Social Media Stars Killed Social Media

The days of the social media rockstar are drawing to a close.

We’re starting to see the end of social media as a standalone, magical mysterious thing that we do — something every startup embraced, every small business resisted, and every corporation fled from in fear — and we’re seeing acceptance, and even love, from those who previously spurned it.

Amber Naslund’s recent post, The Begrudging Death of the Social Media Superstar, plus a recent Jay Baer podcast episode with Dorie Clark, has got me to thinking that the end is in sight.

Social media will no longer be a viable standalone career path.

In the last six years, I’ve seen positions like Director of Social Media Marketing, Online Community Manager, and even VP of Social Media created to take advantage of this growing communication phenomenon. (I will not dignify positions like Social Media Wizard/Ninja/Guru with any response greater than a sneer.)

But I think we’re going to see those positions pulled into their respective departments, and they’ll become part of the general rabble.

Everyone in marketing and PR is going to be expected to be good at social media, much in the same way you need to stop listing “Proficient at Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer” on your résumé.

History Is Repeating Itself

Olivetti Typewriters - these things went away when computers became widely adopted.It’s always interesting to see what happens to an entrenched communication channel or business method when a new upstart shows up.

Newspaper people panicked when radio showed up, and the radio folks were the stars of the day. Radio panicked when TV showed up, and the TV people were the stars of the day.

Newspapers, radio, and TV all laughed and laughed when the Internet showed up. Then they ran around, screaming like they were on fire when the Internet started playing songs, streaming TV, and posting classified ads.

In the business world:

  • people turned up their noses at computers in the 1980s, but now we no longer have typists, because everyone does their own typing.
  • The postal service got worried when telexes showed up. . .
  • . . . and those people freaked when fax machines showed up.
  • Fax manufacturers peed themselves when email became the main method of communication.

Every step along the way, the new people were the stars, until everyone calmed down, and they were absorbed into the general landscape.

That’s happening with social media.

The social media people have been rockstars, writing books in a whirlwind of publishing activity, speaking and attending conferences. The ones who were doing it first are now considered the godfathers and grand dames of the industry, and the upstarts aren’t finding any real room to shine. There are no unexplored frontiers.

It won’t happen right away. There are still plenty of companies that aren’t doing social media. Hell, depending on which stats you see, anywhere from 40 – 60% of companies don’t even have a website. That means there are still plenty of people who aren’t adopting the Internet, let alone all the cool stuff it can do.

But when PR and marketing agencies are folding social media into their day-to-day offerings, and not a special add-on, you know things are settling down.

Social Media Experts Were Too Good At Their Job

That’s because, thanks to the social media evangelists who preached the gospel of engagement and relationships, everyone started doing it. And we all got good at it.

Eventually the executives who made the decision to create social media departments are going to start wondering, “Even my kids are doing this now, what makes these people so special? Why do they get the rockstar treatment?”

And the decision will be made to fold social media back into the regular marketing department. Or PR. Customer Service. Sales. R&D.

This is good news for people who are already good at marketing, PR, customer service, sales, and R&D.

But if you’re not good at it, you’re going to have a problem.

If you were only good at using the tools — you were “good at Twitter,” “good at Facebook” — you’re going to have a hard time fitting into your new role. If you thought that social media was all about using the tools, you’re in for a shock.

You need to get good at something else too. You need to get better at the departments and functions you were supporting.

You’re going to have to redefine yourself as a content marketer, a marketing strategist, a PR practitioner, a customer service professional. Social media is only going to be a part of what you do, not the actual thing you do.

Just like writers don’t have to be “proficient at Microsoft Word,” being “good at social media” will not be enough.

Photo credit: eat more toast (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Is the Forbes Top 50 Social Media List Flawed?

If you made the Forbes Top 50 Social Media Influencers list, you’re generally regarded as being pretty hot stuff. The Top 50 have a lot of influence, are extremely knowledgeable, and are connected to tens of thousands of people in their various networks.

If you didn’t make the list, you can tell yourself you were #51, or just try harder next year.

This year’s list was compiled by Haydn Shaughnessy using a “Pull Report” from

There are also some basic criteria for involvement – experts must be creating their own content, and it has to be about social media. See more on the criteria here.

