Justin Kownacki, a fellow blogchatter, posted a really interesting blog post today about Social Media Myths. Justin said something in a comment response to me that really got me thinking:
There’s a whiff of entitlement and a delusion of equality in some
social media conversations that I find detrimental to a more coherent
(and, ultimately, more beneficial) understanding of how social media
(or any other system) works. If a person can’t honestly evaluate his
or her own contributions, or tell the good (or relevant) apart from
the bad (or irrelevant), how can s/he expect to identify what needs to
See? Thought provoking. Here’s where my thinking took me.
On Libraries and 9/11
When I was pursuing my Masters in Library Science 10 years ago, the news seemed pretty darned bright. To listen to Library and Information Science professors was to hear that people would virtually beg for you to work for them once you got an MLS degree. Librarianship was generally speaking an aging profession. Tons of people were going to be retiring. There were going to be so many job openings it was actually going to become a serious problem.
Folks in the post 9/11 world met a very different reality. The money libraries used to get was now going to Homeland Security. People were still retiring, but those jobs were being merged with other existing jobs. Nobody was hiring new and inexperienced MLS grads. A lot of people who graduated around the same time I did felt deceived and betrayed. Some even accused their professors of lying.
A lot of the talk in the world of Social Media reminds me of my heady days in Library School (there’s a phrase you might not have heard before). Everywhere you look, including here in this blog, there are posts, articles, tweets, status updates, and more telling you how to gain 5,000 followers, 2 million “friends,” and a blog that will make sites like Mashable drool. All you have to do is 5 steps, or 3 steps, or 8 steps, or 2 steps. This information is out there because for somebody, those steps worked. Really well. But they won’t and can’t work for everyone. And that might cause some people to feel a little left out. Maybe even a little deceived.
Not everyone can be a superstar
One interesting thing about Justin’s post is that he pointed out a sad truth that you don’t hear a lot these days. Not everyone can attain the status of a Chris Brogan, a Seth Godin, a David Meerman Scott, a Mari Smith, a Denise Wakeman, or other marketing geniuses. This, indeed, might be difficult for some people to tolerate, and there are two reasons for it.
1) Marketing superstars like the aforementioned are accessible and willing to help, making one think that you might just be at that person’s level, or that that level is easily attainable
2) You might be doing all of the same things. You’re twittering, Blogging, answering questions on LinkedIn, promoting yourself but not too much. As Bill Murray says in What About Bob, “I’m doing the steps! I’m Baby Stepping!” In walking the same path as these superstars, it’s natural and easy to think that you will end up at the same superstar destination.
If you consider the millions of people who use Twitter, for example, and then count the number of superstars that come to mind who use Twitter, you will see that statistically, your chances of attaining the same status are rather small.
Being a superstar does not mean you’re a jerk
A lot of people have been kind of snipping at these leaders of the marketing world because they don’t follow many people, they don’t always comment back, or they seem to only reply to a select few. “They say they want to help but I can’t get nary a one to guest post on my blog.”
Ok, now it’s entirely possible that some people who have become successful actually are jerks, or pretend to be nice when really they are quite mean at heart. However, in my own personal experience, this is not the case. When I see Social Media or marketing superstars, I see the following:
1) They are being demanded not only in the places we see (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs) but also in places and in ways that we don’t see, like telephone calls, their full time jobs outside of connecting with everyone, speaking engagements, preparing for speaking engagements, etc.
2) They didn’t attain their status because they were easy to like. They all worked their butts off. We know them and of them because they are trying to teach everyone else how they did what they did. That, in and of itself, seems to tip the scale away from “mean,” but I could be wrong.
3) With such limited time, for every comment or reply that is made, there are likely dozens if not hundreds of others that get passed by. I worry about problems like that and my follower list on Twitter is like a pebble compared to Jupiter.
4) Superstars are, generally speaking, human beings. If you come at them with criticisms (or tons of buttkissing that is inauthentic) you will probably not succeed in communicating. All humans, no matter how successful, need a little give and take.
5) Sometimes superstars want to banter with friends and family online, and they might do that instead of bantering with someone they don’t know. Maybe that makes them a jerk. I generally think not.
What do you want to get out of Social Media?
If you’re engaged in Social Media because you are shooting to be the next superstar, you’re probably going to have a bad experience. If you’re looking to get famous or position yourself to write a New York Times best seller, you’re probably going to find yourself dumbfounded at your lack of success.
I am engaged in Social Media for 3 reasons. I want to learn. I want to share knowledge as I get it. I want to help people market their products, and I believe that I, with the company I work for, can help make that happen. I am not shooting for a specific number of followers or fans. I don’t need 27 comments per blog post. I don’t need to be a superstar, but I know I don’t want to be a jerk.
My realistic expectations, I hope, are that I can help someone work a problem, tell someone something they didn’t know that might help them out, and learn the same way from other people. To that end, based on my goals, I’m already quite content with where I am. And I have to say that I have never had a moment where I thought these geniuses we all talk about were jerky. In fact, I have found their kindness to be authentic, their knowledge to be rock solid, and their friendliness to be genuine.
I know that I will not be the next superstar, and I am quite fine with that. Are your expectations on a level with where you are in life? Are you shooting too high? Are you expecting too much? It’s difficult to become a superstar. It’s easy to become a jerk. We should all make sure we stay far away from the latter.