value of continuing to learn. Failing to be open to learning new things is sad.

jeremyvictor
jeremyvictor

Why are we so fascinated with lists? Get over it.

Earn your reputation by building trust with those people you are lucky enough to call your friends, colleagues, partners, and customers.

johnheaney
johnheaney

Problem solved. My profile now accurately reflects my successful attainment of "social media dilettante."

johnheaney
johnheaney

Thanks, Gini. Now I have to edit my Twitter profile. I tossed in "social media maven" as a tongue-in-cheek exaggeration and now there are actually social media types who are using the description seriously. Crap. Back to the thesaurus.

prblog
prblog

>>But last night I was reading a list of the top 25 women who both tweet and blog and, in the comments, more than one person said, “Why didn’t you include me?” But, most weren’t that nice.<<The lists are challenging too. Some are pretty much link bait. It worked in this instance. And they're ALL subjective as you've noted. Even the power 150 was created using a subjective element built into the rest of the data it pulls in. Ad Age may have changed this after taking it over.

And I think it's like being called cool. If you have to do it yourself, it begs the question. Not to mention the terms have been so abused that being called an expert is not even a good thing in many circles.

It's all unfortunate.

But did we start the whole unfortunate syndrome with blogs? An opinion is worth 80 IQ points. And a blog is a great way to publish your opinion and initiate more than an output only presence. This is a participation sport.

Again, I think the crowd will float to good content and expertise can become implied. But using your analogy, anyone at the conference shouting their expertise instead of showing it in practice is usually the one that comes off as more of a carnival barker than a source.

Barbara_Ling
Barbara_Ling

There's nothing wrong with defining yourself to be an expert/guru/etc. if you have:

The proven track record
Answers for 99% of questions asked within the industry
The know-how how to uncover that 1% you DON'T know

That being said, I would agree that it's far more effective for OTHERS to deem you an expert. After all,they're the ones who then do your viral marketing for you.

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

Whenever somebody tells me they are an 'expert' or 'tough negotiator' - it's like exposing a weakness. And if they're so willing to expose their hand in such a way...i'd love to get them in a poker game!

Modesty - and being humble - is a lost art...especially in the PR industry. Unfortunately, I think it''s an innate skill - one that can't be taught. Sigh...

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

For my views on this, I refer you to my Twitter bio: "Social media person who is not a maven, expert, or guru"

JeffOgden
JeffOgden

Ardath Albee once said something smart to me. "You are an expert only when someone else says you are, not when you say you are." Amen, Ardath!

Jeff Ogden
http://www.findnewcustomers.com

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

Gini, This post is made of win. All lists are subjective, it's like whining about Oscar snubs. Happens, but lists have their limits. That said, I like challenging the status quo, suggesting that the list compilers think outside the box a little, look who's done something different lately as I sometimes tire of seeing the same names when I discover new and smart people almost daily. Perhaps more engaged actions like you suggest would be a better strategy: "This is a great list of the old standards, but for some new thoughts check out.. so and so." FWIW.

barryrsilver
barryrsilver

The post speaks for itself. I too am skeptical of self-proclaimed rockstars, ninjas, sherpas, experts, etc. Add to that list those whose "networking" starts a sales pitch and remains a sales pitch. Perhaps showing basic competence and an ability to listen as a start.

I have a rule. I never eat at restaurant with the words "Good Food" on the sign or window. Good food should be a prerequisite not a selling point.

timjahn
timjahn

Rather than rant on and on about this because I completely agree with you, I'll just say this.

The folks we're talking about won't read this. Because they're not targeting you or I. And they're going to keep doing it. Why?

Because they don't care. It's a marketing gimmick. And it works. The uneducated will believe these "mavens", "gurus", "experts", and "kings" (yes, I just made my own up) and ask them for advice, tips, etc.

I hate this so much. I hate that there are folks out there who fall for this crap. But I'm not sure there's much I can do about it. We're just in two different crowds I suppose.

agmahoney
agmahoney

Thank you for airing what I've been thinking! Recently I was followed on Twitter by a man who called himself a "social media celebrity." His website and page were all pictures of himself, talking about himself, and how influential he was. But I Googled him, and come to find out...he really was the only one talking about himself.

There's something HUGE to be said about humility. If someone is truly smart, engaging, innovative and caring, it shows. They don't need spin to attract others to them.

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

I totally agree, no one likes the person that constantly brags about themselves in real life....and it's no different on the internet! You have to prove yourself and show that you are knowledgeable about something, doing this says it all.

JoyFull_deb
JoyFull_deb

I'm "gasping" for breath here...LoL. Love your post. As an "outsider", in that, I'm not in the Social Media Business, I'm continually amazed at how many "Gurus and Experts" abound. Several folks have stated here, that everyone can't be an expert. I'm NOT!! If everyone was an expert, y'all wouldn't have clients. I'm "old school" when it comes to recommending/referring someone because of their expertise. "If you build it, they will come." It's all about relationships and a reputation of solid, successful work.
The list thingy gets me...Danny made a great comment linking lists & tangible results for clients. For me, gasp, I'm thinking popularity contest. IMHO. No Whiners allowed!!!

SandySidhu
SandySidhu

Actions speak louder than words. Show the world why you are an 'expert' and let them decide!

