Social media gurus: Mythical ‘masters’ of the new media landscape

social media gurus mythical masters

Written by Marisa Louw CPRP (March 2016)


“Social media gurus are like unicorns: many people claim to have seen one but they don’t really exist.” ~ Marisa Louw, March 2016


The definition of guru


The Oxford dictionary defines guru as a person who is an expert on a particular subject or who is very good at doing something.  The word expert is defined as a person with a special knowledge, skill or training in something.


I perceive myself as being adept at marketing utilising the top five social networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google Plus (, April 2016).  Yet, just this morning, it took me almost an hour to find where Facebook is now hiding the ‘use Facebook as your page’ function on its updated 2016 platform.  I read that Twitter now includes information about your followers’ top followers within its own analytics feature, but after almost one month I still cannot find it and have to rely on a third-party application to give me this information.


The new media landscape


The new media landscape changes at such a fast pace that I cannot come to terms with people labelling themselves as social media gurus.  A function that exists today may no longer be there tomorrow and the day thereafter yet another new feature could be released.  It is almost impossible to keep up with the latest developments within the top five social networks.


How any agency or individual can lay claim to being a social media guru across more than a handful of social networks blows my mind!  Tumblr, Instagram, VK, Flickr and Vine make up the second group of the top 10 social networks.  Snapchat and Periscope are not even within the top 15 even though it seems as if everyone is jumping onto these two platforms of late.  I’ve paid little attention to any social media fad outside of the top five networks.  Can’t say I have ever even typed ‘Snapchat’ into my Google search bar.  I only know of Snapchat because I have read about it somewhere; don’t ask me what I have read because I cannot remember.


Social media in South Africa


Then there is the difference between the international and the South African social media end-user.  In South Africa, the top five social networks are Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest (, 2016).  Google Plus and LinkedIn have a higher penetration rate in South Africa compared to that of the rest of the world.  Why is it then that almost every social media expert I meet insists that their clients use Instagram for their brands?  Instagram does not even feature in the top five either internationally or locally, and it is a nightmare to manage multiple Instagram accounts from your mobile device.


One of the so-called social media gurus in my network still uses Facebook to automatically post to his Twitter feed.  It is clear from my engagement attempts with him on Twitter that he never even logs in to his Twitter account, yet he sells his services to brands as a social media expert.  Another of the social media experts in my network has thousands of Twitter followers but more than 80% of those followers are clear in their bios that they have adult webcams that you can view live.  A further 10% don’t have a profile picture or a bio and have last Tweeted more than two years ago.  What use is it to have 10,000 followers if less than 1,000 of those followers form part of your target audience?


Appointing a social media manager


So, what am I getting at?  There are two points I would like to highlight:  be wary when choosing a social media ‘expert’ for your brand, and make sure your social media manager understands the South African new media landscape.  Before you sign that R30,000 social media monthly retainer make sure to follow the social media manager and monitor his or her use of the various social networks, and don’t forget to analyse his or her followers and following.  I would not feel comfortable to leave my brand’s social media management in the hands of a social media guru whose only followers are pretty girls with hour-glass figures in skimpy outfits.  Would you?


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