Punk Social Media

Punk Is Dead, Punk Is Everything

On February 2006, the Sex Pistols — the four original members plus Sid Vicious — were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their response: “Next to the Sex Pistols, rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain.”

The height of disco was the mid 70s. The movie Saturday Night Fever prolonged the light, synthesized pop music’s stay on top of America’s charts, but it had a new competitor: The very raw irreverent birth of punk music. One could say that Andy Gibb gave birth to Johnny Rotten. This new anti-establishment movement was led by the Sex Pistols, and many other acts like the Ramones, the Clash, Patti Smith (so many to list, one blog post) and later evolutions through New Wave, and general cultural diffusion.

Punk challenged the mainstream and forced it to reconsider many aspects of what was considered “good” and “normal.” Today, thirty years later we are in the midst of a new media revolution where norms and “best practices” have been dictated by an echo chamber, mostly by top tier bloggers, that don’t necessarily understand the medium or deserve the ability to dictate best practices. It’s a time for punk social media.

You can see punk tones rising throughout the space. People are losing faith in the follower counts, popularity contests, influence determinations (often based on bad formulas), and control your message dictates. Don’t forget, more than 10 tweets a day is bad! Consider the birth of unicorn social media, the star spin smackdown, the anti-influence project, the Twitter snob theory, and yeah, I’ll throw one of my own in this hat, the anti-fan page (with all 150 members, please join and write something nasty on my wall).

Why so much discontent? Because people are having BS stuffed down their throats on “proper” social media use. Thanks, Miss Manners! It’s time to deconstruct the noise and really question it. It’s time to say no, I don’t have to follow everyone.

What Is Punk Social Media?

JSW.jpg

“Anything that Chris Brogan doesn’t do is punk social marketing. Read that carefully,” said Richard Laermer, author of Punk Marketing.

Ethics and attributes generally associated with punk include individual freedom, anti-authoritarianism, a DIY ethic, non-conformity, direct action and not selling out. Funny, those same attributes used to be associated with bloggers.

But success arrived. The A-List kool-aid became potent. Now it’s about protecting the established leadership. Bubble gum social media has come, and everyone wants to keep their 15 minutes of nano-fame.

twoladies.jpg

Meanwhile… Customers want to know what the heck these social media people are doing with their dollars. Where is the value? Enter the ROI expert meme, unfortunately, that doesn’t equate to doing it. Customers aren’t stupid, and thought leadership, excuse me, thought respect, is something that is earned by DOING respectable things, not talking about it.

johnfurnari.jpg

Punk social media — call it whatever you want, I don’t really care — means not buying into the Facebook fan page hooplah. Instead, it’s about using the tools to achieve populist actions with customers, donors and volunteers. It involves people (plural), not individuals stroking their greatness with their fabulous ideas or by playing the top ten community song. Doing it requires making other people into heroes, not yourself. That’s the art of community management, of real substance. That’s using your Clout to achieve direct action, as opposed to blowing smoke up people’s butts.

How did it become a communicator’s purpose to become famous? When did books go from idea vehicles to personal brand credibility vehicles? What are we doing with these leaderboard driven conversations?

Give Us Substance or Go Away

IMG_1365

I did a mass purge on my reader about 18 months ago getting rid of almost every social media and PR blogger that is considered top tier today. Why? No depth or substance, only memes and BS about Twinfluence or the like. I stopped linking, and stopped engaging with the PR 2.0 crowd.

It’s arguable that my credibility and industry stature took a serious hit. Oh. Well. I knew it was time to exit stage left when personal branding and trotting around with Hollywood stars on Twitter were the most important conversations of the day.

Conversations online can offer substance, and I don’t care what’s popular. The tools won’t save the world. They are tools. We are the people behind the tools, and we can use them to do more than Like and share music (although those things can be fun, too), but that’s a choice.

Stop talking junk and theory, and show me what you are doing with the tools, and where you are taking your community. How are you evolving the medium? Are you organizing people to move the ball forward or are you abusing the tools for your own popularity? Are you following blindly? Stop! Stand up and think for yourself instead of saying, “Me, too!”

If you have guts and you’re real, you won’t yield to the community all the time. Sometimes the idea memes are off. Seriously. If I listed to what PR people have been telling me to do my whole career, I’d be working in a cube in some crap agency today.

