Bob LeDrew

Social Media Success and the Second Commandment

By: Bob LeDrew | June 18, 2013 | 

Social Media PreachingI am of the atheistic persuasion.

So this may come as a bit of a shock, but I’m gonna do a little preaching on the Second Commandment, social media style.

For those of you who need a refresher:

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them…”

Before I get down to the serious preaching, let me give you some context.

Bow Down to Bad Data

First, the odd case of Mary Meeker. I heard about it via the San Francisco Chronicle. Meeker, who apparently is a big deal (a partner at the venture capital Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers), did her annual Internet Trends presentation at the All Things D conference.

One of the things she told people: Smartphone users check their phones an average of 150 times daily. The issue? It appears the number comes from nowhere. But despite the problems outlined by Jeff Elder, the statistic is all over the web.

Bad stats

Social Media Saviors

Secondly, a post on the Forbes website about social media uberdude Gary Vaynerchuk and his new ideas, titled “Why Gary Vaynerchuk’s New Social Media Strategy Should Change The Way You Do Business.”

What really threw me was this quote:

He’s redeployed an employee at VaynerMedia, his social media consultancy, to “shadow my life” by following him at conferences and key local events to record his remarks and turn them into social media content. “I’ve built the infrastructure around me to become a greater content provider,” he says. “I have someone calling me at the end of the day – there’s now someone in my life pestering me for content.”

I found the image of someone following Vaynerchuk around capturing his thoughts and “transcribing his remarks into social media” ludicrous. But when I scrolled down to the comments, I found…

  • “I have a great amount of respect for Gary Vaynerchuk, the guy really gets social media – I had a fantastic experience with him where he called me up at 1am to sing me a lullaby following an interaction on Twitter…and yes I created content. I have heard other people talk about the idea of having someone capture their thoughts throughout the day, so it is not as far out there as some may think.”
  • “Kevin hit the nail on the head with this article. Gary V is amazing. His book “Crusth IT!” is a must read. Gary started as a little kid understanding to accomplish your dreams you must work VERY hard. He is a perfectly example of the American dream. If u r in to social media follow everything Gary says to do!!”
  • “Gary V is right on. I especially like his perspective on micro-content and the many forms of communicating through video or music – it’s not just about being a great writer anymore but being able to communicate your message in (sic) through all the great social media vehicles is becoming increasingly more important in the B2B world. The other great point is you need to re-prioritize your time (hey, maybe less meetings) to invest in social media no matter what your role is in your company.”
  • “My 2 cents: One can NOT argue with success.”

And when Scott Monty — no minor figure in social media either — wrote a post detailing his incredulity, he included the following:

  • “To be clear, I like Gary and consider him a friend. This is in no way a personal attack; I just happen to disagree with his prediction and thinking, based on what I’ve read.“

Monty went on to say a scheme like this was “the last thing the world needed;” a position he moderated after Vaynerchuk explained himself on Twitter, “Yeah some confusion most likely my fault for sure, but u should know me better, its more not to miss things than to force things…”

Thou Shalt Not Believe Everything You Read

We love social media success stories. Perhaps too much. Perhaps so much that even when they say stupid things, we cheer them. And perhaps so much that when someone decides to criticize them, they feel compelled to preface the criticism with sentences like “this is in no way a personal attack…” because the anticipated reaction is a firestorm of criticism from the army of Vayniacs or otherwise cutely-named followers who will defend the honour of their hero.

Just because someone has a good idea once doesn’t mean ALL their ideas are good. Just because someone has a good track record as an analyst doesn’t mean they can’t be wrong or make stupid mistakes.

When someone commented on the Vaynerchuk Forbes article “My 2 cents: One can NOT argue with success,” I responded, “Yes you can. And you should.”

I meant it. Gary Vaynerchuk is an undeniable phenomenon. Does that make everything he says worthy of support?

In a fast-paced world such as social media, it’s easy to listen to the emphatic people, the ones with the profile, the ones who go to the hot conferences, and are friends with the other important people. But NONE of that means they’re right about everything. And it does nobody any good to blindly parrot their statements.

And if you think my argument is full of more holes than a piece of cheesecloth…tell me so!

Peace be with you, social media brothers and sisters.

About Bob LeDrew

Bob LeDrew is principal consultant at Translucid Communications in Ottawa (Ontario, not Kansas). He's been doing communications in one form or another since 1987, and in addition to his consulting work, teaches regularly at Algonquin College and Eliquo Training and Development. He's also the creator of The Kingcast, a podcast dedicated to his favorite writer, Stephen King. He enjoys cycling, animation, whisky, and playing guitar. He usually only does a maximum of two of those at one time.

