When Social Media Rewards the Mindless and the Elite

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Writer’s Note (11/20): Trackbacks on this post have been turned off.  Links/SEO were not my objective.

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Elite social media performer chart from Brian Solis’s Three Cs post.

Let’s be honest. Online media is just a collective mass of live and static expressions representing society as a whole. It should not be surprising to any of us that social media has evolved to reward immediate mindlessness and elitism. In that sense, it is just like our popular culture.

How else can you explain the rises of Ashton Kutcher and Kim Kardashian as top Twitter accounts? Or within the communications sector, the widespread dissemination of “unique” best practices that will get you the largest, most elite position in the social graph possible?

This represents a huge problem for us — excuse me, those of us who want to affect more deep, meaningful outcomes with our online interactions. When Bill Gates — a global luminary of immense stature uses Twitter to disseminate ideas on change — is outfollowed 3-1 by B-rate actors and porn stars, our society’s views are clear. And those views lack depth and thought.

Sex Pistols and New York Dolls Manager Malcolm McClaren stated this very well in his Handheld Learning Keynote last year when he discussed the public education systems’ chief challenges. McClaren’s primary thesis: Pop culture rewards stupidity and immediate desires instead of intelligent or experienced thought. McLaren’s views are spot on (though I do feel that people are not stupid, just mindless and without long-sighted purpose). McClaren calls this desire a demand for instant success. This “karaoke world” flies in the face of real authenticity, the meaningful depth of life that some of us are trying to work within.

Even our corporate and organizational communications are geared towards trying to set up elite structures to propagate this structure. Consider our “thought leaders” online that clearly emulate this ethos.

The above chart from Brian Solis was used in his extremely popular (and painfully long tome) three Cs post on “Consumption, Curation, Creation.” Says Brian in reference to the chart, “Businesses must join the elite and integrate the creation of compelling content into the social marketing mix. Doing so gives consumers reason to share, expanding the role of curator within the 3C’s of Content and earning authority and influence in the process.”

Similarly, top marketing blogger Chris Brogan tweeted a recommendation to read this Harvard Business Review blog post: “How to Become a Thought Leader in Six Steps.” Unfortunately, no where in the article does it teach you to think, or about developing something valuable worth sharing with others. While some of the steps have good promotion advice, the overall exploitative instant success approach to the post is objectionable (see Doug Haslam’s outstanding post).

Thoughts on Thoughtlessness

Smart Has the Brains
A Diesel storefront ad in New York City

Should Brian and Chris be chastised for their individual statements, or their general blogging directions, which generally support this quick road to success ethos? Clearly, it’s what people want. That’s why both bloggers are elite “A-List” marketing bloggers. And they are no different than the other formulaic, drum-beating, top-tier marketing bloggers.

Facebookpunk.jpg

For me, I find the A-List to be a condition of general society’s values. While I understand that this is inevitable, it’s not for me. I prefer the Bill Gates form of notoriety. Substantive, earned relationships and real leadership matter more. I prefer to achieve and reward others with thought leadership because my/their acts are truly worthy of respect, and thus, are remarkable. This is opposed to demanding accolades.

Some A Listers follow formulas, sharing and content mechanisms to achieve their best practices. The Karaoke Show is on all the time. And they are rewarded for it with popularity and, in some cases, financially. Maybe this is exactly what they need. Maybe this makes them happy.

facebookpunk2.jpg

So to each their own. For me, in business I prefer developing core communities of followers, people that truly care about the organization’s business or cause, and feel a part of that organization’s extended enterprise. Zoetica clients are getting direct service from experienced communications professionals, and these clients are achieving acclamations for their work (as opposed to us taking credit for it). As communicators, isn’t this the right path… Achieving/doing something other than creating vapid fame?

Professionally as an individual, when I speak it’s because people want to hear what I have to say. When people comment here, generally it’s because they have something to say, rather than an accolade to deliver. When I fail — and yes, I do fail — I can live with and even better learn from it rather than worry about the Karaoke Show image hit.

I prefer the education, the experience and the thoughtful approach — the longer road to online and real-life success. As McClaren suggested, I prefer to use online technology as a tool and to achieve things, and I don’t use it as a replacement for experience and learning.

Yes, it’s less sexy, it’s a harder journey, and you get less back slaps. Having had a taste of the karaoke lights in the past, I can tell you it’s immensely more rewarding.

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  • http://buzzshift.com Eddy

    Geoff – I think Chris and Brian are advocating that, with organizations, there needs to be a mix of both “meat” and “sizzle”, strategy and tactics, deep dives and quick hits. I realize that it’s harder to do that mix on a personal level, as I myself tend to be less “sizzle” and a little more thoughtful. I can’t pump out “top ten” lists very easily, but I appreciate those who do, as long as I put them in context. My business partners and I came to the conclusion that, for us, we need both in our blog, and it is very apparent who writes what post, based on our personalities. Julien Smith, Brogan’s co-author of Trust Agents, says it a different way his post “Why You are a Social Media Douche”. (long ass link here: http://inoveryourhead.net/why-youre-a-social-media-douche/). All in all, I think it’s both/and, rather than either/or for organizations. But from a personal level, we tend to lean one way or the other. Thoughts?

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      I am not convinced. I know them both, and like them personally, and have been influenced by both deeply in the past. I generally see their current content as formulaic, prescriptive bubble gum and lacking real substance.

      • http://jspepper.tv Jeremy Pepper

        Current? It’s always been that way.

