The social media country club

social media country club

By Mark Schaefer

As a relative newcomer to the social media world, I have been dismayed by the swooning behavior that occurs over every statement made by the kings and queens of digital media.

In the corporate world, I was taught that thoughtful dissent was an expectation. If you are a “knowledge worker” (as we are in marketing) withholding your ideas or dissenting opinion is tantamount to stealing. You are paid to contribute your original thinking, not to be a cheerleader.

But now I am immersed in a world where people complain about others bitterly in private emails but never add to the public dialogue in a way that creates a better and more accurate reality. The people at the top of the business fawn over each other, and their sycophantic followers amplify their every trite and tired proclamation about “authenticity” and “community.” It’s a weird, bizarro world.

Why? The “thought leaders” of social media marketing are a country club fearful of saying anything negative or controversial about another club member.

The real commerce of social media is trading favors, and a negative comment breaks the favor chain of reciprocity.

In the popular book Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, they acknowledge and encourage this elitist world with this advice: “Be yourself, which is to say, ‘be one of us’.”  They go on to describe the clannish protectionism of those at the top when they write “(newcomers) don’t realize that we all know each other, that we recognize the new stranger in our midst …”

I understand the human nature of this situation. Someone who wants to make it as a blogger may be afraid to rock the boat with a powerful individual who can influence their success by turning favors. We all want to belong. That’s the way the world turns.  So if somebody wants to be a sycophant, why should I care?  Here’s why.  The nicey-nicey world of social media blogging creates problems beyond the walls of the country club:

1) Group think. If you are unfamiliar with this term, here’s a good definition.  Among the top social media bloggers, there is little or no substantial debate over ANYTHING. Sometimes an individual outside the “inner circle” lobs a grenade, which is usually deflected by a member of the inner circle in defense. The result is that essentially everybody expresses and re-expresses the basic opinions of the leaders without serious challenge or innovation.

2) Myth-making.  A few weeks ago I wrote a post about social media myths.  The ideas I chronicled probably seem ridiculous, yet mantras such as “it’s all about community” have become foundational tenets of nearly every blog I read.

As I’ve entered this arena and observed participant behavior, I’ve been astounded by how many people tweet, praise and re-blog anything uttered by the primary thought-leaders, no matter how insipid. It seems Marshall McLuhan was wrong in this case. The medium isn’t the message. In social media, the messenger is the message.

3) Lack of credibility.  Take a close look at the credentials (if you can find any) of nearly any leading social media marketing “expert.”  How many have ever had a real marketing job or have been actually accountable for delivering new value in a marketplace by creating, testing and distributing a product on a meaningful scale?   Very few.  Yet these are our marketing “gurus?”  In a communication channel already dominated by porn-peddling, get-rich-quick nimrods, it simply doesn’t help our collective credibility to have our most visible advocates spouting incredibly naive statements about marketing fundamentals they know little about.

4) An infrastructure of angels. If you get to the point where you are huge on the social media scene, shouldn’t you be able to pull enough strings to constantly surround yourself with enough positive tweets, reviews and testimonials to bury any authentic complaint?  The real strategy of Trust Agents is not to build credibility and brand loyalty, it is to build enough professional leverage to call in favors.

OK, so let’s not talk about what’s going on “out there” any more. Let’s bring it to the here and now, you and me.  What would better serve MY social media strategy … or yours?  To provide an honest opinion that might upset the favor-makers, or to join the country club?

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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  • this is gonna be good.

  • Mark,

    You probably know that I am not a fan of self-appointed social media “experts” and “gurus”. There is A LOT of BS being sold as thought leadership an in the Social Media and Marketing worlds these days. Lots of so-called related “experience” as well. And yeah, like you, it annoys the crap out of me.

    Coming from “the client side” (having spent most of my career actually managing business units, driving innovation, selling stuff, justifying budgets and campaigns and programs) I have a very different perspective than most of the Social Media folks I keep running into. It seems that the vast majority of these folks come from agency backgrounds. PR, Advertising, marketing, digital, etc. And for the most part, their background puts them at a distinct disadvantage.

    But let me come to the defense of the A-listers here for a sec. The ones I have met so far actually do know what they’re talking about. They may not have all the answers (neither do I), but they’re pretty good at what they do, and they’re wicked smart. If anything, they help advance the discussion.

    I can’t really speak for Mark of Beth (photo, above) because I haven’t met them yet. But I’ll say this about them: They’re smart and they bring very specific, unique skillsets to the table. So far, I’ve found myself on their side of the fence on just about every issue. I’ve read Mack’s blog for years, and I have a lot of respect for him. Beth also seems to have her sh*t together and I have a lot of professional respect for her.

    Chris and Amber (photo, above), I have met. And you know, I was pretty impressed with both of them. They’re very smart, very professional and kind, and wonderfully approachable. Chris and Amber both work with some pretty big clients and have real experience with cultural, operational and technical integration of SM.

    This is just my opinion, but I find that these social media A-listers are exactly who they say they are, and they’re the good guys. (A rare thing in a world of social media snake oil salesmen.) I would LOVE to work on a project with each and every one of these folks. (That’s my endorsement.) 😉

    The reason why you may not be impressed by the content of some of the books you’ve picked up may be that by following these folks, you’ve already been exposed to the content they repackaged for print. Know what I mean? Usually, by the time I get a Marketing book from someone whose blog I’ve been reading for years, the book feels like deja-vu. Just a thought. 😉

    Anyway, all of this to say that Chris, Amber, Mack and Beth are good people. Genuinely good people. And while they may or may not have as much corporate experience as some, they’re still among the most solid Social Media practitioners and thought leaders in the US. Don’t let the echo-chamber of retweets fool you. They’re not posers, and they are not overrated. 😉



  • Mark,

    I think you bring up some very good points. Many joke around about the “fishbowl” mentality that exists in the social media space, but it absolutely is a serious issue.

    Can you expect anything different though? For someone that is new to the space, as you pointed out very well in this post by quoting “Trust Agents”, people that are already “accepted” know that you are new and have not earned their acceptance yet. You will be accepted a lot quicker, however, if you contribute to the ever growing social equity of those that are already accepted.

    Being critical is not an easy thing to do when trying to gain acceptance.

    In a professional field however, it’s absolutely vital that we question each other, and push others to find the right answers, rather than agreeing blindly.

    If we could all find that perfect balance where we could be critical while remaining friendly and respectful, we’d be much better off. It’s a bit idealistic, however to expect that of so many.

    Interested to hear thoughts from some of the thought leaders in the space…

    I wrote about similar issues in a post a while back called “True Transparency?” Comments I received were truly enlightening. I hope you’ll find it valuable.

  • Mark,

    I haven’t read the book but it is on my list as thus far I have been learning quite a bit from Chris and the other social media experts (and you too).

    What I find most interesting in your post is that you choose to call them a “country club”. When I think of country clubs I think of exclusive places that many times the members look down at those outside the club.

    My experience with two of the four pictured has been nothing but good. I mean, Chris has replied to my tweets and he doesn’t know me from Adam.

    It’s one thing to criticize the work, it’s another to criticize the person.

  • Mark

    Note: I recently saw a picture of Chris, Amber, Mack and Beth together at a social event clowning around. It influenced my thinking about writing this post. How could people who are in such tight circles ever be critical of each other? Originally, I included the picture with the story.

    After reading Olivier’s comments, I took the picture down because in fact, I do not know these folks personally and I did not mean to imply I was specifically talking about them. The picture was tied to my thought process on the article, but it was inappropriate to imply that they were specifically being targeted by the post. They weren’t. Thanks for pointing this out, Olivier.

  • David,

    You know I don’t screw around when I sniff out a social media hack. 😀

    I LIVE for debate in this space because it leads to better execution in it. I’ve made a few enemies by not kissing arse when it would have been politically expedient to do so, and I expect I will make a few more yet. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

    I am not sure if that willingness to question the questionable has hurt me or helped me in terms of popularity or credibility. (Probably thumbs-up on credibility, thumbs-down on popularity?) 😀

    I am hungry for real conversations though. Real note-sharing. I am not interested in the usual anecdotal case studies anymore. They’re a waste of time unless they address real issues: How silos were circumvented. How budgeting was justified. How measurement was adapted to the business’ needs. How the company incorporated SM into its mix of activities. How internal politics were dealt with. How staff was trained. Etc. REAL topics, not the usual 101 evangelistic crap people tout as marketing revelations for a new worldof conversations. 😀

    We’re getting there, I think. Slowly.

