Put Yourself Out of Business

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Presented at Ignite Dallas 2 - 6/3/2010

Dear Social Media Guru: there will come a time when knowing esoteric tools and platforms won’t be enough. More and more people “get it,” and you need a new business model. It’s time to talk about being more: about inviting collaboration, about unleashing potential, and becoming a catalyst for others. It’s time to put the Guru out of business.

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  • I want to talk with you today about this word “Guru.” If you make your living in or around social media, you’ve seen this word have an amazing resurgence, specifically with platforms – the Twitter Guru, the Facebook Guru, the MySpace Guru, the Jaiku Guru.
  • But what I don’t like about this word “Guru” is how it sets up this unnecessary hierarchy – this separation of Us vs. Them. Separations like that go against the very DNA of the internet, because its strength is in enabling collaboration, not creating divisions.
  • So I want to create a new business plan for the Guru – to bring them beyond version 1.0 into a more enriching and valued role.
  • When I think of this word “Guru,” there’s this feeling I get that I can’t help but think I’ve experienced before. So I reached back, deep into my memory to the depths of the mid-90s to remember this feeling I got from the word…
  • WEBMASTER! You remember these guys – the ones that started out owning sites front to back, because they were the only ones who understood the code and understood the medium? Most of them came from coding or programming, so good luck getting them to talk about accessibility or content strategy. I should know – I used to be one!
  • So essentially these Webmasters were treating the rest of us like monkeys. And they could – none of us knew their tools, so the segregated knowledge created separation.
  • Webmasters held the code – the tools and knowledge to bring our ideas to life on the web, or at least as much as they were willing.
  • But this system also created a bottleneck. With one person (or one group of people) to do all that needed to be done, and very rare creatures that could really speak both Marketing and Internet, it created pain for the business.
  • So businesses did what they had to do – what they always do. They assimilated the Webmaster by offering him a job. They invested in training and gave the Marketing people the knowledge they needed to do “Internet.”
  • And so the title of Webmaster became eventually obsolete. Enough people knew the technology and the tools that it wasn’t enough just knowing how to get something on the web. Think about it – when’s the last time you saw “Webmaster” on someone’s business card?
  • Put Yourself Out of Business

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