Archive for November, 2010


Why Chris Brogan is invincible

Chris Brogan

I am fascinated with uber-blogger Chris Brogan as a cultural icon of the social media revolution.  Whether it’s trying new business models or pioneering sponsored posts, he is our canary in the coal mine, exploring the leading edges of our field.

But  a post this week established a new milestone even for Chris. For your edification and entertainment, I am re-printing the entire post. Under a hand-drawn picture of a stick figure at a podium, he wrote:

“Okay, don’t do this. If you’re going to speak to people, speak TO (or even better WITH) them. Don’t look at your slides, read your slides, and tell me what’s on your slides. I know how to read. Stop it. Okay?”

… That’s it — 41 words.

What is remarkable about this?  Nothing until you see this: 

For you math majors out there, that is 6.7 tweets per word.  Further, Chris received nearly 50 comments, so there were nine more comments than total words in the post.  Ladies and gentlemen, that has to be a new world record.

The comments were uniformly positive and even included words like “brilliant!!!!” and “awesome.”

I’m going to go WAY out on a limb here.  This is not a brilliant post.  In fact, this is pretty standard presentation advice that has been delivered since the days of flip charts and transparencies. If somebody told you this in a company training program you might roll your eyes and yawn.   I’ll even hypothesize that Chris would admit this does not teeter into his category of “brilliant” posts.

So why the big buzz over 41 not-awesome words?  Taken only at face value, this might indicate the social web is not a meritocracy.  But in this world, what really is?  So there is something else going on here. If we examine this post as a case study, what are the lessons we can learn as mere human bloggers?

Be the brand

Chris is more than a blogger, he is a brand … a big brand in social media terms.  This is an important lesson for two reasons.

1) Yes, you have a brand too. Everything you say — and don’t say — on the social web contributes to your cumulative image, your brand promise. Chris has very carefully curated a powerful image of authentic helpfulness that has endeared him to many loyal fans no matter what he writes.

2) On the blogosphere, people are bigger than the brands they have created. If the CEO of Coke left, Coke would survive. But if Chris turned his blog over to somebody else, the brand would shrivel up.  Here’s the unique opportunity: As a blogger, you ARE the brand.

Blogger as celebrity

Chris gets beaten up a lot by critics but among his loyal fans he has earned a cloak of invincibility associated with celebrity.  In this rarefied status, even the mundane becomes special and true fans are fascinated by his every word. If Chris wrote a post titled “I’m feeling a little gassy today” it would also be tweeted 300 times. (Chris — Please do this. I will PAY you to do this).

The lesson for us?  Unless you are a celebrity, and I’m pretty sure you’re not, you do not have a cloak of invincibility. Your content does matter and it better be compelling and entertaining to earn your reader engagement. Reader loyalty is not an entitlement, it’s a hard-earned honor.

Showing up, not showing off

One of the most important lessons you can learn from Chris’s success is that the guy is committed. Blogging is not an after-thought. It is not something delegated to guest bloggers. You show up and you work it — in his case, for years. He did not get to be our social media teddy bear by blogging once a month. Chris averages 7.5 posts a freaking week.

Chris shows up in other ways, too. Look down Ad Age list of top marketing blogs and he is one of the few who engages in a meaningful way across the social channels. Despite his enormous following, he still pays attention and is humble enough to learn from his tribe.

Simple can be good enough

This post demonstrates that an effective blog post does not have to be a PhD thesis. It doesn’t have to be edited to death.  Write about what’s happening now, what’s in your heart and mind in the moment.  Just do it.

I don’t think Chris intentionally writes for a target demographic.  He writes for himself and obviously has some fun doing it.  He loves to blog and it shows. By writing about what is interesting to him, he didn’t find his audience, his audience found him.

He can be a polarizing figure and I have been a Chris Brogan critic too, but I think we also have to give the guy credit. He has found his formula, he has stuck to it with tenacity and passion and he can now claim success in 50 words or less.

What lessons do you draw from this strange little blog post?

P.S. This post was 804 words long. If I don’t get 804 comments, there is going to be trouble around here. 😉

Is the Internet destroying your culture … or creating it?

“Mass culture is dead. Every one of us is creating our own version of culture.”

This quote from futurist Faith Popcorn sums up a lot of things I have been experiencing lately.

Whether it’s YouTube-inspired dance moves, crowd-sourced literature, or my own personalized information stream, the Internet is inexorably un-tethering  culture from the places on earth and moments in time.

Culture used to be narrowly defined by country — perhaps even a region within a country — that had its own way of dress, food, art and lifestyle. But what happens to this concept when all art, music, and literature is globally-dispersed, user-generated, open-source, multi-platform and available on demand?

Well, for one, I sense that I am creating my own individual “culture!”

Not long ago, pop culture in America was largely defined by TV networks, local newspapers, ad executives, Hollywood and record companies. Now, I make my own newspaper. I watch programming from all over the world whenever I want to, and largely commercial-free. There is nobody in the world who  watches my “TV network” or listens to my “radio station” or reads “my newspaper.” I am surrounding myself with the World Culture of Mark. And through my own publishing, I’m influencing the culture of others.

Even something as physical and seemingly regionally-specific as dance is evolving digitally and globally.  Chris Anderson recently gave a compelling TED speech on how the rise of web video is driving this phenomenon.  In one example, he showed how dance moves now spread through the world, are enhanced and improved, and then sent back the other way again.  A global culture of dance is evolving through what Anderson calls Crowd Accelerated Innovation.

Personally, I like it!   I get a rush out of connecting to the world on my terms and my time. I love experiencing these amazing new cultural mash-ups.  But over time, will these rich historical cultures be diluted or even forgotten? Will we have museums to the regional cultures and customs the Internet diluted — or destroyed?

So much to think about and this is a subject EVERYBODY can have an opinion about!  Here are a few questions for you. Pick one that interests you and tell me what you think about it in the comment section!

  • Will the Internet eventually create a definable World Culture?  Is having a global cultural icon like Michael Jackson a sign of this?
  • Will the rich customs and culture of a place like France or Japan be made less relevant to the next generations by a digitizing, globalizing world?
  • What are the implications of an Internet culture that seems to favor the English language?
  • Are you creating your own user-defined web culture?