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Who’s your guru? Are you paying unqualified experts?

Guess what??  I’m getting a nose job! I’ve been following this plastic surgeon on Twitter and as a fan on Facebook for about a year now.  He really seems to know his stuff!  He has a huge following and his before & after pictures are amazing!  While I don’t know anything about his education, licensing or experience in cosmetic surgery, I have really come to trust him because of our interactions.

This article was first published on October 29, 2009.

Idiot! Is that what you’d want to scream?  Of course it is.  Surgery is serious business.  Since you can be permanently disfigured or even lose your life, it’s wise to check out with whom you’re doing game-changing business, right?

Your Business is Serious Business, Too.

Are you taking/paying for what is essentially marketing advice from social media experts that have zero background in Marketing or Communications?  Not so much  “how to set up accounts”.  I’m talking about actions that support your business strategy and objectives.  If so, IMHO you’re making a big mistake.  Huge.

Yes, it’s Marketing.

Specifically social media is a program that should support positioning, lead generation, positioning and other strategies.  In a nutshell, if you’re using social media to build your business, it’s a part of your overall marketing strategy.

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So, if your guru lacks a marketing background – and by that I mean a career-professional-getting-paid-for-it-with-marketing-in-his/her-title background – why are you taking his/her advice?  Because they know how to build a blog and have a huge fan base or following?  Seriously?

A couple months ago I wrote a column here “Gary V, I Disagree” in which I took to task Gary’s advice that agents abandon everything and rely solely on social media to build their business.


I give Gary props.  He’s an amazing self-promoter, and on the side he sells wine.  Probably lots of wine.  But I think his advice to agents was reckless given the massive fundamental differences in selling a low-price commoditized item like wine, and property.

So, Who’s Your Guru?

Check out your social media consultants/guru/sensei’s background.  Specifically, review their LinkedIn Profile.  Most new media/social media agencies are relatively new.  So, if they’ve had their social media consulting practice for two years, preceded by 6 years in tire sales … they may not be the best fit to help in the development of your strategy, despite their following numbers, and abilities to self promote.

Bottom Line

Contact doctors for doctoring, lawyers for legal matters and marketers for social media.  Or rather, social media folks with a legitimate marketing background.  Then, check out their background before engaging.

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Disclaimer:  While I do have a marketing consulting practice, I do not consult on social media.  Why?  While I’m very comfortable outlining the benefits of incorporating social media into an overall plan, I don’t (yet) feel knowledgeable enough to charge for it.

Oh yeah, I’m not really getting a nose job.

Written By

Brandie is an unapologetically candid marketing professional who was recently mentioned on BusinessWeek as a Top Young Female Entrepreneur. She recently co-founded consulting firm MarketingTBD. She's held senior level positions with GE and Fidelity, as well as with entrepreneurial start-ups. Raised by a real estate Broker, Brandie is passionate about real estate and is an avid investor. Follow her on Twitter.



  1. Todd Carpenter

    October 29, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    I know a few people with Marketing in their title who don’t know squat about social media. Just Sayin.

  2. Brandie Young

    October 29, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Absolutely, Todd! I wasn’t implying that a marketer necessarily knows the ins/outs of social media …

  3. RealEstate Babble

    October 29, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    AgentGenius: Who’s Your Guru? Are You Paying Unqualified “Experts”? Full

  4. Real Estate Feeds

    October 29, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Who’s Your Guru? Are You Paying Unqualified “Experts”?:
    Guess what??  I’m getting a nose job..

  5. Bob

    October 29, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Bravo Brandie!

    Social media is the new stomping ground for today’s snake oil salesmen. More importantly, NONE of those in the real estate space selling social media training to brokers and agents have EVER sold a single house using their own techniques. I am not saying no one will ever sell a home using SM, but it doesn’t warrant a company paying a “SM expert” big bucks on the promise of market domination, which I have heard self proclaimed experts say can be done.

  6. Brandie Young

    October 29, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Hi Bob, thanks for chiming in.

    I want to make clear, I’m not speaking of any individual or group. Since I haven’t been to their seminars, nor am I the target audience, I can’t comment with any relevance. On that note, not to take you to task, but “NONE of those in the real estate space selling social media training to brokers and agents have EVER sold a single house using their own techniques” is a pretty absolute statement … you sure? Empirically?