  • Great. Now that you’ve changed the photo, it looks like I’m calling Chris, Amber, Mack and Beth monkeys.

    Just what I needed. 😀

  • Thanks for rocking the boat, Mark.

    It seems that much of the discussion in social media circles around the various aspects of social media itself instead of how it could be put to practical use from a marketing/sales standpoint.

    As you said in your social media myth post earlier, marketing and sales are the ultimate reasons for many of us for being present in social media, and nothing wrong with that.

    Your point about the actual real-life competencies of the “gurus” is very valid. Of course, you need to be friendly to attract people, you need to provide valuable content to establish your credentials (and “thought leadership”, if you will), and you need to build critical follower mass to be heard, but those are really no-brainers. That’s what you do if you’re in marketing. Where it becomes difficult is the next step – conversion. I haven’t seen much in this department except wishful thinking. Also, if – as it seems to be – it’s mostly marketers and consultants talking to other marketers and consultants, the equation totally misses the most important variable: prospective clients and customers. Of whom not so many actually hang out in social media.

    As Ben Hanna points out in his article on Small Business Trends, Twitter for business is mass communication. In other words, much more “push” than “pull”. No matter how we want to think about it.

  • Your review of Trust Agents is one the reasons why I often just read the wikipedia version of many business/blogging/social media books.

    In my experience 80% of these books have one insight, with the remainder simply filled with supporting material. Once that insight has been distilled, much of the remainder often becomes irrelevant.

  • Bout time someone calls it like it is. Have been thinking the same thing for a while now, only you articulated the feeling far better.

    I think there is a tendency for the Social Media elite among us to get caught up in stroking the egos regardless of whether it’s warranted or not.

    I find that 80% (oops.. there’s Pareto’s Law again – HAH) of what I’m reading makes me shake my head at how obvious it is. I wonder why they felt the need to invest so much time to state the obvious, yet within minutes everyone is creating a frenzy around how great it is – when it’s really not.

    I have read loads and loads of industry books. Two of them made me sit up and take notice… and one of those books was Chris Anderson’s Free. The rest? well.. perhaps like you say… if you’re a newcomer to Social… then yes, you’ll probably get some value from it.

    I have been wondering why we’re all caught up in this social media 101 phase. Then it dawned on me… aside from the tech that may evolve, Social Media is a very basic concept that is anything but rocket science.

    Great post. Refreshing to see someone just tell it like it is.

    Hey Andreas Duess – Pareto’s law again I see. HAH! Love that 80/20 rule.

  • Mark

    @Olivier — I am cracking up! I can’t win. Sorry for the miscue … but funny.

    I would also add that is quite possible to be smart, professional, approachable, and even capable and still be a suck-up. These characteristics are not mutually-exclusive.

    @Andreas – I guess I didn’t really think of this as a one-sentence book review. I want to emphasize that I do think the book has its place and for a social media newcomer, there are several chapters I would definitely recommend (and I will).

    @Shannon. I agree about “Free.” It was one of those books that I expected to be a one-note song but found it to be well-researched and thought-provoking.

    Social media is not rocket science, true. But the implications and outputs are extraordinarily fascinating. For the first time in history, we have access to free, immediate global communication. What do we do with that power? And how is power being concentrated and distributed? So interesting to me.

  • I love this place. Mark – you have a gift for raising the issues that really get people thinking.

    And my thoughts are that we have a perfect market situation. The social media elite are the established brands, who got there by doing something well once. If they continue to do that thing well, they continue to resist the competition offered by newcomers (like you Mark). If they slip, they get overtaken.

    Trouble is, it takes a while for this to happen because reputation takes a long while to break down. Coke, Marlboro, Microsoft et all can afford to make a LOT of mistakes before their pulling power is diminished.

    And so it is with social media. The luminaries will gradually attract fewer and fewer sycophants if their output wanes in quality. Eventually they get overtaken, because market forces are in operation.

    And that will leave room for the next visionaries. We’ve just got to be patient and accept that this is how it works in all markets.

    Just keep the topics coming Mark and you’ll be up there soon. (And don’t forget us – your readers in the early days!)


  • Hello, I’m Jason Barrett and i’m not a guru.

    Thats almost how i’ve started introducing myself at networking events and other London ‘social media get togethers’.

    But I also seem to be branded the ‘non expert’.

    I guess that is a good thing, if a non expert means someone who is willing to try new methods, learn new techniques and not be close minded enough to think that their way is the only way it’s going to work.

    An interesting post for sure.

    It’s also quite interesting how (at least in London) the people that should be listening at the social media events should really be the ones listening. There are a few visionarys in this field who are willing and ready to try something new TODAY. Where as others would like to plan for 6 months and then launch a product that has already been dupicated a few times over.

    Looking forward to reading (and sharing) more posts.

  • Carla Bobka

    Agreement is expeditious. Dissent takes careful thought and languaging.

    I don’t have personal experience with any of primary cast mentioned in today’s post. I am familiar with the cast of extras. On that front, I will agree that the volume of tweets/mentions of agreement to social media thought leaders are huge.
    It isn’t surprising in an age where speed is considered a value add attribute.
    In the effort to hit daily or weekly metrics of participation, many people working to establish themselves in the space are placing emphasis on quantitative metrics rather than on careful consideration of the topics and adding to discussion.

  • I’m going to come back here and add another thought to this conversation in a bit. (I can’t right now. I have a meeting to head to.) Hang tight.

  • I thought you handled this blog post fairly and with great tactfulness. It is a club. And when I and others get those quantity of followers, we will be perceived as a member of the club.

    I must say, I have found Chris Brogan to be the kid in High School that all the kids like. I think that’s why he is so popular in social media.

    Great post.

  • Like some others who’ve responded I’ve had great experiences talking with the “social media gurus” on Twitter and their blogs. They seem like great people.

    And they promote the hell outta each other.

    I have days where I feel like I’m watching a back-patting session on Twitter between a group of “gurus.” They reference each other, talk to each other, promote each other, and never seem to reach far outside that realm.

    Example: the guy who writes Man vs Debt gets a guest spot on Get Rich Slowly AND pulls off runner-up on The Art of Nonconformity guest post challenge. I’ve never been a fan of his blog, his posts, his style, and yet it seems his popularity carries him around.

    Do I think he should be unsuccessful? No, I just would have liked to have seen someone AMAZING in those spots and not another “country clubber.”

    It exists, people, whether or not you want to see it.

  • Mark – I was so relieved to read your post, because my skepticism regarding social media continues to rise the more I use it and read about it.

    Another way of characterizing the Country Club in SocMed is to see it as a band of true believers, fundamentalists, wedded to their own interpretation of the world. There can be no real intellectual dissent, because it’s faith as far as they are concerned. It’s idealistic rather than RealPolitik.

    This isn’t a personal attack — I know any of the glitterati in SocMed only through their blogs, tweets and other materials. But you are spot-on to call for stringent examination of the assertions of the oft self-described leaders in social media. I’m a measurement guy, determined that if I recommend a course of action to a client (or a colleague) that I have a means of determining the business outcome resulting from it. With the continuing controversy and discussion surrounding measuring Public Relations impact, and the widespread disagreements among PR pros of long standing and demonstrated ability about the impact of mainstream media, how can we expect accepted consensus on social media measurement?

    The fact is, there is little objective research into the impact, reputational or otherwise, of social media. There are anecdotes that suggest a positive connection, but they vary by industry and audience.

    Further, comments such as “it’s about community” reflect a desire to so simplify the dialogue as to render it “happy talk.” Can you really expect a professional of any stripe to get away with such generalized puffery in the boardroom?

    Social media may well be an incipient revolution — the anecdotal evidence seems to support the idea that there is an impact on sales, particularly in B2C. But until we see more evidence of how these tools actually contribute to awareness, understanding, commitment or action of stakeholders, making a claim otherwise is specious.

    Keep driving on this topic, Mark.


  • Mark

    @basebot The comparison of the new SM elite to traditional brands is very insightful. Giving me something to think about here. I don’t think my goal is to overtake anybody. My goal is to provide for my family, laugh more and inspire when possible.

    @Matthew — Brogan is amazing. Truly a nice man and a gifted communicator. There’s something to be said for that.

