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Calling BS on
(Social Media) Gurus


      Scott Berkun
        @berkun
    Scottberkun.com
Hi. I’m Scott.
•       Microsoft ‘94-2003, IE 1.0 to 5.0 (not 6)
•       Now writer and speaker
•       BusinessWeek, Harvard Business, The
        Economist, Wired, NYT, WSJ, NPR, CNBC
•       Bestsellers:
    –     Making things happen, (O’Reilly 2005)
    –     The myths of Innovation, (O’Reilly, 2007)
    –     Confessions of a Public Speaker, (O’Reilly, 2009)
•       www.scottberkun.com
    –     Blog, essays, videos & more
Calling BS on Social Media Gurus
Agenda
•   Snake Oil
•   Sales / marketing vs. “truth”
•   Questions for Gurus and Experts
•   Occam and Social Media
•   An inquiry into hype: by example
SNAKE OIL
We will always have get rick quick schemes
From 72ave.com
Words you should be poked
        in the eye for saying
•   Fundamental change
•   Transformative
•   Revolutionary
•   Breakthrough
•   Radical
•   Paradigm-shift
•   Game changing
GURU       गु
 GU - darkness
 RU - light
The syllable gu means shadows. The syllable ru,
he who disperses them, because of the power
to disperse darkness the guru is thus named.

Advayataraka Upanishad 14—18, verse 5
Believe nothing,
No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it,
Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason,
And your own common sense.

                                         -buddha

(This is what a real guru sounds like)
Tools for the wise




           Whitepaper on Cognitive Bias
           http://bit.ly/cognitivebias
Sales & Marketing vs. “The truth”
Calling BS on Social Media Gurus
Sales, (viral) marketing, advertising and PR
      are value indifferent disciplines


                 Few say:

      I won’t let you hire me unless
      you make this product better
Calling BS on Social Media Gurus
“The truth” is in danger when…


1. Folks with PR & Marketing talent
2. Are doing PR and Marketing
3. About their PR & Marketing services
Caveat Emptor
   Let the buyer beware



Caveat Venditor
   Let the seller beware
Questions for Gurus
Credibility
• It’s harder to ascertain credibility in “new” fields

•   How long have you been doing this?
•   Why are you more credible than the other guy?
•   Who are your clients? Can I talk to them?
•   What are your examples? Samples?
•   Are the promises you are making realistic?
How do you know?
Phrases not to trust:

  – “Studies say” – which studies? Are there equally
    reputable studies that say the opposite?
  – “Experts say” – which ones? When and where did
    they say it?
  – “The data shows…”
  – “Ashton Kutcher / Gary Vaynerchuck did…”
Questions for experts

•   Have you done this yourself?
•   How do you know what you know?
•   When have you or your theory been wrong?
•   Why do so many people fail at this?
•   What are you selling?
•   Does anything you say not suggest I should buy?
•   (SM) Why aren’t you more popular?
Challenges to
Social Media claims
CHRONOCENTRISM
We’d rather hear how amazing now is,
rather than how better it was or will be

 It’s an easy way to make what you’re
          selling sound exciting
Many claims we make
                              about the present, could
                              be made about the rise of
                              the telegraph


According to the book, besides news reporting, telegraphy, as the first
true global network, message routing, social networks … with gossip and
even marriages among operators ...instant messaging, cryptography, text
coding, abbreviated language slang, network security experts, hackers,
wire fraud, mailing lists, spamming, e-commerce, stock exchange …
(via Wikipedia)
Cited research is decades old
Dunbar’s “number” (1992)




  http://watarts.uwaterloo.ca/~acheyne/dunbar.html
Challenges for Social Media
•       Yes, we have better, more popular tools
•       But we have always had
    –      social networks - it’s biological
    –      word of mouth, back-channel, “authentic” media
•       New media does not destroy the old
•       Signal to Noise is always the real problem
•       If your product sucks, not much else matters
•       ask “What problem am I trying to solve?”
An inquiry into hype: by example
Calling BS on Social Media Gurus
Video: Social Media Revolution (Refresh)
 Erik Qualman, Author of Socialnomics




