Fear and Loathing in the Social Media Space: An Observation

How many times have you read a blog post from some social media marketing consultant about how the industry has become overrun with false prophets and phonies? How the current fast track to social media success is more about creating perception than producing results? How the path of the righteous social media man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men?

A few times, yes?

Now, how many times has said post actually named a particular person? Identified by name the object of their scorn and/or frustration?

Not too often.

This past week, I came across yet another such post titled "Is it time to embrace the social media faker?" by Matt Ridings, a popular internet marketing consultant. In the post, he calls out the authenticity of "this guy" (and “others like him”) in the social media business scene whose garnered quite the online reputation but, in the opinion of Mr. Ridings, “tweets nothing unique”, “writes nothing original” and seems “more concerned about image than reality”. Fighting words for sure.

Unfortunately, at least for me, this nefarious person’s name is never mentioned in the post. Why?

Now, I don’t know Mr. Ridings personally but I’ll hazard a guess that he didn’t want to shit where he sleeps; divide the so-called “leadership” of the social media world and have people choose sides. Perhaps, he’s concerned that he’ll be excommunicated from the social media fraternity; cast out like the leper. Maybe he just feels it ain’t nice to call people out publicly.

Then why write the post?

Sure it’ll get you plenty of, “I totally agree with you!” comments but is it really effective in creating change? If there's this level of frustration in the social media space with who’s a real expert, a perceived expert, or a poseur (and it has existed for quite some time now), how the heck is anything supposed to change if these frustrated people don't start not only identifying those who frustrate them but, more importantly, explaining why?

Without the name, it’s merely sound and fury signifying nothing. Barking without the bite. Blog fodder.

George Christakis PHOTOGRAPHY

It's really not a matter of whether Mr. Ridings is right or wrong in his observations about "this guy" but at least it presents an opposing viewpoint; another perspective for folks to consider. I mean, a large percentage of people on the social media space are just sheep and/or stupid; you just have to show up with 100,000+ twitter followers and many of them will follow you like the rats enchanted by the sweet melody of the Pied Piper.

Most of them won’t bother checking your past history, real work experience or credentials anyway. Heck, if you’ve got that many twitter followers, you’ve gotta be pretty dang smart!

One-eyed Jacks is what they are - why not show the sheep the other side of the card?

We have no problem publicly expressing our views and engaging in healthy (and heated) debates on politics, religion, gun control, immigration, etc - but when it comes to social media, it appears it's better to stay shut and keep your social media club membership than to speak out against the practices of an industry whose credibility has fallen just short of used car sales. And guess what? It's the fault of its own "leadership" that it has become so.

Again, it ain’t about who's right and who's wrong – it’s about giving people something else to consider.

Maybe one of the sheep will say, “Gee, I never thought of that” or “Wow, why didn’t that guy ever disclose that?” or “Boy, I’m glad Mr. Ridings pointed that out about how that guy handles his business – I’m gonna go find someone else to follow and this time, I’m gonna do my homework!”

"Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" John 9:25

George Christakis photography

Ridings, when asked in the comments section of his post why he didn’t name a name, defended the point of his post as merely “that internal struggle with my dislike for something I find distasteful with the objective point of view that perhaps it can sometimes drive positive change.”

You wanna really drive positive change? Start naming names. It may make for an awkward situation if you and the person you call out are both attending the same social media conference but if you’re gonna take issue with how a person handles their business then give them a smile and a bro-hug at SXSW or Blogworld, then you’re a just a hypocrite anyway, right? Why not just draw a line in the sand and choose your side?

{But Dan, many of these social media "A-listers" are used to having their egos stroked by their following - they're a bunch of thin-skinned cry-babies who take the slightest disagreement with their ideology as a personal attack and sic their zombies on you, call you a "hater", say that you're just "jealous", "trying to make a name for yourself", mock you to their followers (Guy Kawasaki, anyone?) or even ban you from ever commenting on their blog again!}

So what?

If these people are gonna proclaim themselves as experts by merely regurgitating the words of Dale Carnegie, Jim Rohn, and Stephen Covey; label themselves as "thought leaders" by introducing fantastic ideologies that are totally disconnected from reality, and write "How To" business books despite never having held an executive position in any company AND PUT IT OUT THERE FOR THE WHOLE DANG WORLD TO SEE - shouldn't we be able to challenge its validity? Yes. Yes we should.

If not, then keep silent and simply repeat to yourself over and over again the words of Hyman Roth to Michael Corleone in “The Godfather II”, “This is the business we’ve chosen" - and then go write a post about Klout or something.

People love those, too.

Now, where's my "Serpico" dvd?

[Photographs by George Christakis]

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