Arment Dietrich

Five Signs A Social Media Star’s Reputation Is Spin

By: Arment Dietrich | September 22, 2010 | 

Guest post by Liz Strauss, founder of SOBCon.

The social business space has made me many lifelong friends. Standup humans who I would stake a claim for, people who know business, strategy, and the unique art of relating to humans as humans. Yet as I move through the social space, I’ve watched a few stars lose sight of the relationships they’ve made. In these few cases, the social media star’s reputation is now spin.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have problem with the idea that larger audiences and bigger contracts require folks to scale. I get one person’s bandwidth can’t stretch beyond 24 hours in a day. But a conversation is happening I’ve not really seen discussed much in the open. It has to do with people who no longer live their message.

If you want to know how to recognize a social media star whose reputation has turned into spin, just look for these signs:

He talks more than he listens. He’s the one who is ready to tell you what the big brand should do before he’s even heard what the big brand might already be doing. He has answer before you have a question.

True social stars listen more than talk. They come with a beginner’s mind, asking questions, reaching out to learn, even when they’re at the top of their game. They realize that getting and staying close to the people they meet will always be a strength that underpins the value and credibility of what they do.

She only shows up to speak and sign autographs. She used to attend social media events to have meetings and to get to know the people who follow her. Now she comes in to speak and leaves within the same hour.

True social stars might have a day or a commitment that taxes their time now and then, but they’ve learned not to spread their bandwidth too thin. They understand that showing up and being social is part of the job description. They see it as sign of respect for their audience and as a way of giving back. They build that time into their calendars, rather than schedule it out.

He’s forgotten to read his own book. Choose your own example.

True social stars live their message. They walk their talk.

She doesn’t keep her word. She’s mastered the art of offering excuses to bail on things she doesn’t want to do better than a college kid who has used the “my grandmother died” excuse more times than a person has grandmothers.

True social stars go out of their way to keep promises and are known for that. They would never risk playing sick or telling an untruth. They value their word and their name.

He expects the world to revolve around him. He expects you to rearrange your conference to suit his needs. He wants an entire company event to be moved to fit his schedule. He’ll only eat green M&Ms.

True social stars “get” that the more we make the world about other people, the better perspective we have. They know that it’s difficult to get a complete view standing in the center of things. They consider how their actions affect other people.

It’s true everyone has their moments, and we all get it wrong now and then. This is not about that. It’s about unsocial behavior from someone who used to know better and has lost sight of that.

In other businesses, these might pass as ego. Some folks might even think that they’re perks earned from hard work. What? Any true star knows that you never forget your fans. Social means being authentically human, and caring about other humans is important to being successful at that.

Anything less and the reputation is spin.

Let’s applaud the true social stars when we see them shine.

Liz Strauss of is a brand strategist and community builder for corporations, small business, and service professionals. She is founder of SOBCon, a social business workshop that grew out of her website

  • Angela


  • This is an excellent post. I often worry about the fact that social media seems to create celebrities, when in fact, that’s not what it’s about (I don’t think so, anyway.) I fear we’re losing perspective that it’s about helping people relate to one another.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  • In my opinion, the concepts of “star”, “guru” or anything similar are contradictory with the essence of social media.

    For centuries, we depended on someone to guide us: gods, kings, presidents, and now stars.

    I think we are mature enough to be able to decide on our own and stop following what others are doing (which is exactly what happens nowadays)

    Social media does not need stars – i, as a social media user, need relevant information, interactions with people i share something with, but i don’t need examples to follow. I can get all this from many people, most the them strangers, but none of them a star.

  • Gabriel,
    I love that you use the word mature. I think that’s the core of the issue. Those who’ve been there understand that it’s about connecting people to people and making business happen … not about who’s in the center of things now.

    I really admire the people who keep their eyes on what’s real and lasting too.

  • Ooh, I like this post, Liz. Well done.

  • WOW! I have been thinking this same thing a lot lately. There have been quite a few of these “stars” that I have un-followed lately for this types of things.

    I used to gain a great wealth of info from these folks, but lately its more celebrity type stuff.

    I am no social media expert, but what I enjoy is listening, learning, sharing, developing relationships….not being part of personal horn-tooting!

    Great Post!

