EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s guest post is from Kevin Palmer, a friend and smart social media strategist with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working. He writes regularly at SocialMediaAnswers.com and has some opinions about the social media world I agree with (and others I don’t). This one, is one I agree with. Enjoy. Then go subscribe to his blog and follow him on Twitter. He’s @kevinpalmer.
I have been an outsider looking in at social media for years. Academically I worked on my Masterâ€™s Degree in New Media. Professionally I have used social media and other internet marketing tactics for clients and employers for over five years now.Â In that period of time I didnâ€™t â€œbuild my personal brandâ€ and I didnâ€™t follow the same herds that everyone else did. I am not saying that with a bitter tone or anything, I just had other interests and wanted to separate work from them.
Because of this I like to think that I can look at the world of social media from an outsiders perspective but with an insiderâ€™s knowledge. Maybe I am deluding myself but I am going to run with it.
One thing I have the most trouble getting over is the massive echo chamber that is social media. Originally I was going to call this post â€œthe social media circle jerkâ€ but I thought it might have been a bit harsh, however the more I think about it the more appropriate this title seems.
As I have explored Twitter more I became fascinated that the same people are always mentioned as people that one should follow. Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki, Liz Strauss, Darren Rowse, and a handful of others are on just about every list. Iâ€™m not saying that these people donâ€™t deserve to be followed or that they arenâ€™t knowledgeable because they are. (And having met three out of the four I can say they are all very nice.) But when composing these lists are the people constructing them even looking past the obvious? Are they actually exploring and listening?Â Or just repeating what has been told to them like a kid telling his friends the best team in a sport is the one his dad likes? There are more than six million people on Twitter, I am sure there are probably a handful of people beyond the obvious that might have some value.
Moving away from Twitter to a more legitimate medium like books, (Twitter is cute, but ranks behind search, blogs, MySpace, Facebook, Youtube, and my Grandmotherâ€™s bridge club on the influence scale.) doesn’t seem to solve the problem either. When I was studying New Media in Graduate School I used to debate the value of some of the academic reading I had to digest. How could people outside of new media, like a lawyer or another profession, write about something they werenâ€™t actually applying especially with how quick this space shifts? When I left school and started reading books from marketing professionals or people in new media I didnâ€™t realize how good I had it in academia. At least those lawyers, sociologists, and other intellectuals did research because the drivel that I have been reading since then has been all one giant rinse and repeat.
Just about every single book written by a marketer, social media guru, or new media scribe has the same three examples in it.Â For blogging it is â€œDell Hellâ€, for micro blogging it is Zappos on Twitter, and for video it is â€œWill it Blendâ€.Â I have read four books in the last six months that mentioned all three of these as main examples. Again just like the people listed above these arenâ€™t bad examples but when they are the main highlight of every argument these “writers” put forward it is a major problem. Where is the research? Where is the original thought? Surely there are other success stories out there you could enlighten us on?
In the end I guess maybe social media is led by a few people, a few examples, and then everyone else is a self-proclaimed expert even though they are just glomming original ideas from another person twice removed. If that is the case I am going enjoy the seat on the sidelines while you all decide who the pivot man is this week.
Where is the original thought in social media? Is there really wisdom of the crowds or is the blind leading the blind?