      • http://www.2witterbug.com Charity Hisle

        Perhaps Geoff, you’ve just outgrown the content? That’s a GREAT thing to happen! I hope that eventually the world will understand the basics and be able to demand more from the thought leaders you’ve mentioned here.

        But until that day comes, I have to say that I know so many people that need that formulaic, prescriptive bubble gum to get them jump-started. We all start somewhere, it’s where we end up that matters. :)

        • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

          I think if the market was the same as it was three years ago, I’d agree with that. It’s not.

  • http://www.b2cy.com Chris Eh Young

    Spot on. In a world with such a high quantity of connections, the quality suffers. There is more noise than information and that is because we have demanded it. People prefer entertainment over education, style over substance, admiration over inclusion.

    It’s a sad state but it is where the world is today.

  • http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com Olivier Blanchard

    I enjoyed reading that immensely.

    But look, attention is a market. That’s all it is. The best product doesn’t always win in a market. What wins? What wins is what sells. And what sells? In this particular market, easily digestible ideas.

    That is why blog readers tend to gravitate towards posts formulated as lists: Top 5 ways to get rich this week. 10 ways to pick up women at a bar. 20 simple hacks that will boost your business in 2011. The volume of readers I get for my dissertations is nothing compared to what Chris attracts, even though his content is pretty basic. I assume that he wants a high volume of traffic, so he writes to achieve that objective. Volume is irrelevant to me, so I don’t write with that outcome in mind. I would be willing to bet that how Chris and I think about “rewards” is probably very different.

    If you want to appeal to a broad audience, to as wide a market as possible, you sell pop. Pop music, pop TV, pop literature, pop psychology, pop photography, pop-social media, self-help crap and whatever appeals to the very large “I just want something easy to digest” segment of the market.

    If you want to earn the respect of the top 10% of your industry, you sell something completely different. Your stuff becomes less accessible to the masses. More specific. More high level.

    In terms of what social media rewards, the mechanism is the same as in any other market: Mass appeal is rewarded by volume and breadth. Niche appeal is rewarded by authority and depth. If you want fame and mass appeal, shoot for becoming a celebrity. Ashton and Kim aren’t big on Twitter because they’re particularly insightful or brilliant. They’re big on twitter because they are big outside of Twitter. Celebrities sell celebrity, not value. They could tweet about their cat and thousands of people would share the latest cat news with all their friends. “OMG, I totally think Ashton’s cat is like, hawt!” Geoff, some people just want to generate a lot of noise. Noise = exposure = revenue. Where the signal begins and ends becomes irrelevant when the signal is a catalyst for attention, not a catalyst for change.

    Different focus. Different objectives.

    If you want respect, shoot for being the guy who does what he does better than everyone else, or does it in his own unique way, or does it with integrity and without compromise. I don’t look for volume, so social media rewards me in a very different way: The opportunities it affords me to change the world one little bit at a time, meet and work with people I like and respect, discover new voices, learn new things, and get better at what I do.

    We can’t blame the megaphone for what people shout about through it, or the crowd for choosing entertainment over education. ;)

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Olivier:

      1) No one is blaming anyone. Thus the statement, “to each their own.” The article is frank that the market rewards certain types of less thoughtful/commercial content, but also presents other views and approaches. The point is to think — as you say — on what you want for yourself/company so you can focus and set objectives. Think rather than blindly follow and accept.

      2) Generally, I love the science of focus and objectives that you bring to the table. I do think experience includes failure and success, living and FEELING the moment. This is the art of experience and wisdom, and it provides real authenticity. The science only provides data and ROI> Humans need both.

  • http://flashfree.wordpress.com Liz Scherer

    Interesting post Geoff. As someone who’s been around the block a few times, I’m neither impressed or wow’ed by the glitzy, shiny weblebrities but rather, amused.

    Folks like Brian and Chris are early adaptors and successful in their own right and I wish them the best. But thought leaders, visionaries, keepers? No, I reserve those titles for people like Tim O’Reilly or Shel Holtz who have demonstrated longevity and adaptability. That’s impressive to me, as is intelligence, vision, passion, forethought, and oh, lest I forget, humility.

    Here today, gone tomorrow. Those who truly want to learn and evolve see through the bullshit, quick fixes and look for substance. When it’s not there, they eventually move on.

  • http://www.chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan…

    I’ve been at this for quite a while and with several different games in mind. My blog is where I write for the mix of all kinds of people. The work I do behind closed doors is a bit more nuanced (but not a lot more). I love simple and nuanced. Sir Richard Branson writes about that in Business Stripped Bare (you might know him from the old days). He and I agree a lot on how businesses should run.

    I guess 11 years is here today, gone tomorrow. (12 years in a few months).

    It’s definitely to each his own. The post, written another way is, “There are far smarter people than Brian and Chris who don’t get a lot of attention.”

    Absolutely. Absofuckinglutely. Olivier is one. You’re one. There are plenty of people who don’t get attention for their artistry.

    King Crimson vs. Weezer. I love the hell out of Weezer. Batman vs. Love and Rockets. While I love the Hernandez Bros, I buy Batman.

    I’m totally the pop culture side of the spectrum. And yet, I’m working with nonprofits, I’m working with big companies, I’m working with smaller companies (now). I’m doing stuff in quite a spectrum that doesn’t land too often on my blog.

    I’m quite happily overrated. It helps people underestimate my efforts. : )

    • http://flashfree.wordpress.com Liz Scherer

      Oh Chris. So sad that you didn’t quite appreciate the nuance of here today, gone tomorrow. Think about it again. Then see if your response is about your 12 years.

      • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

        Amen.

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      LOL, now that’s a great response: I am quite happily overrated, but underestimated? I think that would be stupid. #1 (or close to) is not easy, otherwise all of the fanboys and fangirls would have their hits, too.

      On 12 years, I liked the Brogan of years 7-9, better period, IMO. I hear you have your experience. It’d be much more authentic to hear the war stories about the actual experience based on “how it happened with this situation” instead of the current offering. But you’re not writing for me, are you?

    • http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com Olivier Blanchard

      I don’t think you’re overrated, Chris. There is a spectrum in this space that most people aren’t conscious of. They think social media “thought leadership” and they batch us all in the same general category, then decide which one is more legit, more well known, more valuable, more whatever. The truth is that we all play very specific roles in that space, and we all need to be doing exactly what it is we are doing. We’re links in a chain. Gears on a cassette. Dishes on the menu.

      Your stuff is much more accessible to a broader audience than mine, and there is tremendous value to that: You spread the word. You make it easy for people to get drawn in and start paying attention. You choose to be more accessible and digestible because that’s the wide end of the funnel, and that’s where your business model seems to intersect with the value you bring to this market of ideas. Add to it your tone and approachability, and you have a very specific value that people either respond to or don’t.

      Brian’s stuff is much more complex than yours – at least the parts we get to see. I could stare at his graphics for entire… minutes, looking for flaws in his thinking (and never do). He brings more process and structure to the convo than we do. His blog posts are somewhere between yours and mine in terms of length and density. He uses video more than we do. His place along the spectrum is very specific as well. Geoff has his punk rock thing going right now, which I like. Valeria Maltoni has her Italian flair. Catherine Karima brings continental sensibility into the mix. Jay Baer takes complex topics and boils them down to 5 essential points. We’re like actors in an ensemble cast: The whole works because of the sum of its parts, even if the parts aren’t all purposely working together. People line us up and derive their own value from all of us individually based on where they are in that funnel and what they came here to learn.

      To say that one of us has more or less value than the other based on the level of attention we receive from “the audience” is a tricky proposition. And to say that ‘pop’ is less valuable than ‘PhD’ is also kind of tricky. Everything has a place: The Sex Pistols and Lady Gaga. Young Elvis and old Elvis. Liberace and The White Stripes. Everything is a piece of the puzzle. And if any one of these pieces garners any attention at all, it needs to be there. We all appeal to different people for different reasons. There is nothing wrong with that.

      The problem, I think, is that in our effort to simplify an issue, we tend to polarize it: Valuable or not valuable is just another incarnation of conservative vs. liberal, West coast vs. East coast, Pepsi vs. Coke. Once we pick a side, it that line of thinking can quickly turn into religion, and we become monolithic in our thinking.

      Here’s something that might help: I heard the coolest thing while in Dubai the other day. It was a plea to the Western world by a young Muslim woman in the marketing profession who challenged the audience to look at Islam (not just the religion but the market) as a mosaic rather than a monolith. It was brilliant. (It isn’t until you actually see the mosaic for yourself that you grasp how perfect the analogy actually is.) The way that we tend to look at the players in this space, people like you, me, Brian, Jeremiah, Peter Kim, etc. is a lot like the way many Americans viewed Muslims during the whole “Ground Zero Mosque” debate earlier this year: Not exactly an inspired perspective. Truth is that this space is also a mosaic. As long as people don’t purposely sell bullsh*t, it all has value – pop and punk, chewing gum and truffles, basic theory and advanced applications. We’re all free to make our own decisions as to which parts of it we want to pay attention to, and which ones we’ll get back to later. ;)

      • http://occamsrazr.com Ike

        …and then there is the role of the Idiot, the Fool, the Jester — who speaks in asides to the audience, and isn’t afraid to call things like they are.

        If you want to see us as a large ensemble cast — or a vast machine with important-but-different cogs — then you have to make room for the actors who ignore the 4th wall completely, sit among the audience, and heckle with abandon. It’s allowed, it’s encouraged, and it’s necessary.

        Otherwise we’re just running on Unicorn Flatulence.

        Geoff’s just lobbing some produce from the cheap seats, because a few of the protagonists are patting each other on the back, waiting for each others’ applause lines, and ad-libbing some phrases that run counter to a successful story.

        All the Net’s indeed a stage, and we are merely players, performers and portrayers — each another’s audience.

        ;)

        • http://flashfree.wordpress.com Liz Scherer

          Olivier. You are an interesting mix of brillance and humble. And if I put all of the “elite” in a bowl, I’d probably pick out you and Valeria first. But truly, can we, you, stop elevating yourselves above the so-called “common man” of social media or whatever the latest fishbowl is and just acknowledge that you’ve gotten some attention and some of the flock feels like elevating you above the rest of the pack? There are a lot of hard working folks out there who KNOW THEIR SHIT, perhaps even more so then some of the better known but don’t necessarily need the attention or accolades to do their good work. So, that’s what separates the wheat from the chaff. Do you want to sing “me, me, me” or do you want to do what you love and reap what you sow because, well, you are working your ass off to get there?

          And hate to break the bubble here but you know what? Social media is not new! The tools we are using to expand it are. Period. People have been doing the community, sharing, evolving thing for centuries. Yup, centuries! And yet, we all want to believe in the new and shiny. Everything old is new again.

          • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

            “The people making the biggest difference don’t need anyone to know they’re making a difference – it just happens.”

            Amen, Liz.

  • http://Twitter.com/Ed Ed

    Brogan isn’t glitter, Geoff.