  • Hey Jim and Jennifer!
    I hear you both. It’s a story of when signal starts to become noise. heh heh

  • I think the nature of social media is in total opposition to any kind of “star factory”. Yet we see that happen so very much.

    The very existence of “stars” tells me that far too many people are more enamored with things like technology and success and not nearly enough with what those very things exist for – interaction between people that fills the spaces inbetween and forms communities.

    I think we’re all better off forgetting about “stars” and having a great time learning from the people all around us! Anything else simply seems to have missed the most important point, IMHO.

  • Ah, Liz, and this is why I love you so. 🙂

    My favourite example?

    “He’s forgotten to read his own book. Choose your own example.

    True social stars live their message. They walk their talk.”

    I know at least two SM heavyweights that have taken the equivalent of a complete U-turn on all they preached prior to their books coming out.

    Another reason I unconnected with them. The sad thing is, so many people are still falling for their bullcrap.

    Thanks for a healthy reminder. 🙂

  • Liz, Will totally link back to this. I am with Danny on the favorite example, it’s faking it. Preaching without practice, telling folks to be authentic, yet sending nothing but canned auto-tweets to your own blog; hyping connections and comments, yet rarely replying to comments or sharing on other blogs.

    I’ll add: he or she tells you your business MUST be in social media. Or maybe that’s just a sign of a bad expert? FWIW.

  • Good thoughts here. It’s amazing when you go to conventions, workshops, seminars, book tours, etc. how quick it can be to spot the difference. I think that’s one reason it’s so important to balance the in-person with the online. It keeps you real.

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  • Hi Liz. If I had written this, I would have been a little nervous about being too specific as to what falling stars may have done to reveal to us folks in the cheap seats the falling they’ve done. That said, did you have any anxiety as your mouse hovered over the submit button? More generally, is there a trend you’re seeing that compelled this post? I began to wonder as I read if we weren’t at a point in social media’s infancy where the first batch of gurus have been retiring their own jersey numbers ala a hall of fame sort of thing. I’m a newbie for certain – particularly concerning my visible presence among the social networking fray. But as I’ve enjoy these first few laps, I’ve also observed that there does appear to be an evolutionary progression like in virtually any ecology, I I suppose I’m taking the long way here to ask if you believe there is a larger process underway whereby the old are making idols of themselves by virtue of how long they’ve been well, doing laps.

    • Hi Scott,
      No falling stars. I’m just an astronomer who likes watching human behavior. I’m not so worried that anyone will respond negatively. I’ve my share of mistake making in my life and I’m happy to own every minute of it. It’s how I recognize when I’m about to do it again.

      Of course the early community is evolving. It was destined to change when the companies came because we were no longer a group of individuals picking up a culture, but now cultures entering and trying to pick up the tools in a new way. We’re affecting each other.

      It’s good to be able to make a name and claim it. It’s awesome to build a company on principles, ideals, and methods that work. However, when the world starts revolving around a single person, the universe starts to swing out of balance. 🙂

  • Erik,
    I see nothing wrong in admiring the folks who teach how to build strong businesses and deeper communities. What bothers me is those who started out “social” and have lost their leaning to be learning from others too. The definition of authenticity is not letting other folks opinion sway who you are. heh heh

  • Danny and Davina,
    The unique and new thing about social media that makes it harder that before is that we make relationships with real people. We can’t just set those aside when we get more to do. Our social relationships aren’t those of a company they are those of the person who made them. When someone says she can’t fulfill a commitment because another juicier one has come her way and she gives a bogus reason … I don’t mind the growth in her career opportunities, I mind that she’s not a person enough to tell me the truth like decent human who values me.

    • Amen to that, Liz. It’s been interesting to see how people’s true characters comes through after a while – you can’t fake sincerity forever…

      • The generous spirits stay generous, don’t they? The not so generous have trouble seeming that way after a while. 🙂

  • Hi Tiffany,
    Yeah, the best thing we can do is surround ourselves with really good people who see right through us and who don’t take us overly seriously. eh?

  • Maya Angelou said when someone shows you who they are, believe them.

  • Liz, reminds me how Entertainment Weekly film critic Owen Gleiberman recently described Joaquin Phoenix, “He’s become the kind of convoluted narcissist who flogs his sincerity until it becomes a twisted form of phoniness.”

