Find your own A-Team and let the “gurus” wither on the vine

by Craig McBreen · 36 comments · Social media

The deeper I get into social, the more I want to learn about ROI, metrics and all this other mind-numbing stuff.

And I want true experts to lead me through that maze. I don’t want fluff. I want gravitas. I want real, honest to goodness ninja-gurus.

Charlatans need not apply and general chicanery will not be tolerated.

But the social web seems rife with mud-slinging posts aimed at “gurus,” where he or she who shall not be named is accused of being a know-nothing with a rather weak delivery.

The posts criticize pretenders with anemic resumes and little know-how. Social media “experts” who really don’t get it.

Lobbing word-grenades at “gurus” “ninjas” and “experts” is certainly in fashion, but maybe it’s time for us to call off the attack and let the shakeout begin.

Really. Give the hustlers a good old heave-ho through the process of natural selection.

Just because someone has been around forever doesn’t make them a wizard. If they are great at self-promotion, but have nothing to back-up the hype, this law will take over pretty quickly.

And this “survival of the fittest” scenario reminds me of my own methodology in culling a never-ending list of newly discovered “experts”

I’m relatively new here, but it didn’t take me long to spot the con artists a mile away. In fact, that “know-nothing” red flag popped up faster than a jackrabbit on a date.

Yep. If you’re smarter than the average bear I think you just might be capable of sorting out the champions from the swindlers.

I perform my thinning-out process on a daily basis. When I’m looking for someone to guide me through our digital utopia I tend to be a bit obsessive. And some common sense research means the folks with the padded resumes quickly end up on the cutting room floor.

And when I do discover an impostor, I don’t grovel, complain or lob spitballs. I purge, delete and unfollow, then jump back to emphasizing the positive, because that’s how I roll.

In fact, I love to put the spotlight on true thought leaders or anyone who’s played teacher by practicing their own special form of genius. They are usually a humble bunch, don’t like to brag and offer something called value in vast quantities.

And that’s the key right? VALUE. Seek those who know how to deliver it and use your common sense filter to sift out the rubbish and toss it in the bin.

I think this medium is mature enough that the “guru” temples will soon begin to crumble anyway, especially if we all practice a little due diligence that involves:

1. Researching till your fingers turn blue.
I’m in a continual process of putting together my own A-Team, because I honestly want to get better at this stuff. So I spend a ton of time studying those who do it right. (I even talk to these people and they are a wise lot). I devour their content: Interviews, books, posts, you name it, I’m on it.

This sorts out the wheat from the chaff and if you do this often you won’t be lead off by some blogging pied piper.

Common sense I know, but how often do you truly scrutinize the big peeps in our little bubble? Are you on board the rah-rah bandwagon or are you getting down to the nitty gritty and finding the people who will make you smarter?

2. Accentuate the positive. 
Why not stop complaining and instead tell us about true greatness by shouting praise from the rooftops? If you learn something wonderful and new, let it be heard, because we all want to know. Be generous with your praise and share what you’ve learned. The real professionals need a pat on the back every once in a while anyway and we do want to keep them happy.

3. Let natural selection take over. 
Social is not exactly the wild west anymore, because this realm is maturing and there’s something called thinning out by attrition. So why not let time keep doing its thing in this ever-evolving social media landscape? The cream will rise to the top and the phonies will end up in the crap barrel, trust me.

So, what say you?
Why no just stop harping on the posers? Instead do the work and form your own panel of A-Team advisers. Shout rather loudly about these clever souls and let law of the social web jungle take over. It will and soon we’ll see the pretenders drift off into the ether.

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Barry Silver August 1, 2012 at 11:50 pm

I make it a rule to never eat at a restaurant that feels compelled to add the words ”good food” to the sign. So it goes with self-professed gurus, ninjas, sherpas etc. As for quietly letting said poseurs melt away, calling attention to charlatans only lets other charlatans progress. You know real experts, refer when asked.


Craig McBreen August 2, 2012 at 3:57 am

Hi Barry,

Nice analogy :) Reminds me of the scene in “Elf” when Will Farrell takes his date to this crappy diner, so she can drink the “world’s best coffee” ;) It was proudly displayed on the sign.

