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Thought Leader? Guru? Whats The Difference

August 11, 2009

First of all, this is a really awesome video, even though many of the numbers are a bit outdated because it was made in 2008. Many of the facts give me shivers just thinking about. The point I am trying to make though, is that “we live in exponential times,” and like technology, the way we describe things is changing just as fast as anything else. Since I have become active in the Web 2.0 world (that was the buzz term about a year ago), I have seen many marketing buzz words be used to savvy social network users. There was early adopters, influencers, pied pipers, and a host of others. My personal favorite was the “ninja” because well, who doesn’t want to be a ninja!?!

Then came the big controversial one, “guru.” This seemed to me to be where people started to have a bit of a problem with the often self assigned title. Guru is a heavy word to bestow even upon someone else, let alone yourself. It implies that you know just about all there is, and your word is just about law. And this word is what many people started to question, and anyone who titled them self social media guru was looked upon as extremely conceited.

So after guru was effectively vanquished, a new term emerged, “thought leader.” It certainly has a nice ring to it, it doesn’t imply that the person knows everything, but only that they are generally ahead of the game. Is this really any different than guru though, or is it just a less conceited way of saying a word now frowned upon? But this new term has set me to thinking, do we really even need to name a group of internet users, whos field changes more then daily? Can anyone be considered a thought leader, guru, or any of the other names people have been given when there is so much info that a completely new person to the Web could have some insight an “expert” doesn’t. And that is the beauty of this new Web world, you don’t have to go to grad school to know a thing or two.

But if we have to use a word, lets use the word I first really learned about from Paul Gillin, “Influencer.” It does not mean you know more then anyone else, only that your opinion influences others because people choose to respect what they say, and is not a self given title.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 11, 2009 2:18 pm

    Everyone and their brother is a “social media expert” nowadays. They’ve rendered the term meaningless! I once saw “social media apprentice” in a Twitter bio. I think that was pretty accurate. We’re all still learning.

    • agencyatlarge permalink*
      August 12, 2009 3:50 pm

      social media apprentice is a good one, I had on my Twitter profile “social media student” because thats what I feel like everyday when I go online

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