On the scoring, Peek Analytics gives people a score called Pull. If an individual has a Pull of 10x, that means that the audience the individual can reach is at least ten times greater than what the average social media user can reach.

Sounds pretty straightforward: if you’re a rockstar, you’ll be on the list.

Except it’s missing several notable names.

Jason Falls, Jay Baer, Chris Baggott

Seriously, these guys didn’t make the list? Jason Falls (l), Jay Baer, Chris Baggott (standing)

According to Judith Gotwald on Social Media Today (25 Social Media Influencers Forbes Ignored (And Why)), the Forbes list has snubbed a lot of pretty influential people, including several who were on last year’s list: Jay Baer, Jason Falls, Gini Dietrich, Charlene Li, Brian Solis, C.C. Chapman (Forbes did include his Content Rules co-author, Ann Handley), and even Mitch Joel.

Of course, Forbes does include some of the names you would expect: Mari Smith, Chris Brogan (but not his Trust Agents co-author Julien Smith), Liz Strauss, Jeff Bullas, Scott Stratten, and Dan Schawbel (disclosure: I write for Dan’s Personal Branding blog).

So what’s up? What happened to the names you would normally expect to see? Did Shaughnessy forget them? Did the non-Forbes people drop off on their Pull? Was PeekAnalytics having a bad day?

Admittedly, many names on both lists are names you expect to see year after year on a Top 50 or Top 100 list, but many of these missing names are glaring in their omission.

I’d like to see some better explanations for the list, and who did and didn’t make it, and why/how. I’d love to hear some of that “inside baseball” talk to explain how he went about determining who to measure, and who not to. How did he come up with the names to check? Is Pull based entirely on followers and reach, or is more like Klout, which could give a person with a very small following a high score because they the followers interact frequently? Or did Shaughnessy want to give some new people a shot at being on the Forbes Top 50? That’s admirable if it’s true, but then the list isn’t accurate or reflective.

It’s not that I’m suspicious of Forbes’ list, or will reject it out of hand, like it’s some partisan wing-nut website. It’s just that the exclusion of several noted social media experts is, well, eyebrow-raising, to say the least.

At the very least, Forbes’ list will be seen as problematic, which can be fixed with some basic explanations. At the worst, it’s a flawed list that is seriously lacking in its execution. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Social Media Certification Programs Are Worthless

Jeff Espo wrote a great post on why you shouldn’t fall for bullshit social media certifications.

As someone who has beaten the “there ARE social media experts” drum for the last few years, you’d think I would be all for them. After all, if you earn enough certifications, you win. You’re the expert.

The problem is, the social media industry is lacking several important criteria to make these certifications carry any impact:

  • There is no centralized authority. A certification means something if the entire industry is behind it. But social media is so fragmented, and no one can claim ownership of the industry voice. Until we have one, we can’t have a meaningful certification.
  • The granting organizations don’t have any credibility. Who is granting these things? In Espo’s post, he’s talking about the PR News giving a certification for people who attend four conferences. The PR industry can’t even measure their own efforts. How can they claim authority in someone else’s industry?
  • There is no standardized knowledge. We’re getting there, especially as more professional marketers and PR flaks adopt this as a channel. As they adapt and create more best practices, the knowledge will standardize. Until then, a lot of what is “best” is going to be based on opinion and personal experience.

But while these three issues exist, we can’t/won’t/shouldn’t accept a certification program that claims to declare people have amassed a certain body of knowledge. We can barely do this with college degrees. Otherwise, we wouldn’t favor degrees from certain colleges over others.

So avoid any programs that claim to certify you or grant you special status. Until then, these are just seminars that give you a piece of paper when they’re done.

What Malcolm Gladwell REALLY Said About The 10,000 Hour Rule

Too many times, people misquote Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule regarding being an expert.

“Malcolm Gladwell said you have to have 10000 hours in a subject to be an expert,” they will often state. The problem is, they’re repeating a misquote from someone else who has never read the book.

The 10,000 hour rule is from Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success (affiliate link), which if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

The problem is, Gladwell never said you needed 10,000 hours to be an expert, you need 10,000 hours to be a phenom. To be so freakishly awesome, to be such a standout among your peers, that sometimes your first name is enough to tell people who you are: Peyton. Tiger. Venus. Kobe. Oprah.

