Girl with an unruly fringe

If you work in social media you’ve probably read “Time to ditch the blood-sucking social media gurus” by Milo Yiannopoulos technology correspondant and social media sceptic at The Telegraph, which was no doubt published to get mentions on social networks.

“These are the social media gurus, a rag-tag crew of blood-sucking hucksters who are infesting companies of all sizes, on both sides of the Atlantic, blagging their way into consultancy roles and siphoning off valuable recession-era marketing spend to feed their comic book addictions.”

Understandably there are a few responses to the article, and as someone who works in the social media sector I’d like to take the opportunity to address some of the issues Yiannopoulos raises.

“Who are these people? Where did they come from?”

I fell into social media after studying online journalism at University. I loved the fast-paced publishing and the idea of engaging with lots of different people. However, looking around the room at social media conferences I would say that my journey to becoming a social media manager was typical. A lot of “social media gurus” are older and have come from PR marketing backgrounds. I invited 4 of my Twitter followers how they got into the scene:

“After finishing a degree in journalism and a work experience stint on a newspaper I started working for a university comms team on their website. Here I soon realised the nature of journalism was changing from the incumbent and outdated philosophies. It was at this time I began using twitter and blogging personally as I realised I could do more than just share notes on facebook and myspace. Instead I could actually keep the discussion ongoing, find stories, media, people etc. and actually enrich the whole process, rather than just produce an article and leave it at that.”

– @JamiePotter from http://jamiepotter.wordpress.com/ 

“I stumbled on social media from a background in offline marketing, the immediacy pulled me in. My love of animals pulled me towards OneKind. With OneKind I had to be their Movement Builder.”

@onekindMK from http://www.onekind.org

“I’ve been working in PR and marketing since 1997 and for most of those years in a PR agency capacity. But it wasn’t PR that got me interested in social media, but a bizarre sport that became in internet sensation. I’m referring to Extreme Ironing – a sport that gives you points for pressing your shirts. This was pre-YouTube, Twitter and Facebook days, so our site www.extremeironing.com created buzz the harder way, through news posts, picture contests and a forum, culminating in a live world championships, a book and a tour of the States. I was fascinated by how SEO works, how people share content and how media influencers can make something popular. Nowadays, I’m paid to do this for other people, but still get a buzz from learning about the new tools and how they can help (and hinder) companies.”

@theredrocket from http://www.theredrocket.co.uk

“I am Social Media Marketing Specialist for Alterian. I got here via blood, sweat, tears & tweets.”

@AlterianJames from www.socialmedia.alterian.com

I’d also like to add that these guys are in no-way “bloodsucking” in fact at least two work with social media and blogging for charities.

“So the gurus are hired, and promptly set about cutting and pasting ‘social media strategy guidelines’ into Powerpoint”

Okay I’m a sucker for a fancy Powerpoint presentation but ‘social media strategy guidelines’? Could someone point me in the direction of those, because then I could just sit back and relax. Laurel Papworth blogged about several big American brands like IBM and Yahoo and their social media guidelines for staff. But any marketer (i.e. social media manager) will know that one size does not fit all! I worked hard to come up with a strategy to suit my company and top of the list is keep up with the trends. It’s a 24/7 job!

“The most you need is a couple of interns with laptops”

Interning is a hard job for little pay which can breed resentment in those who are ‘used’ by big corporations, not to mention they’re often set loose on a task without being told exactly what to do (I should know I was one). Yes, University leavers are often more up-to-date with social networking but that doesn’t make them perfect to represent a brand online.

Here’s evidence that interns can’t beat social media consultants:

“Furnishings retailer Habitat has blamed an “overenthusiastic intern” for its attempt to use the election protests in Iran as a promotional vehicle”- Brand Republic, June 2009

Yiannopoulos would probably argue that we should use staff instead. But how does that show the general public that you’re brand’s engaged? Making other staff take on the burden could make them feel stretched not to mention complain about work:

“Timothy took to his Twitter account, @Traphik, to voice his displeasure over the change, sending an @reply to @calpizzakitchen that read, “@calpizzakitchen black button ups are the lamest shit ever!!!.” Not the most professional thing ever!!!”

Switched, September 2009

There’s lots of examples out there of people complaining over Facebook, for example:

“Miss Swann, 16, said she was hauled into the manager’s office of on Monday and fired because of the comments on the social networking website.”

The Telegraph, February 2009

“The poisonous cult of the social media guru[…]is disastrous for pretty much every kind of business”

Poor old Yiannopoulos must hate The Telegaph, after all they have their own social media guru, called in this case, ‘communities manager’, her name’s Kate Day and she doesn’t even have a weird fringe! They also have 18 Twitter accounts, how awful. For Milo Yiannopoulos, here are 8 great reasons why businesses should use social media.

I could go on but I know you’ll all have your own opinions to share.

Let me know what you think of The Telegraph’s article or tell me how you got into social media below.

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