The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels

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I wish I had a nickel for every Social Media Guru.

And I wish I had a quarter for every one of them that ran from that description.

It’s time for the Guru to die, because as a term it’s too generic to mean anything useful. For that matter, “Expert” and “Maven” need to go, because they don’t give you enough information either.

Besides, when it comes right down to it they’re all Weasels.

The next time you see that link to a “Guru” or “Expert” or “Maven” or whatever, there are two questions you need to ask:

  • What exactly does this weasel do?
  • What exactly do I need from a weasel?

Three years ago, this list wouldn’t have been necessary because the field of people who could really help you was small. But there’s enough solid thought and experience out there to be tapped online, you’re better off with awareness of the types of help you can get. It’s also useful to know, because the people who deliver you value in one area might be very ill-suited to be useful in others.

You’re better off with several different types of Weasel in your RSS zoo.

Twelve Types of Social Media Expert

Curator

The Curator is a wealth of links, and does his best to pan the river for the nuggets that matter. Without a curator in your corner, you miss out on the best contributions from the people you aren’t already following, and it’s harder to discover new voices. The downside is you may end up with a lot of random noise, and no context.

Specialist

The Specialist sits in one place, with one network and one specialty. They know it inside and out, but might not be as attuned to how relevant that network might be over time. There are Twitter specialists and LinkedIn specialists, Facebook specialists and blogging specialists. There is value, but it often comes at the price of looking through someone else’s rose-tinted monitor.

Cheerleader

The Cheerleader has never had a negative word to say about the implementation of social media, or any of the technologies. Beware the cheerleader, because lacking any track record of constructive suggestions or critical thought, you’re likely to end up a Pollyanna yourself.

Evangelist

The Evangelist isn’t quite a cheerleader, but it’s clear there is a less-than-objective perspective at play. Evangelists aren’t just interested in validating what they do, they want others to do what they’ve done. On the plus side, they continually develop new ways to convert the unbelieving – on the negative side, they are dismissive and cliquish against those who don’t “get it.”

Dystopian

The Dystopian wishes like hell these tools had never been created, but recognizes the reality these technologies aren’t going anywhere. They aren’t as bad as the curmudgeons who simply don’t like listening to the zeitgeist, nor are they so elitist as to think the average person shouldn’t be entitled to an opinion. But man, it was easier back before blogs…

Thinker

Thinkers probe the discussions of the day for deeper meaning. They are rarely relevant to the news of the day, but when they are they try to deliver a perspective you won’t find anywhere else. On the downside, Thinkers are prone to developing alternate realities in their rabbit holes.

Researcher

The Researcher won’t post every day, not as a Researcher anyway. His posts are very focused around available data, and simply exposes the results and the insights that lay beneath the surface of the numbers. Note the Researcher is often not the same entity that collected the data – merely one who reports or expounds on it.

Astrologer

The Astrologer makes you feel really good, and their posts resonate with just about everyone. Unfortunately, they often work by broadcasting tired platitudes, devoid of real direction or application. “It’s all about the community.” Astrologer posts are the Fortune Cookies of the internet – the smallest unit of wisdom wrapped in empty calories.

Journalist

The Journalist doesn’t act like the wire service that a Curator provides, but is known for doing actual original reporting on the issues in social media. Reporting that involves, say, talking to someone before firing off an opinion piece. Or maybe verifying a fact before re-tweeting or writing about it.

Crier

The Crier (think Town Crier) amplifies the news of the day so everyone can hear it. This activity can take several forms, from seeding discussions across multiple channels to writing their own post which expounds on the issue. Criers often have a niche, whether it’s a technology platform, a strategy, or even a locale. Unlike the Specialist, the Crier doesn’t make the news – just makes it louder. If you gather enough Criers, you can make an Echo Chamber.

Engineer

Engineers may not be in the middle of the trendy conversations, but they know how pieces connect. They are the first to experiment with making systems work, and the first to test the limits to see where the system will break. The Engineer will map a network of messages, and can show you how A links to B which links to C and G. Engineers talk about building systems.

Mentor

Mentors are hard to find in real life, but they are easy to find online. Most of the above types do engage in Mentor behavior to an extent, but the Mentor is focused primarily on teaching and transmitting successful skills. The Mentor doesn’t just want to tell you things – the Mentor wants you to know how to figure them out for yourselves.

Taxonomy Incomplete

Of course, new discoveries are always possible, and this Field Guide is far from complete.

Which Weasels did I leave out?

Which Weasel are you?

Which Weasel am I?

Who are your favorite Weasels in each species?

Who wants a Social Media Weasel badge for their site?

(…and who wants to help design them?)