But in the meantime, here’s what Malcolm Gladwell said about the 10,000 hour rule and being an outlier:

“In fact, by the age of twenty, the elite performers (violinists) had each totaled ten thousand hours of practice.” — p. 38

“The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin. — p. 40

“To become a chess grandmaster also seems to take about ten years. (Only the legendary Bobby Fisher got to that elite level in less than that amount of time: it took him nine years.) And what’s ten years? Well, it’s roughly how long it takes to put in ten thousand hours of hard practice. Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.” — p. 41

So who is Gladwell talking about? Is he talking about the people who are merely “pretty good” or “very good” in their field? Is he talking about the Carson Palmer’s of the world? (Palmer is the QB for the Oakland Raiders. He’s good, but he’s no Peyton Manning.) Is he talking about the people who know enough about their subject to perform at a master’s level?

No, he’s talking about those surprising success stories who stand head and shoulders above the elite performers in their industry. That one guy who is way better than the 31 other “best quarterbacks in the country.” That one woman who fearsomely dominates all other female tennis players in the world.

“This is a book about outliers, about men and women who do things that are out of the ordinary. Over the course of the chapters ahead, I’m going to introduce you to one kind of outlier after another: to geniuses, business tycoons, rock stars, and software programmers. — p. 17

So, let me reiterate: an expert is someone who has a level of mastery about a special skill or knowledge in a particular field. They are not the freakishly good. The world class. The first-name-only celebrities. Those are the “outliers.” The “experts” are everyone else.

My point is, it doesn’t take 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert. It takes less than that. Don’t get me wrong, you have to know a lot about your field. You have to have spent thousands of hours doing it. But that’s not the 10,000 hour rule.

Sick of the Same Old Social Media Case Studies? Too Bad.

Are you tired of the same old social media case studies? The United Breaks Guitars, the Dell Hells, the @ComcastCares?

It’s a common complaint I hear from other social media marketers. We’re sick of people talking about these case studies all the time. We can recite them by heart, we’ve heard them so many times.

Siouxland Chamber of Commerce Social Media Luncheon 2011

Siouxland Chamber of Commerce Social Media Luncheon, November 2011

The social media mavens raise their voices to the rafters: “We’ve heard them over and over! Show me something new!”

Too bad. Do you know who hasn’t heard them?

Everyone else.

I remember when Jason Falls and I were writing No Bullshit Social Media, the question came up about whether we should include Dell Hell, United Breaks Guitars, and @ComcastCares.

“They’re old. Everyone has heard them,” was the objection.

“Our target readers haven’t heard them,” was the counter-argument. So we decided to leave them in.

A few months later, when I was speaking to a group in Sioux City, Iowa, I asked the 150 people in the room, “How many of you have heard of the United Breaks Guitars incident?” Out of the 150, fewer than 10 people raised their hands.

Chris Brogan and Josh Brolin

This is not the same dude.

We as social media marketers need to remember, not everyone uses social media. Not everyone follows it like we do. Not everyone has heard about the latest case study. Most people still confuse Chris Brogan and Josh Brolin.

While we may be tired of the same old case studies, sick to the teeth of list posts, and still roll our eyes (me included) at every “social media marketing secrets” post that tells us to use Twitter and completely fill out our LinkedIn profile, there’s a very important group of people who have never heard of this before.

Our potential clients.

Remember, while there may be over 383 million people around the world on Twitter, only 27% of them actively use Twitter. In the US, there are 107 million Twitter accounts — accounts, not active users — which is a little more than 1/3 of the country. Hypothetically, if only 27% are using Twitter actively, we’re looking at only 28.9 million people in the US using Twitter, or approximately 9.2% of the country.

In other words, nearly 90% of the country is not using Twitter. Not everyone uses YouTube. Only 40% of the US adult population has a smartphone. And only a small percentage of people are blogging. (Note: Twitter is NOT blogging.)

So while you may be sick to death of the same old case studies, the same old list posts, and the same old “social media secrets for beginners” articles, we’re still fighting an uphill battle. There are still plenty of people who still only think social media is for kids and is all about playing Farmville and Angry Birds. There are still people who don’t get “the Tweeter” and would never “want to hear about someone’s bathroom habits on FaceSpace.” There are still people who don’t understand that social media can be good for business, and that left unchecked, it can hammer your business like the fist of an angry god.

