Showing posts with label shel holtz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shel holtz. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 1

Embracing Silly: The Seriousness Of Social Media

social media guru meets sink guru
"My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go." — Hamlet (III, iii, 100-103)

When social media turns serious, it strikes me as silly. It doesn't mean there isn't any value in the communication being offered. Although sometimes, with furled brows and lessons to be taught, that is the way communication plays out as Matt Lawton reminded me yesterday.

"pls enlighten me, what is so 'silly' about the @shelholtz post It’s time for the anti-social media guru meme to die? I think u shld explain or it's rather rude." — Matt Lawton.

If you ever read his posterous blog, you'll occasionally find some funny stuff. Even on his Twitter profile, he shares to "learn and laugh." So, I played along, conveying the seriousness of the silly statement.

Really, Lawton's contribution doesn't matter so much. Shel Holtz had already contrasted my comment with one that called his post "great." Nay, I say, there is no contrast. There are as many valid points in his post as there are layers of silliness, including the notion that one can call for the death of a meme by adding to it, especially one as silly as the great guru debate has become.

Let's step back and focus on that for a moment. What's the big deal?

What's The Big Deal About The Social Media Guru Title Anyway?

As Holtz points out, when people attack the social media guru title, they are generally referring to those who have a propensity to use it — inexperienced folks with inflated egos, sleight-of-hand huskers, and whomever has a Twitter account in a room full of people who do not (they claim to be the resident experts of their little worlds).

Oh, and then there are those who are called a "social media guru" when they are introduced as Holtz says he has been. (Me too, for that matter, leaving me to make the point that I would never call myself a "guru" of anything, for a laugh.) And, of course, there are a few respected communicators who enjoy embracing the guru moniker (or, even more laughable, swami). Personally, they can call themselves lunch pail, for all I care.

However, perhaps along the way, they might enlighten themselves and appreciate that Westerners usurped these spiritual titles from the East. You do know that, right?

Originally, being a guru meant you were a Hindu or Sikh religious teacher and spiritual guide (although it is widely adopted in contemporary India with the universal meaning of the word "teacher"). The title was introduced in the West by some Eastern gurus and/or returning Westerners enlightened by the East and then was snapped up in the United States by the "New Age" movement in the 1970s.

The title "guru" quickly fell out of favor after several self-proclaimed gurus were discovered to be charlatans, cons, or even delusional. So why social media people ever thought to resurrect the soiled Western version of the word is beyond me. And now, in an attempt to be different, some want to usurp "swami" too, which perplexes me given that most Westerners would react to the title of "social media rabbi" or "social media pastor" or "social media priest" with alarmist disdain (unless they really are).

But as I said, this is no judgement of people. To each his own.

Mostly, I do think that some communicators have a distaste for "social media guru" as they do "anything guru," except as it was intended. Case in point, "plumbing guru" might score a few chuckles despite being better equipped to clear away darkness from your drain than a social media guru can light your way toward embracing social media.

"This being the case, just who are these anti-guru posts aimed at? It seems to me they’re mainly written by insecure practitioners trying to bolster their own egos and puffed-up prima donnas lording their superiority over their peers in the echo chamber." — Shel Holtz

Then what about those who pen anti anti-guru posts? Or this post, which I suppose is an anti anti anti-guru post? Can we take any of this seriously? I seriously hope not. There is no hypocrisy, except errant judgment about individuals as opposed to behaviors.

My world is much more simple. People are free to call themselves whatever they want. And, other people are free to respond to all those titles —  mavens, masters, experts, Jedi, rock stars, bards, ninjas, thinkerbells, poodle hoopers — as they feel fit. But, at the same time, if any of these folks were truly enlightened as they claim, they would already know titles are meaningless things.

I learned that long ago, and I am still grateful for the gift. People don't relate to titles, they relate to individual people.

Besides, some communicators need the freedom of pointing out the flawed behaviors from "social media gurus" or "public relations professionals" or "personal branding experts" or "pompous journalists" in order to sometimes avoid citing specific individuals as Holtz did. It doesn't hurt anyone because anyone employing one of the more comical titles with effect already knows that the audiences they attract don't come for random titles. They come to see a person.

So that's why I called the Holtz post silly (which is a far cry from calling Holtz silly for those who embraced diatribe so quickly and DMed me to ask how dare I rub against a guru). Because, the way I see it, if I didn't find his post silly, then it would be soap boxing. I hope not. Soap boxes are ugly, which is why I find this post amazingly silly too.

