Last weekend, I had the immense privilege of getting to meet Stanford Smith (aka @pushingsocial) in person. One of the things we talked about was the fact that Twitter seems to be undergoing some substantial changes and perhaps some segmentation. We view ourselves as in the same niche – people who are still fairly new to the world of blogging and Twittering, but not so new that we can’t look back at how we were when we first started and see progress. We are also noticing our drive to help people who are new to this world, to let them know that we’ve been there and that there is a reason to keep on trying.
Folks like Stan, Dawn Westerberg (@DWesterberg), and many other folks I talk to and consider friends in addition to peers share with me a deep respect for people that have made this game. People like Chris Brogan, Jay Baer, Guy Kawasaki, Mari Smith, Lisa Barone, Julia Roy – all of these people made the building that we’re all working in. MarketingProfs was offering webinars on Twitter when I was still thinking, “What in the heck is the big deal about Facebook?” All of these people have taken the opportunity not just to build something, but to send out what they’ve learned and what has worked. For that, speaking for myself, I will always be eternally grateful.
Times change, and so do circumstances
I am reading Scott Stratten’s UnMarketing right now. He talks about the fact that when he was getting involved in Twitter around 2008, he started building his Twitter community first, then brought that community to his blog. I discussed that point with Stan last week. I said, “Man, if I had tried that, I would probably have given up by now.” If I hadn’t been generating blog posts to show that I really did know how to talk like a human, I don’t think the folks that followed me on Twitter during my early days would have found any value in sticking with me at all. They could read other peoples’ posts just as well as I could, and with one less click.
I haven’t heard a lot of Old West tales about what Twitter was like when it was first beginning to grow. I don’t know what the pioneer stories of today’s biggest influencers are (though I’m sure they’re out there). But I suspect that for various reasons, they did not suffer the same level of frustration in breaking through that folks like Stan, Dawn and I did. Why? Maybe in the past, people brought their reputation to Social Media instead of trying to build a reputation using Social Media. Maybe just being on a new and innovative site was enough to get you noticed. I’m not really sure. I’d love input on that.
For me, as I’ve mentioned before, getting my blog going, getting my Twitter account going – was and remains tough. It’s 24/7 hard work. It’s endless time, and for many MONTHS, that’s months with a capital MONTHS, it was beyond discouraging.
The New World
For the pioneers who first settled Plymouth, the tasks that were ahead were daunting. As those people came to see their grandchildren and maybe their great-grandchildren in that new world, the ease with which some tasks were completed must have been astonishing. At the same time, though, those young generations knew that they would never be the ones who had risked everything to sail to the other side of the world. They had not reached out and then killed Native Americans (well, sorry, but that’s our history). They had not actually made a settlement where once there had been nothing. As much as they accomplished, they were always building on what those who had come before had done. Did that mean their progress wasn’t as valuable?
No matter how long I work on this, there will always be a crowd of people who have been working on it longer. No matter how good I get at this, there will always be people who were miles ahead of me when I was just getting started. So it is with most things in life, but because Social Media is so young and yet is changing so rapidly, I think this could have interesting ramifications for both the pioneers and the new generations.
While I note that fact, I also note that there are people who are starting Twitter right now, today. They might look at their 37 followers compared to my followers or Stan’s or Dawn’s and just think, “Man, this game is fixed. I can never get there.” They may not realize that we felt that exact same level of frustration and even despair!
A new path off to the side
When the folks that Stan and Dawn and I look up to and respect got started, there was not another Twitter generation that they were trying to network with. They were the ones getting it started. Now, for the first time, there are people who want to actually put the words and work of all of those folks into practice by helping people who are newer still. This is not to say that folks like Chris Brogan, Ann Handley, Jay Baer, and so many others are not helpful. I can honestly tell you that without support from those folks and more, I also would have given up many many months ago.
For me, in my own experience, I feel that I am in a place that hasn’t existed before in the use of Social Media. I am not one of the pioneers. I am around when the pioneers are still strong and awesome, but also maybe seemingly out of reach to some of the new folks coming up now. I feel like maybe I can help people who are struggling or who are trying to get started because I can point to the experts while also relating my own experience, which may be a bit more accessible to a newer crowd. I am still a student. I am not an expert. I am not in the crowd of people who are up in the highest room of the tallest tower.
I don’t think there will ever come a time when someone will get 1,000 hits to their blog because I mention one of their posts. I don’t think there will come a time when I mention a website and the site’s server goes down. I’m not sure folks coming up with me, now, can ever achieve the kind of pull and influence that the leaders in this space have now. Or if we do, it will be through a very different pathway. But I do think that the opportunity before me right now is exciting, if folks are open to it. To be able to talk with sympathy and memory about getting started in this space, where there are real experts and thousands of people who call themselves experts for no apparent reason…that gets me psyched, man.
I don’t think there can be a new wave of influencers like we have now. But if I can do for others what those people have done for me, even remotely – I will be among the more content people in the world. That is what I am hoping to accomplish in this space.
1st Image by Justyna Furmanczyk. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/just4you
2nd Image by Christian Johnson. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/xianstudio