When Will We See the Rise of The Social Business Guru?

July 12, 2013 Comments
When Will We See the Rise of The Social Business Guru?

This post has been a few days in the making. The impetus was an event I attended in London on Wednesday sponsored by Microsoft “Social Media – one tool amongst many”. There was naturally a stellar line-up including Catriona Oldershaw, Alan Patrick, Abigail Harrison and Philip Sheldrake.

The title of the event was somewhat obscure, as the event was really about social business.

Chaired by Dave Coplin, the debate kicked off with an attempt to define what we mean when we use the phrase social business. Each panelist had a slightly different take on the concept which provided a fascinating exchange of views, but a common agreement that social business was here to stay and something that would become increasingly important. A recurring theme throughout was the need to move beyond treating social business as merely another phrase for social media and instead exploring what it meant for business, employees and customers.

One comment from Philip Sheldrake really stuck with me.

Glancing around the room (the event was held at “Bounce” – the home of Ping Pong), Philip remarked that the audience of 40 or so people could resemble a meeting in 2001 about blogging.

His point was that with social business, we are at the beginning of a new journey. As I was leaving the meeting, I reflected on this comment. Having been playing with bulletin boards in 1983, websites in 1994 and social media since 2004, I could totally understand what Philip meant.

Lately I have heard the phrase “social business” mentioned more often. What worries me though, and the thrust of this piece is that those “social media gurus” (and yes we all know the sort of person we are talking about) will transform overnight into a “social business guru”, and start to provide “advice” on social business without actually knowing what they are talking about.

In a way, I have been waiting for the market to evolve to be ready for social business for my entire career.

As my Twitter bio states, I am “Part strategy, part business, part technology, 100% digital”. My engineering-marketing hybrid training and experience, coupled with experience in actually running companies, as well as working inside large organisations means that I know first-hand how really hard it is for companies to change culture. Sadly, Social media has never really got past the marketing department for most companies.

I also don’t see or hear many social business “gurus” presenting at board meetings – they never get that far because the C-suite still don’t see the deep business value of social media. Don’t take my word for it, a recent Altimeter study on social business found that

1. Two Thirds of the companies surveyed were active in social with no real link to business goals

2. Only 52% of companies surveyed agreed with the statement, “Top executives are informed, engaged, and aligned with our social strategy.”

One survey respondent was heard to say “Many of our board members and executive leaders aren’t even on Facebook, so social media is foreign to them.” If social business is to be successful, initiatives need to be developed, and pitched to the C-suite with compelling evidence that they will directly meet the company’s objectives. My view is that a “guru” is probably not experienced enough, or has the ability to win over a board of directors to social business.

The new breed of social business practitioners will need have a much broader set of skills and experience than a social media guru.

I tested my hypothesis on a number of my peers this week, and we ended up with a simple test.

Would the person charged will selling in the social business strategy ever get to present to the board? Has the person charged with driving social business initiatives ever met the CEO? This sounds like a tough test, however if, as I strongly believe that social business will absolutely allow companies to leapfrog their competitors (see a Capgemini study proving this), then a social business strategy demands the attention of the board.

This will leave the social media gurus free to keep suggesting to the Marketing Director that they “just need to get more likes with an integrated real-time social media strategy to drive engagement and drive impressions”.

As an aside, the day of the event, Philip launched an excellent book on social business called “Attenzi – a social business story”. You can read my review as well as watch an interview with Philip, where we also explore the issue of social business gurus.

What do you think?

Am I being too tough on the gurus?

Let me know what you think in your comments below.


  • http://www.adigaskell.org/blog Adi

    Not keen on the phrase ‘guru’, but don’t see it as being a bad thing if there are more and more people pushing the benefits of this.

    Only last month I attended a major social business event in London, yet it was 90% about social marketing, which kinda misses the point imo.

    The more people we have saying that social can do a lot more than sales and marketing the better imo.

    • http://londoncalling.co/ Andrew Grill

      The “guru” or “expert” title is misleading. It means you know everything about the topic – and no-one can claim this.

      When I am introduced as an “expert” when I speak at conferences, I always stop the chair and ask them to re-introduce me as a practitioner – I do things.

      IMHO those that say in their twitetr bio or CV that they are a “guru” or “top influencer” aren’t really – it is up to the community to bestow these titles, not yourself.

      • http://www.adigaskell.org/blog Adi

        Probably human nature though isn’t it? I mean we (ie society) elect presidents in a misguided belief that they have all the answers. We pay executives the big bucks for the same reason. Lower down, people hire consultants for the same reason.

        You only have to look at the business section of your local book shop to see title after title where an ‘expert’ tells us how things should be done. That those case studies worked in particular circumstances, that almost certainly don’t exist for you, is irrelevant.

        Folks like to believe in experts/gurus/ninjas/whatever, because it kinda absolves them of responsibility for thinking things through for themselves.

        • http://londoncalling.co/ Andrew Grill

          Agree with all of this.

          Two words in response.

          Caveat emptor.

  • Sanjay Abraham

    :) Nice. Social Business is NOT Social Media for Business:). Social media for business is about pooling in more ‘likes’, ‘followers’ & ‘fans’ . Its no different from the usual email, SMS, Facebook marketing we have been doin for years. All these are just pure marketing methods.
    Social Business is different. It is when the business becomes ‘social’. I would say If a business is not social its not a business at all. Trust me if the employees, partners, customers leverage on social to collaborate, communicate, ideate, share…to do all existent works they do…they could do it much more efficiently.

    • http://londoncalling.co/ Andrew Grill

      Remember e-business in the early 2000’s? Pretty soon it became “business” because it was all business. Same with “social business”. While it may need a name while we are all defining and introducing the concepts, as social business impacts every part of the business (compared to social media), soon we will just see business again.

  • Julian Andronic

    Great post Andrew! I don’t see “guru” opportunities in the social business space anytime soon. I believe that the rise of gurus in social media was possible because of the access people had to free software. Public networks like facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc provided people with an opportunity to experiment. Those experiments were usually cheap and many mistakes could be made with little consequence. As for #socialbiz software, things get a bit tricky because unless you have access to the platform (which usually has a nice price-tag) and are able to create initiatives and test them freely within the enterprise, you have little room to claim expertise. As you indicated in your post, the C-suite is just now realizing the value of socialbiz and the truth is, in most cases that value is only derived at the departmental level.

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