Except, maybe, for the very foundation of it. There are no rules. Write what you want. Just remember, however, if you choose to call yourself the "cardinal of copywriters," it's a moniker that rightly deserves a snicker or two. All hail, you too, guru.

Wednesday, February 24

Going For Gold: How To Win With Social Media

Social media experts, social network managers, and bloggers could learn something from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. There are 2,636 athletes from 76 countries competing in 15 sports, which have additional variations in form and technique. All of these athletes are different.

Each and everyone of them has a different attitude, approach, skill, technique, style, and degree of teamwork. And yet, they share a common bond in that they all represent the best of the best in winter sports. So does social media.

Every time I read a well-meant post about how social media should be approached, I cringe a little bit. Should doesn't really have a place in communication, let alone social media. In an environment where more than 69 million people might define social media as playing Farmville, who's to say what should or should not be done? Either it works or it doesn't.

Sure, there was significant back and forth when Forrester Research reset its analyst blogging policy. You can find one of the most comprehensive and thoughtful summations offered by Shel Holtz. However, while his conclusion may or may not line up with what works for Forrester Research (it's too soon to tell), his conclusion certainly doesn't work for social media. Here's why...

How To Win Online Like An Olympian.

Know Your Sport.

Can you imagine what might happen if figure skaters approached pairs like ice hockey? I doubt Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China would not have taken home the gold in figure skating pairs for a body check. I also doubt that Jarome Iginla of Canada dreams of a reverse rotational lift with Alex Ovechkin from Russia.

Social media is much like that. Different niches develop their own sense of the sport. Foodie bloggers and mommy bloggers are different from business bloggers and communication bloggers (though some blend the elements). Even in communication, there are variations. Advertising, public relations, marketing, social media, and communication education all approach social media differently (and the best of them tend to manage client social media efforts differently too).

Know Your Game.

Not everyone believed that Evan Lysacek from the United States could win gold without the all-important quadruple jump. He did. Lysacek edged out Yevgeni Plushenko from Russia with an overall routine featuring better jumps, spins, and footwork. Meanwhile, Daisuke Takahashi from Japan employed a much more playful style to win bronze.

Social media is much like that. Long format or short format, lists or no lists, personal or formal, pictures or no pictures, comments or no comments, video or no video — all of it is as diversified as various sports. What really matters is that any individual blog or online community excel at whatever sport it might be similar to.

Know Your Team.

In the Olympics, not every team is the same. It takes a different kind of team to be part of a four-man blobsled than it does to play hockey. Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue had to consider each other's strengths to win gold in figure skating pairs. Shaun White didn't have any partner limitations in landing a gravity-defying double McTwist 1260 in snowboarding.

Social media is much like that. One of the things that Forrester Research did was reconsider how it views the team. Holtz doesn't have any such limitation. He is an all star, even when he plays for a team. Seth Godin has a different style too, one that is much more independent and isolated. Yet, it works for the people who read his books and blog.

Know What Matters.

Apolo Anton Ohno is one of the most popular Olympians on Twitter, with almost six times the followers of Lysacek. Does that mean Lysacek might consider giving up his gold medal figure skating success in favor of the short track? Does it mean he is less of an Olympian?

That would be silly to think so. And yet, it's not so silly to some people in social media who adopt a prevailing thought among communication bloggers. Some are torn between being more conversational or controversial because their colleagues seem more popular. The truth is that their comparison neglects that they might be in a different sport with a different style and a different team approach.

When bloggers align themselves with what the most popular people are doing based on perceived success, they've lost. In most cases, with some exceptions, the most popular reach a perceived success by knowing what sport, game, and team approach they want to take. And then, they play it perfectly.

Sure, some copycats can duplicate what those who came before them did. (It's very simple to do in social media circles, if all you care about is numbers.) But they will never quite measure up with compelling ideas because they are trying to be something they are not. So, popularity aside, maybe people ought to do what works for them or their organizations.

After all, the best sky jumpers don't dream of being figure skaters, they set their sights on being the best jumpers that they can be. How about you? Do you feel a disconnect with the sport you chose because it's less popular, flashy, or self-reliant? Don't be. Just be the best you can be. Or, if you're working in social media for an organization, make it the best it can be.

This is how I've come to view the Forrester Research policy change and the conversation that lingers on. Forrester Research is trying to be the best it can be.

And when you look at the Forrester Research case without the emotive buzz of taking something away from all-star analysts, then you realize Forrester didn't change sports. What it changed was the team approach and style of play.