Amy.jpg

If you cave to the Kentucky Fried Chicken Freaks and the Watermark Paperazzi just because they disagree, what do you stand for? Nothing. You’re just another piece of disco tech bubble gum.

Want to play a popularity game? Great, it’s not happening on this blog. Want recognition for doing great things? Awesome, let’s have a conversation. You don’t have to have a mohawk to win my respect. You just need to be substantive. Are your outcomes real and measurable? I’ll write a case study on you. Seriously. Standing offer.

Don’t like what I have to say? I’m not giving you what you want? We can have a conversation, but don’t expect a patsy response (or one at all). Still not happy? Unfriend me. Unsubscribe. The tune’s not changing. Shocking isn’t it?

Think.

P.S. This post will not accept trackbacks. Keep the SEO ;)

  • So when do we open the CBGBs of punk SM?

    Fukin great post.

  • Deborah Camacho

    Well said. I might even follow you;)

  • The punk rock and metal in me just wants to nod my head in agreement, then there’s my reality: an agency with 120+ employees, two offices, serious brands (in size and in how they approach marketing) and the reality that I may have actually become one of those people you’ve now removed from your feed (say it ain’t so!?!?).

    What’s a girl to do?

    My background is Journalism and years ago I wrote a Blog posts called, A Blog Is Like Lemmy From Motorhead, that espoused many of the same tenants that you have outlined above. I write my content in a very raw, punk and metal way. It’s visceral, it’s from my heart and it’s me… really me. Is the fact that it resonates with people and that causes retweets cause for me to start singing in falsetto with platform shoes?

    I hope not.

    Thanks – as always – for inspiring.

  • Nailed it as usual. I had a similar epiphany at Blogworld, where I got to hear and meet many of my socmed idols in the flesh, only to discover we’re all banging our heads inside the echo chamber and getting sick from the kool-aid and no-one has any more real-world experiences of organizations changing from the outside than they did 3 years ago. In fact it was quite a shock to discover that our nonprofit and association industries are way ahead of the curve. So ha. I’ll rebel yell that one!

  • Geoff,

    It is any wonder I love my less known site more than the one I am known for on any given day? Not for love of writing content, but for the conversation in the sidelines. Instead of talking about communication and the dragged out puffery over whom is where on what list, we share brief encounters with under covered bands, authors, whatever.

    The content connects. The context sets the tone. The celebration is for the work. And nobody cares who has how many followers.

    No, it won’t play out that way for every client. Sometimes, on a client blog, people want disco. Whatever. Fine. They deserver it. But on our own blogs or when we’re representing our companies, the least we can do is not feed the beast of expectation that faux snowmen are better than real ones. (I grow tired of adding 200 followers in a hour for a client just prove I can do it based on some hack promising them the wrong side of the moon.) Keep it real. And give people credit for great ideas not based on whom they are but because they their risky, unpopular, great and against the grain.

    Call it social punk or perhaps a flash back to the beat generation … as Jack Kerouac put it down in the 1950s, getting it was all about letting yourself in the dark jazz houses and sort of finding it along the way, with every beat adding to the audience can feel you were getting it without the sheet music.

    Inspired post. Substance ought to set the tone for 2011. The tricks aren’t working anymore.

    All my best,
    Rich

    • I just want to say, from a musical perspective, let’s not keep knocking disco. Even disco had its punks http://bit.ly/bKtg1H

      On a more serious note, couldn’t agree more with everything you said Richard.

  • @Chris Maybe we can start a Ning group. Just to spite Facebook.

    @Deborah Easy now.

    @Mitch You are brilliant, and I enjoyed our tea together in Montreal. You have been, and are currently in my reader. Just not consecutively. I suspect the same can be said of me by many. My reader is very eclectic, so… Take inclusion and non inclusion with a grain of salt.

    @Maddie: Generally, I would agree that causes are more innovative with social. They have to be because they don’t have the resources.

    @Rich Aye, 2011, the year of truth for many I think. The overvalued convos with the large counts are the biggest sign of trouble, IMO. Forgetting where you came from is always a bad sign. I’m OK with that, we usually get the call after the initial SM try fails… Liquid Hip is fun! Now that I can’t go out very much anymore as a DINK, I’ll have to visit more often.