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  • As I’ve come to know this strange world of social media demi-gods and goddesses I have been struck by the lack of leadership displayed by the “A-Listers.” Perhaps another way to characterize the maturity issue. Many of these people still act like kids and have not stepped up to use their bully pulpit as a way to lead and set an example.

    • Leadership calls for maturity. Yep. And those that have it do shine. 🙂

    • That’s partially because many of the gods and goddesses have never been on the merry-go-round before. Haven’t run a business, made a payroll, experienced failure, etc.

  • Expecting the world to revolve around you is not necessarily a bad thing; it may merely be a sign of insecurity.

    • I’m not sure I understand. I can see how insecurity can lead to that sort of world view. And I certainly understand how self-consciousness can cause it, but I still think it skews perspective.

  • Bill Kelley

    Very on point blog. Business has always been as trendy as pop psychology. Combine that with shorter attention spans and you have a new breed of self-proclaimed gurus with “the answer.” As if one size really could fit all.

    Some people seize on a formulaic solution and make it their “brand.” When they do that, they can no longer engage because they may be exposed to exceptions.

    Or, put in the colloquial: when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

    • Hi Bill,
      We all enjoy some attention when we do a good job. I know I do. But the hammer isn’t more important than people who live in the house that it builds. To me, that’s the key to this new social business culture. I do think it scales in the way we behave one-on-one even if we don’t talk to so many so much. 🙂

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  • This post is a great warning shot over the bow of those who should be called out for forgetting where they came from. There is nothing wrong with becoming successful and famous for what one has contributed. Those who remember where they came from and continue to contribute value will be the ones who are remembered. The others will be forgotten when they are seen for what they really are. Thanks for the conversation; I think it reminds us to stay humble and focused, and not let our egos take over in the pursuit of short-term success.

    • Hi Roy,
      I’m not yet convinced that’s consciously ego. Sometimes when we work so hard to achieve something we get to feeling that we deserve a reward of some sort — I went through a phase once where I thought as much … I wasn’t very grateful to the folks who helped me. I was totally clueless that I was thinking the world was all about me and my contributions at the time.

  • The foundation here is the concept of Star. It’s wrong for this medium. It is a definition better applied to an era of gate keepers and “Star makers” You know like the early Hollywood studio days.

    Social media is not and should not be a hierarchy, it’s a web remember. it’s not a ladder. We however are making it a ladder. The quantification of individuals, largely to meet the needs of corporations to justify their investment in social media agencies and personnel, is naturally creating “star” status.

    Human nature too contributes to a Star culture. In the quest to fit in, we lost part of our own identity. I submit you don’t need to do that in social media. As we grow as a society of social media participants, we’ll hopefully, spend less time on the status and more time on the content.

    • Albert,
      Your thoughtfulness shows through in this comment. Which is why I so enjoy talking with you every chance I get.

      I predict things will even out once the “space-time continuum” of social media seems more natural to the length of time people spend learning other skill sets in business. Then what we do will make more sense to the folks who want to learn from, hire, and collaborate with us.

  • Hi, Liz. No. 2 is my favorite — only showing up to speak. Had the privilege to chat with some college students at the University of Missouri last night and one of the points we discussed is how you can never network enough.

    That said, I could see some people saying it’s just a time issue. Too much going on. Advice on how to regularly work in those networking opportunities? What’s a good balance in your opinion?


    • Hi Justin,
      When I’m asked to speak, if I can I want to be there to understand the audience long before I stand up in front of them. It seems like a part of the job. I get that sometimes obligations make that hard and that people often ask folks to speak for nothing … then I have to balance what I find of value in the relationships in the room.

      Ironically, I’ve found the most valuable work relationships in my life usually come to fruition two to three years after I’ve met someone. 🙂

  • Liz, this was a great post and a fantastic reminder for me that the reason I engage in this community is to learn from others and share what I know with people that could benefit from it.

    We have an opportunity to use these tools to provide value to others and make a difference in the communities we live in. Everyone now can have a voice. Whether or not we are heard depends on how we use it.

    P.S. Hi Gini!

    • Yeah, Patrick,
      I love what you say here.

      Everyone now can have a voice. Credibility is when actions match the words.

