Monday, October 26, 2009
Social media needs fewer rockstars, and more rockstar ideas
Last week at the Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer, I was struck at how many amazingly deep and brilliant conversations I had with so many people. Well this is to be expected, you might say, when you spend a few days in the company of such social media smarties as Ann Handley, Beth Harte, David Armano, Jay Baer and Amber Naslund.
But here's the thing; most of those great conversations didn't happen with these people. In fact, they were with people that most of you probably haven't heard of. Heck I hadn't heard of many of them till I was introduced to them at the event.
And that's been gnawing at me for days. To be fair, this isn't unique to the Mixer, I noticed the same thing a couple of months ago at Social South, meeting and talking with people that have a 'low profile' in the social media space, yet being blown away by how smart they were. I kept asking myself 'why have I not heard of this person before now?'
I think/fear that the answer lies in how we determine the value of ideas in the social media space. I'm afraid that too many people are determining who is 'influential' based on how many followers/friends/readers they have. Which is a contributing factor, to be sure, but it's not the end-all-be-all for defining and recognizing people that put forth thoughtful ideas.
And what's worse, I think too many people are thinking if THEY don't have X number of readers/followers/friends, then they don't have the 'right' to share their ideas. That their ideas aren't worth sharing. I think when we call Chris Brogan a 'rockstar', I think some people will look at his 30K blog readers and 100K Twitter followers and think that means they must NOT be a rockstar, since they only have 500 readers and 200 Twitter followers.
If so, that's damn tragic. I've always said that the greatest thing about social media is that it gives everyone a voice. And I've always thought we do ourselves a disservice if we don't have the chance to hear as many voices as possible. This was a big reason why I started The Z-List three years ago, to help give deserving bloggers more exposure.
So how do we change this and bring more voices into the mix? I have some ideas, but definitely want to hear yours as well:
1 - Spend less time identifying the 'rockstars' and more time focusing on the great ideas. I am as guilty of this as anyone. I want to make sure that everyone knows how smart my friends are, but by labeling them 'rockstars', we are unintentionally ranking people. If David is a rockstar with 20K followers and 15K blog readers, the unintentional message may be that your ideas are less valuable if you only have a fraction of his followers/readers.
2 - Stop focusing on numbers to determine influence. I get why this happens. It's quick and easy, it's score-keeping. You can quickly compare your number of readers or followers or comments to someone else. But it isn't always (ever?) accurate. Is it an absolute that if I have more Twitter followers than you do that I am more influential there than you are? Or if you have more than I do, that you are more influential than I am? Of course not.
3 - Listen closely to new ideas from new voices, and magnify both when you hear them. So many of us complain about the 'fishbowl' mentality in the social media space. A great way to counter that is to bring new voices with fresh takes into this space. Introduce your network to someone they might not have heard of previously. Yes we all know who the 'rockstars' in this space are, so show us who's next.
The bottom line is that this space won't grow and reach its full potential unless we can continue to have fresh voices with fresh ideas being brought into the fold. If you want to be viewed as a 'rockstar' in this space, then IMO you have the responsibility to promote others more than yourself. You have the responsibility to see that the great ideas, no matter who has them, are brought to the top. And please, let your ideas stand on their own merits, don't think that they are less valuable than someone that has more friends or followers than you do. You've earned the right to be heard just as much as the rest of us have.
I say it's time we all got to work, what say you?
UPDATE: I've created a 'What's Next In Social Media' list on Twitter, a group of people that are really smart, that you might not be following yet. You can find it here -