  • Even without the second part of my comment (mea culpa, more than 140 – hell yeah baby!), I think that I stated what I needed to. The trouble with the “me too” generation is just that – it’s the Xerox social media plan endorsed by [fill in the blank] so it must be right/effective/etc etc. I am surprised to find us here so quickly seeing as this latest iteration of SM is still finding its way. As someone who’s never ascribed to playing in the sandbox, am grateful to find other like-minded souls who want to stir the pot. That’s what yields exciting, innovative results.

  • Sweet.. great post. Was just having a conversation with someone that had been told NOT to do something as it wasn’t the proper way… you won’t be surprised to hear both are in marketing :o)

  • Your disco reference hit the nail on the head. Here’s the deal. I played (mixed, truly mixed ) records in dance clubs in Philly in the late 70s early 80s. The disco crazed DJs would play their version of top 40 disco, you could predict exactly what they were going to mix when. The next set of DJs would work clubs where they set the tone working a unique blend of funk, dance, fusion – early rap, rock/funk type stuff. But then, after closing time at their clubs, I think it was 2AM, we would go to the Catacombs. An after hours private club where you’d get a healthy dose of new beats, it would inspire you to push what your were doing and exposing new music to a wider audience.

    This is perhaps a similar pattern in social media. People, primarily early adopters who are getting off the freeway because it too crowded and too “average” and checking out new sounds. Very cool

  • *gets blown off a cliff with a huge blast of wind and screams hell yeah in a gradually fading tone*

  • Two things I started doing this year that I recommend:

    1. Unfollow any Twitter account as soon as it becomes “verified”.

    2. Ignore all BOOKS about social media. I’m not sure if the authors or publishers understand the irony. At least when Johnny Rotten wore a suit and tie made of dollar bills, we knew he wasn’t taking himself seriously.

    • Mel Webster

      You rule, Jack! Have never read a book about social media and never will. I have seen/heard enough empty Tony Robbins’ like platitudes to last a lifetime.

  • @Liz It’s so new I don’t think people understand best practices yet. Why? They focus on tools. It’s people. As you know, empirical studies of sociological behavior are still questioned, ideas about sex, gender, hate, etc. Why do we suddenly “get” social media? Keep pushing the envelope.

    @Karl Not surprised at all.

    @Albet Great analogy, I love the DJs huddling at 2 in the a.m. And I should have known you had spent some time in Philly. Kindred spirit. Philly is a punk town if there ever was one.

    @Andre Hello, fellow zooGooder! Thanks for the props, throw a tomato next time.

    @Jack I agree. In fact, people ask me write a book on social media? I don’t think they’re for us, nor would I expect people who are my followers to read mine. They’re for people that are still struggling to use the tool set. But the “Rules” they are getting don’t apply for an evolving medium. So any book worth its while on SM is really a book in disguise on communications strategy and relationship principles, not tools.

    Best yet is this idea that social media practices are free, creative commons materials. So writing a book is the opposite, right? I plan on executing a little punk marketing on the next book (Fifth Estate) and shake the book marketing meme up a bit. And yeah, you can expect me to give the whole thing away online in some form. Books are ideas in disguise that are being disseminated in print (or eReader), not credibility mechanisms.

  • I “clicked” on this post thinking it was going to some funny analogy with punk rock, realized that it was even better. I have been studying Social Media for about 2 years have been become disillusioned by the gurus, experts and mavens in the past few months. In tying to use SM as the tool it is meant to be, I have been saying to whoever would listen – never forget to be a person, this will never work if it stops being about people.

    Thanks for stating so eloquently what I have been thinking, like Deborah, think I will start to “regularly read” your blog (aka follow.)

  • “I have to be careful not to preach, I can’t pretend that I can teach. And yet I live your future out, by pounding stages like a clown” ~ Punk Meets the Godfather, The Who

    This post immediately reminded me of the above song from The Who’s Quadrophenia where the punk, who is under the impression that all the answers are in his pocket, meets the Godfather, who reminds the punk that it is his air he actually breathes. But the reality is the Godfather knows he is dancing on a glass stage that is about to collapse at any moment. Still, both Punk and Godfather have entrenched themselves in their roles to the point that they can only continue the act, until they are both called out.

    Neither one is concerned with the bigger picture. Both just want to belong to something, and they blindly lead and follow to find out what that is.

    The ones off to stage left will be the true adopters of this space. Doing good work and showing results vs. just foursquaring that they are somewhere cool.

    Thanks for this post Geoff.

