When I became interested in Social Media Marketing, I began “inhaling” everything I could find on the subject matter and soaked up the related information like a sponge. While it is very true that Social Media is a contact sport and you learn best by doing (listening before engaging), it is helpful to gain the perspectives of others, who have devoted their quality time to investigating, researching, surveying, measuring, analyzing and critiquing the inner workings of Social Networking. Hearing from those, who may be further along with their observations and discoveries, often helps us circumvent some of the errors in judgment these others have made and learned from along the way.

Among the very first Social Media related books I read was “Crush It” by Gary Vaynerchuk. It was a good choice, for a beginner like me, because it served as an actual case study in the application of Social Media to existing retail marketing principles. If you are not already familiar with this author, Vaynerchuk is a dynamic personality, whose main goal in life is to make enough money to eventually buy the New York Jets.

Vaynerchuk took his father’s small neighborhood liquor store and turned it into a multi-million dollar business incorporating the use of Social Media into his business and marketing plans. Among Gary’s early Social Media Marketing innovations was the launching of Wine Library TV, which is a regularly scheduled Webcast on which he offers wine reviews in straightforward fashion and in layman’s terms. If a particular wine tastes like a dirty sock, he will come right out and tell his fans; forget the pinky-raised, high brow descriptions. He tells it like it is and that’s what most people want to hear.

Vaynerchuk’s direct and comical style has created a loyal cult-like following of 100,000 die-hard “Vayniaks” that tune in to the show, daily, for his “unconventional and often irreverent commentary on wine”. 100,000 fans contribute to a solid customer base of wine buyers and Vaynerchuk has grown his business from $3 million per year to well over the Sell digital products $45 million in sales he reported only one year after Wine Library TV hit the Web waves. His success is based on business smarts, passion, energy, hard work and successful Social Networking. Now, he’s written a bestseller to chronicle how he did by “crushing” his competition under a barrage of people-centered Social Networking.

Other Social Media Marketing “thought leaders” have also emerged from their seminal and timely writing on this leading-edge topic. Some of the more familiar names that we often hear include: Vaynerchuk, Chris Brogan, Brian Solis, Seth Goden and Shel Israel. They come from all walks of life. Some are social scientists; others are marketers and business owners; and many are just everyday people with a deep interest in this subject matter. Many of the “thought leaders” of today started as bloggers and have distinguished themselves, sufficiently, to be compensated handsomely as authors and as keynote speakers. Several, like Gary Vaynerchuk have gained celebrity status as Social Media celebrities with huge followings. Authoring books that discussing – almost exclusively – the human elements of Social Media Marketing, has been the glue that bonds their thought leadership with their burgeoning notoriety.

Many of the afore-mentioned thought leaders also frown on accepting the label of “expert” for themselves and would prefer to merely be considered precocious and persistent “learners”, willing to take moderate risks in the name of online marketing exploration and trial application. In the pages of their books, they have often shared the belief that the still emerging field of Social Media defies giving “expert” status to anyone, who continues to study an untamed discipline where there is constant change and few standards that even remotely increase the odds for ROI success. Many have too often been burned after jumping on someone else’s bandwagon; buying into heavy hype and blindly endorsing some new platform or tool that failed to deliver the goods.

Another common trait that many “thought leaders” often share in their books and on their blogs is a disdain for those, who avoid individual creativity and deep thought in favor of “parroting” or “echoing” the already documented thoughts and ideas of others. The anger centers on the reality that there are many “snake oil salesmen” and inexperienced “hacks” leveraging the work of the noteworthy and profiting from it. They realize that the damage that some of these people can do, may damage the reputation of Social Media Marketing, entirely. They remain unimpressed by the many, who have not paid their industry dues nor bring anything new, innovative and useful to the table.

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