Instead of picking star players from NHL teams, Forrester wants to play like the Herb Brooks' 1980 Miracle team. Does it matter? It doesn't matter if they continue to score shots for their clients. Conversely, it might matter if individual players feel less empowered to take opportunity shots that still score for the team. Time will tell.

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Monday, September 3

Staking Claims: Social Media Borg

The most humorous aspect of staking claims in social media recently came to me from a post made by Jeremy Langhans at It was a sum up of a Pete Cashmore quip about Facebook.

“In light of recent controversies over who exactly invented Facebook, I think now is the time to come clean: I did. Not Mark Zuckerberg, not the ConnectU folks and certainly not the latest claimant to the idea: Aaron Greenspan … I was considering a way to include high school or college photographs in a printed book, and came up with a concept I called Faces Book.”

I saw it again at Geoff Livingston’s Now Is Gone blog as Steven E. Streight attempted to set our discussion — when flogs might work and when they might not — straight. The statements rang loudly, perhaps with a hint of seriousness.

“The core values of blogging, as set by the early bloggers from 1992 to 2004, include Transparency, Authenticity, Passion, Integrity … CEOs and others can have pro writers polish up their blog posts, or suggest topics, even write a few sample posts to get them going … The peer to peer recommendation system of the Trust Web will fall apart when fake blogs, phony Twitter accounts, and PayPerPost type blog whoring invade our realm.”

In other words, sorry but that ground was covered. Please refer to the social media rulebook that it is littered about the Internet in random posts and discussions and cite the appropriate sources.

WARNING. New discussion is futile. You must assimilate.

And yet again by Shel Holtz when he shared his bad pitch experience. Don’t get me wrong, it was a pretty awful pitch from the Washington D.C.-based Adfero Group. It began “I wanted to let you know about an innovative new PR tactic that the readers of the “Shel Holz” blog might find interesting.” (Their misspelling, not mine.)

But then, even Holtz digresses a bit into borg speak while discussing what the Adfero Group calls a new PR tactic: “Funny. That sounds just like the social media press release format I’ve been touting for, what, a year? The same concept that has a home on the web and a working group. It was introduced by SHIFT Communications well over a year ago in response to an appeal by journalist Tom Foremski.”

Yeah, I remember that. I called it a buffet template, meaning no offense to Todd Defren. As I pointed out then, at least Defren had the good sense to do something when everyone else was dragging their respective professional heels. But back then, credit was less important than building upon the social media framework so more people would take it seriously. But now that we have established social media as viable communication tool, and some newcomers are starting to make their own paths, times have changed. Didn’t you get the memo?

WARNING. New tactics are futile. You must assimilate.

Humility. That is one term that the early adapters forget to include in the core values drafted in 1992 to 2004. As professional communicators or others shaping social media, we might remember that much of our early work will go unnoticed by the greater body of people who will eventually employ it in some fashion.

What do I mean? Well, as much as Holtz seemed to chastise the Adfero Group for not knowing the history of social media before making wild claims (and they were wild), nowhere on Holtz’s blog will you find any reference to Jorn Barger or Brian Redman, who were among the earliest bloggers.

For that matter, maybe I should lay some early claim too. I had a daily news update in the 1990s to augment a bi-monthly print and online publication. Does that count too? Technically speaking, minus comments, it was a blog. Or maybe my regular forum postings on AOL before that, as AOL was one of the first social networks (despite everyone claiming social networks are somehow new). No, I'm not that presumptuous. Besides, I have better ideas to hang my hat on.

Funny. There always seems to be predecessors to the predecessors and we all might be well served to remember that. In fact, sometimes similar ideas come from different places with the originator having no knowledge of what the others might be doing. Sometimes they are borrowed upon and made better. Sometimes borrowers give credit. Sometimes they do not. Sometimes they don't even know to do it.

Usually, but not always, the only reason early concepts are stolen away is because the original idea didn’t stick well enough to hold. But that’s the price of progress. I’m so sorry, but nobody really owns social media or the concepts that are being tried and tested here. Much like some caveman’s family isn’t getting paid royalties for the invention and application of the wheel.

To be clear, I’m not against Zuckerberg, Greenspan, Streight, or Holtz reminding us that little pieces of this and that were developed by others first. That’s admirable.

What I am less comfortable with is beating down new ideas and discussions for want of territorial superiority and forced assimilation. When the collective starts doing that, maybe it's time to remember that there is a whole big world out there beyond the insulated cube one can create online. Or, in other words, social media experts invited the world to participate; don't be disappointed if they accept the invitation as explorers and not as loyal subjects.


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