The Age of the Sycophant

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Dodger Faithful

Sycophant – A self-seeking, servile flatterer; fawning parasite.

No one likes the idea of being classified as a sycophant. Yet without question there are legions of followers who sing the praises of their favorite online voices without fail, all in hopes of garnering favor and being a part of the in-crowd. Entire businesses and social networks have been built on the back of the die-hard loyalist. This lack of intellectualism provides one of the reasons for an increasing backlash against social networking in the United States.

Who are these people that trust online voices so blindly that they accept anything said as gospel? How did we get to a point where a group of media that was supposed to inspire conversations and thought turned into a mechanism to harness fans? Instead of dialogue, we have “social propaganda” designed to convince the sycophant to buy products, subscribe to questionable services, market their heroes trying to build businesses, and in the worst cases, defend offended parties via the flash mob.

One thing is clear. While democratizing in some ways, social media has also created a means to create blood loyal fans who opt for passion instead of mindful choice. We live in the age of the sycophant.

Perhaps the term is too harsh, and it’s necessary to seek something more palatable. There is another place in life where people blindly support people and things — sports! Nothing typifies this kind of behavior more than the crazed fan who will go to absurd lengths to show team loyalty.

And perhaps the best example of the crazed sports fans are the Philadelphia Eagles Fans, Red Sox Nation, Chicago White Sox fans, Montreal Canadian faithful, English football clubs, and even the rare Dodger fan (as depicted above). Look at Philadelphia, for example. From target practice at Santa’s expense to regular trips to a four cell jail built under Lincoln Financial Field, Eagles fans regularly cross the line and find themselves in questionable acts.

Somewhere there is an off switch that neutralizes rationality, and fuels endorphine driven crazed behavior in support of one’s favorite sports team. It simply defies logic! Yet it’s something that we can all identify with, and perhaps even admire.

What’s different from being a crazed sports fan and a blind follower of your favorite voice online? Not much. In fact, the behavior patterns are very similar in nature. Sycophants are beyond fanatic sports fans. They do unmindful things such as propagating bad ideas, mimicking style rather than developing their own, and flash mobbing others, all to curry favor and feel a part of that favorite voice’s community.

Don’t Be Eddie Van Halen

van-halen-160.jpg
Eddie Van Halen Image from More Things.

It takes two parties to dance, and fans need a personality to admire. Of course, this is not always a bad relationship where a party abuses his/her fans. Some people treat their fans like gold and view their position as a public trust. They honor their fans, serving them with great content, ideas and other services in exchange for their loyalty. They try to grow with their community.

Then there are the ones who try to capitalize on every single aspect of their blood loyal, crazy fans. From emotional support to financial milking, these “influencers” take everything they can get. Yes, they have a right to try to earn a buck, and yes, it’s fair as a third party to observe this and question the overall value to both parties.

Recently a top Internet voice decided to offer free blog ideas to his followers at $9.97 a month. This is in spite of several free services that do the exact same thing from organizations like WordPress, For Bloggers, by Bloggers and the Daily Meme, as well as free blog topic tips from leading voices like Copyblogger, Sunday nights’ #blogchat and Problogger. These subs support the influencer’s thought leadership with posts that provide links and mentions, as well as providing a little extra pocket change. And what do they get in return? $119.64 less a year to blog about ideas that indirectly support someone else’s market stature, and have no clear path to develop their own blog topics and thinking.

Examples like this content marketing pyramid can be found throughout the social web. Please forgive the second, testosterone-driven meathead analogy of the post, but since these internet voices like to think of themselves in such light, perhaps it’s time to use the dreaded rock star metaphor.

Eddie Van Halen is one of the most commercially successful guitarists ever. His brown style — marked by tapping, intense solos and high frequency feedback — distinguished his sound in an era of blues based rock dominated by Led Zeppelin and later hair metal bands. At the same time, he unleashed a wave of imitation that primarily featured thousands of teenage boys across America playing really bad guitar. His most notable successors are heavy metal guitarists Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and C.C. Deville.

In comparison, Jimi Hendrix yielded Stevie Ray Vaughn. Neil Young yielded the grunge movement. Jimmy Page yielded everything from the Edge, Jack White, Soundgarden, Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), to at least half of the heavy metal movement. Eric Clapton influenced Van Halen (agggh!), Peter Frampton, Robert Cray, Eric Johnson, Joe Walsh and countless others.

