Social Media is a Lie We Perpetuate

I started and completed a 260 page book in my 4-hour flight between Washington DC and Phoenix today.  It’s Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.  I average a page a minute for light content—half a page per minute for dense, textbook-like content.  The lie is explained later in this post, by the way…

Do you read books?  If you don’t, you’re not building your knowledge as completely as possible. Blog posts are great for little tidbits, but deeper knowledge takes hours and is usually the area reserved for books.

Odd that Brogan would write a book about social media, any more than you’d create a painting about English literature or write in Braille about how to dance. The links in his book were footnotes—as opposed to clickable blue anchor text.  Weird.

That aside, it’s a good primer should you want to learn the basics of social media.  Nothing shocking— write about what you’re expertise is, develop real friends online as opposed to a ton of auto-followed friends, your reputation is built upon trust as opposed to auto-dispensing business cards, set up monitors such as Google Alerts for your name and business, customer service on Twitter is another helpdesk, and so forth.

It’s basic networking tactics with an online twist, which I believe are better stated in books such as “Never Eat Alone” (Keith Ferrazi), “Think and Grow Rich” (Napoleon Hill), “How to Make Friends and Influence People” (Dale Carnegie), and “Swim with the Sharks” (Harvey Mackay).  If you haven’t read these classic books, you should.

However, Brogan is a top 100 blogger, so he’s doing something right. And he does admit that publishing a book is really just a 2-inch thick business card—something to give you instant credibility.  And I did read it word for word, start to finish, so it did keep my attention.

It was also free, by the way.  All attendees of Affiliate Summit East got a free copy.  I almost didn’t grab a copy, as I was laden down already with free T-shirts, squeezy balls, and other conference schwag.

The Lie of Social Media

What I’m afraid will happen is that people will read this book and believe that if they start blogging about what they passionately believe in, plus start going crazy twittering and Facebooking all day, they, too, can become popular bloggers.

He references Michael Jordan, who says that his secret to being so good is to keep shooting.   I could shoot baskets 18 hours a day for 10 years and still get my ass kicked by some teenager who never practiced.  Like the movie “Rudy”, the lie is that anyone can make it with some hard work.

The latest Malcolm Gladwell book talks about the 10,000-hour rule—that if you look at people who are at the top of their game, it took them 10,000 hours of practice to become pros. Somehow having put in the time would lead to success—although the correlation is not causality, for those of you who remember first-semester statistics.

Not denying the value of hard work.  Look at Robert Scoble, who is arguably one of the most popular bloggers—part of the “bloggerati”.  He became a famous blogger while at Microsoft because he openly denigrated Internet Explorer in favor of Microsoft.  Thus, an authentic voice—a guy at Microsoft willing to say a product sucked.

However, were Scoble not at Microsoft and wrote the EXACT same posts, his voice would be unheard among the thousands with the same opinion. Think about it.  Change one variable and the “success” goes POOF.  Thus collapses a whole string of further successes that stemmed from that initial lucky break.

The biggest factors in success are being lucky and well-connected. If you know me, you’ll know that I’ve been fortunate in several instances not because of my skill, but because I was in the right place at the right time—a great situation with a great network.  And if you look at the others who are successful in Internet marketing, you’ll see the power of their network—how they leveraged those connections to the max.

If you don’t have a network of powerful friends that will promote you and link to you, your blog could be the most informative site on the planet and still get no traffic.

I’d place that sentence right at the beginning of the book, where I am the author, and dispense with all the stuff about making sure to make eye contact with people you meet, to smile and say thank you, to try to be helpful to friends or to use PPC to drive traffic to your site.  I am not kidding, each of those points are whole paragraphs or sections in the book.

On page 256, they list 5 reasons why people might trash the lessons in the book- that the lessons are not implementable, not that simple, not measurable, amateurish, and time-consuming.

Reason #6, which is mine, is that most of the 260 pages are fluff—almost no actionable content for someone who wants to earn a living as a professional blogger—or to even make enough money to pay for their hobby.  The exception is page 12, where there are 2 pages on how to set up “listening posts”, which are alerts on yourself.

On page 117, they mention how Donald Trump made money in online real estate (he actually went bust a couple of times) to then leverage that fame into “The Apprentice”.  The success of that program, he used to do Trump University—a series of online courses and then a conference circuit with Robert Kiyosaki (the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” guy)

It’s like those people who are famous for being famous—or make money by selling books and teaching other people how to make money. Well, I did get a $24.95 book for free, so I am grateful for that.

If Chris Brogan or Julien Smith ever read this post, I’d be curious to hear their opinion about whether I should express honestly (as I have here), give faint praise (as most book reviewers do, as most have never read the books of their friends), or not say anything at all.  You’ve elevated Scoble for his honesty in calling out Microsoft’s weak IE browser, so my post is either on target in that respect or perhaps ill-informed.

My other feedback is that the scope of this book  (“Using the Web to build influence, improve reputation, and earn trust”) was too broad, at least not without more focused examples, and far less pedantic advice on how to be friends with people and reciprocal promotion of friends that promote you (consider multiple over-the-top references to Beth Kantor and Greg Cangialosi).  By putting forth an honest review, whether informed or not, may burn bridges should I ever need a stunning review from these guys when my book comes out.

But who will read a sycophantic (ass-kissing) positive review? And, to the book’s point, will your colleagues trust you when you’re shamelessly promoting something that you don’t believe in?

Mark Twain once said that the key to success is to be genuine—fake that, and you’ve got it made.  That’s one of my favorite quotes.  Hence the inherent lie of Social Media is based on principles in this book.

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