    @Jon — The endless self-congratulatory back-slapping by the SM elite is so tiresome and probably what planted the seed for this post in the first place. That, and the fact that one of them copied my blog without giving me credit. And then wouldn’t respond to my messages. Come to think of it, there might be ONE guy I want to overtake : )

  • I’ve thought about this some more. I think it’s possible that the blurring lines between “personal” and “professional” have a lot to do with this. Most people in this “club” are representing organizations, whether they’re speaking for themselves, or for their brand. It has to influence one’s content and interactions when they are fearful of hurting the image of their company’s brand. It’s different if they’re self-employed consultants, or something along those lines. For those that see the line between their online professional and personal life blurring, it could prove difficult to be critical.


  • Mark

    @ Sean — Thanks for your thoughtful post. While there is a lot to be skeptical about, there is also so much damn good work going on, especially in the area of measurement. This is the most exciting time in the history of marketing.

  • Mark

    @ David. SUPERB point about the professional aspect of the online personality. Wish I had thought of it first dammit : )

    I am self-employed, so I have less to worry about, eh? Maybe I will start a new branch of my company. Curmudgeon Communications: Going where others fear to tweet (twead?)

  • spot on, Mark. i really appreciate how you propose to start discussions surrounding some of the meatier observations on social media tendencies and behaviours. we all need to read/hear this to retain a consistent level of objectivity (something you do quite well).

    i thought how you noted one of the book’s passages (i.e., “much of journalism has a faux objectivism that can’t die fast enough”) being *silly* was awfully kind..’nuff said 😉

    kudos to yet another insightful post. and yes, this one IMHO shares *insight* (a word i tend to avoid using freely) cheers – autom

  • Mark,

    Great conversation starter you’ve written. I see your point and, to a large degree, agree with you. There’s a lot of support, but rarely do we see dissent.

    Here’s the thing, though — as a thought leader you get a lot of flack. Whether it be from people who dislike you because of your success or people who just disagree with you, it’s there, and it’s in full force. For every positive, agreeing comment, there are probably 5 people who haven’t read the blog posts or books of these people and still manage to throw inflammatory statements and rude quips around about them.

    Maybe the lack of dissent is less about trying to belong than it is about trying to offer some support at the end of the day. There’s a good chance they get together and disagree, but in public…they might feel it’s more important to remain united.

    To your point, though, the support is understandable but getting a little old, at least for people who have been in this space and are working hard to bring clients and colleagues on board. For you people, the ones towing the line with the rest of the thought leaders, this constant agreement and back-patting isn’t moving the line forward; you just feel like you’re going in circles making nice with everyone.

    Each person has their niche, though. There are those out there who talk specifically to people like you, Olivier, and others at the forefront of this digital marketing movement, who don’t want to read case studies anymore but want to talk budgets and ROI and the bigger picture, i.e., AFTER a client has hopped on the wagon. But, many who are revered are revered because they talk to the masses, the companies and people who are still learning why this space is important at all. So, yes, we’re exposed to their talk, and we feel it’s repetitive and cushy, but is it to the larger whole? Probably not.

    Danny Brown wrote an interesting blog post that correlates (, and I left a comment there that bears repeating: Thought leaders (or anyone trying to make a splash) have to start with the audience they can touch and work their way out. For Brogan’s and Smith’s book, I’m not sure it was meant for people like you — but you can read it and say, “You know what? I’ll pass this along to someone who might need this extra push to bridge the gap of understanding.”

    Just trying to provide another point of view. 🙂 Fantastic post.

  • Mark,

    Given the dynamic and evolving nature of Social Media, I don’t think ANY book can do justice to the field. In fact, I feel that most marketers are still learning and experimenting with the subject and hence there are no real “experts” out there. There are some great thinkers (like yourself and that’s the reason I visit your blog everyday) but I would shy away from adding the “expert” tag to anyone.

    Rather than reading a book, the best way to learn about social media is to have a “Posts Hall of Fame” (as coined by you). An integration of all the best blog posts on social media arranged into different categories and tagged for easy searching.

  • Okay, I’m back.

    David makes another good point. I don’t know that I would have the freedom to be genuinely critical of certain companies’ and “consultants'” BS if I had to answer to a higher power.

    That said, I am VERY concerned about the proliferation of complete nonsense in the Social Media world. I’ve already called out two specific incarnations of this:

    1. Social Media directors/managers who a) don’t know what the hell they are doing and b) don’t seem to care. (How they got their jobs or expect to have them in a year, I don’t have the slightest clue.)


    2. The proliferation of “patented methods” of social media measurement or program development that are so horribly flawed that they make me question the mental capacity of anyone who can’t spot the red flags a mile away. Here’s an example: And here is another:

    I am really not sure what can be done about this. I wish that more A-listers and competent practitioners would speak out against this kind of garbage. If snake oil, poorly thought out methodologies and hacks selling nonsense to companies don’t kill social media, they will at the very least set it back and delegitimize it in the eyes of increasingly skeptical executives. I am surprised (and frankly, disappointed) that more A-listers and competent practitioners haven’t taken a stronger stand on this.

    We’re all busy and I understand that not everyone wants to waste energy on addressing these two problems, but frankly, leadership comes with responsibility. And we do, as a community, have a responsibility to a) pursue, develop, share and promote best practices, and b) shame the hacks whose unethical behavior and BS hurts us all.

    Maybe less back-slapping and more policing? Thoughts?

  • HAH! I like you Mark. I don’t necessarily agree with it all but I love that you have an opinion… and you make a good case.

    Was thinking about this post today… I’m not sure this can be as much about the country club as it is about the yes man. The people who refuse to to think, investigate and act for themselves but instead blindly follow.

    The Myth Making comment is true… but it wouldn’t be if we all processed independently.

    My point is this. We the people have enabled this madness by simply not bothering to question the elite or offer an alternative opinion. However, I don’t think for a moment that anyone in the country club would not welcome the opportunity to a battle of the minds all to further define the space.

    So I guess we all have to shoulder this mess that we all created… and perhaps take several leaves out of your cap and start questioning WHY CONTENT IS KING? Why? Not sure it is. HAH!

    Thanks Mark. This was fun.

  • Mark and Olivier – while I’ve yet to read “Trust Agents” – I agree with Olivier that most books written to sell well are going to have the mass audience in mind. But I’m with you Mark – it can often feel like it’s “career suicide” to disagree with a Brogan or Armano.

    Personally – I read “groundswell” last week and I loved it. It’s full of the information that Olivier calls for.

    “How silos were circumvented. How budgeting was justified. How measurement was adapted to the business’ needs. How the company incorporated SM into its mix of activities. How internal politics were dealt with. How staff was trained.”

    Thanks for bringing up the topic Mark.

  • There’s a fine line between criticism and *constructive* criticism. Constructive critiques are necessary for new ideas to emerge, and for current ones to evolve. The difference, of course, comes in whether you stop at picking things apart, or whether you offer a new or better way of putting it back together again.

    In the case of Trust Agents specifically, I’ve seen a few posts that do the latter quite effectively (for example, Jay Baer’s post on his blog, Convince and Convert: And while Jay certainly doesn’t pick Trust Agents apart, he does articulate things he wished were included in the book. In other words, he contributed to a discussion on how to make it better.

    I absolutely agree we need to call bullshit when we see it–but let’s make sure we’re providing solutions for the problems that we see.

  • Really sorry I arrived after the photos came down, but I’m also encouraged to see so many commenters presenting their own critical doubts about social media evangelism.

    I took some heat a few weeks ago when I posted a critical review of another social media book by another of the thought leaders in this space.

    But forget the books. The larger issue you expose here, Mark, is the unwillingness of the SM evangelists to embrace rigorous debate. The culture of “nice” just won’t allow it. Too often the “gurus” seem compelled to protect the castle while dismissing the rest of us who “don’t get it.”

    Well, I get it. But in the future, I’m with Andrew: I’ll just read the Wikipedia highlights of pop SM books unless some authoritative reviewer (not a blogger) tells me it’s a “must read.”

  • Mark

    @Teresa, this is an outstanding contribution to the dialogue and a thoughtful defense of the people at the top and their support system. Thanks for recommending Danny’s post (one of my favorite bloggers!)

    I hope the longer-term success of this post is that you and others who are contributing for the first time make it a habit. You can’t help but get energized by meaningful dialogue like this. I love this virtual “salon!” (… might be even better if it were a “saloon”!!)