You said it so well, Sir. Thanks for stopping by!


Ralph August 2, 2012 at 1:10 am

Craig, there is one saying that works for me for everything in life; business, personal, social, real or imagined.

“methinks thou doth protest too much.”

I am with you bro. It’s no different here in the social sphere than it is in the IRL world. Please don’t annihilate me for using the “real life” acronym ’cause I know the blogging world is real.

Did you read this?
Ralph recently posted..Is FOCUS the most important word? Ever.My Profile


Craig McBreen August 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Hi Ralph,

Are we bringing Shakespeare into this? ;) … Kinda like Barry’s analogy above, don’t you think? If someone is overemphasizing something – “good food” – they just might be guilty of cooking the most mediocre dining food ever. If you equate displaying “good food” to protesting too much.

Yes … Correctamundo on the IRL reference, even more so.

I did read Mark’s piece. What were you’re thoughts on that?


Ralph August 3, 2012 at 10:47 am

“Smartphones!” He says with distaste. I have this problem with Android and Livefyre. I wrote a response and have no idea where it went.

I left a comment on Mark’s blog about what I thought. There has been some back and forth and the comments from others are getting very, very interesting. I love {grow} for that. Mark is a controversial dude and doesn’t mind engaging.

I see his point and am also concerned about where blogging is going or isn’t going. The fact that there are 450mil blogs out there is astounding but the real metric to know would be what percentage is actually active, engaged and what the communities look like.

It got me to thinking about what you wrote here about value and what Mark posted was a good tie in. Look at this community or the one we both frequent. You go some places and so do I and we cross paths. Each “blogger” has their point of view on their own world and there are awesome insights there. Maybe it’s just me but after a year and a bit of participation nothing seems to have evolved or changed. It’s ok, don’t get me wrong, change takes time or big change takes an event to shift quickly.

The personal insights, the creative writing and the ideas and thoughts around social are fantastic and I am glad to have gotten to connect with all these great people but in no way, shape or form have any of us really been innovative. We are still early adopters. Yes we really are because when you think about it very few people in you sphere of influence probably spend more than 15min a day on the social web or the internet outside of your blogging or business community. The fact that we are venturing here and building presence is good and will provide a good framework for us as the future of how we do business itself evolves. I’m just not convinced it will be that quick and we need guys like Steve Jobs to be taking HUGE leaps in innovation to change the game. They are few and far between.

Social and creating social value through the story is, to me, a blip in the evolution of business. A trend almost. It might be here to stay, for now, and it will work its way through but until the “industry” matures I don’t think we will see any real sea change. There are legit small businesses out there venturing into social and making their way, making money and building viable businesses, but they are not really innovating. They are serving their niche and evolving with their business (think Marcus Sheridan and his pool company – love that guy BTW) which is great but it’s like anything in business (like you said) it is up to you to find the value proposition. The interesting thing about that is that the world is so saturated and unregulated that we actually need the checks and balances to ensure we get value from the engagement (another seemingly “ugly” buzzword) and not be sold a “bill of goods.”

Let me ask you. Is is innovative when an on-line based company shows up that wants to give away interior design services for free so they can sell you furniture?

That exists and my wife, now president elect of ARIDO, the Ontario association of Canada’s nation arm of a regulatory body for licencing Interior Designers is going after them because they are calling themselves interior designers and none of them are licensed. Sure, they have a great model, they are internet based, they are making a go of it and no one else in the industry is really doing it. Ballsy, yes. Innovative? Maybe. Legit? Hmmmmm……research till your fingers turn blue.

Thanks for indulging me.
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Craig McBreen August 3, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Mr. Dopping.

I don’t comment using my smartphone. I learned my lesson with that practice … ;)

Mark is one of the most experienced guys in this space. He’s a businessman and a college professor, for God’s sake. He obviously knows his stuff and I can certainly understand his feelings. My point of view is entirely different than his, but for a guy who’s been to many of these events, well, I just think he’s trying to raise the bar and I understand his argument.

Me, I thought BlogWorld was great, but I was a first-timer. All-around awesome experience for this kid.

I don’t know enough about the emerging technology in this social realm to intelligently comment about it, but I would imagine there will be some sort of shake-out in the near future. We shall see, huh? Sea change indeed.