As long as there are clients who are still trying to understand why social media is important, it’s equally important that you be ready to share the stale, 7-year-old case studies with your clients. Bring out the new ones too, but don’t forget that if people feel like they share common knowledge (i.e. when two non-users get together and start talking about “that ‘United Breaks Guitars’ video”), it helps them feel smarter and more empowered to try it themselves. It may also scare the bejeezus out of them, and get them to start using it.

Arm your clients with the body of common knowledge. Go back to the same old case studies, keep using list posts (they always get the highest web traffic for me), and don’t assume everyone is carrying the latest mobile phone. It may feel remedial, but if you’re a social media professional, you need to fish where the fish are.

Search and Social: A Partnership for the Ages

Robbie Williams is an SEO Consultant at Slingshot, and wrote this guest post in exchange for a guest post I wrote for their website.

Robbie Williams

Robbie Williams. I love his version of 'Somewhere Beyond the Sea' from Finding Nemo

What grabs a social media guru’s attention faster than mentioning the term “social media guru?”

The answer: Providing data-driven ROI statistics for their industry and, better yet, doing it in conjunction with SEO.

Worked, didn’t it?

Now that I have your attention, I want you to dabble in my thoughts for a moment.

I’ve often pondered how a social media practitioner would address the topic of “Search and Social” as they are the two dominating powers on the Internet. Now I know. They turn to the SEO professionals to address it.

As we all know, the Google algo is one of mankind’s best kept secrets. So I’m not going to come out and tell you that I know anything in my industry to be a 100% fact — aside from what Google tells us directly (which often keeps me up at night). However, I can back up my opinions and observations with the experience of day-in, day-out SEO practice, where dealing with rankings for an array of keywords is my entire world.

Within this digital domain, I’ve had first-hand experience with the algorithm and how it responds to certain human signals; e.g., social signals. However, (drumroll please….) social signals alone have yet to produce an identifiable, data-proven effect on rankings in the majority of SERPs. So yes, given the access to the data streams of Twitter and Facebook, there has been a trace amount of evidence where social media has had a noticeable effect on rankings in certain keyword search queries.

Now, back to proving ROI for social media with search. We all know how powerful social media has become and it’s not unreasonable to think that Google doesn’t realize it too. As a matter of fact, it has attempted to gain access to the Twitter and Facebook “fire hoses” (the full feed of information behind their massive firewalls) but to no avail … yet. As soon as this happens, you better believe that social media is going to have a significant effect on rankings, and it’s only a matter of time.

***Disclaimer: As an SEO professional, I am required to mention the discussion Correlation vs. Causation when discussing this topic. So here it goes: a page/brand/keyword will typically have social cues surrounding it because it’s a good page/brand/keyword and it will rank accordingly because of this. The reverse is not true, a page/brand/keyword will not rank only because it has social. In the world of SEO, it’s never that simple.***

Imagine a graph illustrating the respective positions of traffic-driving, conversion-producing keywords in individual SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Now overlay it with another graph of social media activity that’s been strategically produced around the same SEO keywords.

What do you see? Positive correlation (not necessarily causation). Additionally, imagine a Google Analytics graph showing increased conversion, increased on-page time and click-through rates, as well as a decrease in user bounce rates for those same keywords and their associated pages, overlaid on top. (I’m drooling at the thought of this, I don’t know about you…)

Boom. professional search engine optimization company. Aside from work, he loves being outside; running, mountain biking, adventure racing, etc. Robbie’s current motto: If you keep life full, you never have time to worry about tomorrow.

10 Ways To Spot Bullshit In Social Media Vendors

My friend and writing partner for No Bullshit Social Media, Jason Falls, has an interesting take on what today’s social media hippies have in common with the early hippies of 1964.

In 1964, Beat Generation poet and newly-crowed author du jour Ken Kesey packed a merry band of friends into a van and led the group across the U.S. en route to the New York World’s Fair. Tripping on LSD most of the way, the Merry Pranksters sat out to enlighten America. Incredibly, though stopped by police on several occasions, according to a new documentary film about the journey called Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place, they were never arrested. Kesey’s friend Neal Cassady, who was the inspiration for Jack Kerouac’s On The Road protagonist Dean Moriarty, drove the bus and would fast talk his way around the law enforcement officers.