  • Mark, perhaps I should differentiate marketing from public relations more clearly as to my comments. I’d also amplify a bit my call for more independent research into social media impact and effectiveness. A continuing issue for academics is access to data — it’s proprietary. This prevents or makes it very difficult for scholars to do meaningful research. There is only so much you can learn from publicly available information.

    I see info all the time that purports to show that companies involved in social media are more profitable, have higher stock prices or merely higher revenue as a consequence of engaging with stakeholders on social media. But little of this is verifiable — much of it is conducted by social media service providers who (understandably) don’t want to expose their proprietary methods. I don’t doubt that companies can sell product in this space (that’s no more surprising than the idea one could sell through a web site.) What I do wonder about is whether the social media engagement itself is causal, or whether other factors in the marketing mix are responsible. If social media is correlated, to what degree? How does it compare to other activity? There’s no independent data on this yet.

    We have to persevere a while longer…

  • Mark, you originally (back in the early days of GROW)talked about calling out “Hooey”. You are continuing to issue challenges to this market that are important points of debate, rather like a tame AmandaChapel (who I’m surprised has not entered this discussion….yet).

    But, Bill has really confirmed the main point “The larger issue you expose here, Mark, is the unwillingness of the SM evangelists to embrace rigorous debate.”

    Any blog, tweet or mention of potentially hazardous issues gets buried and i rarely RT’d or discussed. These are not negative, but constructive points that we need to consider as this “Social Web” evolves.

    Thanks for calling it (us, them) out! I’m looking forward to more. The comments coming into this are terrific. Let the debate rage on!

  • Mark

    @shannon “was thinking about this post today …” = best compliment I’ve had all week (OK, it’s only Monday, still …)

    @tamsen Your call for constructive criticism is appropriate. It may take another blog post or more. And to get there I think I need to really turn the mirror on myself. I have my own online friends. I support them. Am I forming my own country club? Are you?

  • Mark

    @Bill At the risk of sounding like a fan, yes, you do get it, and you are one of my favorite writers out there. I’m really honored that you stopped by again!

  • Ultimately the question is: Do you want to join the club, or start a new one? We all want to be part of a club, that’s what we do–we’re pack animals and thrive in groups. Some folks like to follow, some to lead, and for others that’s situational.

    But when you follow the pack, it’s hard to stand out. While the easiest way to stand out is to dissent, that often puts you outside of the pack–and into the “dissenter” pack where you *still* don’t stand out.

    It’s possible to improve a club from the inside out–and even to stand out within it without leading it or forming a new one–but that kind of dissent looks different than the kind that will start a new club around you.

    The key is to express your dissent in ways that it’s most likely to be heard–to use the very “insider language” that Chris and Julien suggest is a key attribute of Trust Agents. Use what they say, and show how it can be improved. Show how to apply it, how to connect it–or if you do simply disagree, disagree in a way that they’ll listen.

    Nobody responds well to “You’re wrong; I’m right” dissent, to those who dwell on our weaknesses. It makes us defensive and unwilling to listen.

    It’s those who help us strengthen our strengths as a way to overcome our weaknesses that we respond to best. And not coincidentally, those are the folks who stand out *within* any group.

  • I agree that this discussion is timely and warranted, but I tend to agree with Olivier. Olivier and I are friends, but I tell you what – If I disagreed I’d let everyone know it.

    I think part of the problem is that there is no critical mass of people that are all at the same level. I pulled some things out of Chris and Juliens book that really made me think. They were not in the how-to or the theory, but rather things that got my brain cooking. I have been a practitioner with real corporate experience for quite a few years so I would say that I could have written the majority of the book. However, I didn’t.

    I presume that the clients that Chris talks to are pretty much newbies. I know that the majority of people I speak to outside of the fishbowl only want to know how to use the tools and find an @ Reply on twitter. Look at it in the bigger sense. This is a really young industry and there are a few of us who are leading the way. I am sure often times it does look like a country club, but the only thing I really see separating any of us is “Real Work”

    Frankly, I don’t give a crap if Chris, Amber, Mack, Myself, You, or a cast of many other don’t have traditional sales and marketing backgrounds (however, many do). We are playing on a new field here. Sure, those traditional experiences are good, but in the consulting I do I often find myself having to help folks unlearn old tactics. This is especially true with marketers who are used to standing in a crowd with their microphone and loudspeaker expecting everyone to listen. It’s a new space, a new time. Lots of execs and traditional marketers are confused. The leaders that were spoken of in the article/comments ARE the good guys.

    In my opinion the future will create even tighter groups in more intimate settings as the twitters and facebooks of the world become noisier and noisier with pitches, self-promotion and spam. Instead of worrying about what the so called “A” Listers are doing build yourself a super strong go-to network. You’ll move mountains with that!

    Keith @keithburtis

  • Gregg Morris

    Sorry my friend, you will have to get to my age before you start Curmudgeon Communications. Either that or have Andrew Keen take control of your spirit and begin writing {grow} for you.

    I hope to be able to get back and participate more today. Good thoughts from all so far and of course your ability to stimulate and spark the conversation has got another good one going.

  • Mark, I didn’t even know you existed until today (thanks to @tamadear). And I love this post. You voiced what I’ve noticed. It seems that the “Comments” section in blogs should be renamed the “You’re So Right” section.

    I think what you’re really complaining about has more to do with us “little people” of social media than the big guys.

    Maybe Chris, Amber, etc. are all real pals and don’t want to pick a fight in public. That’s understandable. What bothers me more is the mindless re-tweeting and praising that goes on among the rest of the crowd, as you pointed out in #1 & #2 — in the quest for #4.

    I saw this in July, when Chris Brogan wrote a post about George Smith’s “blackmail experience” at Blogher. George had already complained in his own post. Sorry, but I’ve seen a lot of bad behavior in business, so my socks were not knocked off by George’s experience. But out of 59 comments, I think I’m the only one who said basically, let’s deal and move on. The rest made it sound as though George had been maimed and left for dead. When I was told I didn’t understand about blogging, I just laughed. I may be new to this arena, but I didn’t just arrive on the planet.

    Nonetheless, I still think the world of Chris. I respect the folks who’ve been playing in this space for a few years. But they’re not always right about everything. None of us are! I hope more people will find their spines, think for themselves, and be willing to have dissent without being disagreeable.

    Thanks for having the guts to get this started. You sure stirred things up!

  • @Kat& @Mark,I’m back for second comment. As Kat mentioned, I’m so glad I discovered you today as I’ve not had privilege of learning from you until today.

    Hours have past and I’m still shaking my head with a smile, “what a great & true post today.”

    I’ve served as an Army Officer and a former leader in a church ministry and I’ve seen more accountability and open professional disagreement in these traditional organizations then I have in social media.

    Few are prepared to say they disagree with the big dogs. Unfortunately, many of those in social media who disagree are lame and prevent others from having the courage to disagree or have another opinion.

    The thing I sense about Chris Brogan is he is open to these types of social discussion, while others with his type of followers are protective and even arrogant.

  • Mark,

    You are my new BFF! I’ve not read Trust Agents, nor do I know any of the gurus you mention IRL (except Amber, who I’ve known for many years and she’s the real deal), but I agree with you about the country club mantra!

    I have a friend who jokes that I’ll stroke anyone’s ego, which is pretty apparent by who I tweet, RT, and commend on the social networks. If you have something smart to say, it doesn’t matter to me if you’re a “guru” or not.

    I also get scorned publicly because I’m a top tweeter in Chicago and in Illinois, but I never go to the social networking events. Guess what? I’m not in this to become a guru and have twerds (what my friend Gregg calls all of us Twitter nerds) look up to me. I’m in this to build and grow my business and social networking is a REALLY effective way to do this.

    There are lots and lots and lots of other smart people out there. Maybe some of them didn’t arrive with the advent of blogging or Twitter, but they get it and they understand how to use social media for business growth.

    It’s time to open the club and let others in!


  • Mark- Great discussion going on here. I haven’t read Chris’ book, so I cannot comment, but I do read a lot of blogs, follow folks on Twitter and am not always impressed with what’s shared. Which is all about MY expectations. As you mentioned, you were expecting so much more based on other comments and reviews; hard for anything to live up to the hype.

    Edward Boches posted a blog a while back,, wondering why no one disagrees with each other in SM. Either we are all geniuses, have fallen into a bit of a Groupthink rut and/or we’re afraid to make the argument. As Carla mentioned upthread, it’s harder to write a compelling dissent. Nice to see someone give it thoughtful consideration, thanks for sharing.