  • Communic8nHowe

    I don’t believe a word you said Bob! Proud of me? 
    Seriously though you make a good point. It’s easy to think that just because someone has a high profile–even one they’ve earned that they have all the answers. Cult like worship can develop which is blind to imperfections. Then again that happens too frequently when we have loyalty to something or someone.
    I remember being at an IABC event where I disagreed with Shel Holtz at a roundtable unconference session. I later realized what I had done and wondered if I had just made a major faux pas. But when I shared that concern later to another participant they reminded me that it was ok to question him.
    None of us have all the answers. Nor is it possible to always apply what we know to situations outside our direct experience especially when it gets more into the detailed nitty gritty. 
    Questioning experts and speaking truth to power are both important traits–generally in life but definitely when applied to the ever evolving world of social media.

    • bobledrew

      Communic8nHowe I would wager that Shel would be the first to have encouraged the dissent. And thankfully, I don’t think there’s an army of followers (Shelfish?!) ready to knock down any dissent on his behalf. 
      Ironic that a set of tools designed to democratize content production can be used to recreate the same old hierarchies, isn’t it?

      • Communic8nHowe

        bobledrew Communic8nHowe True. Though it does have an upside as Gini demonstrated in her SoCapOtt presentatio. Something that we’ve both apparently want to replicate by adding LiveFyre to our sites!

        • bobledrew

          Communic8nHowe Don’t go criticizing @gini dietrich! She’ll kill us all!

        • Communic8nHowe

          bobledrew Whose criticizing @ginidietrich? I wouldn’t take that chance! ; ) Just pointing out that there’s an upside to building a supportive community!

        • Communic8nHowe bobledrew You both are very smart not to criticize me. Bob knows what happens when one does that.

        • bobledrew

          ginidietrich Communic8nHowe bobledrew You have to record a sappy song of apology. Trust me on this.

      • bobledrew Communic8nHowe SHELFISH!!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!

  • susancellura

    I think it’s great to have leaders and mentors one can respect, and there will always be people to “break through a barrier” first. It is too important, however, to keep thinking for yourself versus becoming a lemming. Learn from those who are out there, but remember that you are smart as well.

    • bobledrew

      susancellura Where are all the dissenters! Couldn’t agree more, Susan.

  • Lara Wellman

    Just yesterday I read an infographic that told me the worst times to tweet were between 8pm and 9am. That is by FAR the best time for all of my tweeting.  I don’t know where that number came from but even if it was true in whatever study that came from, you can’t take something and apply it to all things.
    Which leads me to my next point 🙂  I have a lot of respect for people who have done really well in social media but a lot of their success isn’t replicable.  Just because they did well doesn’t mean they know how to make sure others do.  They aren’t always going to be right. That being said, in my opinion Gary V’s plan has some merit.  Having someone who has the time because that’s their job to make sure good content gets recorded and shared could work really well in certain scenarios. Now if that person had some kind of quota to fill… that would be different.
    Livefyre won’t work on our blog yet. Sigh. Karen_C_Wilson is trying to fix it… cuz I don’t do that stuff (ginidietrich 😉

    • bobledrew

      Lara Wellman Karen_C_Wilson ginidietrich Yes, Gary’s plan (the REAL one) is not a terrible one. But as presented in the Forbes blog post, it was patent absurdity. Condolences on the Livefyre problems. Was an easy install on mine, and I like it. 
      ” I have a lot of respect for people who have done really well in social media but a lot of their success isn’t replicable.  Just because they did well doesn’t mean they know how to make sure others do. ” Yeeeeeeeup.

      • bobledrew Lara Wellman I was going to say what Lara said. I see a lot of merit in having someone from your team attend your speaking engagements to record, take photos, live tweet or live blog, etc. I do agree the way it was presented was ridiculous, but I see the value in having someone there to capture things you’d otherwise have to go back and recreate.

        • ginidietrich bobledrew Lara Wellman I’m fairly certain, coming from a journalism background (as you have also Bob *koff*) that the issue was less with what Gary said, and more with how the article was written. NOT that I’ve ever done that myself, of course. 😉

        • bobledrew

          belllindsay ginidietrich bobledrew Lara Wellman Two bodies and one brain!

    • Lara Wellman YOU ARE THE IDEAS PERSON!!

      • Lara Wellman

        ginidietrich Which is the positive spin on “Lara breaks technology, good think @karen_c_wilson is around” 🙂

  • No, you’re not full of holes. You are asking some very valid questions. And although your comments are specific to social media, they apply in a lot of areas of life. I guess social media sort of amplifies things, because depending on your connections to people such as the ones in the examples you gave, you may know what they had for breakfast, that the beautician didn’t really deserve a generous tip, and that their 4th grader’s teacher has favorites in class. It gives a sense of artificial familiarity. Whether it’s social media or the number of carbs in our yogurt, we owe it to ourselves to be smart consumers. And, to state the absolute basic/obvious, don’t believe every single thing you hear. Thx for a thought provoking post.