Great guitarists make money, great artists influence other great artists. If you are so fortunate as to have a blood loyal community, don’t be Eddie Van Halen. Encourage the development of others’ thinking and careers.

Trackbacks on this post are turned off. This post does not seek to generate in-bound links, instead it will hopefully inspire people to consider the ideas discussed in the context of their own efforts.

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  • http://socialtriggers.com Derek

    I have to politely disagree with what you said about Blog Topics. While there are other services out there that create serendipity for bloggers, Chris Brogan’s service is a little more than that. You can clearly see the difference in the sample he posted today: http://www.chrisbrogan.com/sampleemail/ .

    Do I think his service is for everyone? Probably not. Is it for you? Definitely not. Is it for someone who wants a weekly kick in the ass about some potential blog topics they can write about? Absolutely.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Derek. We’re free to disagree, that’s the purpose of discourse. Having read this post at your referral I see very little to justify the cost. I think there are plenty of services and blogs that provide this level of advice for free, and another one being Bonsai’s Bloggers by Bloggers. http://bestbloggingtipsonline.com/

      I mean if you want to give your money away to be a part of this paid for service, God bless you. It’s a free country. but don’t kid yourself. Your buying the affiliation with Brogan, and that’s the value for you. Everything offered here can be gotten elsewhere for free.

      • http://socialtriggers.com Derek

        Most information about online marketing is free. However, sometimes people need that information from someone they know and trust before they take action on it.

        And at $9.97 per month, it’s not breaking anyone’s bank. Quite honestly, if he was charging $97 per month for this sort of service, it would be different.

        But 10 bucks? If someone signs up to his service, and writes one or two additional blog posts per month that they wouldn’t have written otherwise, it would be extremely worth it.

        I also took a look at that link. There’s a lot of distraction there. It’s not the same thing as what Chris Brogan is offering, which is a distraction free, weekly kick in the ass about blog topics.

        With a site like the one you linked, there’s plenty of other things people can act on that isn’t writing a new blog post.

        • Anonymous

          “From someone they know and trust before they take action on it.” Who decides to charge them for it when it’s free everywhere elsewhere. Yeah. That’s great, Derek.

          • http://socialtriggers.com Derek

            It’s good to have different price points, wouldn’t you agree? Chris Brogan updates a blog, for free, each day. He also offers some paid options, for people who are interested. If you’re not interested, you dont have to pay for it. You can get his content for free.

            And just because it’s free elsewhere, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. Think about consulting for a second. You pay a consultant, they give you their expertise. In most cases, their information is freely available on the internet, too. Does that make it not worth it?

          • http://twitter.com/bobledrew Bob LeDrew

            There seems to be a difference between a consultant (full disclosure: I are one) working with a client to develop a solution based on the organization’s needs, challenges, and strength and essentially a newsletter of story ideas. I like Chris a lot, personally. I looked at the sample newsletter, however, and found it pedestrian and uninspiring. Can’t see buying it. On the other hand, CB has giant numbers. Next to his, my stats would be negligible. Who’s right? Choose your measuring stick.

        • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

          Hi Derek,

          Try this link:

          http://bestbloggingtipsonline.com/25-ways-find-blog-content/

          Or this link:

          http://bestbloggingtipsonline.com/8-ways-to-collect-enough-blog-post-ideas-for-the-next-100-years/

          Or this link:

          http://bestbloggingtipsonline.com/quick-tip-stuck-for-blogging-ideas-check-out-the-wordpress-post-a-day-challenge/

          Or this one:

          http://bestbloggingtipsonline.com/social-networks-blogging/

          Noise is in the eye of the beholder. You want to compare a proper blogging resource centre to ideas that anyone can come up with (if they’re not lazy), no worries. But at least compare the proper examples as opposed to simply dismissing as noise.

          I’m biased (I founded the service), but I’d say that having two multiple award-winning bloggers as part of the team, as well as some of the best bloggers out there when it comes to how they approach blogging, is a bit more valuable in the long-term.

          Just my two cents.

          And Geoff, sorry for taking over a comment with a bunch of links, sir.

      • Judy Dunn

        Hi Geoff. Just weighing in here, as part of the blogging team at http://bestbloggingtipsonline.com.