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Comments

  1. I’d like to think I’m a mentor weasel – at least that’s what I’m shooting for. Most of the weasels you’ve listed here have something to offer or are at least mostly harmless, but you’ve left off the type that I immediately thought of when I saw the title of your post – the “shill” weasel who purports to be an expert and tries to sell you his system for making millions of dollars via social media. Or the “hobbyist” weasel who thinks that just because she spends hours on Facebook chatting with her friends and playing Farmville, that makes her an expert on how to use it in marketing.
    You, Ike, are a definite combination of many of your weaselly archetypes, and I mean that in only the best sense.
     
    [BTW - I tried to sign in with Twitter and got this error message after clicking "allow": "User name @twitter cannot be added. It already exists."]

    • Nedra, I thought long and hard about “Charlatan” and “Blowfish” and other names for the pretenders, but in the end decided that was a different classification entirely.

      You can talk about the size of the weasel, and its individual fitness or effectiveness, and that’s a continuum. But we’re talking about fundamentally the same animal.

      You are definitely a mentor.

  2. Nice article, and I have to say I recognized myself in several of your “weasely” descriptions.  Yikes.  Or maybe “yea me!”
    Also, I have established a moratorium on any further people describing themselves as “rock stars.”  I just thought you and your audience should know.
    Phyllis Neill
    http://www.wementorsmm.com

    • Playing on Facebook doesn’t make you a “Rock Star” in Social Media any more than playing Rock Band makes you a real Rock Star.

  3. AWESOME post!!!!!  Gosh….I’m not sure what kind of weasel I am. Maybe like we talked about – a ferret!!!  Ha!
    What I really can’t stand are the wanna-be weasels who are willing to “rat out” perfectly good weasels or non weasels to get their title of a weasel or “EGO-R.”  :):)
    Oh, and Phyllis, totally agree on “rock stars.”  Puke. Add “Diva” to the list too!

    • Weasels are allowed to infight – it sharpens them for the moment when they must defeat the snake in the midst.

  4. What an entertaining post. Perhaps each of these weasels could also have a horoscope. :) I find that I have mixed qualities of an astrologer, thinker, cheerleader and specialist weasel. Its good to see the different descriptions, how I relate, associate someone else to them and seek areas for improvement to become a more well-rounded weasel in the field.

    • We’re all a little bit of this and a little bit of that — but once you find your niche and understand what that audience needs, your behavior ought to follow.

  5. Don’t weasels kill snakes? If so, then I’m a proud weasel. :)Agree with the moratorium on Rock Star. Diva has to go along with Ninja, Jedi, Sensi, Connector of People and Coach (unless you wear coaches shorts).

  6. I see that you made a category for yourself mr. thinker weasel ; ) -

  7. This is a great index to the emerging archetypes of social media. We like to think of ourselves as recordkeepers of social media (being archivers) but also aspire to be researcher and mentor weasels.

    Your article will certainly spawn numerous conversations within orgainzations seeking to get their heads and hands around how to intelligently leverage social media as contributors in addition to marketing.

    Thanks for a great starter dictionary!

    • Thanks for coming by.

      Yes, much of this post was tongue-in-cheek, but at the heart is (I hope) a fairly universal set of classifications, describing the behaviors of people who connect online.

      I’m sure I missed some – and I’m glad you see it as the start of a larger conversation. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I will stick out my Weasel neck and ask a question.

  8. Excellent article.  I sent it to the folks at the office to have each of them pick the nom d’ weasel that fits their style/knowledge.  My first attempt at Journalist was at an Intellectual Property conference.  The new leader of the US Patent and Trademark office was beginning his first major address.  I checked Tweetdeck and no one in the space appeared to be covering it.
    By the end of the address, and 30 or so tweets later, I had perspired through my suit coat (mostly because my client was following me), my head was about to explode and my hair was smoldering.

    I now really appreciate those who can be Journalists on a regular basis, especially live journalism.

    • Thanks for spreading it through the office.

      Wouldn’t it be fun to ask people how they would characterize their own behavior — and then compare it to how others viewed them?

      I appreciate your desire to overcome the obstacle of Weasel Sweat in service of the greater good.

  9. How about a Jester? Similar to the crier, but often attempts to put comedic twist to the day’s news. More likely to RT Onion links than others.

  10. Ha, sterling stuff, sir! Though curious who you would have put up as an example for each category? ;-)

    • Thank you.

      I do fear that if I started with my own examples, I would lose half of my readers.

      (24 – 12 = 12.)

  11. I’m afraid I’m a dystopian. The problem with this SM evolution is that the new species don’t kill off the old species; they just end up crowding each other out. I need some of the old media to die so I can have time to deal with the new media. Newspapers have been hanging on like Gen. Franco. Die, dammit. I’m a busy man.