    I really want to make clear in my opinion there is a material difference between teaching “about” social media, “how to use” social media & sharing tips/tricks and devising then implementing a program that is to act as a support of marketing strategy, sans a marketing person.

  7. Bob

    October 29, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Brandie, by all means feel free to hold me accountable or take me to task.

    No, I cant be sure that there is not one active agent out there on twitter who has caught lightning in a bottle and is now selling their SM expertise to agents and brokers.

    I do know that the people I see selling how-to FB and Twitter SM clinics to agents and brokers are not active agents and never were. Their success with twitter is due to them jumping into the middle of the online RE community as a vendor. That same approach doesnt work as a primary part of a business model when it comes to selling homes

    The flip side to that is that the agents that are using sm in their real estate businesses are also the ones you see sharing their how-to tips – not creating a cottage industry.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your last paragraph. My beef is with those sell it as the magic bullet.

    Recently I learned a friend of mine in OC paid an entity to set up “the SM part of his business” that he was told he lacked. forget the fact that this guy doesnt have a blog or want one. He bought the magic bullet, but doesn’t have a gun to shoot it.

    You may find Peter Da Vanzo’s similar take on the subject interesting. He wrote a post on and the discussion is lively.

  8. Sarah Browne

    October 29, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    As “The Guru of New” I guess I am pretty much in the hot seat. In terms of the ‘time thing’, it’s entirely possible for an expert to have a long (10+ years) in social marketing. It depends on what you mean by relatively new. I started working in ‘Community’ back in the dino-days of 600 baud (1994) as one of the first AOL Greenhouse Partners. Our tools and technologies were rudimentary then (chat, IM, message boards, really kludgy ‘refreshes’, newsletters, etc) but the core concept of connection and conversation was the precursor to today’s Social Media. Community morphed into Social Media. Which means that many of us have been in the field since Alanis Morrisette took her jagged little pill and Java was invented.

    Now hanging around for a decade or so doesn’t necessarily turn someone into a Guru but it can separate the professionals from the Social Media Douchebags (10,000 Followers= Reason to Hire Me) whose singular skill seems to be self-promotion. Thanks for a great post and for shining a light on a growing problem. Btw, I also have my real estate license, although currently doing more social media strategy than house selling here in foreclosure-heavy California.

  9. Natasha Hall

    October 30, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Whos Your Guru? Are You Paying Unqualified Experts? – Guess what??  I’m getting a nose job! I’ve been following thi…

  10. Debbie Woodall

    October 30, 2009 at 3:43 am

    Who's Your Guru? Are You Paying Unqualified Experts?

  11. Joe Spake

    October 30, 2009 at 8:43 am

    The snake oil salesmen and self-proclaimed gurus will always be around because there are plenty of people willing to buy the magic bullet of easy market domination. Whether it’s through SEO promises of page 1 in Google, or a social media media solution, there will always be businesses out there who just don’t want to deal with the effort it takes to do the job right with well-designed websites and blogs, an by joining and participating in the SM community. in SM, Participation is Marketing.
    I see more and more traditional marketing companies who have little knowledge of social media, using their company reputation to sell social media services that they, themselves do not understand or implement.
    I would personally rather take my chances with a geek who “gets it”, even if she sells real estate on the side.

  12. Hugh Briss

    October 30, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Frankly I think social media marketing and traditional marketing are very different and just because you have the word “marketer” in your title doesn’t mean you know anything about social media. I’d be willing to bet that Gary V. knows more about social media than most professional “marketers”.

  13. Matthew Hardy

    October 30, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    The sensibilities of social media don’t tend to value a baseline requirement that participation yields new clients. Bumptious advisors making real, actual money while eschewing the idea of *you* making money from your participation in social media should be avoided. ROI isn’t just a business principal, it’s a life principal. Isn’t every activity best when expecting an outcome that’s greater than the effort of our participation? Assessing any advisor should be based on good old fashioned value, demonstrated or not.

  14. Brandie Young

    October 30, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I hear you … And thanks for the link to Peter’s post. I will take a look.