        First of all, what an image (top photo). As the butler in the Adam Sandler movie Mr. Deeds said, ” The hideousness of it shall haunt my dreams forever.” : )

        Okay, about your post. Very interesting discussion here. I think that people do buy a name. Happens all the time. Some people don’t know where to start, so they follow the “thought leaders.” (Hate that term.) And then, those people change direction, for one reason or another, and start promoting something else and those people will blindly follow, switching in midstream.

        I’m not saying that’s good or bad. It’s just that they might not have the confidence that, given a little direction, they can figure things out for themselves. In Brogan’s case, he is targeting a market of bloggers who don’t have topic ideas, are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. So there is some hand holding going on.

        He is giving them a formula, a framework, if you will. But (I was an educator for many years, so I may be biased here) I think it’s more helpful to give people the steps, the process, for coming up with blog posts idea— and in the setting of their particular business, their specific experience, their world. It’s the old, “Give me a fish and I eat today. Teach me to fish and I eat tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day.” So instead of force feeding people the same ideas and topics (just change a few things in this post title to make it yours), I think it’s much more helpful to teach them the creative process for coming up with their own unique ideas. Does that make sense?

        There is obviously a market for both.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks, Judy. I taught at Georgetown for a semester, and my mantra is definitely making people think rather than give them the answers. You are spot on with your biblical fishing reference. Thanks for coming by and adding your two cents to the conversation.

  • a first time reader

    your santa link seems to be bogus.

    • Anonymous

      Resolved, thank you for the heads up!

  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    While I’m not a fan personally, if people want to pay for ideas that any blogger should be able to come up with, fair enough, their call.

    Where I see a bigger problem is the cartel that exists between many of the “top tier” (in some folks’ eyes) bloggers. Consistently pushing each other’s products; wares; services; affiliations, etc.

    Some are upfront about it; some not. Some are genuine in their recommendations; some are just out for the quick buck.

    Jim Connolly, a U.K. marketing guy I respect immensely; posted a great comment about this over at a blog post I wrote:

    http://dannybrown.me/2011/01/24/affiliates-disclosure/#comment-39649

    When you get the same names promoting the same products by the other same names… yeah, that’s upfront, all right.

    • http://socialtriggers.com Derek

      Is it possible that they just respect each others’ work? I think that’s the case. Many of these bloggers put their audience first, always. Sure they pitch products from people who they’re friendly with, but how did they get friendly in the first place? They were both doing great work, and they naturally became friends. For example, didn’t you actively promote Headway? Aren’t you also friendly with Grant? How is that any different from what the other bloggers are doing?

      • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

        There’s always that possibility, Derek. But when you see the same names on the same posts on the same products on the same sales pitches….

        The difference in promoting and affiliation is the money made (something you’ll know about as a promoter of Thesis and Third Tribe). The other bigger difference is whether you continue that promotion when you don’t believe in the product anymore, or you don’t see a natural fit for your audience.

        Does everything that’s promoted across bloggers always fit that blogger’s audience? I’d say no. But then, I’m not their audience.

        • http://socialtriggers.com Derek

          Do you truly think these people promote products they don’t believe in? Come on… you know that’s not the case :-P.

          • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

            I think my previous reply said it all, mate ;-)

    • Anonymous

      Yes, absolutely. I do hope I made that clear with the statement, it’s their right to offer these services. But I really think that a blogger who cares about their community would have done this for free. In fact, Chris has done this for free in the past… So.

      I’ve run into Jim a couple times on the interwebs, truly a good egg!

  • Anonymous

    Hello Geoff,
    This article reminds me of motorcycles, in that for some time now the leading Japanese manufactures have tried so very hard to have their product look and sound like a Harley Davidson. These manufactures want what another brand has so badly that they do not even put their name on their product offering.

    I often wonder what in the world folks who purchase imitation are thinking, and should they ever drift into the tattoo parlor, would they ink Honda or Harley Davidson?

    Beyond motorcycles though, I believe that most folks are pretty content with mediocrity, as it is safe for them.

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      “I often wonder what in the world folks who purchase imitation are thinking, and should they ever drift into the tattoo parlor, would they ink Honda or Harley Davidson?”