    He’s big because
    #1 He’s good
    #2 He’s not a cheap prick like the rest of this sphere,
    and gives more than the next 10 combined.
    #3 He’s good and he gives.

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Glad you like, Ed. To each their own.

      On the good front, I would say I know Chris has done a lot for NPs in the past, I won’t say anything about his current non giving work – 501 — which is a pay for advice platform.

      • http://www.chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan…

        It’s non giving because it costs money? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard. Books give. People who consult (I seem to think you’re one) give.

        Color me stunned that you think payment for advice is somehow evil.

        • http://www.chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan…

          Anyway, fun to talk this one through on Twitter. I’m going to agree to disagree.

          Zoetica charges for consulting. I charge for online education. Both a knowledge transfer. Both personalized.

          I don’t see it as “non-giving.”

          Oh, and a % of 501 goes to charity.

          • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

            Per my public Tweet, suing for peace. I sent my criticism, you listened and disagreed. Fair is fair. I wish 501 much success, and that you have a good weekend. Thank you for conversing, and for provoking a lot of thought.

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      Ed, I love the heck out of you, mate, but your comment “He’s not a cheap prick like the rest of this sphere” really rubbed me the wrong way.

      I didn’t peg you for a one-brush-fits-all person (and I still don’t, mate) but that one single sentence wipes out so many good people that, like I say, it really rubs me the wrong way.

      Plus ca change…

      • http://Twiter.com/ed Ed

        Danny,
        There are thousands in this profession who don’t waste
        an hour a year giving. Every hour is spent getting.

        Then there are usual players, the names we all see,
        who are constantly guilty of making sure
        every relationship results in a net gain for themselves.

        Far and away, Chris has somehow worked out
        being a business professional, family man, yet keeps up one of the webs best blogs.
        I know many keep actives blogs as an extension of what they do, and as a calling card.
        But Brogan’s is different.
        While over there earning a living (http://twitpic.com/1ci5fq ),
        more people get a tremendous (accurate, realistic) education from ChrisBrogan.com -for free-
        than would ever admit it.
        I know for a fact that everyone from high school students,
        to *leading CEO’s* read it for bracing, current perspective.

        That’s 4000 top quality posts – free.
        That’s an enormous contribution.
        Now add his activity in the comments,
        presence on others blogs, and free answers on
        Twitter, Facebook, etc.
        Let alone a huge number of FREE hours to
        those who can’t afford it, in private,
        month after month for years.

        So, in the context of Geoff blind siding him
        (re-read post above),
        I am expressing that the post is not only fundamentally wrong, but he couldn’t have picked a more inappropriate person to go after.

        • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

          Ed: You play adult games, you pay adult prices. No one is above criticism, present company included.

        • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

          Hi Ed,

          I agree, there *are* thousands that don’t give. There are a ton that do as well (perhaps more than Chris – we just don’t hear about it).

          If I wanted to shout out about my clients, I could run off a dozen Fortune 100 and another twenty plus Fortune 500 companies, as well as a host of SME’s that aren’t that size but just as important to me. I’m sure there are other business people/bloggers in the same boat.

          That’s apples and oranges, as it relates to how different people are in what we share and what we just plough away on.

          Does Chris deserve his success? Absolutely? Does he do more than others? For some, yes, for others, no. It’s semantics and relevancy.

          Where my bugbear was (and still is) is in the apparent way that everyone else that offers equally as much is written off by your comment.

          I see the reasoning by your comment, but in the same way that you say Geoff is writing off what Chris has done, your comment is also writing off a ton of other equally deserving people.

          Ah, points of view, eh? :)

  • http://www.patrickbarbanes.com Patrick Barbanes

    Geoff – Just want to precede this by saying I have no vested interest in taking sides for or against Brogan or Livingston. My interest about what you wrote is what it means for personal branding. I’ve read some of your earlier posts and have understood your dislike for the concept of personal brand. But you’ve take personal brand-bashing to a new level. Not just bashing the tactic/strategy of personal branding, but looking down your nose at the actual persons. Which is your right, of course. I just wonder about the wisdom of calling them out the way you did. To each his own, indeed. Actually, it’s pretty cool – it’s a warning shot to everyone who’s “creating” a brand for themselves – however they’re doing it, through conscious brand strategies and/or just through the good works they do and the reputation they develop. The warning is that when you’ve created your personal brand, people (like you, Geoff) can and will attempt to demean you – because you, after all, are the brand – much the same as they will attempt to demean a politician. As a personal brand, you have no company to hide behind. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. I think it’s quite disingenuous of you to have published this post this way. But that’s just me. In my eyes, it’s one thing to criticize the idea of personal branding; it’s another to criticize the person. And you can’t really say that you didn’t. There’s a whole air of “I’m too smart to be popular, and the others are too popular to be smart.” That air stinks. That’s an unnecessary position to take. Let’s have differences of opinion about social media and about the value of pop culture, but it’s akin to PBS coming out and saying, “Hey, no wonder people like NBC, their audience are all dopes who just want entertainment! Us, we’re up in the rarified atmosphere where the real dogs play. Sigh…I’ll just have to learn to live with it. To each his own.” Dirty pool, Geoff. Unbecoming. Why sling mud? I’d think you’d take a higher road. Keep on doing your good work. Keep letting your good reputation precede you. You don’t want to become known as one of those guys who says, “I love humanity. It’s people I hate” …do you?

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Patrick: I am not really concerned with what others think about me so “becoming known as one of those guys” is irrelevant. I let my work speak for itself. Brian and Chris are both more respected than me and many will feel I am in the wrong. So if I was looking to curry public opinion, I wouldn’t have posted this.