    • bobledrew

      biggreenpen I think there’s also a tendency to espouse extreme viewpoints and assume that those viewpoints are to be accepted as easily replicable. The four hour workweek, for example, is an interesting concept. Do I see it as something I would seriously try to replicate in my own life? Er, no. Some of Julien Smith’s experiments in life-hacking, same thing – interesting but not something I am likely to do. 
      Too many people seem to just jump on bandwagons. My parents taught me to resist peer pressue, knowwhutimean?

  • bobledrew YOU CRUSHED IT DUDER! 
    Isn’t Mary Meeker the woman like Henry Blodgett who got kicked off wall street for life for misdeeds during the boom? I am pretty sure she also got caught lying about crappy stocks she was pimping.
    Gary is unique. He is a lot like Peter Shankman. As personal brands they take it seriously. Peter actually was preaching the 24/7 social public life online 2 years back. They both some how graciously connect with a crap load of people every day like the old gladhanders. 
    Good for them but that isn’t reality.

  • How dare you say anything against Gary??? 🙂
    I’m kidding, of course. I love Gary as much as the next Vayniac. What I love about Gary and people like him is, they are not afraid to try things, and they are not afraid to make mistakes every now and again. The way that any new thing moves forward is to have people out in front blazing the trail, trying stuff, messing it up, and moving on.
    At the same time, it’s great that people can and do question the motives and actions of others, so long as it’s done respectfully (as you’ve done here).
    The beauty of our connected world is that we all get to choose our own adventure.
    Bravo on a great article, my friend!

    • bobledrew

      suzemuse I totally agree — when Ashley MacIsaac had mainstream success by putting traditional fiddle tunes over beats and using hip-hop Gaelic, the traditionalists were outraged. But what keeps culture and ideas moving forward is the TENSION between tradition and revolution. We need the Garys, without a doubt. And we need people to question them.

  • I find this is extremely common in the parenting blogging sector. Some of the bloggers have gotten so big that they could literally post anything and everyone will gush over how amazing it is, even if it makes no sense whatsoever. I’m not going to lie, I think about what it would be like to be able to do no wrong. It sounds kind of glorious, but, possibly, completely unfulfilling as well. Great stuff, Bob, and also, I like how you didn’t lose your Canadiana and included the “u” in honour! Also, also, I have no idea why I notice things like that…

    • Lara Wellman

      Chris_Read I notice that ALL the time!  For example I noticed it wasn’t in savior – he clearly mixed it up for all the crowds right bobledrew ? 🙂  
      It’s hard since my biz partner is from the US. hehe.  That being said, my typos have gotten out of control lately so who am I to talk? 🙂

      • bobledrew

        Lara Wellman Chris_Read bobledrew I believe the subheds were put in by an amurricun. PS, Chris? We WON the War of 1812, so I get to add extraneous us wheneuver I liuke.

  • Sorry I missed this yesterday. So the gospel according to bobledrew is not to take everything we hear/read about social media as the gospel? 😉 Thanks Bob for reminding us how important it is to think critically about everything we hear/read whether it be in social media or another area to biggreenpen’s point. Isn’t that the whole purpose of connecting with peers online to discuss professional issues?
    Having access to so much information and expertise only means we have more to digest and learn. It doesn’t mean we’re all supposed to be a bunch of robots. To Lara Wellman’s point about studies that tell us when to tweet, etc. Social media isn’t one-size fits all and although we can learn from  each other and develop best practices, it doesn’t always mean we can or should replicate someone else’s success. I’d wager those who are most successful (and maybe even achieve “rock star” status) also value what they can learn from other members of the community and would stagnate if they weren’t challenged once and a while.

    • bobledrew

      EdenSpodek I think the other side of thinking critically is having the good grace to accept that criticism well. Possibly the most blatant example of gracelessness was Kawasaki’s “look at someone with 1500 followers telling me how to tweet”, but there are many. The one other thing we’ve got to look at is the sometimes dangerous tendency we have to cheer on our friends. It’s great to be supportive, but it can also lead to shutting off those critical faculties.    biggreenpen’s  Lara Wellman

      • bobledrew bobledrew Agreed 150%! There is also a difference between supporting our friends and cheering them on blindly. The herd/cult/flock mentality isn’t doing anyone any good.  biggreenpenLara Wellman

  • Fantastic post Bob! No one, but no one, is infallible even- get this!- me. An old teaching strategy is to separate the person from the action- I like Gini always, but I don’t like some of the things she says. 
    That being said, just yesterday I imagined an assistant who would listen to me ramble about stuff and compile them in to reports, because I ain’t so shit hot at doing paperwork.

    • bobledrew

      RebeccaTodd It’s funny, I would feel proprietary about my “thought” being recorded, but someone who would follow me around capturing expense and other admin info? Worth his weight in gold-pressed latinum.

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