      Awesome analogy, Eric – just picturing the confused motorcyclist now, uhmming and aahing while the needle buzzes away. :)

    • Anonymous

      LOL, having owned an HD, a Honda and a Yamaha, I can tell you there is no substitute for my current bike. A Ducati. Great comment!

  • http://www.blog.chrisehyoung.com/ Chris Eh Young

    I have also become slightly disenfranchised with the top tier in this industry. It has become a giant circle that is impenetrable unless you have the code and know the secret handshake.

    What amazes me is those who promote the idea to “Engage” the hardest are usually the worst at it. Most of the top tier social media gurus refuse to speak with anyone they consider under them. They are relentless in their desire to keep the up and comers up and coming. Unless you have a book or are part of the inner circle society of conference speakers, you don’t stand a chance of breaking the communication barrier.

    As for the blog idea selling, I have no problem with people capitalizing on a hungry market. That is the buyer’s discretion. As for Chris Brogan, I find him a very personable guy who is willing to help the little guy. He will actually respond to tweets and Facebook comments. He is one of the few. The other great ones for that are Danny Brown and Olivier Blanchard. While i have had minimal conversation with a few others, it seems most of them aren’t interested in practicing what they preach. They seem to be more comfortable behind the pulpit than out with the congregation.

    • Anonymous

      Fair comments, Chris. I have seen quite a bit of the same behavior myself, and I’ve decided to turn the off switch. Rarely does an A Lister with that kind of attitude get mentioned by name, much less given a link.

      I may not be the most popular guy in the community, but my blog and network seems to do just fine without their support. What I have found is the pond is big enough without them, and that there are many folks like us who feel they can do without. Keep hanging with the winners, and let the “elitists” remain elite.

  • http://www.margieclayman.com Marjorie Clayman

    I’m sure there are people out there who say, “yes sir, yes sir.” I think that delineation is important. Not everyone who supports “big names” is a sycophant. Sometimes it just works out that a person resonates with you, and it so happens that they resonate with a lot of other people as well for all kinds of reasons.

    Your music example is interesting – I’m not sure it’s Eddie Van Halen’s fault that people tried to replicate his sound. It’s not really Pete Townsend’s fault that people started trashing their instruments and doing the pinwheel. Some of their logistics are copy-able. Whereas you’ll notice there aren’t a lot of people who even try to imitate Jimi because, well, you just can’t. I’ll have to give that analogy more thought.

    As for various people propping each other up, I think it’s a function of community. Hanging out on your blog, I see Danny commenting a lot. Hanging out on Danny’s blog, I see you commenting a lot. Does that raise my eyebrows? No. I figure you guys are good friends, you’re on the same wavelength, and you want to support each other. It so happens that a lot of the big names came in at the same time and have maintained their relationships as they have gotten bigger. I think they would be, literally, bad people if they randomly stopped supporting each other just because they got too big. I’ll never stop supporting anyone in my community, and I hope the same is true the other way around (not that I’ll ever become a superstar, but it’s nice to dream).

    Speaking of which, I have to throw out there that Stan at Pushing Social does a lot more than offer blog topics – he infuses his community with passion, and he covers everything from basic mechanics to that point where blogging intersects life. Just in case anyone hesitates to click that link to his site.

    I’m not going to comment on the crux of the issue here. A lot of people have the same complaint. I guess I feel the same way I do when people complain about tripe on television. If you don’t like it, change the channel. Turn the TV off. Read a book. Watch a movie. Why spend your time on it if you feel it’s so despicable? I’ve never understood that. If people want to buy something that you think is dumb, so be it. I think it’s dumb that people watch Jersey Shore. I don’t spend my time trying to convert those people, though (and no offense to anyone here who loves that show). I live in parallel.

    • Anonymous

      Good comment, Marjorie. What I like is the thought it provokes. Eddie Van Halen was/is so successful, I thought it was a nicer way to frame this conversation than past attempts at critique. So, I accept that it is a flawed comparison, but I’d rather be happier than 100% right on this one. Full disclosure: I’ve seen Van Halen twice and loved them.

      To be fair on the Danny bit, he and I are collaborating ona charity project, which we hope to get off the ground so there’s some back channel support there. I do see your point on that.