      I am interested in questioning thought leadership principles being publicly stated by others, and I am publicly stating my replies back instead of backstabbing. I say things to people’s faces, not behind their backs. I want people to think about these ideas, these tools, and not blindly accept ideas.

      Thanks for your response.

      • http://www.patrickbarbanes.com Patrick Barbanes

        Man, I *knew* I should have left a smiley-face thing : ) or a LOL at the end of my post: the “love humanity, hate people” thing was just an attempt at a humorous close – always been one of my favorite jokes.

        • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

          Tone applied to dissatisfaction. Duly noted ;) Response is the same, though, sorry.

      • http://occamsrazr.com ike

        The deeper point here has to do with credibility.

        Yes, it’s quite likely that as accomplished as Geoff is within this space, that Chris Brogan and Brian Solis have more respect within the community.

        Which matters zero when figuring out who is right on a particular matter. It’s the value of the ideas, not the reputation of those espousing them.

        The danger of social media and the metrics we have available is we now have quantitative measures for things that DO NOT MATTER. Person with Klout-65 disagrees with person of Klout-40. Who’s right? YOU DON’T KNOW. But boy, it’s sure tempting to extend the benefit of the doubt to the person with the Klout, right?

  • http://megfowler.com Meg

    I’ve watched a lot of “calling out shenanigans” or “don’t chase the glitter” or “anti-guru” posts flying by in the last several years I’ve been involved with all this… just as many, in fact, as the “wow, this person is brilliant and now I’m agreeing on my blog” posts.

    That whole celebration —> backlash cycle is actually why I chose not to blog about social strategy myself (there were already too many cooks spoiling the soup), and why I twitter as much about coffee or the color of my toenails as I do about new media or communities. I never saw the point in becoming a part of the fray.

    Instead, I would just write for people who needed writing done, and help people get involved with their target communities more effectively, if that’s what they wanted to do (corporate clients, yes, but nonprofits with SM4SC since 2008, too.)

    The actual *doing* felt so much better than defending my honor / ideas / perspective, or impugning someone else’s, or getting caught up in “thought leadership” or “being a leading voice”, or on the flip side, linkbaiting or shit-disturbing or bullshit-calling.

    Most of the people I work with are oblivious to all of this. Their knowledge of “experts” is glancing at best, and usually they get an idea and run with it, and forget who gave it to them anyway. The microcosm of people who actively engage in these conversations tend to do so because it builds business or a higher profile for them, but I’ve never found it a necessary evil for building a client base or finding great folks to work with.

    Social media, in that sense, has rewarded me for existing apart from the fray. And when my clients ask if they need to be a part of these conversations, that’s what I tell them. “Get as much information as you can, see if it works for what you need to do,” I say, “say thank you to the person who gave it to you, and then run.” :)

    Seems to work out nicely.

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      After thinking about this comment for a while, I’d like to offer a retort. Simply put, if you blog and put your ideas on the marketplace, then they are open for criticism and conjecture. I am not up for being quiet and blindly accepting or passing off ideas.

      I see nothing wrong in debating ideas and positions, particularly when they are designed to create elite thought leadership mechanisms. No person was bashed, just their ideas. And rightly so.

      • http://megfowler.com Meg

        “Retort” instead of “response” is an interesting thing — even a subtle choice of words can say a lot. :)

        I see nothing wrong with debating ideas, either, or having opinions about ideas. But predictable cycles of embrace / reject (as common and as normal as they are) often leave us with just that — cycles. Not progress. Just spinning in circles after our own tails.

        I know you are *doing* as well as debating, which is why I felt comfortable sharing the priority I put on that in your space, and my own (mild) frustration with debates like these. Just an opinion. :) And you know what they say about opinions… :)

  • Tim Harrap

    Thanks to Olivier Blanchard for tweeting about this conversation. Great stuff. For amusement I put the text through wordle see here: http://bit.ly/acDdh3

    But more importantly I note Geoff’s comment:
    “I do think experience includes failure and success, living and FEELING the moment.”
    and

    Oliviers response:

    “The truth is that we all play very specific roles in that space, and we all need to be doing exactly what it is we are doing. We’re links in a chain. Gears on a cassette. Dishes on the menu.”

    AND
    “The problem, I think, is that in our effort to simplify an issue, we tend to polarize it: Valuable or not valuable is just another incarnation of conservative vs. liberal, West coast vs. East coast, Pepsi vs. Coke. Once we pick a side, it that line of thinking can quickly turn into religion, and we become monolithic in our thinking.”

    What great “barebones” and “cutting to the chase”! To comprehend the feeling realm as a living space that is not cut and dried and to be able to sustain your lived experience with those contraditions found in that sphere/space seems to me to be one of the key elements of suceeding personally to live in the new technological social environment. This goes back perhaps to Fromm’s To have or To be. To have the answers and feel you are powerful or To be and really to be empowered.

    There Olivier my 2 pesos worth!!

  • http://www.directmarketingobservations.com Marc Meyer

    You know for me, my issues with the “social space” are born out of a frustration that we’re stuck. I am so starved for innovative people and thinkers and solutions, and am so done with what I’m still hearing.Come on man, we are better than this.
    I struggle every day in trying to propel people forward, and yet as you point out Geoff we keep rewarding those that are still playing in the authentic and transparent space(Ugh).

