“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?

kickass

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.”

Illustration: www.tshirthell.com

The next social media imperative: Defining YOU

 masks

 Was I clever enough?
Was I charming?
Did I make at least one good pun?
Was I disconcerting? Disarming?
Was I wise? Was I wan? Was I fun?

From “Thoughts While Driving Home” by John Updike

I’m going off the chart a bit.  Over the next few days I want to explore your sense of “self” and social media.  This is not an easy topic but I want to engage with you to discuss:

How are you different on social media … for better or for worse?  How do you show up?  What is your “brand?”

Is social media the ultimate equalizer, the greatest democracy, or a funhouse mirror warping our view of society?

From a very intimate, personal standpoint, what does it take to succeed on the social web?

To kick things off, I need to pose a very serious question:  Who the hell am I … out here?

In my recent post about the social media “country club,” I made a comment that seemed to resonate with a lot of folks:  “In social media, the medium isn’t the message.  The messenger is the message.”

The idea of having a “personal brand” becomes enormous when everybody has their own global broadcast channel.  That’s what social media is, really. When you pay attention to somebody’s blog or tweets, you’re tuning in to their channel.  Welcome to Station M-A-R-K, spinnin’ and grinnin’ from the great State of Tennessee.

What type of station are you?  News?  Entertainment?  Sports?  Variety?  Or Talk All the Time?

I ask because I don’t know myself.  I went out to lunch with a new friend last week and he said he enjoyed following me on Twitter.  Why?  What’s my “on-air” personality?  I truly don’t know.  I think I have reasonable self-awareness in real life, but the web is another matter …

Sometimes I’m funny, sometimes I’m serious, sometimes I’m absent.  I hide the pain and private stuff.  I’m often pre-occupied.  How does this sum up?

One Twitter-friend referred to me as a gentleman.  It only made me wonder — what brought that on?

If 80% of communication is non-verbal and that is completely eliminated through social media, what’s the impact on perceived personality?  Pretty dramatic I would think.

How do people perceive us when they only catch snippets at certain times of the day? Believe me, the people who “tune in”  to the groggy morning Mark get a vastly different picture than those who catch the late night jokester.

There seems to be an app for everything so I explored the web for answers.  Who am I, Mr. Internet?  My Twitter Grader number is 99.8 out of 100. But does that mean I’m likable?  Engaging?  Cranky? My Twitter Analyzer says my celebrity rating is 72 today … but was 2 last week.  Twitterholic, Twitter rank,  and  Twitalyzer provide rankings relative to all other Twitter users.  One said I had a lot of “clout” last week but not this week.   Twinfluence says I have a velocity of 20,471 second-order followers a day and high social capital.  Huh???

While all of these scores are mildly amusing, it still doesn’t help us see ourselves in a new way:  Through the eyes of your social media audience.   How do we come across to people who have never met us, spoken to us, touched us, or observed a single facial expression … and probably never will?

I’m not asking you to literally tell me about me.  I’m thinking you may also be wondering about how you come across in cyberspace?   If personal brand is paramount on social media, how do you really know what your brand is?

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