      I also agree the changing the channel is the right answer. In many ways this post is encouraging people to do just that, if they didn’t get the gist. What I hope is that people will explore their options rather than just sign off on paid for service because a voice likes it. We need a little more objectivism here. Business is business, but we’re in this together as a larger community, and bloggers need to voice concerns to their communities.

      Cheers!

      • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

        That, and the fact I pay you good money to make my blog seem more popular. ;-)

        Or, it could just be that I like voices that challenge and make readers think, as opposed to ones that monitor their Compete traffic…

  • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

    Looking at the equation from a different angle, I wonder what an influencer such as the one described above hopes to gain from peddling his/her wares (pseudo “products,” a platform, etc.). How does a person gain notable station if underneath the veneer of helpfulness and servitude is greed or a narcissistic need to feed their own ego? Sure, there may be some real nuggets of value, but if personal gain overshadows contributions to his community, is it really worth it to stick around and filter through the BS?

    Looking at the equation from a different angle, I wonder what an influencer such as the one described above hopes to gain from peddling his/her wares (pseudo “products,” a platform, etc.). How does a person gain notable station if underneath the veneer of helpfulness and servitude is greed or a narcissistic need to feed their own ego? Sure, there may be some real nuggets of value, but if personal gain overshadows contributions to his community, is it really worth it to stick around and filter through the BS?

    Maybe some people don’t see the BS. Or maybe they’re willing to filter through the self-serving stuff to catch the good nuggets. Maybe they just don’t care and want to ride the train anyway. I can’t help but believe some of the responsibility lay with the influencer” to hold fast to a code of ethics and discourse even while trying to make a living.

    I’ll add an example of an influencer that’s an exception (there are many, but he’s one): Chris Penn is someone whose work I really enjoy reading. He writes on all kinds of topics that help small business, not just email marketing. While his e-newsletter contains affiliate links, he’s very up front about them. Plus he shines a light on lesser-knowns with regularity that makes his community feel as though he’s really paying attention to *them* not just the notables in his circle. He does it with style and personality that makes me feel like we’re friends.

    My apologies for the long comment. I agree with you that we’d all be well served to do more independent thinking. I believe top influencers/celebrities/whatchamacalits have a responsibility to encourage their community to explore their own minds.

    Thanks, Geoff!

    • Anonymous

      It’s a good comment, Heather. And some people may feel it is worth sitting though the constant affiliate links, the sales pitches, the constant up-selling. To each their own, I suppose. I did want to publish this to encourage people to explore alternative options. They are out there.

      Chrstopher Penn is a great voice, long time advocate of solutions that work, and a constantly challenging blogger (one that makes you think). I love his stuff, too. Cheers.

    • Juliepippert

      I subscribe to Chris Penn too, and a few others who somehow, despite popularity, seem like well-kept secrets to me. Or maybe they just plug away with great work, less red carpet moments.

  • Heather

    Not to dwell on your second analogy, but even though Eddie Van Halen inspired a lot of hair metal junk, he was also a direct influence on guys like Jerry Cantrell (who went on to form Alice in Chains); so not all the American teenage boys who idolized him turned out bad! ;)

    Just saying that amongst all the imitators and sycophants, you will still find a few gems.

    • Anonymous

      Alice in Chains is one of my favorite bands. Miss Layne Staley so much! What a voice.

  • http://thoughtwrestling.com/blog Mark Dykeman

    Geoff, at first I didn’t agree with this post, especially in the way that you’ve portrayed Eddie Van Halen. But when I figured out that you were referring more to how people copied Van Halen’s style, I had to concede the point. Personally, I think Eddie was innovative, especially at first, but his contributions to guitar playing and music in general are more about incorporating new techniques and sounds into the repertoire of the guitarist instead of making music that moved people. Actually, he did move a lot of people, but mainly rock guitarists or hard rock/metal lovers than the average music listener.

    But here’s the thing: most people learn a skill or craft by coping the stuff that they like, something that interests or moves them. Initially the copying attempts are crude and flawed but building technique and skills makes it better. However, the thing that seems to provide depth is going back a generation or two to find influences. For example, copying Mick and Keith is one thing, but you’ll grow more by learning about their influences (e.g. Muddy Waters and other blues musicians). If you want to take the extra step back from the Beatles, go check out Elvis, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, etc. and, of course, Bob Dylan. Etc.

    Now, the million dollar question: do you pay for it? Who do you pay and when? Who’s worthy?