  • Mark,

    You are my new hero.

    It’s high time that “social proof” is more than just “I was RT’d by [insert guru name here].”

    I used to work for a guy whose favorite phrase (that can be reprinted at least) was “shut up and sell something.” Would we buy guru services from a blowhard? Not unless there was real dollar value for the organization.

    I can’t speak to the book – maybe it’s better than you make it out to be, maybe it’s much worse and YOU are being TOO NICE. I don’t know…but I do know that I’d rather see real debate than continue to kowtow to others’ perceived “awesomesauce.”



  • I think the wonder in all this is an open sky to new thinking. Where do we want to go from here?

    There’s plenty of room.

    Hugh MacLeod (@gapingvoid) put it pretty good, “Don’t let someone else’s outside, become your inside.” Create your own networks, raise the bar of critical thinking. Challenge in good faith. Stay classy.

    It’s an exciting time to find the real traction in all this.

  • I LOVE this post. I’ve come to realize there is a Twitter insider club, that I’m not a part of. If you’re in it, you can get your idea, product, post publicized easily because you’re part of the “in” group. If you’re not, well it’s the usual hard work.

    In some ways, it’s high school all over again. And I agree with you that there’s not enough debate among the social media “thought leaders” and often not a lot of sense, either.

  • Mark, if you did know me you’d know that I don’t drink Kool-Aid. I hate that crap. As well, I have never belonged to a country club in my life…it’s not my scene or style. If you did take the time to get know me — and I hope you do — you’d know that I don’t like being on a social media pedestal or being called a rock star, guru, superstar or influencer. If you did know me (OR any of us), you might have thought twice about using the original photo (I like the monkey photo though…have used it myself to describe this space).

    As for the “clowning around at a social event” we were at the MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer in October. I happen to work for MarketingProfs as their community manager (wasn’t then, I was a paying attendee, but am now). MarketingProfs is a very fun and dynamic company FULL of marketing pros. They like to have fun at their events and this fun photo was taken by David Alston during a very fun dinner. Get it? FUN. You shouldn’t let your preconceived notions judge what is reality.

    Anyone who does know me will tell you that I am an opinionated marketer with over 15 years of high-tech B2B marketing, 7 years as an adjunct prof. and 5 years of social media experience (not that I need to justify myself to you, but just so you & your commenters have insights into who I am since my name was thrown around in vain). I am passionate about what I do for a living, and yes, I have my sh!t together. It’s that simple. I have earned respect in this space, I hope, because I have experience, I question everything, I engage in thoughtful conversation, I work diligently on delivering good content, and I always put the view of constituents first.

    If you ever want to debate social media, I’ll be the first to go head-to-head with you. In fact, I welcome it! Just ask Danny Brown, David Spinks, Olivier Blanchard and Bill Sledzik – they’ve all had debates with me. Oh, wait, never mind…that could be misperceived as too “HS debate clubbish.”

    Do I agree with your post? Sure, some of it. (I haven’t read Trust Agents yet, so no comment.) There are TONS of social media carpet baggers out there (who knows, you might be one too). But some of the folks you are lumping into this conversation are truly talented marketing/PR/communications AND social media professionals. As well, you have to give to get… some folks do have high follower/friend/reader counts because they produce great posts and/or conversation. I don’t think lumping all “social media experts” together in a country club is fair or appropriate.

    As well, since everyone is agreeing with you, I’ll be the contrarian and ask this… Is this just all possible link baiting? “If I continue to harp on Chris Brogan (and/or social media people), I’ll get lots of traffic and followers.” Hmmm? How many posts have you written bashing the guy now? I am not defending Chris or anyone else in this space (they can do it themselves), but you have to realize it does look like link bait, right? As well, nothing you’ve said in your last few posts is anything new & a lot has already been discussed & debated in this space (maybe you missed those debates we’ve had and already moved on from?). I assume you blog for YOUR target audience (i.e. new or existing clients), so I’d say part of your strategy is to take away potential clients for other social media folks and steer them towards you as a social media expert. Would that be correct? I mean, let’s not propagate any more myths here – this blogging thing is about making money after all…isn’t it? (Or did I misread your myths post?)

    I am sure I REALLY sound snarky…and I don’t mean to be (okay, maybe just a tad). It’s just that this conversation is very tired and it really does nothing to propel social media forward. I’d really like to hear your thoughts on: Where do you see the future of social media? How would you change the course of this space if you had the chance? What steps are you taking to ensure that your clients understand the sociological ramifications of their actions in social spaces? Hey, I am one to rant too, but don’t you think all of our readers would benefit better from posts that involve intellectual discourse or actionable steps?

    Olivier, you are not a fan of self-appointed social media “experts” and “gurus”?!?! Didn’t you just crown yourself ‘King of Social Media ROI’ after Social Fresh?? 😉 (Heh. You know I am teasing. We still need to debate the topic, it’s not over.)

    Phew! I’m done. Looking forward to your response Mark. 🙂

  • BTW, for all of you folks who feel like you aren’t in the “in” crowd on Twitter or that it’s like HS…you’re following and talking to the wrong people. Follow those people who are your target audience(if you are a business).

    If you are a marketer looking to make connections… Follow people who are outspoken and think for themselves. People like David, Bill, Tamsen and Teresa. They are very smart and engage in intellectual conversations. I for one have learned a TON from them.

  • Beth,

    … I didn’t crown myself anything. If you can point me to any statement I have EVER made in which I claimed to be the King of Social Media ROI, or referred to myself as an expert or guru or swami in anything, I would love to see it.

    I can however, point you to a whole mob of people who do call themselves any number of variations on the theme, from “social media expert” to “queen of measurement.”

    I think you have me confused with someone else.

  • Olivier, I was teasing… truly.

  • BRAVO. Thank god someone else has the balls to call out these charlatans. And that being nice. Your review of Trust Agents is much nicer than mine will be. To say I found the content lacking punch considering it was coming from social media superstar Chris Brogan is being kind.

    There is an old boy’s club mentality. I wrote about this in a response at The easiest way to join the club is to simply retweet and praise the people who are already in the club. It’s stupid and childish, but that’s the ugly truth.

    Few people have the balls to call these people out. When you ask for credentials, they don’t provide them. When you ask for examples of real work, they hide behind NDAs. Right now we have a bunch of people passing themselves off as experts who couldn’t strategize their way out of a paper bag.


  • Adam, you and I have had this conversation/debate before. Do you really expect people to share with ANYONE their “how to” strategies or their results? You aren’t paying them, their clients are. This isn’t anything new…agencies have been doing the same thing for YEARS and it’s a joke. Marc Meyer had a great post around this very subject.

    I have a huge portfolio I could show you of all my traditional marketing work…would that mean anything to you? Would you respect me more? Hell, I could just tell you that I’ve worked on every campaign… “Here’s the proof, see??” But you won’t really know until we have a conversation around each campaign or, more importantly, if I deliver the same results for you, right?

    I ask again…what do you really want to see? A case study? Any smart marketer will only give you enough to leave you salivating. Do you want Brogan to dissect and outline every single project he’s worked on and the results? If so, why should he or anyone do that if you aren’t paying them? And what position would it put him in with his clients? There are actual NDAs out there for competitive reasons. What exactly would be the proof for you?

    I’d also like to know who are “these charlatans of the old boys club?” Are girls in there too? (Come on, this is silliness…)

    And my finally question is where were all you when these people had 10 followers or blog readers? Where were you when I had the Twitter Monologues on Saturday night ( ) because NO ONE would talk to me on Twitter? Yes, it’s true…NO ONE (can you believe that?!) so I made fun of them … 😀

    I know I sound defensive and sarcastic, it’s terrible, I know. But my point is this…social media is HARD work. Whether you are an indiviual or a company. And we should all be focusing on how it helps (or not) business. The rest doesn’t matter (don’t even get me started on personal branding, ugh).

  • Beth

    Social media is HARD work. so you of all people should be irritated when a no talent, very friendly person like @iJustine comes along is considered a social media expert and starts pimping products for huge paydays. Doesn’t that irk you? It irks me.

    If you don’t think there’s a social media old boys club I suggest you do what I did for 30 days. I tracked the tweets, retweets, and blog posts of several so called experts. You know what’s amazing? When Chris Brogan writes something Justin Levy automatically tweets it. This isn’t isolated to just them, It happens quite often. Now you could argue that Justin just happens to ALWAYS find Chris’ work to be tweetable. But really, 100% of the time? Are you kidding me.

