A Quick Rant About Experts and How to Spot the Real Ones

Anyone who works in the digital marketing world inevitably encounters ‘celebrities’ – essentially, self-proclaimed experts in a niche area of digital marketing. They might be the king of Facebook or the queen of Twitter, and they all share one thing in common.

Their advice looks like this:

math experts

That’s how absurdly simple it can be and it happens often. More often than I care to count.


Public relations

  • Press releases should actually be newsworthy
  • Use the contacts’ first name when pitching

Search engine optimization

  • Target long-tail phrases for a better chance to rank
  • Just create high quality content

Social media marketing

  • Be more personal on social media – ditch the corporate tongue
  • Use images for more engagement

I went through 10 articles of self-proclaimed experts in social media and digital marketing, and then 10 articles by social media and digital marketing professionals at different companies. This is the key difference:

 John Smith is a top 50 Tweeter and Facebook Marketing Expert

 John Smith is the Director of Social Media for [Company Name]


I have nothing but respect for freelancers and self-starters, but too many are guilty of preaching the most basic, elementary advice, and then hiding behind claims such as “this is targeted at beginners.” Really? Are we supposed to assume our readers have the natural intention to create poor quality content and send press releases about their coffee machines breaking?

And when the advice is sort of sound, there are no real-world examples to back them up. We just have to assume their intuition is the voice of god – that’s that. She/He is a Facebook Guru so this must be the best way to increase the number of likes my posts get – it’s not like I wanted to see a legitimate example anyway. Forget empirical data. /s

The real gurus are the ones who humbly take the time to detail their successes and failures. They are the ones who actually show us their planning and thought process, screenshots of the tools and software they use, walk-throughs to support tactics, and beautiful nuggets of insights; completely unique to their situation but undeniably beneficial to our own approaches. We can immediately implement their tactics. They are not general sweeping statements. They are specific and targeted. Some of my favorite writers embody these traits exceptionally well. And I will admit that some of the ‘experts’ or ‘gurus’ out there have solid advice, but only because they actually back-up their words with client/campaign examples. You know, material we can actually extract benefit from.

Look for writers who deviate from the norm from time to time. Writers who aren’t afraid of self-deprecation, writers who could care less about how many twitter followers they have, and writers whose passion for their subject is as clear as day. These are the ones to bookmark, share, and discuss.

What do you think about gurus and experts – who are your favorite or least favorite writers?

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Jesse Aaron

I'm a blogger, homebrewer, and community manager. Aside from writing, I have a passion for music and design.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Amen Jesse!

    What you’re detailing is hard to spot to the uninitiated eye, but people that have real marketing and sales experience can quickly see through these blanket statements.

    Like you pointed out in your John Smith example, the quickest check is to look at a LinkedIn profile and see if they’ve ever worked in the industry where they’re proclaiming their “guruism”.

    Spotting guruism is something I’ve tried to master over the past couple years. The big problem with the whole “content written for marketers” ecosystem is that the ones that are doing great work in marketing are often WAY too busy to actually write about their findings. So the gurus are the ones that take over, unfortunately.

    Great post!

    • Thanks for stopping by Dan!

      Yea that’s a great point – also client confidentiality could put a damper on things. And you’re right, it’s definitely easier to spot when you’re entrenched in the industry. I landed on 5 or 6 ‘guru’ sites yesterday and just felt an itch to get this out haha.

      By the way, do you have any sites/writers I should check out? I’ve been a big fan of The Content Strategist on Contently lately: http://contently.com/strategist/

  • Yes, this is what I call C.O.C. which stands for Captain Obvious Content. Don’t say the acronym out loud, it’s vulgar ha ha. But be thankful at least COC tweets are just tweets. Spammy guest bloggers take COC to a whole new level by churning out whole freaking articles that are nothing but COC with 1 backlink, no citation links, etc. Y’know, the type Penguin hates. I’m sure a few have deep valuable knowledge but it’s behind their paywall. And so what they’re willing to share for free is COC, and that’s detrimental to their branding. I suppose there’s an art to that whole paywall-vs-free discussion.”

    • LOL! Phrase of the year right there.

      Oh man, if there was a chrome extension called C.O.C. Finder…that would be a godsend.

      Thanks for stopping by Alex!

      • Generally, gurus and their fans operate in an echo chamber and say COC and recycle it to death, whereas niche experts and their fans tend to say new or newish things and seed new ideas. To be fair, because I don’t relate to Mr. and Mrs. General Guru, perhaps they do have a niche and I’m failing to see it, but nah, I think my radar’s pretty good. Since I mentioned fairness, it’s only fair to say that what I find trite might be gold to a social media newbie, etc. And my comment here is quasi-recycled, but rest assured, the original was mine- ha. Don’t ask why I’m up at the crack of dawn reading when I should be writing. Well, writers read, that’s my excuse.

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