    If we borrow someone’s phrase for a moment, if someone has proven themselves as a “trust agent”, wouldn’t you normally support them? If if they are human, don’t we all drop a turd every now and then?

    One final thought: if someone is willing to pay a monthly fee for information that’s freely available on the internet, doesn’t that say more about the buyer than the seller?

    • Anonymous

      I agree with almost everything you said in this comment, Mark. Again, the rock metaphor was used to soften what is already a hard post. I think we can all smile at the debate of Eddie Van Halen’s merits ;) And as to the buyer, totally agreed, not the oblivious fan is the first to receive critique in this post.

      My one issue is the proven as a trust agent. Supporting them is a given, except when they continually try to use it for an advantage, whether that’s small attempts at monetization that appear consistently every couple of weeks, or a rest on your laurels attitude. Position is earned, and you can ride on past performance for a long time, but eventually you need to maintain through reinvestment. Regardless, I do feel compelled to advise my community that I think this service is not a healthy choice for their blogging adventures.

      • http://thoughtwrestling.com/blog Mark Dykeman

        And that’s fine, Geoff. There’s certainly been a change over the past couple of years towards selling paid services/products (which I’ve personally benefited from, by way of disclosure) although there’s still plenty of free stuff being given away and pointers to other free/charitable services. In your case, you tell your community (e.g. the people who choose to pay attention to you) what you think they need to know. Fair enough.

  • http://richardrbecker.com/ Rich Becker

    Geoff,

    It seems to me the Van Halen analogy will strike a cord with anyone who purchased Balance, an album that marked the final nail in a declining run. Balance still sold plenty of albums, mostly because it was promoted up by people so enamored by the band that they could have put out anything. Everything they do is great, someone says, not because of what they do but who they are.

    It does feel familiar because the objective has shifted in some social media and communication circles. It’s no longer about producing the best work for some as much as it is creating the illusion that they are producing the best work, based on little more than a following who has long forgotten why they follow but are too afraid to disconnect or, in some cases, have no choice to listen so they are not blindsided by a new algorithm of success that means nothing.

    I read as much the other day, when a top tier expert advised someone that if they wanted their opinions heard, they needed to create a following of people willing to push that opinion up as opposed to providing a great idea. It’s as if this person, and others, have forgotten how they established a foothold in the first place. They *used* to have great ideas, much like Van Halen used to produce soild music.

    Where it is different and more damaging than the music industry, I think, is that Van Halen didn’t open up a school or educational resource hoping to coach other people to mimic them to success or cheering on those who remain undiscovered for covering the teaching band’s less coverable songs. They also didn’t endorse bad bands in exchange for a continual stream of unearned support. It seems this is unique to something that once wanted to be a profession (as opposed to a tool set), probably because some (not all) of those who become popular, were never that professional.

    All my best,
    Rich

    • Anonymous

      Wow, killer comment. BTW, folks, Rich is the link behind the social propaganda phrase, check out the post.

      I think the big, big issue is methodology. I feel like if there was more a teaching people to think angle I could get behind this. Maybe. But it’s not there. And I think one of the bigger issues you allude to is the ability for social media to empower people who may not have the fundamentals down in their profession, but have extreme talent. Certainly something to think about.

      • http://richardrbecker.com/ Rich Becker

        You just nailed it Geoff.

        Thinking was required on the front end to get anywhere. Nowadays, the most visited posts are 1. 10 ways to … 2. step A, step B, step C … 3. fill in the blank blog topics.

        It’s not just online, of course. I have an increasing number of students every year who consistently tell me that I don’t tell them “exactly” what to do. And, I visit an increasing number of businesses who want to hear plug in pitches (so they can try to do it on their own).

        Yes. It seems to me anyone with experience ought to lift people up that have talent. And, it seems anyone with experience ought to challenge each other to think deeper. And, it seems too many people entering the field without fundamentals, e.g. Some of them don’t even know that some of the biggest businesses in the world considered marketing the cornerstone of innovation as opposed to buzz.

        Best,
        Rich

  • http://twitter.com/debmorello Debbi Morello

    Once again, an excellent thought provoking post Geoff. I just wish folks would realize calling for discussion, questions, debates, differing with a position is NOT a character assassination.

