Pay No Attention to that Guru Behind the Curtain

ozYou all know the scene: Dorothy and her three friends return to Oz with the broom in hand after a harrowing near-death experience dealing with the witch and all those flying monkeys, only to have Toto pull back the curtain and expose the wizard as the charlatan that he truly was. In our world filled with online gurus of all types and sizes popping up on Twitter, LinkedIn and the Internet in general, it’s important for businesses to know how to smell the difference between the real deal and a faker. With the ease of self-promotion that comes with using the Internet also comes the ease for anyone to claim guru status in order to try to win business.

Here are a few red flags and tips on how to be sure that you are working with someone who knows what they are doing:

Using the word “guru” to describe oneself

In its original form, guru was not a self-proclaimed title. It was something bestowed upon a religious leader who was thought to have power, knowledge and insight into God to guide followers from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. I don’t think they were talking about Twitter followers. If anyone describes themselves as a guru in their bio, I suggest running the other way.

Is the walk the same as the talk?
I came across a blog the other day that is a great illustration of this point. Calling this site a blog really was a bit of a stretch because there were only a few entries over the course of several months and they all were brief announcements promoting speaking engagements this person had lined up to impart his wisdom on how to build business through the use of blogging and social networking. The only problem was that right next to the post was that little blue box announcing that he had 4 feed subscribers and a little blue bird announcing that he had 58 followers on Twitter. None of his posts had comments or Re-Tweets. Looking at his Twitter feed, all his Tweets were link backs to his “posts” on his blog promoting his speaking engagements. Now would you trust that this guy holds any wisdom regarding how to build business through social media? Don’t think too long on that one.

That’s what Google is for….

It may sound obvious, but Google search the person’s name or business and take a look at the results. Hop on LinkedIn and take a look at the profile. See what the person’s credentials are or what he or she has done in the past. You can tell a lot about a person with a couple of clicks.

The proof is in the pudding
On the Internet people can claim to be a writers, designers, social media specialists, web designers, or business advisors. Heck, some people even claim to be 16-year-old girls but turn out to be 50-year-old men. It’s up to you to know for sure with whom you are dealing. Ask to see a portfolio of work or references from previous clients. If the only thing a supposed marketing guru has ever marketed is the marketing of his or her own marketing guru-ness, then beware. You be the judge.

You get what you pay for

To a certain degree, this statement is absolutely true. It’s not necessarily true that the more expensive someone is, the better, but I can guarantee you that anyone who is willing to write some copy for you for $20, design a logo for you on spec, or suggest a tag line for your business for free on LinkedIn is not going to be providing you with great results. Pay fast food salary (or no salary at all) and you’re guaranteed to get work at the caliber of a squished hamburger and floppy fries or less. Do a little research to find out what the going rate is for high quality work and negotiate from there.

Size doesn’t always matter

With crafty methods of getting more followers on Twitter, don’t always think that the more followers someone has guarantees a higher level of expertise. I actually get the opposite feeling sometimes when someone has an exorbitant number of followers…it makes me think SPAM. Remember, Charles Manson had a lot of followers too.

Money, that’s what I want
Another red flag is the use and overuse of the dollar sign and images of piles of money on someone’s Twitter background, blog or website. If money is the primary concern of the message, then losing yours should be your primary concern.

Finding great talented people to accomplish what you need help with is actually pretty simple. When you are looking to hire someone to work on a project for you, use common sense. Do your homework, understand the going rate and maybe most importantly, trust your instincts.

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11 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. Felicia

    wrote on February 7, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    LOL on the Charles Manson comment! Thanks for this very thoughtful post.

  2. Alyson LaBarge

    wrote on February 8, 2010 at 3:06 am

    As per usual, you hit the mark perfectly. Thanks for all of the good reminders Cheryl!

  3. John Cavanaugh

    wrote on February 8, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Excellent, as always, Cheryl. I, too, am very suspicious of self-appointed “gurus.” And I unfollowed someone on Twitter a while back with thousands of followers because he sent me the same ten blog posts two or three times a day. Who needs that?

  4. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on February 8, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Thanks John,
    Since there’s no online police force around to charge people with impersonating a guru, it’s really left up to businesses to be savvy, educate themselves and do their own policing to sniff out scammers, spammers, and unqualified and untalented providers.
    Thanks again for stopping by.
    Cheryl

  5. Greg Satell

    wrote on February 8, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Thank you for that expert, unprecedented, award winning post:-)

    (btw: you forgot about cargo cult marketers) http://www.digitaltonto.com/2009/cargo-cult-marketers/

  6. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on February 8, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks Greg. I read your post. It’s like the “Field of Dreams” school of marketing. If you build it, they will come.

  7. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on February 9, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Alyson,
    Thanks for stopping by!
    Cheryl

  8. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on February 9, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Felicia,
    Couldn’t resist the analogy ; )
    Thanks for reading!
    Cheryl

  9. 6 Ways to Spot False Gurus | Digital Tonto

    wrote on March 7, 2010 at 1:05 am

    [...] my good friend Momblebee points out, most false gurus are self appointed.  They describe themselves as with terms such as “visionary,” “expert” and “thought [...]

  10. Zahir shamsery

    wrote on March 10, 2010 at 9:08 am

    “That’s what Google is for….”
    Wonderful paragraph. Educating.
    Zahir shamsery

  11. Momblebee Blog » Crowd Sourcing’s Dark Side

    wrote on March 23, 2010 at 11:03 am

    [...] one on the Internet Ah, the self proclaimed guru problem again. I recently wrote about that subject here. But for true designers, writers, marketers or anyone else who offers creative consulting services [...]

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