How To Be A Guru in Your Field (Without Calling Yourself One)

Alien holding a sign that says "I am a social media guru. No really!"

Image Credit: BigStockPhotos.com

One of my geeky hobbies is analyzing Twitter bios — the 160 character blurbs Twitter users create to describe themselves. It’s fascinating to see how people attempt to encapsulate decades of their personality, experiences and soul in just a sentence or two. Being frugal with words really works in some cases. But many people use this space to describe themselves as if they’re the greatest show on earth. I’ve compiled a list of all the incredible titles people give themselves in their bios. Here are my top ten favorite title words, in alphabetical order:

  • Extraordinaire
  • Guru
  • Influencer
  • Master
  • Maven
  • Pioneer
  • Rockstar
  • Savant
  • Thought Leader
  • Trendsetter

I call these words “incredible” because I find it hard to believe these people would use these same words to describe themselves in a face-to-face situation. Although I am confident of my professional abilities, I would never shake your hand for the first time and say, “Hi. I’m Lisa. I’m a guru from Boston.” Would you? Another reason these words are incredible: how much credit do you give them if they come directly from the person they “describe”?

If you really want to be seen as a master of your craft, you must let your satisfied customers and rabid fans do the talking about your “guru-icity” — this praise is what marketers call social proof. Here are some ways to secure social proof for your business:

  1. On Twitter, let your tweets do the (indirect) talking about your business and abilities. Have the content of those 140 characters clearly demonstrate your “expert” or “trendsetting” skills. If you are indeed an “influencer,” your tweets will spread around Twitterville via retweets (the “pass-it-along” capability of Twitter). Be sure to also tap into the mutual-back-scratching vibe of Twitter, especially on Fridays. Many tweets that day include the term “#ff” which stands for “Follow Friday.” Use this term to nod to people you think your fans should also follow on Twitter. You’ll be surprised about the kind words you’ll get in return for your #ff. Save those reciprocal tweets by selecting them as “favorites.” You’ll soon have a nice pond of kindness for folks to admire.
  2. Social proof should extend well beyond Twitter. If you’re on LinkedInseek recommendations. LinkedIn (LI) ranks high with Google — if someone searches your name or business, they’ll most likely be led to your LI page within the first three entries. I love the way speaker and author Leslie Poston requests LinkedIn testimonials. The last slide of her PowerPoint presentations typically asks, “If you enjoyed my presentation, won’t you recommend me on LinkedIn?” and then gives her LinkedIn URL (to date, she has an impressive 18 recommendations).
  3. Do you have a Facebook Fan Page for your business? Occasionally post questions there that will encourage your fans to speak of your talents. Remind fans to reflect their experiences with your business on the Reviews tab of your Fan Page. There is a Boston-area children’s consignment store that has a Facebook tab full of pleased-as-punch moms. Their reviews go a long way in convincing other moms to check out the store.
  4. Some of your potential “name callers” might not be social media users. That’s fine — you can still work what they say into social proof. Consider audio or video taping your fans’ words. Connect multiple testimonials together in a simple video. Post it on YouTube. Put the video on your Website, Facebook Fan Page or wherever you would normally call yourself one of those “masterful” names.

Think you’re ready to work on social proof for your business? Great! Start by going to my top ten list at the beginning of this article, cross out all those names, and map out how to get your fans and your actions to say a mouthful about you.


Lisa Kalner Williams is the founder of Sierra Tierra Marketing, a social media education and strategy consultancy. She is also a blogger for the green gossip site Ecorazzi — and is not averse to receiving social proof regarding her own skills.