Can We Give the Jedi/Ninja Thing a Rest?

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Introducing the Social Media Shogun
by: geoffliving

“As an Interactive Jedi, I created the Triangle of Relevance as a means of wielding the Force to lure target audiences into my inbound marketing strategy,” Angie Schottmuller.

OK, we get it. The whole social media Jedi/Ninja thing is supposed to make work funner. It was cool when Todd Defren used it to start a social media education series years ago.

Now it’s reached the point of ridicule, and really hurts the sector more than anything. If you think clients — you know, the serious ones that everyone wants — are amused by Jedis and Ninjas selling them social media, think again. On the contrary, they are demanding the latest information on measurement and integration so they can demonstrate ROI to their internal management.

Most serious brand managers are leery of hiring yet another social media expert that 1) takes themselves too seriously, 2) isn’t serious about business, and 3) can’t deliver the results. Telling them you’re a social media jedi or ninja is the fastest way to send them a red flag.

Plus, generally speaking, the entire industry has an image problem thanks to such sophomoric behavior and shoddy performance. Have we forgotten the Telegraph’s now famous, “Time to Ditch the Blood Sucking Social Media Gurus” article, one of many recent discussions questioning the social media sector?

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If levity is the answer, then go a step further, and make it truly funny. For example, you could say, “I’m a social media PAPA Smurf. That’s right! I wear the bad ass red hat, suckaz!”

Point being, humor has its place, and making work fun is a good thing. However, the Jedia/Ninja thing should go the way of the social media rock star meme and fade into the night. It’s over-played and doesn’t help.

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  • http://twitter.com/JGoldsborough JGoldsborough

    Papa Smurf is a bad ass. I would say he was a bad ass, but I think the Smurfs are like the Simpsons — never age, never die. He and Smurfette conceived all the other Smurfs, don’t you think? I’ve thought about this for a while and I’m pretty sure it’s the only possible explanation.

    Jedi is a bit corny. But for me, it’s listen to what the person says after that. If he/she is talking objectives, strategies and showing you how social media can be one piece of the puzzle to achieve them, then Jedi, Obi-won, let’s pull out the light sabres. Ok, maybe no light sabres.

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      See, I’d have to disagree mate. If I ask someone what they do, and they say “I’m an interactive Jedi that uses the Force to lure my target audience”, I’d say thanks, but no thanks.

      If I’m asking you what you do and you give me an answer that seems glib in nature (seem being the operative word), you’re not going to get any further.

      Does that mean I might miss out on some great talent? For sure – but then, by that time, I’m busy working with someone that tells me what they do and lets me decide if they’re right for my project or not. As opposed to wondering if they’re going to shoot blue lightening at my clients from their fingertips…

      • Anonymous

        I’d have to agree with Danny on this one. Calling one’s self a Jedi is not kosher anymore. I see where you are coming from with the metaphor to make the discussion more palatable, but there are so many other metaphors that can be used without the pimply teenage boy attitude…

  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    Damn you, Livingston, you beat me to the punch – guess what’s sitting in my drafts at the minute?

    Couldn’t agree more. We outsource some high value projects, and even though I like a laugh as much as the next, I’m more likely to go for Angie’s LinkedIn profile than I am in that description from Jay’s post.

    Thing is, a lot of people might only know the Jedi thing and be put off, and not even bother checking out her qualifications and expertise.

    So, I guess the question is, do you want to portray yourself as a mythical character, or a serious consultant? Which do you think your (potential) client base will prefer – the ability to “provide strategic, technical and creative services for interactive multichannel projects” (from Angie’s LI profile), or the ability to levitate your R2 unit?

    • Anonymous

      I can’t speak for others, but I know what I am seeing in our client interactions. And they want nothing to do with ninjas, jedi masters, rock stars or divas. A lot of the clients we are dealing with — and these are not schlepps, mind you — are very serious right now.

      I think the who rock star/jedi ethos has really taken its toll. And I can tell that by the types of questions, and frankly, vetting process that I’m seeing. When someone pulls the silly self title it makes me think they are out of touch with the marketplace.