    Track it over 30 days and tell me if I’m wrong.


  • Who is iJustine?!(Seriously, I don’t know who she is…is that bad?!)

    It could be that Justin works for Chris…just saying.

    I RT Allen Weiss (our CEO) and Ann Handley (our CCO) all the time. Why? To share our content or events or discounts through my network. It’s business, right?

    But, I hear what you are saying and I get your point. I am sure that happens with a lot of people…they RT the same people OR without looking at what they are actually tweeting.

    I am constantly on the look out for new & fresh insights from folks…it’s tiring hearing the same thing rehashed.

  • Adam, and yes… I am annoyed with social media hacks. You should know that, I voice it all the time. I think you and I have different criteria for who is or isn’t a hack though.

    But more than social media hacks, I am irriated by lazy marketers who pretend to get both it and social media.

    Mark, sorry for hijacking the comments.

  • Beth, with regard to the Twitter “in” group and following people who are in your target audience, I am. But only the ones whose blogs I’ve read and where I’ve really found information of value and solid data. I’m also tweeting info to that target audience. See my post “Sorry, but it isn’t all about the conversation” ( for my thoughts.

    All that said, I think it’s TERRIFIC that you have the courage to participate in this discussion, and fully. Gives me a real reason to follow you. And I’d like to see others of the club Mark mentions also participate.

  • Beth

    Enjoy looking at @iJustine and you explain to me how she is a social media expert. It’s sad.


  • Wow, what a post and conversation – now THIS is the social web at its finest, honest opinions and open debate.

    I was going to mention my similar views/question (but Teresa Basich kindly mentioned it – and thank YOU for your kind endorsement, Mark).

    Here’s my take. I think there can be an old boy’s club mentality in play at times. I recall last year’s SxSWI social media love-up where it was all about “oh, guess who I’m having dinner with” or “guess who’s just bought me a beer”. Seriously, there were times I was screaming at the Twitter feed to shut the f*ck up with all the ego-stroking (at least that’s how it appeared).

    And there are definitely times when I’ve been watching tweets, blog comments, book reviews, etc, that make me think, “Are you effin’ serious??”.

    I think one of the key problems is that there are two distinct groups here – the ones that want to move the space forward, and the ones who want to use the space to move themselves forward. There are a few that say they’re in the former, but you wonder if they’re really in the latter.

    I’ve met and chatted with the key players mentioned in this post, and all come across as genuinely interested in helping advance the space. This is evident in their tweets, blog posts, webinars and podcamp/seminar spots.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t A-list douchebags kicking around. I’ve been put off by some of the most respected names in the medium lately for the way they’re turning into self-promoting a-holes.

    Of course, there’s always the option of unsubscribing… 😉

    Solid stuff, my friend, and brilliant views in the comments.

  • Adam, apparently she’s *IS* the Internet , what more is there to know?! 🙂

    Neicole, courage? It has nothing to do with courage. Mark’s post is simply link bait. And you could say I jumped right onto the hook. Why? Because he’s wrong. NOT all people who are so-called ‘popular’ on Twitter or have a lot of blog readers are in a ‘country club.’ A lot of folks have worked VERY hard — especially Chris, Amber and Mack. I read your post…you have an interesting perspective, thanks for sharing it with me. Unfortunately, I hate the term social media marketing for various reasons (I won’t bore you with the details here). And sales falls under marketing…so the notion that only sales is for ‘conversations, relationships, one-on-one’ doesn’t work for me either. I could never give up having 1:1 conversations with customers!! Like I said, I am an opinionated marketer! Sorry… 😉 To your point, social media isn’t always all conversation. There is a place for 1-way message pushing too. And it’s a long-term strategy, a lot of marketers lose sight of that for short-term gain (i.e. TGI Friday’s Woody campaign). Looking forward to more of your insights!

  • Mark – my hat is off to you for enabling such a great conversation.

    @DannyBrown Great point. There are those who want to move this space forward and there are those who want to move themselves forward.

    But then Keith raises a valid point around the audience for this material, books and feeds. It’s likely not to be you or I but the newbies to the space. And in that case I could see the value of these books… although I have yet to read Trust Agents, I have read a number of books that I wish I could take back. These chumps are peddling rubbish, suggesting random tactics, and providing disjointed information that is muddying up the waters.

    But I still come back to the need for the individual to take responsiblity and do their homework, ask the right questions, tweet responsibly and as Danny suggests, make use of the unsubscribe button.

    The fact that this post has come to life and the conversations after the fact have been so thoughtful and intense is evidence that we had smoke.. and you know what they say, where there’s smoke…

    I think I saw a tweet by David Spinks tonight about this space self regulating. I didn’t get a chance to investigate further, but I’d venture to say, this space does self regulate, and perhaps this post and commentary will be instrumental in future changes.

  • Danny

    I applaud you for being a voice of sanity. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy following you. You are as willing to provide praise as you are to critique. Rarely happens.


  • I think we might be taking this just a little bit too personal? Yes, perhaps Mark make made an unfortunate choice of his original picture but he’s making a specific point that seems to be lost in this discussion.

    Beth, I follow you religiously and love your comments and thinking (especially you opinion on the term Social Media that I totally agree with) but to call Mark’s post “Link Baiting” I think is unfair.

    The man has posted an opinion, a very challenging opinion, but an opinion all the same. Isn’t that what the Social Web is for? I think all he’s really saying is that there are some who are rarely if ever challenged. I’ve not read “Trust Agents” and cannot comment on the content but rarely (if ever) saw any critique, only accolades. And, I’d bet many were idle RT’s as so often happens (there are more examples of that than I care to remember).

    Again, all Mark has done is post a comment and a personal thought / observation. And, he’s dared to challenge conventional thinking.

  • Mark

    Sorry, I’ve been away on customer and family business (half-price tuna sushi night). I have been truly moved by your comments. I thank you. I would like to address Beth’s comments to me specifically.

    Beth, I accept your offer to get to know you and welcome this opportunity because I admire your blog and your intellect. And as full disclosure, I am a revenue-contributing member of Marketing Profs, so strictly speaking, I am your customer. Watch the snarkiness next time! : )

    I did not “lump” you, or anyone, by name in this article. I thought the original picture was cute but once it was posted realized it was unfair. It went down around 2 a.m. so you didn’t see any picture. I wasn’t even positive it was you in the photo, so, you’ve placed yourself in the “country club,” not me.

    As far as charging me with “link baiting.” When I pushed the button to publish this post last night I thought I probably laid the biggest egg of all-time. Why? For the exact reasons expressed in this comment section: people are genuinely afraid of dissent. I figured nobody would touch this post with a ten-foot pole. Instead, there has been a genuine out-pouring of support and praise. I’m absolutely floored by the pent-up dissent.

    These folks are not in “my tribe,” although I hope they will be. They are not defending me because they owe me a favor — I have never heard of most of them before. Beth, these intelligent and insightful professionals are speaking from their heart and so it really angers me that you dismiss their passionate conversation as “tired.” You’re not listening, madam.

    Regarding “harping on Chris.” I have referred to Chris Brogan in a total of two posts over the past six months. In my first one, I referred to well-publicized controversies surrounding him to point to issues with social media in general. My post was balanced and respectful and I praised his handling of very difficult issues. Before I ran the article, I offered to show it to Chris first, again because I truly, sincerely, admire and respect the guy. He offered several great comments on the post and, at the end of the day, he said the article and ensuing conversation was “a bright spot.” So Beth, I thought his book was “OK.” Is that really harping on Chris or are you simply conditioned to go into attack mode if somebody isn’t following the script?

    Implying that I wrote this article to take away business from you and others is preposterous. My plate is full, my clients are happy. Here’s a little secret: I don’t need the money. Take a look at all the ads I have on the blog Beth. You’ll see why I need to drive blog traffic to drive cash-generation. Boy, it’s pouring in.

    I wrote the article (and every article) because it was a topic that interested me. I have a master’s degree in applied behavioral sciences (and another in marketing) and I am absolutely fascinated by the psychological, financial, and sociological impacts of the new media and its participants.