    We went down this road 3-4 years ago and Brian and Chris know it-but hey if people are still willing to pay for it…It’s like the Broadway show CATS, or Groundhogs Day…

    • http://livepath.blogspot.net Leigh Durst

      Marc – Very well said. I feel exactly the same way.

    • http://www.2witterbug.com Charity Hisle

      Marc,

      It seems to me that there are so many people still in need of the authentic and transparent space education.

      IMHO, being first to the show means you have to wait longer for everyone else to be quietly seated… There’s advantages, like a better view. But there are disadvantages as well, especially if you’re impatient.

  • http://www.wtflungcancer.com Jennifer Windrum

    Great chatter. For me…I sum it up this way: I get something unique (or really what I feel I want/need)from so many people in this space. I know who I need to turn to for certain issues/questions/doses of inspiration/keep-it-real “stuff.” I get my “fix” and use it to move forward in my efforts – not to ass-kiss. The ass-kissing crap is a huge distraction from what everyone is trying to achieve. I think everyone here would agree on that. How many retweets do you see of completely POINTLESS stuff – only done so on behalf of that RT-er to try to “break in” to the crowd. Then, the RTs by some of the elite in which someone has praised them. I just don’t get it. Do you really need to retweet that “@soandso LOVED your presentation and that you totally rock?” This goes beyond abusing the basic tenets of marketing/PR 101 and “shameless self-promotion.” These are the things that really bother me. I’m no social media Goddess and I don’t aspire to be. But, I am able to learn from myriad social media types to help me achieve my personal social media goals. For this, I am grateful. I think figuring out how to digest a healthy dose of the right people and the right content is difficult for many people. Or they don’t have the guts to challenge current social media thought-leaders with their OWN thoughts. If people would simply think for themselves – we would ALL be learning so much more – as the dos and dont’s of social media would be forever evolving. There is absolutely nothing wrong with success – in whatever form you have it. Success is what we all strive for. But, is that success truly what makes you happy? Is that success making a difference? Can that success be shared? These are the questions I constantly ask myself. And, unfreakin’fortunately, my passion and success happens to be cancer. I didn’t chose it. It chose me (or rather, my mom). I have needed something (at some point)from just about everyone who has commented on this blog or has been mentioned to help me in advancing my cause. So, thank you! For realz. I think more people just need to know who to turn on and off… and when.

  • http://www.swordandthescript.com Frank Strong

    I see your overall point Geoff, and while I can’t speak for Chris Brogan because I follow him infrequently (though his book is currently #4 on the stack by my night stand), but I do read Brian Solis regularly, and while I do see a process to his method, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But here’s the catch: it’s his. The devaluation is in mimics.

    He does speak to a broad audience, but he also comes up with compelling content. His new YouTube channel is a good example. His interview with Sarah Lacy for example was excellent.

    I started off this comment by saying I see your overall point — what I mean like that is I do think the mimicry is reminiscent of Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” where hard news gave way to infotainment. Postman said we’re dumbing ourselves at the expense of amusement. That’s the vibe I get when I read your post here. There are similarities…but then the burden is on the thought leader to reinvent relevancy or cede ground to a new leader.

    You too have your own style, Geoff. I recall you once noted you had given up blogging — you simply didn’t have anything else to say — as I remember it. We all knew that wouldn’t last — and I’m personally glad it didn’t: despite my protracted comment, you’ve given me much to think about tonight.

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Ah yes, you must be a Ragan reader. I stopped blogging at the Buzz Bin for business reasons, but Ragan’s over the top headline pegged me as a full on quitter. If you look through the archive on this blog, you’ll see I never stopped.

      Your comment made me think of Eddie Van Halen, well recognized as one best guitarists ever. He also spawned a generation of horrific imitators and deciphals that produced some of the worst music ever, and in part caused the counter grunge movement.

      Thanks for coming by!

      • http://www.swordandthescript.com Frank Strong

        But we all know only one guy can run with the devil. I can’t tell you where I read that — IT limits the storage space I”m allowed in my head and I’ve got to make room for the new stuff — but that’s what stuck with me. Perhaps, I’m destined for digestible bytes. Some of us little people listen for a long time, and meekly tip toe into creation. I’ve never bought into the personal branding motto — I think it’s a load. My job is to put my client or company forward. To the extent I can personally lend credibility, that’s fine, but never vice-versa. There are giants among these comments; the question you, Geoff, pose is worth considering; the ensuing debate intrepid, but of all the people contributing: considering you’re point and Olivier’s and the fact we are often defined by our work, which tact do you recommend to your clients? Would you advise complex ideas? Avoid posting top 10 lists? Avoid sexy headlines with provocative (for the most part) word choices? Ten percent is a tough sell. This is the conundrum and why this post is relevant.

        • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

          You know, Frank, this is the best comment yet, IMO. I think each situation and individual voice and style determines the play.

          I prefer this style here, but when I want to inject larger ideas into the market place, I guest blog at Mashable, oft with a top four or five list. http://mashable.com/author/geoff-livingston/ I hope these posts have enough substance to serve the nonprofit sector with real actionable case studies and ideas.

          I have been blessed/cursed to write two books now. Ideally, they, too, help the non blog reading marketplace with more complex ideas, too. The format there is much more formal.

          So format, IMO, doesn’t necessarily dictate depth or substance. I generally think substance means more, but getting people to think positively or negatively towards an idea, forwards or backwards towards innovation, should be the outcome of all good writing.

  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    I have nothing to add here except this post fucking rocks and the comments are the singular reason I love blogging so much – sensible, thought out and (for the most part) relevant.

    I should come back later with a more valid opinion, but for now, this is punk.