               This is a Hobson’s choice
 http://socialnomics.net/2010/05/05/social-media-revolution-2-refresh/
Industrial Revolution Inventions
• From 1780 to 1899:
  –   Electric light
  –   Steam power
  –   Stethoscope
  –   Sewing Machine
  –   Indoor Plumbing / Toilet paper
  –   Elevators / Skyscrapers
  –   Telephone
  –   Coca-Cola
This has been true for years
Calling BS on Social Media Gurus
U.S. Population (not world)




http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States#Age_structure
Calling BS on Social Media Gurus
http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2008/02/10/opinion/10op.graphic.ready.html
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,766584,00.html
62 mil




http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2008/02/10/opinion/10op.graphic.ready.html
ANECDOTAL
   VS.
EMPERICAL
Calling BS on Social Media Gurus
Calling BS on Social Media Gurus
Most reach claims are inflated

• Magazine subscriptions, TV watchers, RSS subs, etc.

• How many (twitter) followers :
   – Are an individual, living person
   – Are online when you happen to tweet
   – reads the tweet
   – Click on your link
   – Reads what they see when they get there
   – Who RTs or forwards
   – Who buys what you are selling
http://techcrunch.com/2009/10/05/twitter-data-analysis-an-investors-perspective/
http://mashable.com/2010/03/10/twitter-follow-stats/
Calling BS on Social Media Gurus
My lame hypothesis:

It is easier to get dumb
people to click on dumb
things
One definition of science

•   Hypothesis - “What leads to Y?”
•   Research – Create experiment w/reduced bias
•   Collect and study data
•   Conclusion “We think X leads to Y”
•   Publish results so others can try to reproduce
Calling BS on Social Media Gurus
Any real expert or guru should be asking other
experts and gurus to:

•   Reference their claims
•   Share methods so data can be reproduced
•   Scrutinize the sources they RT / forward / link
•   Bring more light, not darkness
?
Calling BS on Social Media Gurus
In Response to my questions, Dan added more details on his research.
Which is super cool.

By why aren’t we asking more experts to do the same before accepting
it, linking to it or letting it be called science?
Conclusions
•   The burden is on you (Cognitive Bias)
•   PR about PR has inherent credibility issues
•   Ask experts for clients and samples
•   Let others call you a guru
•   You are responsible for facts you use
•   You are responsible for facts you believe
Photo Credits & Thanks
• Campfire - http://www.sxc.hu/photo/681449
• Thanks: Joe McCarthy, Rayna, Divya, Karl Sakas,
  Dorian Taylor, Bryan Zug, SMCSeattle
• Christopher Allen:
  www.lifewithalacrity.com/2004/03/the_dunbar_numb.html
• Dunbar’s actual paper:
  watarts.uwaterloo.ca/~acheyne/dunbar.html
QUESTIONS?
     Scott Berkun
info@scottberkun.com
   scottberkun.com
       @berkun

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Calling BS on Social Media Gurus