    Including you. Which brings us full circle. Despite your reactive, unprofessional and out-of-touch response, I do pledge to make an effort to get to know you better and participate in your conversations as time permits. And I expect better customer service next time ; )

  • “The ‘thought leaders’ of social media marketing are a country club fearful of saying anything negative or controversial about another club member.”

    Yet another reason why critical thinkers should have little to do with these folks and their followers. This isn’t to say that popularity in and of itself negates validity, but your point is well taken: Too many of these folks have a sacred cow status worth ignoring. Good post.

  • Steve, I admitted upfront that I was being snarky… 😉 And you know me, I can be quite snarky at times, especially when it’s something I am passionate about. You are right; there is a lot of room for opinion here. I’ll admit to being a bit sensitive… I have worked my tush off in this space for years and I just hate being ‘lumped in.’ And I felt this post did just that because it was *MY* photo that was used under the headline “Social Media Country Club.” Can you blame me? Yes, I know it was removed from the post (thanks again Olivier!), but it’s was still appearing on Mark’s sight (under the ‘You might also like’ images) when I dropped by to comment.

    Mark, hey, it’s almost midnight…this is off-hours my friend. 😉 But seriously, because you are a member does that mean you can write a post that somewhat attacks me personally by the nature of the headline and graphic? I shouldn’t say anything? I shouldn’t react? I should ‘tread lightly?’ That’s a bit unfair, no?

    You *did* lump me in by stating “[the photo]…influenced my thinking about writing this post. How could people who are in such tight circles ever be critical of each other?”

    I have often been very critical of this space as well as marketing and PR in general and to be lumped in to some social media country club was completely unfounded and I stand by my opinion there. And WE have been critical of each other too. I mean is this similar to “if the tree falls in the forest and no one hears it…did it really fall?” Just because some folks (especially those new to the space) may not have seen or been involved with debates people in this space have had doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

    I apologize for stating that this was link baiting, but to be honest, the only other post from you that has been sent my way was the “The Monetization of Chris Brogan” post. When I was told about this one today my immediate thought was “here we go again…and I get to be included this time.” You know what they say about first impressions. And if my impression of you was unfounded, then, again, I apologize.

    Mark, you shouldn’t be floored by the dissent…it’s been going on for quite a while (and it happens in every social network). As well, every time a new crop of folks start to analyze social media or people get bored it occurs again (see the link in Mack’s comment).

    As for Twitter, there’s an illusion that there is some “club,” but the fact of the matter is that it’s other people who have that perception and it’s other people who put people on pedestals and it’s other people who make certain social media folks out to be some kind of social media rock stars.

    That’s part of why I dismiss conversations like this. I get DMs and emails every day that say “I am honored/flattered you are following me, commented on my blog, etc. etc.” I know people are being nice, but I am just a marketer. There is no need to put people up on pedestals like that and in my opinion it takes away from who they are and their importance when they do that. What’s to say that they can’t teach me something? It is unfair to put people up on pedestals that they didn’t ask to be put on…because ultimately they become unfairly scrutinized in posts like this one.

    Most of the people who have commented here today are people who I know, who know me and some who I am friends with. And yes, they ARE really smart folks. And I am FAR from dismissing their conversation or their opinions! These are people I talk to often and I respect their views very much (David, Olivier, Teresa, Glenn, Tamsen, Autom, Danny, Bill, Steve, etc.) and I often do debate with them. My comment was specifically directed at you, not them. As well, it never once crossed my mind that they were defending you (not sure how you leaped to that thought). I read each of their comments and agree with most, if not all, of them.

    As for listening, I’ve been listening to this conversation over and over since I started the exact same one myself back in July of 2008. So am I tired of it? Yes. Is it anything new? No. Is your point of view valid? Of course!

    Reactive, unprofessional and out-of-touch response? Now, that’s attacking, no? I didn’t attack you. I shared MY opinion on your post AND reacted to the light in which you positioned me (unfortunately, the image and head line were still on your blog when I got here…so, I didn’t put myself in the country club you put me there). And I admitted upfront that I was being snarky.

    As well, I was asking you serious questions and I meant them. I really want to know: Where do you see the future of social media? How would you change the course of this space if you had the chance? What steps are you taking to ensure that your clients understand the sociological ramifications of their actions in social spaces? And now that I know about your MS, I really am curious.

    Mark, it seems we got off to a rocky start and that’s unfortunate. As I said, I don’t disagree with some of your post and I certainly agree that there are a lot of carpetbaggers in this space. That said, I stand by what I initially wrote. I was being a contrarian on purpose, for effect & to make a point. No one likes to be on the opposite end of a gun and will typically react defensively if they are.

    While I appreciate critical thinking and commentary as well as social discourse, I think we ALL (myself included) need to be careful about pointing fingers.

  • Whoa it’s really kicking off here, I like the impassioned debate by people who really have strong points of view but all seems a little self-serving. I’m a social media infant but I think I ‘get it’ and as such concentrate my time in working out how it can help my b2b clients acheive a better relationship with their markets. That’s it. We’re all learning and experimenting everyday and that’s all we can do. Social media has energised me to new possibilities to engage, it’s a fantastically exciting time and this passion is being directed at some pretty ‘industrial’ clients. If they trust me we’ll succeed.

  • Mark

    keep fighting the good fight. This world needs more people like you than it does more ass kissers and back slappers.

    I have several posts on my site covering this topic. Personally I think you should have left the picture up.

  • As someone who often blogs about social media from the underground I enjoyed the post and comments alot 🙂
    I also wrote a book called
    Facebook for GOOFS 🙂 you can click the link to check it out.
    I RESPECT you for speaking out.For me as a blogger who hasn’t broke a large scale audience it does get a little old seeing everyone suck up to certain people that is life. Hey we’re next LOL 🙂
    Another AGENT 😉

  • I read an interesting article this morning about a Stanford Social Media Study that found:
    “The more people were connected to their peers, the more they tended to overestimate the degree to which their judgments were in agreement with others’ views. This is known as “the false consensus effect.” This effect was observed even when participants held a minority opinion: they mistakenly believed they were in the majority. It seems that social ties tend to exacerbate, not mitigate, the false consensus effect. Social ties strengthened the illusion that consensus existed even when it didn’t.”

    I couldn’t help but wonder in the context of this discussion if we are not only seeing the impact of this (The SM Country Club) but without the “challenges” could this “Country Club” effect take us down the wrong path?

    Beth mentioned that many of these subjects have been debated heavily in the past. She’s right, but so far many have never been resolved, hence why the challenges keep coming.

  • Sigh.

    I wondered how long it would take for Mark’s post and comments to be characterized as a “personal attack.” It was not. Beth has made some great points, and I applaud her for standing in and slugging. But, Beth, this isn’t personal.

    For what it’s worth, Mark, Beth and I also got off to a similar rocky start here: But she’s pretty tough, and we found a way to bury the hatchet. We’ve had some very civil discussions, despite our disagreements.

    Conversely, I had an exchange similar to this on 2/29/08, and found myself banished from a blogger’s site as a result. Now that’s being overly sensitive!

    In the end, this is all “inside baseball.” Outside of the cozy echo chamber of PR/Marketing 2.0, very few people have heard of Chris, Amber, et. al. And the rest of us are COMPLETELY invisible. Let’s keep it all in perspective.

  • Amen, Bill Sledzik: “this is all ‘inside baseball’.”

    The real world of business is hungry for you, social media practitioners, to create what’s next:

    Can you make it even more engaging for customers? Can you create new, more flexible and more responsive tools? How can you better demonstrate ROI?

    There. I double-dog dare you.

  • Mark,

    Like you and many of the folks in this thread, I grow weary of the fishbowl.

    And I know you don’t mean this as a personal criticism, and I’m honestly not taking it that way. But a couple of things about me you should be aware of: I worked in corporate and non-profit jobs for nearly 12 years – in sales, marketing, and client service roles – and have accountable for budgets in the millions and revenue tens of times that. I’d be happy to offer similar credentials for many other A-listers, too. Not all of us just crawled out of our Mom’s basement, and I think it’s important not to generalize that fact. And ultimately, the folks that make a real dent in this world will show in results, not talk. Many of the lenses through which people view social media folks is based on other people’s generalizations, not necessarily truth or first-hand knowledge of their qualifications or work.

    My proof is in my business results, and my customers. That’s the yardstick that matters to me. Not the blogs of my peers in this tiny pond of ours. But neither will I discount the support of long-time peers who were friends long before I ever uttered a tweet, but might now be seen as sycophants of some stripe. That’s just…well, shortsighted and out of context.