I don’t think treating interior design as a commodity is a good idea, period. It might be innovative but where are the ethical standards with something like this? Plus, how will that business model work if they are not working with true professionals. It’s like years ago, I heard an ad guy say graphic designers just design shit that folds. That’s nice, huh?

You make some great points on being innovative. If I was involved with blogging and social 24/7, maybe, just maybe I could truly innovate. Same with you, right? For me, it’s about the writing and how that evolves, and a blog is just a very basic tool in your arsenal. They are a dime a dozen, so you better write your ass off, be unique and stay on task, otherwise you’ll quickly become a rudderless vessel. That’s the way I’m rolling, for now.

Anyway, I ramble. Thanks again for the amazing commentary. And I ask, is this the tone of your next post? ;)

Have a good day, Sir!


Ralph August 7, 2012 at 1:26 am

Thanks Craig. Re: tone of my next post. Nope. This one stays here.
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Craig McBreen August 7, 2012 at 2:57 am

Great stuff though and you were indeed on a roll.

Wade Balsdon August 2, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Charlatans will never stick around long enough to inflict any real damage.
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Craig McBreen August 2, 2012 at 5:31 pm

For the most part, but some are really good at this stuff, don’t you think? ;)


Wade Balsdon August 3, 2012 at 11:16 am

Craig, being the optimist that I am, I like to believe that most people are more savvy today than was the case 10 years ago. I do agree with you that some people are great bullshit artists, however posts such as this will help people to see the light. :-)
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Craig McBreen August 3, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I think they are more savvy, for sure! I hope so.

Ha! Yes, there are bullshit artists aplenty in this world, but I don’t much like people who are all talk and no action ;)

Thanks, Sir! Have a great day.


Jon Buscall August 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Definitely with you on this one, Craig. However, it can take a while to train your eyes. Good that you’re provoking people to think twice.

If you haven’t read Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0 you need to. Now.
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Craig McBreen August 2, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Hi Jon,

Yes. It. Can! :)

There really is so much out there to sift through. You do get better at it as you go, but there’s a bit of rubbish out there. I have not read Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0, but it’s now on my list. Keep recommending!


Hajra August 2, 2012 at 10:24 pm

I have always felt that the “rules” that apply to the online world should be the same that might be used in the online world. Just because some kids claim to be cool, doesn’t mean they really are cool. Maybe the have thin waists and cool clothes, but by the time you realize how useless that cool tag is, high school is over!

You need to find your own “cool” gang, people who will like you with your little tummy and big glasses! These are the people who will help you get through.

It is a jungle out there, you just need to find the right Timon and Pumbaa! :)


Craig McBreen August 3, 2012 at 2:20 am

Hi Hajra,

I completely agree, when it comes to claiming to be cool or being vile. We have a few of those in our midst.

I was never a cool kid, so don’t have much time for the “cool” tag anyway. You don’t either, right? I’m a bit of a nerdball at heart … ;)

” … people who will like you with your little tummy and big glasses!” Ha! I love that, because you are right. If people won’t accept you, MOVE ON, online or IRL.

Hakuna Matata, my friend :)


Srinivas August 2, 2012 at 11:51 pm

“Just because someone has been around forever doesn’t make them a wizard.” Now that is another blog post waiting to happen. I have to say Craig, the last piece you wrote and this one have been the most thought provoking since ones I’ve read since I started reading your blog. I was telling David the other night it’s quite easy to make yourself look credible. If you’ve got some cash, you can hire somebody to design an amazing worpdress site and when some innocent chump stumbles upon it (no pun intended ), they might fall prey to the illusion. But like you said once the jig is up you’ll be revealed and there’s no escaping that.

One of the reasons I’m continually on the look out for emerging talent is because it gives us a fresh perspective. It allows us to evolve beyond where we’re at. Oddly enough if you looked at my personal network I’d be probably be a perfect brand advocate for the United Colors of Benetton. HEHE. SO more power to you my friend for challenging us.
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Craig McBreen August 3, 2012 at 2:25 am

Hey Srini,

Maybe I’ll turn that into a post ;)

Thanks, I really do appreciate what you’ve written here and glad you enjoyed. I’m trying to up my game a bit, so we’ll see what happens.