  • 1. Calling BS on (Social Media) Gurus Scott Berkun @berkun Scottberkun.com
  • 2. Hi. I’m Scott. • Microsoft ‘94-2003, IE 1.0 to 5.0 (not 6) • Now writer and speaker • BusinessWeek, Harvard Business, The Economist, Wired, NYT, WSJ, NPR, CNBC • Bestsellers: – Making things happen, (O’Reilly 2005) – The myths of Innovation, (O’Reilly, 2007) – Confessions of a Public Speaker, (O’Reilly, 2009) • www.scottberkun.com – Blog, essays, videos & more
  • 4. Agenda • Snake Oil • Sales / marketing vs. “truth” • Questions for Gurus and Experts • Occam and Social Media • An inquiry into hype: by example
  • 6. We will always have get rick quick schemes
  • 8. Words you should be poked in the eye for saying • Fundamental change • Transformative • Revolutionary • Breakthrough • Radical • Paradigm-shift • Game changing
  • 9. GURU गु GU - darkness RU - light
  • 10. The syllable gu means shadows. The syllable ru, he who disperses them, because of the power to disperse darkness the guru is thus named. Advayataraka Upanishad 14—18, verse 5
  • 11. Believe nothing, No matter where you read it, Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it, Unless it agrees with your own reason, And your own common sense. -buddha (This is what a real guru sounds like)
  • 12. Tools for the wise Whitepaper on Cognitive Bias http://bit.ly/cognitivebias
  • 13. Sales & Marketing vs. “The truth”
  • 15. Sales, (viral) marketing, advertising and PR are value indifferent disciplines Few say: I won’t let you hire me unless you make this product better
  • 17. “The truth” is in danger when… 1. Folks with PR & Marketing talent 2. Are doing PR and Marketing 3. About their PR & Marketing services
  • 18. Caveat Emptor Let the buyer beware Caveat Venditor Let the seller beware
  • 20. Credibility • It’s harder to ascertain credibility in “new” fields • How long have you been doing this? • Why are you more credible than the other guy? • Who are your clients? Can I talk to them? • What are your examples? Samples? • Are the promises you are making realistic?
  • 21. How do you know? Phrases not to trust: – “Studies say” – which studies? Are there equally reputable studies that say the opposite? – “Experts say” – which ones? When and where did they say it? – “The data shows…” – “Ashton Kutcher / Gary Vaynerchuck did…”
  • 22. Questions for experts • Have you done this yourself? • How do you know what you know? • When have you or your theory been wrong? • Why do so many people fail at this? • What are you selling? • Does anything you say not suggest I should buy? • (SM) Why aren’t you more popular?
  • 24. CHRONOCENTRISM We’d rather hear how amazing now is, rather than how better it was or will be It’s an easy way to make what you’re selling sound exciting
  • 25. Many claims we make about the present, could be made about the rise of the telegraph According to the book, besides news reporting, telegraphy, as the first true global network, message routing, social networks … with gossip and even marriages among operators ...instant messaging, cryptography, text coding, abbreviated language slang, network security experts, hackers, wire fraud, mailing lists, spamming, e-commerce, stock exchange … (via Wikipedia)
  • 26. Cited research is decades old
  • 27. Dunbar’s “number” (1992) http://watarts.uwaterloo.ca/~acheyne/dunbar.html
  • 28. Challenges for Social Media • Yes, we have better, more popular tools • But we have always had – social networks - it’s biological – word of mouth, back-channel, “authentic” media • New media does not destroy the old • Signal to Noise is always the real problem • If your product sucks, not much else matters • ask “What problem am I trying to solve?”
  • 29. An inquiry into hype: by example
  • 31. Video: Social Media Revolution (Refresh) Erik Qualman, Author of Socialnomics This is a Hobson’s choice http://socialnomics.net/2010/05/05/social-media-revolution-2-refresh/
  • 32. Industrial Revolution Inventions • From 1780 to 1899: – Electric light – Steam power – Stethoscope – Sewing Machine – Indoor Plumbing / Toilet paper – Elevators / Skyscrapers – Telephone – Coca-Cola
  • 33. This has been true for years
  • 35. U.S. Population (not world) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States#Age_structure
  • 39. ANECDOTAL VS. EMPERICAL
  • 42. Most reach claims are inflated • Magazine subscriptions, TV watchers, RSS subs, etc. • How many (twitter) followers : – Are an individual, living person – Are online when you happen to tweet – reads the tweet – Click on your link – Reads what they see when they get there – Who RTs or forwards – Who buys what you are selling
  • 45. My lame hypothesis: It is easier to get dumb people to click on dumb things
  • 46. One definition of science • Hypothesis - “What leads to Y?” • Research – Create experiment w/reduced bias • Collect and study data • Conclusion “We think X leads to Y” • Publish results so others can try to reproduce
  • 48. Any real expert or guru should be asking other experts and gurus to: • Reference their claims • Share methods so data can be reproduced • Scrutinize the sources they RT / forward / link • Bring more light, not darkness
  • 49. ?
  • 51. In Response to my questions, Dan added more details on his research. Which is super cool. By why aren’t we asking more experts to do the same before accepting it, linking to it or letting it be called science?
  • 52. Conclusions • The burden is on you (Cognitive Bias) • PR about PR has inherent credibility issues • Ask experts for clients and samples • Let others call you a guru • You are responsible for facts you use • You are responsible for facts you believe
  • 53. Photo Credits & Thanks • Campfire - http://www.sxc.hu/photo/681449 • Thanks: Joe McCarthy, Rayna, Divya, Karl Sakas, Dorian Taylor, Bryan Zug, SMCSeattle • Christopher Allen: www.lifewithalacrity.com/2004/03/the_dunbar_numb.html • Dunbar’s actual paper: watarts.uwaterloo.ca/~acheyne/dunbar.html
  • 54. QUESTIONS? Scott Berkun info@scottberkun.com scottberkun.com @berkun