Archive for October, 2009

One great shot


I am a lousy golfer.  But all it takes is one great shot to keep me coming back to the golf course.

I had been feeling a little down about the blog this week. When I switched to WordPress, I lost 90% of my RSS feed readers and it’s been slow coming back.  I felt like I was starting over.  There have been technical problems that have caused a lot of pain-staking and boring work.  And some of my best writing (IMO) did not seem to connect with people.

Out of the blue, I received an email from Dan Levine (@schoolmarketer).   I don’t know Dan other than his occasional comments on my blog, but he felt compelled to write me a lengthy e-mail. In part, he said:

I appreciate what you’re doing — slowly and surely, thoughtfully and methodically, you’re helping shape the direction of this “new” medium. In a landscape filled with yes-people and a few too many sheep, your posts are making ripples that will eventually lead to new ideas and fresh approaches. I have no doubt.

Too often we hear from folks who are disappointed or frustrated by our work; I think it’s important to also let folks know when we appreciate the work they’re doing. So … thank you.

Boy how a few kind words like that can get you back on track.  Dan’s words came at such a good time.  It was a chip shot from the rough that landed three inches from the hole.

More important, there is a great lesson here in taking time to thank people and connect to them in a meaningful way.  Thanks for the inspiration, Dan.

“Social media expert:” Women need not apply?

SM panel

A few months ago, one of my Twitter followers sent me a link to a blog post by Alexa Clark claiming there is a bias against women on the social media speaking circuit.   My friend was outraged that most panels were made up of men and she further hinted that I was part of the white male problem.

I resisted this notion violently and responded impolitely.  I abhor bigotry in any form.  But since this shot across my bow, I’ve paid attention to the notices and invitations I receive for social media events and discovered something astounding.  She’s right.  Guest speakers and panelists on the social media circuit are 90% white males between the ages of 35-45.

This is not statistically-scientific proof, but represents a tally of the same invitations you probably receive, too. As I dug a little deeper, I’ve since discovered that this phenomenon has also been noted by Fast Company magazine, and other publications/blog posts.

The problem becomes even more mystifying by looking at the line-up for Blog World, which takes place this week in Las Vegas. The representative guest speakers from the entire blogosphere are wonderfully balanced and diverse at this event.  So it’s not a problem with women being inactive.  By comparison, there were just three women out of the 30 keynote speakers at the last social media-focused SXSW Interactive Conferences.

In my previous article on social media success factors, I hinted that there might be another predictor of social media success other than personality, writing ability, confidence, and hard work.  There is. Gender.

And now that we’ve opened this topic, let’s push it a step further.  Where are the minorities?

I want to be extremely careful here so don’t skip over this sentence when you’re composing your nasty-gram to me:  I am not claiming that anybody is overtly, consciously, systematically biased.  In fact, my bias is that people in general are NOT biased. I’m also not suggesting that the very talented men who lead these conferences don’t deserve to be there.

But what conclusion SHOULD we draw? Conference organizers want to attract the best talent they can find regardless of gender or race. If they do, they will be economically-rewarded with high attendance. So either I’m wrong —  and there IS bias regardless of the economic consequences — or 90 percent of the most talented and available social media speakers are men.  Right?

Neither seems to be a reasonable conclusion.

So what IS going on here?  Why don’t social media “expert” panels reflect the demographics of the general population?

This is Part three of a series on “Self and Social Media.”
Illustration: This photo appeared last week in Valeria Maltoni’s excellent blog “Conversation Agent.” She was also a presenter at this Inbound Marketing conference.

Do you have what it takes to kick social media ass?


One of my clients is a brilliant management consultant.  This photo … it’s not him.

An engineer by training, he does not come by marketing instinct naturally and asked me to help.  This is a customer who is tailor-made for Twitter:

  • Small business-owner
  • Enormous, global market potential (needs a lot of awareness)
  • Small budget
  • No time to blog, develop content, etc.
  • Tech-savvy
  • Is a charming, bright person with engaging personality.

And yet he WILL NOT TWEET.   I coaxed, cajoled and threatened.  I’ve trained him patiently and even prescribed a daily Twitter regimen.  I demonstrated the power of the platform when I found him a potential new business contact in the first hour of operation.  He didn’t follow-up and is perfectly content with his tweet-free existence.

I have been thinking a lot about why.

After observing both spectacular social web successes and failures, I believe there are personal characteristics that make some people more adept on the social media scene:

1)   The write stuff.  Blogging/content development is the centerpiece of most social media initiatives and it’s DIFFICULT to do it consistently well.  You must write compellingly, often, and perhaps most important, quickly.  My opinion — being prolific is a huge advantage in this space.

2)   Swagger.  Some liken the social media scene to a cocktail party. But to really be successful, it’s more like being a successful public speaker.  Even if you’re kind, witty and charming, do you have the CONFIDENCE to put yourself out there in a big way?   Take a stand?  Expose yourself to criticism?

3)  Time management. Everybody knows this. ‘Nuff said.

4)   Personality Plus.  I don’t want to be mean, but have to be honest … some people suck online … and I don’t think they can fix it because they don’t know it.  This is the downside of the need for authenticity.  If you’re clueless, rude or just love selling people teeth whitening systems, that is probably going to come through in any medium and people will run the other way.  Being authentic and likable matters.  A lot.

Here are characteristics I intentionally left out:  High intelligence, experience, education, and physical appearance.

There is one other overwhelming characteristic that seems to be a prerequisite for success in this space, but it deserves special attention, tomorrow. Can you guess what it is?  What did I miss?

This is Part two of a series on “Self and Social Media.”


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