Yesterday I stumbled across a reference on Twitter that stopped me in my tracks, a guy calling himself a social media "swami." My response, which I tweeted:
Just saw a reference to a "social media swami" title. Ick. As if "guru" and "ninja" weren't bad enough.
I then heard from @ericdbrown, who informed me he'd just encountered a social media "samurai." He tweeted, "When will it end?"
I think I get why folks working in social media do this. They want a title that conveys the hip or cool quotient of their jobs, which they believe is much higher than a simple "consultant," "manager" or "strategist." Fine. I'm a "live-and-let-live" kind of person. But do they seriously think these kinds of titles are going to help them get work from suit-and-tie business types, many of whom still have doubts about social media?
I found a post from a simpatico Jesse Stanchak on the Smart Blog on Social Media. He writes:
... Many executives still think that social media is a fad. These people are wrong, but that doesn't mean their skepticism is unwarranted. It's up to us to prove them wrong -- and that task becomes spectacularly more difficult when the person doing the convincing bills themselves as a "social-media dragon-slayer."
Among the titles Stanchak turned up on LinkedIn: social media guru (91 of them), mavens (37) and ninjas (15). He also found a social media rockstar, surgeon (?), and king (at least this guy is confident in his abilities).
A big problem, as Stanchak points out, is that none of these titles really explain what these people actually do. He writes:
... Take those social-media ninjas: Ninjas were known for killing without making noise. They might be the least social people ever. Putting "ninja" on your resume might feel awesome now, but you're going to feel stupid when someone asks you to explain it.
More run-of-the-mill titles are more common on LinkedIn, with a count including social media managers (2,387), consultants (2,005), specialists (1,284), analysts (458) and marketers (304).
Stanchak says it's OK to get creative, as long as your unusual title truly describes what you do. His examples: Social media scientist Dan Zarrella, who he says "actually performs experiments with social media," and Social media handyman Paul Chaney, who "helps people fix their social media strategies."
B.L. Ochman, who writes on the What's Next blog, points out in a comment on Stanchak's post that clients, case studies and results are all more important than a title when hiring a social media professional. She also links to her own semi-annual count of self-proclaimed social media gurus, ninjas, stars and specialists.