    If one is questioning someone’s business ethics, moral values and/or illegal activity – I believe that would be more than apparent. People need to wake up, grow up and get over it. If I didn’t have hard critics in my life and in my work, I would be far more lost than I am oftentimes :-)

    We all have been calling for civil discourse of our politicians, yes, our so called “leaders” – and we know they are lying to us most of the time, we expect transparency, and so I am truly baffled and disheartened by the responses and reactions I see when we call out, question and/or criticize other work in the industry.

    For goodness sake, this goes on everywhere, everyday in every industry and in spades. High profile individuals, companies, big organizations and small ones – if we didn’t have this ability we wouldn’t call it a democracy, free speech or a free country.

    Now, on the question of I believe there is no question mediocrity has become the new 30 or something like that :-) so much so many people cannot distinguish what is and what isn’t. I would also say, wand I mean no disrespect, if someone claims to be a blogger, or is paid to blog for someone or some entity – if you need to be paying for “ideas” …. mmm, you may wanna rethink whatever it is you think you’re doing.

    “Think” and “Write” my trusted and well respected advisor from college told me: “If you graduate from here and you have learned how to think and how to write, well then, you got yourself an education.” It has stayed with me my entire life.

    Here’s the thing, if you’re almost always satisfied with your work then you’re not working hard enough. There is always room for improvement, someone will always blow you out of the water, and if you’re not setting the bar high, like almost unrealistically high with the hope of coming close, you’re cheating yourself.

    I guess I’ve had a hard time reconciling the middle school mentality of people when a high profile social media expert is questioned, criticized or called out for anything – their friends and fans see is a lynching and a character assassination and it gets tougher to take each time I see that reaction.

    News Flash: If they have become “names” and have a following, they are in the spotlight, I don’t believe for a minute these folks believe they are perfect, never make mistakes, have the best judgment, are smarter than everybody…. you wanna be a star, you take the heat.

    One more thing, you know all those BFFs? There are a few that won’t say what they “really” think in a public forum but will privately, or as “between you and me” – so note to my BFFs, if you won’t take a stand with me, or won’t be a real friend with no-holds barred and be my toughest critic, you are not being true to anyone, least of all yourself.

    Thank you for keeping it real Geoff.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Debbi. I really am starting to get alarmed at how calls for civility seem to be a thinly veiled muzzle. What people really want are better manners. That seems to be the issue.

      As to the criticism part of it, call it mean, call it wrong, call it whatever. It’s America, it’s freedom of speech, and we are BLOGGERS. Ideas are meant to be discussed, criticized, etc. Live with it or get out. That’s my mantra. No one cut me a break when it was my turn, they shredded me, and sometimes I deserved it. Glad for it in hindsight. It made me better. I’ll leave the rest to the experts.

  • http://twitter.com/NoOneYouKnow Adam Zand

    Eddie Van Halen’s 56th Bday ruined by Geoff. Besides Marnie Stern’s rawks http://youtu.be/p-kbr3bXs94. Well done El Geoffe :)

    • Anonymous

      Man, my timing is lousy!

  • http://twitter.com/allenmireles Allen Mireles

    Hi Geoff,

    “Who are these people that trust online voices so blindly that they accept anything said as gospel? How did we get to a point where a group of media that was supposed to inspire conversations and thought turned into a mechanism to harness fans?”

    I’ve walked around for a day with your words tumbling around inside my head. I think the questions you have posed in this post are important, both in their application within the social media space–and in broader application to our offline lives.

    The Age of the Sycophant is readily visible in almost every aspect of our daily lives, as is our lack of intellectualism. We dumb down television and radio programs to appeal to the lowest common denominator, we write articles using small words and many bullet points because viewers and readers won’t (or can’t) take the time to pay attention or understand. The topics we focus on and follow blindly are likely to be the intimate details of a celebrity’s private life, the foibles of the popular athletes, the excesses of the music stars, the sweeping statements of the politicians and pundits. We breed sycophants. People whose sense of self, knowledge of history, and understanding of ethics is underdeveloped or lacking altogether. This is fast becoming our new normal.

    It feels like sliding blindly down a hill to a fuzzy tomorrow and the voices raised in protest, in criticism or concern are immensely valuable. Online and offline. I love that your post urges readers not to follow blindly and encourages us to question. This same counsel holds true for every aspect of our lives today.