      P.S. Sorry to beat you to the punch. Jet lagged in Geneva at 4 a.m. = instant blog posts!

      • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

        I hear you mate, and likewise. We just signed off a Fortune 50 client, and while our current client base aren’t “stiffs”, nor are they looking to George Lucas to strategize their business.

        And I may just do a 100 word addendum to yours, hehe. ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/Chris_Eh_Young Chris Eh Young

    You’re talking to the social media jedi-ninja-rockstar-guru-expert-maven-Santa Claus. That’s right, the social effin media Santa Claus.

    Santa Claus is to Papa Smurf as the iPad is to the iPhone.

    • Anonymous

      Santa, can I have a Jaguar for Christmas? Please? Pretty please?

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      Um, I’m sorry. But Troy Claus is Santa Claus. EVERYONE knows that.

  • Jon Newman

    People want plain talk not light sabers. Amen, Geoff

    • Anonymous

      Gets back to Ogilvy’s belief that we should talk plainly when marketing… Cheers.

  • http://twitter.com/soverpeck Scott Overpeck

    Does this mean I should take “the jesus of social media” of my biz card and stop referring to my blog as the “bible???” damn. you’re no fun at all.

    • Anonymous

      Hmm. Yeah, I think that might be a good idea.

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      Best. Comment. Ever.

  • http://twitter.com/resonancesocial Resonance

    Here’s a radical idea: take half the energy you spend making up clever names for yourself and put it into talking about what you do for clients.

    Oh, dear. Angry mob approaching … BRB …

    • Anonymous

      LOL, are you saying we may be looking at misplaced creativity? Now, that is a worthy blog post.

  • Todd Defren

    Wait… am I exempted, or not? ;)

    • Anonymous

      You are exempted, sir. Originality trumps the meme.

  • Anonymous

    The term Jedi/Ninja/Superhero/Knight/ElfWizardMowhawh is just like folks saying there is no ROI in social media. The folks who propagate this only hasten the growth of this industry as a whole and put doubts in the heads of the C-Suite.

    Now in the case of Papa Smurf, wasn’t the Smurfs about Communism? To me if we’re going to be a respectable industry do we want to be tagged with the non-innovation driven communist mindset?

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

    I prefer to not categorize myself other than “tequila-loving.” But, if Angie wants to call herself a Jedi in a guest post, that’s her privilege.

    I disagree that it hurts the industry, because there are clients at all levels of sophistication and senses of humor. It may not be the positioning that’s comfortable for you or your clients (or me and mine), but there are millions of businesses out there that very much prefer to work with someone that doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

    There are doctors, lawyers, realtors, marketers, accountants, and all manner of other professional service providers that succeed because of (not in spite of) their playfulness. Why is social consulting different? Look at Social Media Examiner. Their graphic design style and general approach is most assuredly casual and small biz focused, yet they are doing 1 million page views/month one year after launching the blog.

    I get what you’re saying Geoff (and Danny), but looking at the entire social media business through an enterprise prism is a distortion of reality.

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      I’ve yet to see a doctor, lawyer, realtor, call themselves a Jedi (and in seriousness). And SME (from my recollection) hasn’t offered up any Force mind tricks… ;-)

      No-one’s saying playfulness doesn’t have a place, Jay. But – given the choice – would you rather an industry is known for tangible results, stats and serious business smarts (all of which Angie seems to have), or a group of nerds playing with their Mattel toys?

      • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

        Considering SEO spend is about 20X higher than social media spend in the U.S., I might opt for the nerd positioning!

        • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

          HA! :)

    • Anonymous

      Based on what I’m hearing in the marketplace, we’re going to disagree on the hurting the industry statement, Jay. But hey, you can represent yourself and publish content with the Jedi bit, and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. We both seem to attract the types of clients we want… We all have our choices about how we decide to portray ourselves and the content we run. And we will be perceived accordingly.

      • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

        I’m interested in your marketplace radar on this issue then. Are you suggesting that people purchasing social media professional services think less of the industry as a whole because there are providers that are somewhat casual and/or focus on small business? Is this the “the snake oil salesmen and carpetbaggers are ruining it for the rest of us” argument? If so, I think it’s a different argument. Branding (even messaging) and competency are not the same thing.

        And you’re right. Everyone chooses their own marketing approach. The clients I want and attract are the clients you want and attract. Of that I’m certain. I can’t say in Angie’s case, as I’m not clear on her specific client mix.

        What’s funny about this is that when Angie submitted her post, I initially deleted that line because I felt it read a little goofy. But then I thought “yeah it’s my blog, but it’s her post and it’s not really my decision how she chooses to position herself.” And I still feel that way.

        • Anonymous

          Yeah, so here’s what I am experiencing. We have done and most cases are continuing to do business with four Fortune 1000s as well as several of the top charities and foundations. They are absolutely grilling us on the way in to make sure we are competent comms pros and not silly goobers trying to sell Facebook likes, ninjadom or any other nonsense. And they are all about hard measurable results. In a couple of cases they were burned by “experts” and pros who sold them the work. I can’t speak for others, but this what I am seeing.

          On the guest post thing, I totally understand. I nixed a post about two weeks ago because it felt wrong editorially. I am a bit more stringent, but I used to be a journalist and ran a couple of dinky trade pubs.

          • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

            Totally agree on the Facebook thing especially. More than ninjadom or any other element of the biz, “professionals” pumping and dumping likes is a huge issue, and clients are catching on – thankfully. What’s amazing is that 6 months ago the problem was people pumping and dumping followers. The mainstream press doesn’t help, given their infatuation with all things Facebook, and “reporting” on stupid crap like how many fans different brands and celebs have.

            Why don’t they run a story on how many email addresses they’ve collected? At least that has SOME potential tie to revenue.

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

    I prefer to not categorize myself other than “tequila-loving.” But, if Angie wants to call herself a Jedi in a guest post, that’s her privilege.

    I disagree that it hurts the industry, because there are clients at all levels of sophistication and senses of humor. It may not be the positioning that’s comfortable for you or your clients (or me and mine), but there are millions of businesses out there that very much prefer to work with someone that doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

    There are doctors, lawyers, realtors, marketers, accountants, and all manner of other professional service providers that succeed because of (not in spite of) their playfulness. Why is social consulting different? Look at Social Media Examiner. Their graphic design style and general approach is most assuredly casual and small biz focused, yet they are doing 1 million page views/month one year after launching the blog.

    I get what you’re saying Geoff (and Danny), but looking at the entire social media business through an enterprise prism is a distortion of reality.

  • http://www.b2bbloggers.com Jeremy Victor

    Geoff, love this sentiment. To me, its seems that the “jedis and ninjas” don’t fully understand the impact first impressions play in relationship building, influence, and branding.

    • Anonymous

      Well, you know it was cool for a while. Now it’s not. At least from this vantage point. We all have our choices about how we decide to portray ourselves and the content we run. Generally, this kind of thing has hurt us more than it has helped us.

  • Joe Zuccaro

    Admit it, Geoff. Embarrassingly enough, clearly both you and I are indeed much-to-be-maligned “Jedis;” for this reason: Within one day of each other, our connection through the “Social Media Force” has mystically influenced us both to blog about such arbitrary titles, using canine and fantasy images to illustrate our points (see mine at http://allinio.com/2011/03/get-good-marketing-automation-resources-not-gurus/) (of course, being a Social Media Jedi, that was not meant to be a shameless plug but merely another sign of my transparency and collaborative spirit). Speaking for myself, that certainly makes me a legend in my own mind; stickers and other swag are forthcoming.

    And also, because of this prestige, we bear the burden of perpetually going to SXSW, retweeting speakers at TED events although we can’t afford the ticket price, and following every Davos participant on as many platforms as possible. No longer are we required to follow Chris Brogan because we have ascended on a higher plane than he. Nevertheless, we must constantly retweet news from HuffPo, Mashable and post sticky sweet inspirational quotes on a regular basis.