You’re right. It is easy to make yourself look super-credible. People do it all the time, but like you say, their glory days are limited, but there are some skilled folks who do know how to cash in on the innocent, huh?

“United Colors of Benetton” Sounds good to me. I like being challenged and I tell you what, you’re doing that with your show as of late. Going to school listening to BlogcastFM. Thanks for the kind words and I’ll keep at it … I think I have a Q&A with somebody next week ;)


Jack@TheJackB August 3, 2012 at 2:03 am

First mover advantage is what comes to mind. It is something that some of the “news’ sites took advantage of online. They got in early and secured some great domain names.

Some of them were able to couple that with some vision, savvy and luck but other didn’t and they no longer exist.

So many of the business principles from the brick and mortar world apply online but some people got caught up in the gold rush and lost sight of that.

You are absolutely right in taking time to vet who you listen to.
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Craig McBreen August 3, 2012 at 2:32 am

Hi Jack,

Those people who jumped in around 2005 are golden, huh? The really big names? Longer than that I imagine … maybe even the late ’90s … eeek! “First mover advantage.” I do like that phrase.

And you’re right about there being some luck involved. There always is. I imagine you have seen quite a few players come and go. Curious how many flame outs there have been? You know, the peeps without a backup ‘chute?

I vet all the time and I most definitely consider you one of the wily veterans.


Jack@TheJackB August 3, 2012 at 6:33 am

I have seen a lot of people come and go. It used to bother me to see those who came after grow bigger in far less time than it took me, but ego is a poor master to attend to so I left him.

It takes some grit and fire to keep pumping out the content. It is part of why I say that if you sustain your effort good things come from it.

But there is no doubt that some of the players have been walking around in the emperor’s new clothes. The only reason they made it this long is they never were called out or challenged in a manner that killed their business.
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Craig McBreen August 3, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I imagine it would be strange to watch a meteoric rise like that, but you’re right about ego. You need to reign in that bad boy every once in a while.

“It takes some grit and fire to keep pumping out the content.”
–Does it ever. I’m just 10 months in and see that. But I’m in for the long-haul.


Bell August 3, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I don’t know, Craig, some bears are smarter than average.

Like Jack said in the comment above, “It takes some grit and fire to keep pumping out the content.” Authentic people have something to say and they keep saying it. They won’t water down their message, whatever the size of their audience.

The problem with social media is that most people have absolutely nothing to say. They’re just imitators. An excellent imitator can be very hard to tell from the Real McCoy, though.

There’s an enigmatic graphic designer from South America who goes by the alias of 9 0 0 0. I read an interview with him once where he said, “Most graphic design is shit because most designers don’t believe in anything.”

Same with social. You can tell that most self-proclaimed gurus (how I’ve come to loathe that word) don’t believe in what they’re doing. It’s just a job to them, and not a meaningful one.

The words guru and ninja have become code for “I have no vision.”

Which is why I’m going to call myself a social media cenobite from now on. Think I’ll draw some Hellraiser fans?
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Craig McBreen August 3, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Mr Bell,

Indeed, they are.

“It takes some grit and fire to keep pumping out the content.”
–Yes, I do really love that line! I like the Stephen Pressfield model. That’s the mindset that works for me.

I preach authenticity ad nauseam I know, but to me it’s the only sustainable model. Write what you feel and just be you, but use sound judgement of course. Sometimes it’s good practice to sit on it for a while. I don’t much like watering down though.

I just checked out 9 0 0 0′s photostream. I’ll have to dig into that. Interesting that you bring this up. To me, design is a business and it’s been good to me, but this blogging venture, well that’s becoming more like my true love, so we’ll see where I end up.

If anyone uses the title guru, well, that’s a good sign that they’re not and a good reason to skip along to the next site. It just seems silly to me.

“The words guru and ninja have become code for “I have no vision.””
–I like that. Can I steal it … ;)

Nice parting line. Clive Barker would be proud ;)


Bell August 3, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Steal away. “Steal like an artist.”
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Craig McBreen August 3, 2012 at 6:14 pm

:) That’s right. William Shakespeare did it!