    With regard to sycophants in social media and the idols they worship. Sure there are slimy social media gurus out there selling snake oil and poaching the intellectual property of others. These types are found in every industry. It’s human nature and it sucks for the people who buy their schtick. And, we all benefit from those who expose their dishonesty and fraud.

    That there are people in social media who have generated immense followings and enjoy “A list” or rockstar status is undeniable. That these same social media gurus are doing nothing but building businesses based in self interest and profit is open to interpretation. As I stumble through my middle years I become more convinced that I project some of my own fears and suspicions onto others. I’m surprised to learn that what I have imagined is actually far from the truth. Not always. But often enough that I’m growing cautious making judgments. I also see things in shades of gray that once were clearly black and white. Right or wrong.

    The examples you present about the blog post ideas for sale? Doesn’t trouble me greatly. There are people who may find paying $9.97 a month to be a small price to pay if the service helps move them in the direction they want to go. I choose not to purchase that service in the same way that I choose not to purchase another social media consultant’s $10.00 per month review of new social media tools or a third social media expert’s $10.00 per month review of the best social media posts and articles. These people are people I respect and the products are probably well worth the money–for someone. I choose not to partake, someone else might find the value in having that information tied up in a neat package and delivered to their door. I don’t see any of these examples as unethical or the people who subscribe to them as being sycophants necessarily.

    The example of the “Blog Like An A Lister” sales letter? Don’t know the guy and don’t know his work but this one reads more like a hustle although a lot of online marketing materials read like this and some offer real value. Kudos to you for providing examples and writing a thought provoking post.

    I also appreciate the links to some of the really good free resources for bloggers and would-be bloggers. As so many new bloggers are finding, or will find, blogging successfully involves much more than a topic or catchy headline. I’m sure many of your readers will find benefit in having these links in one place and in taking advantage of the assistance available.

    There. Done. Thanks for making me thing–again and always. And if this were a thread in a forum I would have killed it by now. ;)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Allen. A very thoughtful comment.

      My only thoughts are that rarely does someone do wrong or perhaps take a questionable direction with conscious intent. Intentions are almost always good. But often intentions are based in things like needing to make more money, or I deserve to be paid for this. None of that is necessarily wrong. But it does point you towards self as a motive as opposed to others. It is in ourselves that we find self deception.

      In this case, I just believe social media is a free conversation. I believe that tips as basic as these should be free. And I back up my criticism with a free offering (the post following this one has 96 free blog topic ideas), as a point. I am not just complaining that it should not be this way, I backed my words with an alternative solutions, which will likely not get anywhere near the same traction, maybe 1/5 or 1/6th, but enough to make my points about the medium, community and value.

      • http://twitter.com/allenmireles Allen Mireles

        And I celebrate you for that extensive list of ideas, Geoff. I’ll share it as I shared the last post because both offer value.

        Your points about intent are well made. I find myself judging others for their intent and then, sometimes, finding my assumptions incorrect. I myself can’t say with any certainty what the intent behind these offers are but I think it is entirely valid to ask the question. And,I appreciate and share your idea that social media is a free conversation. However, I have learned that my opinion is one in a sea of thought and belief. I’m coming to terms with that slowly, lol. Again, your questions add value and your ideas kick out butts. Thanks.

        I’d love to enjoy what ever it is you have for breakfast in the morning though. How do you find the time to track down posts and references, work, parent a small one and write as extensivley and well as you do? *wondering*

        • Anonymous

          LOL, thanks. Well, a) I’m a writer. I write everyday, regardless of whether it’s a post or not, so I can’t help myself. b) I have ADD and c) I don’t watch TV.

  • http://www.theuniuni.com/ Payton_vege

    Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

  • Brian Black

    This really prevents me with connecting with anyone online. As one who has higher intelligence, and does not think of it as the single prime virtue of human beings, this makes it troublesome to try to share and exchange ideas; I receive most often personal attacks in return. I neuroscience there is some evidence for why this occurs, mainly the same reason devotion to religion comes often before its founding system of ideals and their consideration, but this is merely a collection of hypotheses at this point, the brain being complicated and all. I just dislike not being able to talk with anyone without mindlessly agreeing with them. It is troubling, this behavior makes an individual easy to manipulate, and when they inevitably are, watching is even more painful.

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