  12. A. Does creating the list and blogging it make one a Self-Promotional Weasel?;) Does posting to this blog make me one, too? Or…am I just filling the role of Thinking Specialist Weasel?!
    B. I think for “Evangelists,” you can definitely put an age qualification on them. For instance, Evangelist Weasels are usually anywhere between the ages of 18-28ish.
    Love the piece!

    • Thanks!

      A) Creating and blogging the list doesn’t make me a weasel. Shamelessly tweeting it does.

      B) Evangelists come in many shapes and flavors, and are rarely young. In my observation, anyway.

  13. Now that was worth reading. Thanks for brightening my day.  So much so that  this simple guy decided to follow you as one of the few weasels worth watching.

  14. No names? No, eg So and So?
    Nice post, Ike.

  15. You know, this is a great framework that could really be applied to experts in any type of field… or to types of individual blog posts, for that matter. Thanks!!

    • Glad you took it in the spirit in which it was intended!

      (Would it be rude to write about the Kinds of Social Media Weeses?)

  16. Oh, don’t name names, dude. I really sort of like the whole “Blind Gossip Item” vibe.
    Thoroughly entertaining read.  And I second Tommy’s vote for Jester.  I was sort of thinking Class Clown, but Jester is far superior in that (A) it’s a Steve Miller Band lyric and (B) a character from Top Gun.

  17. Once again, you are spot on, Mr. Pigott. 

  18. Might we consider one a fool for not finding one’s own weasel amidst so many choices?

  19. How do you classify the OCD bloke who complains that the animal at the bottom of your post is a mongoose, not a weasel?

    Seriously, they’re completely unrelated carnivores, and quite distinct.

  20. Well, not yet. But I could start.

Trackbacks

  1. I am NOT a social media "expert". http://bit.ly/a3qPg4 #kipcamp

  2. Jay Baer says:

    The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe (Which weasel are you?) Brilliance from @ikepigott

  3. Jay Baer says:

    The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe (Which weasel are you?) Brilliance from @ikepigott

  4. RT @jaybaer: The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe (Which weasel are you?) Brilliance from @ikepigott

  5. RT @jaybaer: The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe (Which weasel are you?) Brilliance from @ikepigott

  6. RT @jaybaer: The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe (Which weasel are you?) Brilliance from @ikepigott

  7. Dan Perez says:

    "Gurus" beware! RT @jaybaer: The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe (Which weasel are you?) Brilliance from @ikepigott

  8. Mary Bart says:

    RT @jaybaer: The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe (Which weasel are you?) Brilliance from @ikepigott

  9. RT @jaybaer: The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe (Which weasel are you?) Brilliance from @ikepigott

  10. Love it!RT @facultyfocus: RT @jaybaer: The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe Brilliance from @ikepigott

  11. The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe (via @ikepigott)

  12. RT @NotAProBlog: The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe (via @ikepigott)

  13. RT @NotAProBlog: The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe (via @ikepigott)

  14. Jake Beckman says:

    RT @jaybaer: The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe (Which weasel are you?) Brilliance from @ikepigott

  15. Find your inner "weasel" RT @jaybaer: The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/99qaCe Brilliance from @ikepigott

  16. which one are you? 12 Types of Social Media Experts http://ow.ly/2eBb9

  17. RT @alevit: RT @rickmurray: Which type of social media weasel are you? http://ht.ly/2epPz /via @dbinkowski

  18. Ike Pigott says:

    Someone at Nationwide Insurance shared my "Social Media Weasels" piece internally, lit up the tracker. http://ike4.me/o117

  19. Colleen Hawk says:

    RT @ikepigott: Someone at Nationwide Insurance shared my "Social Media Weasels" piece internally, lit up the tracker. http://ike4.me/o117

  20. Tom Martin says:

    LOL Do you see yourself here on @ikepigott Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://ow.ly/2hH2W

  21. The 12 types of social media expert http://bit.ly/93Wtny

  22. Rich says:

    Which weasel do you know? Or… which weasel are you? Shared just in case you didn't catch in the stream: http://ht.ly/2jgsy (which am I?)

  23. Ike Pigott says:

    @VenessaMiemis – Outstanding work! (Any way you can map those to my 12 Weasels? http://ike4.me/osmw )

  24. David Kirk says:

    The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/a3qPg4

  25. RT @thePRguycom: The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/a3qPg4

  26. The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/a3qPg4

  27. The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/a3qPg4 #sm

  28. The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/a3qPg4

  29. RT @davidtheprguy: The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels http://bit.ly/a3qPg4

  30. RT @ikepigott 12 Types of Social Media Weasels, er, Experts http://tinyurl.com/2ft9j26