Tim Bonner August 3, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Hey Craig

I’ve spotted some imposters already and I’m the greenest tiddler in this big online pond.

I’m hanging out with a few new peeps though, checking out their moves. Are they going to live up to the likes of Hannibal, Face, Murdock or B.A. Baracus? Well, only time will tell. ;-)

On my blog, I’m trying to get a balance between writing what I feel (woah, man that’s scarey) and being informative in my content, without getting lost somewhere in between. It will evolve over time I’m sure.
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Craig McBreen August 4, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Hi Tim,

This big pond is full of green tiddlers, but some are really skilled at playing “expert”. I don’t claim to be an online expert. Heck, far from it, but I think almost 20 years of running a business counts for a lot more.

Ha! Hannibal, Face, Murdock or B.A. Baracus … Good one. I pity the fool who goes out tryin’ a’ take over da world ;)

Well, Sir, it’s sounds like you have a great plan. I do think bringing your personality to the fore is very important though. Like Bill said above, let your own bad self shine … ;)


Bill Dorman August 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Zzzzzz…..there are very few, if any ‘gurus’ I seek out. Primarily because there is usually very little engagement. Either they are too big or they dropped their followers or they just are full of crap. Maybe they have enough sticky in there somewhere for their audience, but not me.

I know not everyone can follow Gini or Danny’s model, but I will listen to what they have to say because not only are they doing it, but have a realistic perspective about it as well. If they are hucksters, it’s in a good way.

You and I have been in business long enough; we might not be the sharpest knives in the drawer, but certainly have accumulated enough wisdom that’s worth a heck of a lot more that what some of these people espouse.

I say let your own bad self shine; you have it in you.
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Craig McBreen August 4, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Hi Bill,

I think you summed it up. There is perceived credibility, well deserved in some cases. Others, not so much. Certain people were simply there at the right time, but it’s a hell of a lot more difficult to gain traction these days.

Yes, let your own bad self shine. You know I agree with that!

Thanks for paying a visit.


Jens P. Berget August 5, 2012 at 7:57 am

True. I have been following a lot of people who are awesome when it comes to self-promotion, but that’s about it.

I hope you’ll make your list available, because I can really use it. Maybe you and your readers can create a list together with all the people they recommend?
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Craig McBreen August 5, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Hi Jens,

Yeah, I did that for a while, but I’m not crazy about zero engagement.

Interesting idea. Lately I’ve really been digging, trying to find people who are more focused on business. Getting off the hamster wheel and exploring, then actually applying what I’ve learned.


Robin Hallett August 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Hi Craig, loved this :-) yes, just because someone’s been around forever doesn’t mean they’re a wizard!! I’m with Srini, lets see that post! You and I are in different fields, and still, this advice/perspective is solid for me too–thanks.
Wishing you all the best!


Craig McBreen August 5, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Hi Robin,

Nice to see you here and thanks!

Being around forever usually means you’re doing something right, but it shouldn’t mean you automatically receive the coveted wizard title. Real-world experience counts more than anything and those are the folks I seek out these days. They aren’t trying to snow anyone. Maybe I will write that post.


Jeevan Jacob John August 9, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I don’t like those self proclaimed experts.

But, at the same time, I realize the importance of bragging and social proof – showing off yourself as an expert, I think that is acceptable when you are actually providing value (Isn’t it important that we “brag”? But, we should draw a line, right? We shouldn’t be arrogant or egocentric).

That aside, as you said, we should stop criticizing those self proclaimed experts. Instead focus on people from whom we can learn. I have a good number of blogs, including yours, I follow as my “A-team”.
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Craig McBreen August 10, 2012 at 3:33 am

Hi Jeevan,

You’re right. To be a successful blogger you have to be comfortable with self-promotion, but yeah, like you stated, you have to provide some value or at least back it up with years of real-world experience.

But like I said, I like to accentuate the positive, so I won’t complain, I’ll just do what I stated above ;)

Don’t whine about these people, just ditch ‘em and find the real experts. I do it daily.

Thanks for putting me on your team, Sir. But we’re all on it, as we learn from each other, the great thing about social! You just have to be mindful of where you spend your time.


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