Remember, this wasn’t deep into the hippie era in the U.S. Some would argue this particular bus trip was the first real exposure to what hippies would become that much of America had ever seen. So when the police pulled the bus over, there wasn’t an automatic level of suspicion about pot or LSD or kids doing drugs. Besides, LSD was still legal then. The bus occupants were an eclectic bunch from California armed with movie cameras. “We’re making a movie,” was probably all the excuse Cassady needed to use to get around many unsuspecting law enforcement officers in that era.

Similarly, when social media’s early pioneers, only a few of whom I suspect of illegal drug use (joke), stood on their virtual pedestals and preached on and on about how the new world of marketing was all about conversation and engagement, many of us were razzle-dazzled by the potential of fulfilling the Cluetrain vision. Brands could become one again with the people. Perhaps even get on a bus, drink drug-laced Kool-Aid and enlighten the world.

While I didn’t live through the 60s, my parents were in the middle of it. Perhaps I am a direct result of them. Still, I wasn’t there. It’s hard for me to opine on what did or did not happen and why. But taking the pragmatists view that the grand bus trip that was the Beat and Hippie Generations was less about enlightenment and more about getting high, one can see the world of social media as less about enlightenment and more about playing online all day.

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit snarky.

Like the police officers duped by Kesey’s merry band of Beats, businesses from the initial inklings of social media’s priests and prophets until recently have failed to see through the bullshit. Engagement, conversation, listening … all well and good, but where’s the other half of the equation? Where’s the money? Where’s the revenue? Where’s the business?

Certainly, there are dozens of companies who have seen the light, or gotten lucky with the opportunities, and have recorded social media successes. The Dells and Southwest Airlines of the world are to be commended for early adoption and visionary activation. But the vast majority of businesses are better trained cops. They still see social media as bullshit.

If only someone could convince business owners, small and large, marketing managers and the like that when you add the word “marketing” to the phrase “social media” it is not only about conversation and engagement, but also about business, the industry could continue to grow, perhaps more rapidly. Erik Deckers and I have (humbly) tried just that with our upcoming book No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing . In it we recognize the genuine and genuinely accurate recommendations of the purists. But we also see through the fast-talk, smoke screen.

It’s not about playing online all day. It’s not a virtual commune where we all get enlightened. It can be a market. And goods and services can be bought and sold there. Companies are welcome, but if they play by the rules of the road, as it were.

For many of the puritanical themes, Erik and I spot the bullshit. In order to help you do the same with the consultants, agencies and experts you’re dealing with as you navigate the road of social media enlightenment, here are some warning signs you might have a bullshit artist at play:

10 Ways To Spot The Bullshit In Social Media Vendors

  1. It only takes them 15 seconds of the first answer to mention Twitter.
  2. They talk continually about “conversation” “listening” and “engagement” but never define what those are or what it means for your company to practice them.
  3. They fumble around, covering their tracks with ministerial-type rants about customer service when you ask them how social media can drive revenue.
  4. They talk about “the rules” of social media marketing.
  5. They only produce case studies everyone knows — Dell, Southwest Airlines, Comcast — and can’t cite local or small-business case studies readily.
  6. Their references don’t include businesses they’ve activated a social media strategy or tactic for.
  7. They talk of “building community” but focus the conversation on social networking software (Ning, Jive, etc.) rather than communications strategies that will foster community among your customers.
  8. When you ask about your website or search engine results they say neither have anything to do with social media.
  9. When you ask how they do market research they answer, “I use Google.”
  10. Just as you get to the desire to reduce customer acquisition cost, their eyes glaze over and the check their phone for messages.

We’re sure you have more ideas on how to spot the bullshit. The comments are yours.

For a free chapter of No Bullshit Social Media, jump over to the book website and download away! While you’re there, be sure to pre-order your copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million or Que Publishing.

And order a couple extra for those bullshit-sensitive friends and clients. We’d be honored if you did.

Your pre-orders should arrive in late September.