    Furthermore, being Jedis, we must be even more innovative and find more outrageous titles such as Social Media Death Eater or Social Media Military Attaché; What any of these titles have to do with “business” is immaterial. And it is obvious that I am a special Social Media “Something” because I don’t have real responsibilities so I can take the time to make such a lengthy comment.

    In the end, you may disavow your special Jedi-ness and show that the Emperor Wears No Clothes and strip me of my Social Media Death Eater, Thoroughbred, Ninja, Olympian, Rock Star, Mercenary, Green Beret, Marathoner, Evangelist, etc. titles, but I will still bitterly cling to my “Marketing Consigliere” title. At least I adopted that before there was “social media.” ;)

    • Anonymous

      How did you know that I’m a social media death eater! Thanks for the blog post comment. I like the marketing consigliere title. Kind of like my old social media rabbi bit! It is a strange business we are in, Jow. Good luck to the Yankees!

  • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

    Dang. I was really hoping you had mad Photoshop skillz and I’d see your face under that red hat!

    A friend of mine and I have a phrase that we text to one another a lot – I’m a millionaire and I poop money. It came about because we both were seeing way too many Twitter profiles that actually say the person is a millionaire. Seriously?

    I used a cartoon in my blog post today that says, “If you talk to people like advertising talks to people, you deserve to be punched in the face.” Same thing. If you aren’t professional with a bit of your un-lame personality thrown in, you don’t deserve to be hired by serious brand managers. Just the Jedi millionaire brand managers.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, like attracts like. But the converse of that is if you want to have fun, less serious clients you’ll get them. So in that sense, I guess we can say Jedi-ism has its place. I just prefer a little separation from that movement.

      Thank you for the comment, Gini!

      P.S. My Photoshop Skills Suck!

  • http://anEclecticMind.com Maria

    “Telling them you’re a social media jedi or ninja is the fastest way to send them a red flag.”

    Or guru. I really hate that one.

  • http://buyresearchpaper.org/ research papers

    Nice post.

  • Anonymous

    Huh, I guess I should probably take Social Media Darth Vader off of my resume..

  • http://www.themurr.com/ David Murray

    I’m a social media alchemist…

  • Pingback: Everyone thinks they’re a Social Media expert! « Marketing Molly

  • Anonymous

    I see. Contradictory opinions and debate can’t exist by your rules. Happy jedi hunting.

    • http://twitter.com/MirandaM_EComm Miranda Miller

      LOL says the guy who publicly attacked someone by name for having a contradictory opinion.

      • Anonymous

        uh, yeah. keep coming back.

        • http://twitter.com/MirandaM_EComm Miranda Miller

          Sorry if I’m making you uncomfortable by reading and responding to a post that was obviously designed to garner a reaction.  I’m waiting to see if you have something to say about your position beyond sarcasm and more nastiness towards anyone who dares to question why you couldn’t have made your point without making an example of someone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/optimizeguyz Brent Rangen

    Bio’s suck, period. If someone becomes the Kardashian of bio buzzwords, it’s critical to maintain the “what’s hot” vs. “what’s not” list. Otherwise, I would wreckon’ the majority of us can be called out at some point. In fact, Geoff, I found an article that stated you may have been using “Guru” in your linkedin profile awhile back ;) 

    My real problem is I’m too busy to care.. I see much worse happening in the industry than overhyping titles. 

    • Anonymous

      Perhaps you can tell the Washington Post to retract the guru label they dubbed me back in 2008. ;)
      Sent by Billy Bob Thornton (my iPhone)

  • Simon Heseltine

    Geoff, so do you have an issue with Shashi calling himself the Social Media Swami?

  • Aussiewebmaster

    Funny how this criticism is about the use of Jedi and not about the good content in the article by Angie – titles are used all the time in a way to suggest there is more to the work than throwing in a few anchor text links in an article such as you do in yours here Geoff

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