  • http://adrielhampton.com Adriel Hampton

    Quick, pull the ladder up, here come the mindless!

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      You must be mistaken, we want them with us here in the dirt, just with their eyes wide open.

  • Pingback: The Problem with Thought Leadership – Danny Brown()

  • http://www.musesmuse.com Jean-Baptiste Collinet

    I experience the same scheme in the realm of music.
    People have a hard time seeing the big picture. They think short-term, not long-term. I’m all for a long-term approach, without overlooking the shorter spans.
    I am still amazed by the brilliant way you’ve put things into perspective.I just need to switch on the thinking mode and enable the filters.
    I wonder what Seth Godin’s take would be on this topic…

  • http://thesocialjoint.com Lucretia Pruitt

    I was sure I left a comment here before. But apparently I just thought it really hard.

    I know you. I know Chris. I know Brian.
    I learn different things from all of you. I agree with some things & disagree with others that each of you say or do.

    But I don’t think this post came across quite as you intended. Rather than expressing discontent with the ‘pop culture’ that exists in the current “Social Media” space (I so hate that term) it came across as a mild attack on Brian & Chris. Which I hope (and believe) was not really the intent.

    I used to bemoan the fact that most of the bands I liked in the 80’s could never get on the radio – as they weren’t “Top 40″ material. More than a quarter of a century later, I not only listen to those bands – but I appreciate the fact that some of the “pop music” from that same time was actually pretty damned amazing.

    I suspect that a quarter of a century from now? I will appreciate more fully what everyone is contributing to this interactive & collaborative media space. I also suspect there will still be things I look back on and say “nope, that still isn’t my cup of tea.”

    I love the intent of this post. I just kind of wish you could’ve attacked the concepts without attacking the people. It makes me feel like I’m watching friends of mine fighting and being “in the middle” even when I’m not involved in any way in their dispute. That honestly sucks. I’m going to ignore that little voice inside my head that wants to make everything better though. Not my role. But it really, really sucks.

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Lucretia: Thanks for your feedback. If I wanted to attack Brian and Chris, I would discuss their personal character. Instead, I discussed their position of words like elite, thought leadership and general blogging direction.

      I really question the attitude behind, “attacked the concepts without attacking the people,” when people propagate the ideas. Again, as stated earlier in conversation with you on a Facebook group and in other posts on this blog, if a blogger puts ideas out there, then they are subject to criticism. If people don’t want their names associated with their ideas when they are criticized, then they shouldn’t blog. Can’t stand the heat, don’t play the game.

      Imagine if our founding fathers had this attitude that ideas and the people owning them should not be criticized publicly. We’d be in a much worse place.

      • http://thesocialjoint.com Lucretia Pruitt

        Okay. I am willing to admit that I probably heard something you didn’t write. That happens.

        But(and you are probably going to hate this) I don’t believe in the mythic “founding fathers” to which many noble attributes are so oft ascribed. They were no saints. Nor were they infallible. Nor even unified. Having spent considerable time studying more than one of them, it is fortunate that we are left with their ideas and not having to link them to the very human folks with feet of clay.

        It is fortunate for us that we can consider their ideas on the merit of the ideas alone. Else we’d be left saying things like “Benjamin Franklin? How can you take anything he said or did seriously? After all, he spent 25 years making money off of that pop Rag-azine he published ‘Poor Richard’s Almanac’ and then he opened his own college just so he could look smart. After all, Harvard & Yale only gave him *honorary* degrees…” instead of focusing on the ideas, inventions, and words we know him better for.

        To each his own, though my friend.

        I often find I can’t stand the heat of the kitchen as it were. Perhaps that’s why I blog so seldom of late. Either that or I’m just waiting for a windmill worthy of tilting at again. :\

  • http://joesgonesocial.com Joe Hackman

    Just want to say phenomenal and thought provoking post and discussion. Grant – while I have the utmost respect for Gates he was not patient at all in his rise, and lacked many of the qualities that someone like Chris has displayed until much later in his life. I do think you’ve nailed something with your insights on the depth and thought of the masses towards less than enduring things. The truth is a lot of people really struggle just to live and don’t get the opportunity to touch lives like Gates and others have. I am a huge fan of Ken Behring, there is a man who by chance happened upon a situation that led to the founding of an organization that has provided something like 900,000 wheelchairs to individuals that otherwise would not have been able to afford them. His story is truly inspiring and I think if more people took the opportunity to serve others it would enrich their lives more than they could ever have dreamed. He was a man of limited means who was incredibly driven and achieved success very quickly and consistently but ultimately his life changed one day.

    So my bottom line take on this is, I wouldn’t assume that the velocity of the rise to success will necessarily have anything to do with the true legacy of an individual.

    Thanks for the incredible discussion and discourse everyone. I feel like I just pulled up to the bar with a group of friends at the pub. The discussions are sometimes heated, we don’t always agree but at the end of it all we all go home to our families and look forward to doing it again.

    • http://joesgonesocial.com Joe Hackman

      Oops Geoff even (not Grant)! Sorry. :)

  • http://www.justincaseyouwerewondering.x.iabc.com Justin Goldsborough

    First off, one of the biggest reasons to read blog posts like this is because they make you think and the comments here have done that and more, on both sides of the story.

    Going to take this a different direction. I blame corporate America for what I see as the crux of your post Geoff — that we claim see the value in long-term goals, we pay lip service to them, we talk about community, we are moved when we watch the story of a group of people who went down to the ninth ward to help rebuild New Orleans, and on and on. And we vow to be a part of something bigger. But when it comes down to it, most people abandon those visions and fall back into the “what have you done for me lately” mentality because that’s what is rewarded.