  • Awesome post- I wonder how many of the people who have jumped the social media shark really only intended to use social media as a means to fame and fortune in the first place?

    • Marc,
      I’m not sure any of us knew the power of this genre or even know it now. But I’ve never been a one to worry about folks who game the system … I find them irrelevant. heh heh

  • Leadership in social media is not unlike any other kind of leadership, it takes integrity, integration of beliefs and values, and the continuing of inspiration by example to help followers be their best selves and to encourage those qualities we want the arena to secure. Too often our SM leaders forget the very thing they are trying to lead…social interaction and community development of a place where individual voices matter.. Sadly, their influence often becomes overly “celebrity” driven instead of people empowering.

    • Sweetie,
      Yes and no,
      I find that the people of quality are only influences by the influencers of quality. Don’t you?

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  • Liz, thank you for this post! I especially like your first point – “True social stars listen more than talk. They come with a beginner’s mind, asking questions, reaching out to learn, even when they’re at the top of their game.”
    If we could all take a “beginner’s mind” when working with businesses on their social strategy we wouldn’t see so many tactical flops. I would go as far to say that humility may be one of the least discussed and credited traits of a “social star”…no?
    I admire your wisdom in this space and hope others take to heart the conversation you’ve started here. Thank you!

    • Hi Matt,
      For all of the times that our parents and teachers told us to do our homework, we still have to learn the value of that for ourselves. eh?

  • As a newcomer to the scene, and to the conversation ‘so to speak’ I have quickly observed who is sincere and genuous and who… well, puts their money where their mouth is. I will be a loyal friend, follower and supporter, forever – to a number of people whom I recognized quickly as the ‘real deal’.

    I could list here those I recognized immediately as NOT the ‘real deal’ in fact, quite the opposite.

    Those that definitely do not practice what they preach. Like you said, not living their message. I think the word is hypocrites, or is it snob… head up their (can’t finish that here).

    I very quickly “unfollowed” “unsubscribed” and left behind… and it is doubtful my impression will change.

    I found it odd, that after reading their books, their posts, their blogs etc. how much they would go on about following back, retweeting, thanking, responding bla bla bla and those same people never once responded to one tweet I sent, not just acknowledging retweeting, but I would tweet them directly with compliments, and attempt to start a convo – never a response, to a question, a compliment …

    Ah, yes, at first I thought, surely they just must be too busy … but then Twitter introduced this “You Both Follow” feature and gosh, they were following everyone I follow and who follows me. Not just the big guns.

    Mmmm, was it something I said? Clearly these people repeatedly chose not respond or follow.

    Early on I thought it was because they were famous, you know, stars… but then people of the same stature, famous… you know, stars… reaaally awesome, as smart and busy as the aforementioned, were my Twitter and Facebook friends!! How about that?

    So I realized those were not people I wanted to know on the “social scene” let alone personally. It certainly told me a lot about them.

    I often thought my first blog post would be about this very topic. Thank you Liz for the very ‘spot on’ post.

    Boy would I love to hint about the girls and boys I have in mind as I write… my last thought ‘practice what you preach or move over for the ‘real deals’.

    Just my musing…

    • GENUINE, I meant genuine! Not the dumb word misspelled I put in there… can I edit 🙂

    • Deb,
      No need to worry about folks who don’t live up to your ideal and values. The beauty of the Internet is that there are so many who do. Spend your time with them. Life is better there. 🙂

      • I know, you are correct. I just wanted to get that off my chest. Get the feeling more than a few others are of the same mind.

  • Liz,

    What a wonderful post to read… and I couldn’t agree with each of your points more.

    I have no problem with promotion, but I’ve learned that some of the “experts” and “gurus” are mostly hype. The adage “practice what you preach” still rings true to me. When you start to believe your own hype, that’s the end of the road.

    Even in the social media world, most of us can see through someone who is a fake.

    Again, thanks for this great post.

  • Be a star, not by your number of followers, but how you follow them. I think whether someone has 200 followers or 200,000 the lessons apply. BTW everyone knows it’s blue M7M’s.

  • Be a star. I think the lessons apply whether you have 200 or 200,000 followers. It is not how many followers you have, but how you follow them. BTW, eveyrone knows it’s blue M&M’s

    • You bet the blue ones are best, especially the blue from the UK!