  • Just a thought on the idea of books: Remember that not all social media books are written with social media folk in mind. They’re aimed at BUSINESS audiences and people inside orgs who haven’t quite “gotten it” yet. Expecting someone who isn’t living in the social media world to consume the content online or through social means is a little like asking a vegetarian to come to a steakhouse. You have to reach your intended audience in the ways they are used to being reached.

  • I am sad Geoff… My punk reference wasn’t included. Don’t you know who I am?! ;-)

    I find the best thoughts and conversations are coming from people who no one knows.

    • Make your own punk post, bug off, ay?

      Seriously, true on the latter part. And that’s what happens when the mainstream hooplah occurs, you forget where you came from, what made you unique and put you on top. Thanks for visiting.

    • I was just thinking that myself, Beth. Took me all of 30 seconds to come up with my reply and it’s tossed aside like a New Romantic.

      That Livingston fella is a punk in my book. ;-)

  • Mel Webster

    One word — YAY!

  • Mel Webster

    And a few more punk inspired words — “Hope I die before I get old.”

  • This post is a piss stain in the comments. (There. Happy?) :D

    Though, I don’t know that I can put disco and social media bullshit in the same category: Disco almost makes wedding receptions digestible, which is a pretty positive thing. In the right context, it can be a decent contribution to culture, or at least boring parties. Social media bullshit, however, is never good no matter the context.

    You know what we need more of though? Basement-office bloggers turned internet strategy experts telling major brands how to use social media. Now there’s a plan for success! McDonald’s guy can’t even tell the difference between actual foot traffic and foursquare check-ins. BP’s team couldn’t figure out how to even use twitter for more than a month. Every major agency is getting into the space, yet only a handful of major brands seems to have a handle on the space – mostly all on their own.

    Want to talk about Skittles?

    I have never seen such a collective abdication of common sense in my life (and I’ve lived through the rise of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, so that’s saying a lot). And you know what, for $2,999, my made-up international governing body can certify you in social media too, whatever the hell that means.

    I don’t have a shovel big enough to clear out the crap I see peddled on a daily basis by some of the SEO, MLM, network marketing hacks now turned social media gurus. Next year, they’ll be content strategists and digital conversation implementation consultants. Or as I like to call them, f*ckwads.

    Thanks for writing this. These people actually make me come to the defense of disco. That’s how dire things have gotten. Unbelievable.

    • I dig Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin… Is that punk enough for you?! :)

      • Ugh, every time I see Glenn Beck I have a visceral reaction.

      • Diane Court

        Beth, my favorite contrarian, I love you dearly for calling out conformity. Beck and Palin, not.

  • Olivier, I hope you wrote that while wearing a white leisure suit, unbuttoned shirt with big flared collars, with big gold medallion around your neck…

  • Yep, I’m feelin it. I was just talking to Jason Breed about the fact that after 80 weeks of doing the social tweetchats-that we’re still talking about the same shit that we did in the first 10 weeks. My goal from the outset was to move beyond what we all understood 2 years ago and yet alot of people are still spinning their wheels. But if you look at those who are deeply ensconced in the cocoon, do you really think they want things to drastically change? Hell no, then they lose that free ride on the backs of people who are actually doing. If change can’t start from within, then we’ll have to do it on the fringes, the operative words-“Have To.”

    • Marc, you are in the same place 80 weeks later because you operate inside the same lemming fishbowl where people are comfy, cozy. If you did come up with something in the thought leadership that pushes people to question the status quo you’d see participation radically drop. I say go punk… and get a better conversation. ;-)

      • Yea I know Beth. I think at this point I’d rather take 20 people willing to push the envelope in a 1 hour tweetchat rather than 200 all backlsapping each other. We’re going to change the format, I’m just not sure into what-and that’s what has me excited. Maybe a tweetchat called…

        #whatandwhopissesyouoffinsocialmedia

  • Mel Webster

    A few more prescient words from the Clash: “This is a public service announcement.”

  • This post made me reach over and put my Fugazi back on. Thank you first for that.

    Secondly, thanks for dropping this post. It seems ridiculous that things got here, but the definition of “punk” in SM has come to indicate those people who believe in talking reality: actual methodology and actions that help businesses, and real results to prove it.

    No one is disputing that having social etiquette, following back, and not being a jerk is good business behavior in social. It is. It just doesn’t get you anything more than a hill of beans at the end of the day if that’s all your doing.

    Those in our industry saying different mistake fans/followers numbers and behavioral approach as engagement, and are living on the (soon to crash) popularity wave that “early” adoption of the tools afforded them. Eventually, the proof comes out in the pudding.