    It’s hard and it takes discipline to have long-term vision. It’s hard because you have to be a leader, not a follower. It’s hard because the rewards don’t come until the end if they come at all. It’s hard because corporate America does not value an approach that doesn’t always show up as black numbers on a P&L. We love to watch movies about long-term vision. But too many of us forget what we saw 30 minutes later.

    I think the issue goes much deeper than the top 10 lists Brian, Chris and so many are posting or who’s the social media flavor of the week and why. What we’re seeing is a society that has long failed and continues to fail to reward those long-term visionaries who have community-building ideas we can’t grasp until they come to fruition. That’s a sad statement about us that I don’t see it changing unless we keep having conversations like this.

    I find value in many of the simpler posts our peers put out there. Heck, I write some of them :). On a Friday morning, they give me some fodder to share with my office or friends on Twitter and spark conversation. But long-term, I’ll never stop striving to be a community builder because that’s where the true value lies, IMO. Even if the majority of our society can’t see it.

    Thanks for starting the conversation, Geoff. And for the community building work you and the Zoetica team do. Cheers.

  • Sheryl Breuker

    Fascinating topic, conversation we’ve had on Stardust a few times. I enjoy what you wrote, think there’s substance in it, but if I wrote it would it be read? Heard? Given any notice? I’d probably get 5 comments from the people who are diehard pals. My point? You have to have balance and at least be considered part of either the bubblegum/pop culture crowd or the elite – to garner the kind of attention we’ve all aimed for at one time or other.
    You’re a thoughtful writer, Geoff, but if you didn’t already skirt those realms people like Chris Brogan wouldn’t have seen your post. Oh, but I forgot, you’re in the sub culture of D.C. You’re already a made man! ;)

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Boy, you know that’s right on. Not that I think that I am made, but I do see your point. I don’t know what to do about that. But I would also argue that while I am able to command more reach, I am not “A-List,” and that’s OK with me, too. I’m not sure I could handle the responsibility.

      Perhaps if someone like you came to me and said, you know I feel the same way, can collaborate or guest post… That might be cool. Open to ideas about leveling the playing field, at least with me.

  • http://www.debbimorello.com Debbi Morello

    I don’t know how many of you have seen the movie “Broadcast News” – I’ve seen it so many times I know the entire script. To me this movie is timeless, it holds true over and over again.
    Where this movie was spot on regarding the direction broadcast journalism at the time, it holds true for other mediums as well. Love Albert Brooks, love William Hurt and of course, our heroine, with all her flaws, Holly Hunter. They represent all of us… who? Well, guessing by your post, identify with Albert Brooks… especially his speech about “flash over substance.”

    “These represents a huge problem for us — excuse me, those of us who want to affect more deep, meaningful outcomes with our online interactions.”

    This statement resonates most with me. because I agree with you – overall, our society views lack depth and thought more often than not. I mean, how many people exercise their right to vote? And when they decide on a candidate do so based on 60-second slanderous commercials?

    Our attention span, particularly our next best generation is about a nanosecond – if that. Everything is ‘right now’ so how can we hope for depth and thought as the rule rather than the exception.

    Let’s say when it comes to the social media world, I’m the objective observer at this point, because in essence, I am. I have only recently embraced these relatively ‘new’ communication tools. I use the term communication, because it “is” yet another way we have found to communicate.

    I see a ‘group’ of people that, for lack of a better term, are “original cast members” and I have not been all that impressed with what I see ‘now’. No question they certainly made an impact early on and for a long time. I think a couple are spreading too thin trying to stay relevant.

    Their name continue to make impact. Why else would Chris Brogan be retweeted so many times on nothing new or impactful? Or why would Amber Nashlund get so much attention when I find her not at all what she appears (to others) to be.

    No question people ‘associate’ themselves with these people because they want the klout, sorry couldn’t resist.

    So while I’m not criticizing these folks, I am critical however of the people that continue to be groupies and think that by associating themselves with these people, by retweeting them or tweeting them, gives them more cache. Pleeeeez.

    But Chris, in his reply posted this:

    “It’s definitely to each his own. The post, written another way is, “There are far smarter people than Brian and Chris who don’t get a lot of attention.” (and so why is that??)

    People, believe more in yourself and others – many others.

    Mark Schaeffer recently wrote a post on why Chris Brogan is invincible. I rest my case.

    When I was struggling through Vanderbilt, where I got a real education, I will never forget what my beloved advisor told me: “If you leave here and you have learned how to think and how to write, you got yourself an education.”

    I continue to try :-) to think that is, and many write far better – but I can say with confidence I can see right through vapid crap – vapid bullshit, and there is a lot of it to filter through. I’m happy to have made connections with great folks whom I consider smart, thoughtful and genuine, and I consider elite in their thinking.

    I have been happy to unfollow folks who didn’t give me the time of day, weren’t interested in my value or what I have to offer, or to have a conversation – ironically, are the same people who make their career advising about this – mmmmm but that’s all I needed to know about them.

    At some point it becomes a Glenn Beck model – people get sick of all the attention the guy gets, but if people continue to give him the attention – no matter what the attention is – he stays larger than life.

  • Sheryl Breuker

    Love to, Geoff. Would be great fun amd perhaps interesting to see how things might work within a different set of boundaries. Always game to try sethung different. Let’s do it! :)

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      geoffliving [AT} me.com (a fitting URL for any self centered blogger ;)

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