  • Rosen

    Blah, blah, blah. This post is puerile unless you’re willing to name names.

    • Why? Learn from what doesn’t work. No need to name who’s doing what doesn’t work. No need to pound people who are learning that. Your philosophy and mine part there.

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  • Personally, I don’t really classify anyone as a social media star. There are people who are good at social media, but it’s not like I would ever ask for an autograph or anything. Do people ask cardiologists for their autograph? What about the chief of police, do you ask them for autographs. The problem seems to be with the people following these “stars.” Why would you ask a blogger for an autograph. Stop treating them like royalty and they’ll stop the entitled behavior.

  • Chris Shaw

    Love this post. Too bad there will be plenty of people who don’t realize this post is about them. My biggest gripe is with social media experts who suddenly became “marketing” experts simply because they became popular via social media. To me, it has to go the other way around.

  • Well said, and I sincerely hope I’m never being pictured in your head when you write a post like that.

    However, I think we all need to take a step back and understand there is no such thing a social star. Social media as a vertical discipline is so tiny that we are all guilty of massively overestimating our importance.

    NOBODY outside our little circle of a couple thousand people know the name of ANYONE that’s inside that circle – with the possible exception of Gary V. As I wrote a long time ago, when I mentioned Chris Brogan to my mom, she thought he was a hockey player for the Phoenix Coyotes.

    Social media “stars” are far less known than marketing stars, which are far less know than business stars, which are far less known than sports stars, which are far less known that celebs.

    Being the very biggest, brightest, shiniest of all the social media pundits in all the land counts for squat outside our circle.

    Like you Liz, I’ve seen my fair share of social media douchebaggery. But, I don’t look at it as getting too big for your britches, but rather not realizing that the world is a LOT bigger than the social media echo chamber leads you to believe.

    Great post. Glad you said it, and bravo to Gini for running it.

    • I love your feedback Jay, and thank you for your follow 🙂

      You might consider a blog entitled: “Social Media Douchebaggery” LOL

      Though I come back to Liz’s reply to me:
      >No need to worry about folks who don’t live up to your ideal and values. The beauty of the Internet is that there are so many who do. Spend your time with them. Life is better there.<

      Fortunately these folks thought of in the original piece and our comments are truly the exception.

      Honestly, I have learned so much more from many many others; and from those of which we speak, I have learned what not to do – or shall I say, reminded of what not to do.

      Yes, Randy Clark it's not how many followers you have, but 'how' you follow them.

      Back to you Jay, absolutely, outside the social media circle and… so what?

      Thank you all 🙂

  • Great post. However, while I emotionally agree with the first point about talking more than listening, I disagree from a practical, job-seeking perspective. I specifically got feedback that I wasn’t called in for a second interview for my dream job because I hadn’t been “proactive” enough in my first interview. I was trying to listen! But they wanted someone with ideas. All my interviews after that I came in with a lot of ideas (even if they ended up not being sensible once I had context) and got called back to more interviews. :\

  • Great post, Liz.

    As I read your post, I was reminded of thought leaders from other industries that say one thing and go do another. I think this happens all of the time.

    Also, it is very easy to stand up and say “We should be doing X,Y and Z” and get people excited. However – it is an entirely other thing to go out and execute X,Y, and Z.

    Thanks again for the post. Loved it!

  • As Bill Green once said on Adverve, the quickest way to out yourself as a Social Media fraud is to call yourself a Guru. Social Media is so young, has moved ZERO needles in sales for big business so far, anyone claiming to be an Expert is lying. There are definitely people who know quite a bit about technology, ethics, etiquette etc, and who one can learn from. But we are all still learning.

    Never forget Social Media is Technology. Its a revolution in Interpersonal Human Communication that just happened to have Marketing hijack it by the Networks that forget they are selling technology and not marketing platforms. Twitter and Facebook easily could be closed to brands and make a TON more money than they are today with different business models. So who is to say who knows best eh?

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  • Liz, I decided to do just what you said, “Let’s applaud the true social stars when we see them shine”. Every once a while you meet someone who epitomizes the ideal. Here is my new blog post of someone I have come to admire, respect and strive to emulate.

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  • I feel like such a small fish when it comes to social media i am so far behind.

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