  • Geoff – Very inspiring and something I connect with. It makes me REALLY want to buy your new book because I know it’s filled with substance. I loved your post detailing your wrap up – and how you’ve changed since Now is Gone.

    I too have started purging my blog reader – valuing my time and being very selective about the content I read and places I spend my time.

    I was thinking about Richard Laermer’s Punk marketing when I saw you starting to talk about Punk Social Media on Twitter. Glad to read the result.

  • If I say I like this, am I conforming to your world view?

  • You know what’s punk? How come there are some comments with a big black sidebar on them, and others that are “just so”? Is this old school punk versus new age punk? Put me down for a bag of spit. ;-)

  • PS – punk social media is what everyone that’s not tweeting about who they’re hanging with at SxSWi, or #140conf, or BlogWorld, or [insert oversubscribed industry shindig here].

    Or maybe I’m just an old fudge.

  • “Hell Yeah” great post, like one of the best posts I’ve read in 2010.

  • Niiiiiice post –

    Very well said and worthy of a second, third and fourth read….

    It comes down to authenticity. Punk was a reaction to the cookie cutter music being manufactured by the corporate A&R machine. So was grunge. Seems like every time we whack a head off of the hydra, we get ten little Britney wannabes in it’s place for our trouble.

    If you are selling me the same old song and dance just on Twitter instead of the TV machine, I’m going to have the same bad reaction – beat it poser.

    Thanks for the post – you have my attention –

    Shelly

  • Well I sure as hell hope this starts a goddamn thread of some sort that bubbles up. The underground is thriving today thanks to the internet, social web, and accessible tools that will coalesce to accelerate the downfall of THE MAN over the next 5-10 years.

    No progress is made in an echo chamber, little changes, and no one gains an inch. You’ve gotta stir things up and make people say “huh?!?” There are never only two sides to any discussion.

    And that’s punk social media.

    P.S. FUCK SOCIAL MEDIA!!!

  • Once a punk, always a punk. We may not have mohawks, leathers and safety pins any more but we’re still out there. Thanks for spitting Geoff. I feel a sneer coming on.

  • I worked with a band that posted a question on its fan site: “Who’s more punk? the guy with the safety pin in his cheek blasting The Clash driving in the bike lane in traffic? or the guy with the comb-over in a 1990s LeBaron with the top down blasting Taylor Swift and drinking Starbucks?” most kids voted for the second guy because he didn’t give a fuck what you think. he combs his hair all the way over his shiny bald head. screw social media gurus. once you think you know what you’re doing, you’re fucked. it all moves too fast. you’ve gotta jump in and do it, make your own noise. once you know you’re fucked and no longer give a shit what people say and you jump in and do it, you’re punk. post punk ergo proctor punk. your kids may not go to college and you may never own another pair of underwear, but hey, you’re punk. and punk never called itself that and never knew it was punk until it was all flushed down the can.

  • Clients vote with their wallets. The ones who suck at this will go away soon enough. The ones that help clients build strong relationships instead of numbers will win in the end.

    I don’t sit on Twitter and hammer my thoughts out all day – know why? Cause I’m freakin busy doing client work (or I just suck at switching my brain on and off quickly). Punk? I was a Punk when I was younger (44 now and grew up with this stuff). There’s a difference between being a bad ass at what you do – you don’t have to talk about it because others will do that for you when your work is good.

    I don’t pay too much attention to what others think about me. Don’t really care – let the work be the gauge of how good you are at this stuff.

    Shut up and do good work. Follow me, don’t follow me. Who really cares. End of the day, you answer to your clients and yourself. Now go think up a good viral campaign with all those tools.

  • I’m way too old to be punk. I’m so far over the hill, I’m half-way up the second hill. & I still liked your post!

    Who made up these social media rules? When was the election where we voted on them?

    I write a couple of blogs when I want to, on what I want. I have clients. They pay me. The checks don’t bounce. So, I conclude that my social media non-campaign is effective even if I use men I would sleep with/ men I wouldn’t sleep with if the human race depended on it as the categories to illustrate logistic regression.

  • I’ve saw a phrase on the walls many times… and I’ll repeat it… Punks not dead! :)

  • Cris Hay-Merchant

    I love this post and your sincere desire for substance over status quo determined by powers that be. Thanks for keeping it real:)