    Hi Guru Sarah (smile)
    Great point on the time in “the business”. I suppose it depends on the label as things have been evolving… The 10k followers thing is exactly my point!

    Hiya Joe
    Thanks for your thoughts. In fact, my next post will be a flip on this one … Yes, participation can be a form a marketing, but not the sum total of a well rounded strategy – do you agree?

    Nice to hear from you. I agree, they are different tactically but if you use sm as part of a blanket marketing strategy, it’s marketing. And, I agree, just because you have “marketer” in your title does NOT mean you are qualified to sell services in sm. Again I agree, Gary V has clearly demonstrated he “gets” how to leverage social tools to build his business and promote himself and his wine business. That said, when Gary V tells agents to abandon “traditional” media … that’s reckless.

  15. Brandie Young

    October 30, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Matthew – well said! And, anyone that can work “bumptious” into a conversation gets big time kudos!

  16. Joe Spake

    October 30, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    My original comment may have been overly simplified. My question is, can a traditional marketing firm not immersed in social media help a client to develop a social media strategy? Geoff Livingston’s book, Now is Gone, puts this into perspective with some good case studies in the successes and failures of companies implementing SM.
    It would be interesting to ask how many marketing firms pushing themselves as social media experts have read Livingston’s book, Tara Hunt’s The Whuffie Factor, Cluetrain, or Chris Brogran’s Trust Agents.
    There is more to helping a company with it’s social media strategy than having a marketing degree and a portfolio of web 1.0 clients as references.

  17. Brandie Young

    October 30, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Hi Joe,
    To answer your question, IMHO no, a traditional marketing firm not fully immersed in social media has no business selling that service to a client. That said, the sm strategy should absolutely hinge on the marketing strategy including voice, tone and the brand attributes said company strives to maintain. That strategy is typically built by marketing types and should continue through sm initiatives. If a sm expert/consultant/service provider does not value those strategic imperatives, or know how to maintain them, they potentially could dilute brand and brand equity quickly.
    Again, I wholeheartedly agree – a degree or experience in marketing does NOT equal the ability to sell sm services.
    That said, I hope you agree that reading those books and amassing followers doesn’t necessarily make you an expert, either.

  18. Matthew Hardy

    October 31, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Hopefully you will not find my use of the word “bumptious” to be a floccinaucinihilipilification.

  19. Brandie Young

    October 31, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    It’s official: i will NEVER challenge you to a game of Scrabble!! You’re a ringer!

  20. Matthew Hardy

    October 31, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Aw c’mon! We’ll keep the wagers friendly! 😉

  21. Joe Loomer

    November 1, 2009 at 7:53 am

    I’ve sold homes and obtained buyers on Facebook because I never really try to sell anything. I spend most of my time either re-linking interesting stories (maybe not interesting to me, but may be to my friends), posting “what to grill today” questions, a funny video, or going to quotation sites and cutting and pasting something bound to get a response.

    The results have been great. My friends know I’m an agent because just once in a while (1 or 2 x per week) I’ll link to a relevant real estate story (1st time homebuyer credit extension, RealtyTrac numbers, etc….). I know those posts won’t get too many comments, but all I’m doing it for is to remind folks that I’m in real estate while I happilly post the next great mop sauce recipe for baby backs, or the AWESOME “Pump It” USS Lincoln video from YouTube.

    Huge self promotion here, I know – but I didn’t need a marketing or social media guru to tell me this: nobody is on social media sites to buy or sell a house – if they are – they need a nose job.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  22. Melissa Stewart

    November 2, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    Who’s Your Guru? Are You Paying Unqualified Experts? (via @brandiei)

  23. Angela Tunner

    November 2, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    RT @melissaonline: Who’s Your Guru? Are You Paying Unqualified Experts? (via @brandiei)

  24. Carma Spence

    November 4, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Who’s Your Guru? Are You Paying Unqualified Experts?

  25. Liz Benitez

    January 1, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I feel like the little advice I have gotten about jumping off the cliff into social media has been sound. However I was given it by respected colleagues and friends, for free. If I ever decide to I need to pay for help, I agree research is very important.

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