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

We must read the same posts and lists, Gini - the amount of times I see a "Why Not Me" comment boggles the mind. And often from folks who you think should know better...

The way I look at it is this - lists are great, and offer a nice little boost that you're seen to be doing something right. But unless they transfer into tangible results for clients (and therefor you), or help you get client in the first place, they're just another notch on your virtual bedpost. Get too many of them, and you're seen as a tramp.

I don't want to be a tramp. ;-)

Marijean
Marijean

What a great reminder -- as I find myself getting irritated by the number of unqualified people trying to make a buck in social media with no communications background whatsoever -- if you don't have the ability or commitment to develop relationships as well as content, then you won't emerge as a leader.

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

"Show, don't tell". That's what a good minimalist writer says to his/herself over and over, and I wish more people would do the same with their lives.

Having said that, I'm not entirely sure that it works with SM. There are a lot of strong personalities out there who dominate the field, proclaiming themselves to be "experts" and so on with no real thought, data, or even good anecdotes to back themselves up. I think the industry is absolutely rife with this kind of personality - to the point where those of us who are out there doing work and trying new things are often drowned out.

"Show, don't tell" is a great start, to be sure. I also think it's important for all of us who feel this way to start acting on what we value and speaking up against the self-proclaim'ed out there as well.

Excellent topic, Gini, and I do hope this gets more notice!

KarenARocks
KarenARocks

I just got a @reply from someone who proclaimed to be a "social media maven" who barely used Twitter. He seemed like a decent guy who worked very close to me. If he hadn't used that cliche, non-substanciated title, I would have been more apt/interested to talk to him. But with that title as his only bio, I just got the "Ewww" factor instead of the "Ahhh" factor like I am sure he was intending.

EricPudalov
EricPudalov

And by the way...what do the "5pts," "6pts," etc. mean by the posts?

EricPudalov
EricPudalov

Wow! I had thought about this lately...in fact, it came to my mind when I had asked to guest blog for you. I readily admit that I don't have the level of expertise that you do in marketing and PR, Gini, but the more I teach myself about this field every day, and the more I speak with experts like you and your team, the more I feel ready to talk about the subject. But at what point is someone considered an "expert?" And aren't you continuing to learn, even with your level of experience?

patrickreyes
patrickreyes

Love this post Gini. This is a trap we can all fall into but as you remind us in your post, we can't forget about why we got into this space to begin with...to meet people and develop relationships.

The other thought that popped into my head was something I heard at Catalyst earlier this month from T.D. Jakes. "If you're the smartest person in the room, get out of the room." We all are continual learners and are never really "experts" at anything. Continue to grow and learn by talking and building relationships.

Lists are only important to one person...ourselves.

bradmarley
bradmarley

Great post. I actually think about this a lot.

The only purpose a list serves is to push people toward focusing their attention on those who are already popular, while lessening the chance that they will spend the time to find hidden gems elsewhere.

If you're focusing on lists (or, getting placed on them), you're not putting your attention in the right place.

Levi Wardell
Levi Wardell

Its true, there are a good number of self proclaimed esssperts out there [mental note, go check twitter profile]. That said, they really don't bother me that much. Not only do these jokers provide plenty of opportunities for a good laugh, they also make it easier to win new business by showing solid experience.

On a similar note, I recommend to you and your readers that you go check out something @seosmarty just posted on Twitter about guest blogging. It goes right along with what you're saying about displaying your authority on a subject matter. http://bit.ly/cem9hj

adriandayton
adriandayton

I can't believe you didn't mention me in this article. I'm crushed.

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

WOW! Great post! I agree 100%! It's something I noticed when I got started on Twitter....EVERYONE is a Guru, but when I go and check out their various services they have little to no experience to back the claim up or convince me to use them. Everyone has specialties, but a specialty doesn't make you a expert or guru.

For me, if I am looking for a service, and you make the expert/guru claim and have zero proof, you are guaranteed to turn me off. So, overstating could loose you business.

I believe we would all be better served being a bit humble, using our knowledge to benefit others, and as you said, build the relationship and let others decide.

Trackbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gini Dietrich and Sam Broberg, Pamela Wright. Pamela Wright said: National crisis!! True for SM, politics, work… RT @ginidietrich: I'm the Smartest Person In the Room! via @SpinSucks http://ff.im/-sHyCr […]

  2. […] – all of these are not very social. Late in the week I had a blast reading the comments on Gini Dietrich’s I’m the Smartest Person In the Room post where she calls out the self-proclaimed experts, mavens and gurus – a subject that has riled […]

  3. […] yo le hice. Uno de mis post favoritos y que generó una polemica de 118 comentarios fue I’m the Smartest Person In the Room! en el cual menciona un tema en el que estoy totalmente de acuerdo y es que hay personas que se […]

  4. […] la que yo le hice. Uno de mis post favoritos y que generó una polemica de 118 comentarios fue I’m the Smartest Person In the Room! en el cual menciona un tema en el que estoy totalmente de acuerdo y es que hay personas que se […]

  5. […] wouldn’t just spout a bunch of crap about yourself without asking anything about other people. You would talk to them, listen to what they have to […]

  6. […] A Twitter profile with the words “marketing guru” does not tell you that you’ve found a person to trust. Anybody can say he or she is an expert. […]