In the social media world, a disproportionately high number of users are actively describing themselves as "gurus." What is a social media guru? That depends on who you ask. The unfortunate truth is that "guru" is an intentionally vague term, and while it sounds both impressive and descriptive, it describes no actual specific function or role. This isn't to say that all social media gurus have no idea what they're doing; on the contrary, most are skilled in the social media world. They just aren't all skilled in the same ways.
Take, for contrasting examples, these seven types of social media "gurus," all of which have some claim to the term:
1. The Resume Buffer. The resume buffer is probably the least objectively skilled guru on this list. Sometimes straight out of college and sometimes just interested in finding new ways to look more attractive to a potential employer, the resume buffer adopts the title "social media guru" to look good in a professional context. They generally do have a reasonable familiarity with various popular platforms, which is admirable, but they don't have much knowledge about the science of AB tests or the importance of measuring and interpreting analytics. You can tell a resume buffer by asking a few simple questions--most of the time, resume buffers have no formal experience doing social media work for brands or personalities other than their own.
2. The Influencer. The influencer calls herself a guru because of the large following she's been able to develop. Influencers usually have access to an audience of thousands, accumulated over time by the sheer power of networking or through various online strategies she's adopted. Because of her large audience, each post she makes is valuable and can sway hundreds to thousands of people toward or away from a separate brand. However, building a large reputation for yourself is no guarantee you'll also be able to do that for someone else (or for a corporate brand). It could be her unique personality that allows her to accumulate such influence.
3. The Hard Seller. The hard seller calls himself a social media guru because of how much time he spends a day on a given platform. He is in some type of sales role, either serving as a salesman for a specific company or trying to promote himself as a worker. Because of this, he makes a lot of posts and knows how to measure audience responses, but he isn't too familiar with best practices for building relationships with followers. To be successful in the long-term, most businesses require a degree of soft relationship building in addition to some sales experience.
4. The Socialite. The socialite is also a "guru" by virtue of the amount of time she spends on various platforms, but instead of hard selling, she's just being herself. She's intimately familiar with all the parts and functions of each popular platform (and some off the mainstream), but she may not have a wide audience, and she may or may not post things that people like. Because of this, she can be said to have a high degree of skill when it comes to the technical use of these platforms, but little skill in relationship building or brand promotion.
5. The Marketer. The marketer is a social media guru all about building an audience. Similar to the hard seller, the marketer has a bottom line--get more people to a given website, or attract more followers to a brand. This is distinct because it's a softer, more relationship-focused skillset, and it doesn't manifest itself through sheer time spent on various platforms. Instead, the marketer usually makes his claim only after doing this work for multiple people or brands, giving him more experience and a more diverse skillset to take advantage of.
6. The Writer. The writer uses social media strictly as a means to promote her work. She may be on multiple platforms on a near-constant basis, or a handful of platforms only some of the time, but either way, she spends most of her time trying to promote her writing. This is beneficial, especially if she is skilled at it--a writing-based social media guru can easily rack up hundreds or thousands of followers in a readership, but it also means that her strategies and tactics are dependent on strong content to be successful. If you have strong content already, it could be a perfect match.
7. The Brand Ambassador. The brand ambassador is the most flexible and useful social "guru" on this list because his main skillset is adapting his skillset for whatever company or brand he's doing work for. For instance, he might focus on networking and building up a large audience for a personal brand, but rely on the power of content marketing for a corporate brand in a specific industry. Brand ambassadors typically call themselves gurus only after they've helped a number of other brands.
The next time a social media guru reaches out to you offering help with your social media campaign, take inventory of what type of social media guru that person is. Being successful in social media requires access to many different skillsets, and not all businesses need the same type of guru to succeed. Know the diverse roles possible in the social media realm, and use those roles to your greatest advantage by finding the niche experts you specifically need.