    Now that that’s out of the way…

    Debate and dissent is the only thing that moves discussion forward. I personally write stuff that’s often not of popular opinion, and it honestly frustrates me when the comments are all “Great post!” when I know that if folks disagree with me, they’re less likely to say so. (By disagree, BTW, I also mean capable of actual discussion on the topic, which is another matter altogether). That said, groupthink is a very real danger in ANY collection of people in an industry where there’s little precedent. No one wants to be the first to be woefully wrong – or to blame if they take the road less traveled, and fail. We’ve got a really short tolerance for failure in this space, whether you’re an advocate or a critic.

    I’m also, however, a little weary of the social media backlash. It’s good. It’s healthy. The discussion is totally worth having because there is so much fluff out there it could choke a llama. But the ideas of shills and “get rich quick” (or “get community quick”) jokers exists in every industry. We have it in sales, PR, marketing, and all of the age old industries.

    The challenge is to move beyond the annoyance of the empty stuff, and offer and drive the things that SOLVE these problems. I’m tired of the “all the gurus can suck it” discussion, mostly because few of the critics can offer alternatives for what they’d be doing differently, aside from either being part of the group themselves (let’s face it, some of these people are just pissed that their work isn’t getting recognized and wouldn’t be so quick to bash the well known folks if they were one themselves) or rebelling completely and saying that social media is worthless.

    I’m finding very little middle ground of folks willing to intelligently discuss the strengths and weaknesses of social media in its current state – and move the discussion to *tangible* alternatives for businesses rather than snark about the people involved (from both sides of the fence, mind you). We’re focusing an awful lot on knocking people off their pillars instead of trying to understand what’s working and what’s not, irrespective of whether the practitioner is well known, or not so (I see few people picking on the everyman social media hack that’s screwing things up, presumably because he’s doing so on a smaller scale and one could assume he’s not in it for glory?)

    Quick note about Chris’ book to take into consideration: this book wasn’t written for you. Or for any of us, really. It was written for the people who, unfortunately, are going to be least likely to buy it – the ones who vehemently don’t understand what this social stuff is good for (and no matter how much you hate the fishbowl, there are real, valuable things about the social web itself). I think he frames it well, in the context of trust rather than “Facebook is cool.”, and I support that concept very much. The biggest difference between what Chris knows and what we know and say? He had the business sense to get a book deal in which to say it. 🙂

    Interesting discussion you’ve sparked here. Lots of emotion tied into this topic. I love healthy discussion, but do think we need to be careful about casting generalizations about the “gurus” vs. the “critics”. There’s lots of empty debate on both sides, and I really wish we’d spend a bit more time having constructive discussions about what’s next instead of why the other guy is doing it wrong.

    Thanks for your viewpoints. I’d be more than happy to talk with you, in detail, anytime about the topic, and will hand your comments back to you.

  • Wow. That was a long one. Sorry about that. 🙂

  • As far as I can see, Mark 1) reviewed a book, 2) pointed out that the social media “elite” might promote each other, 3) alerted his readers to the problems this may cause among the rest of the social media participants, and 4) raised the question “What would better serve MY social media strategy … or yours?”

    I have a feeling that the volcano erupted with his choice of the photograph and some comments that flung the whole discussion on a differnt, personal track.

    If we sift out as much of the emotion in this thread as possible, there are many extremely good points being made, especially with regard to the quality of marketing advice, measuring social media impact and ROI. What I don’t personally like is that we are having comments on how the social media environment SHOULD be developing, or that we shouldn’t be having this discussion at all because it’s already taken place. I beg to differ: if something is worth discussing, it will and should pop up regularly to be looked at from all angles.

    Let’s face it, social media is nothing but a platform. It is up to the individual to use it exactly as he or she pleases, be it for advancing some kind of “common good” or merely advancing a career or sales (the product may be a good one or absolute rubbish, but that’s true in any environment). The responsibility for what to take home from all of it lies squarely on the shoulders of the recipient. As it does in real life, too.

    Some people advocate “constructive discussion”. It would be nice to live without all the garbage that abounds in social media, but in fact it will be impossible. Let’s try not to become control freaks. We can all build our own clans/tribes/following/whatever and advance the issues we feel are important there.

    As a side note, isn’t everything we write publicly “link bait”? At least I know I wouldn’t bother if it weren’t for the chance of being noticed and finding ways to monetize that. Before you start lobbing hate mail at me, let me just say I’m also trying to educate my market and learn from people who have more insight than I do.

    To circle back to the original question: what would better serve MY social media strategy – I really don’t know at this stage. I think, however, that I’m beginning to distill something useful out of the mass of talk. I’m not interested in becoming a renowned teacher of the various aspects of social media but I am in how it can benefit my clients to achieve conversions.


  • This discussion is fascinating on so many levels.

    I am not a social media expert [as must seem obvious from my comments ;-)], in fact, I have been approaching my participation in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogging almost as an experiment. As my specialties are communication strategy, internal communication research, and PR measurement/evaluation, I am seeking to understand not only how social media are being used now (so as to be better informed to discuss it with clients), but also to develop an idea on how to measure it.

    Many of my colleagues on the Institute for PR Measurement Commission make their living in this space — and there are myriad opinions, as one might expect. I am sensitive to the perception that I am calling anyone out, or hurling accusations.

    One of the issues with dissent and discussion is the perception of criticism — of personal animus — represented by asking even the simple question, “Why?”

    The answer to Why? often leads to confidential, proprietary information, so there aren’t a lot of answers right now. That’s understandable; everyone needs to be able to make a living.

    But it also holds us back. There are no licenses here, no peer-reviewed articles, and as I said in a previous comment, precious little objective research. Oh, there have been various projects and surveys (Charlene Li’s, for example), but the findings always seem to support the business mission of the organization conducting them. There is certainly nothing wrong with differentiating one’s self through such means, but to believe that such research is definitive stretches the imagination.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the talented, driven, intelligent and experienced people who represent the current leadership in this space deserve their success. By the same token, debating them should not be seen as personal attack or invective. Many people point out that social media is substantively different than mainstream or traditional media, and the differences often require a different skill set to understand and use effectively.

    So, how relevant is our past experience in these matters? I am not a marketing specialist, but marketing traditionally is about one-way asymmetrical communication. This began to change with the branding efforts of the 90’s, as brands sought to create closer relationships with customers. The social media role in marketing, therefore, makes perfect sense to me as an extension of those branding efforts.

    When it comes to further claims about social media, I reserve judgment. I certainly have expanded my network as a consequence of my participation, a valuable outcome. Whether that’s going to translate into increased revenue seems fairly uncertain at this time.

    I just know that having a civil discussion about these matters IS extremely valuable.

    Sean Williams

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  • Jim

    Isn’t the fact that the same people are commenting on this post a little hypocritical considering the subject matter? A little? Country club indeed.

  • Mark

    @beth A comment on a pattern I observe in blog behavior in general: “Snarky” is a euphemism for “sarcastic and rude.” Admitting that you are snarky does not excuse you for being snarky. You’re such a talented and intelligent person. Why go there?

    Some of my comments to you were direct and unvarnished. I’m not hiding behind “snarky.” I adopted this tone because I perceived that my words were twisted and my integrity questioned by a complete stranger and I was MAD.

    I would like to emphasize (again) that my original post was based on behavioral observations of a group, not an attack on any individual. The feedback from others seems to validate at least an impression of “pack mentality,” which I also believe is reinforced by your own comments.

    The questions you posed to deflect the feedback from this topic are excellent. If you look at my body of work, (instead of just the articles that mention your friends, as you admit) you will see that I have touched on all of these topics at some point. I will continue to explore these issues and hope you’ll comment on these articles, too.

    Thank you for standing up and contributing amid a lot of heated reader comments, Beth. I really appreciate it and respect you for that.

  • Jim, kudos! It’s just a different country club…but all the same backslapping is taking place.

  • Mark

    A lot of the community comments on the blog come across as “you go boy” because the establishment was somehow tweaked. I personally do not buy into that sentiment. I don’t know any of these folks personally but assume from their work that they are well-meaning professionals. They have worked very hard and took risks to get to the “A” list. Good for them.

    I think the challenge for them, and all of us, too, is this: Personal support and friendship is one of the most amazing benefits of social media. But overdone, it can create a clubby fortress that might erode the inclusiveness, open debate and innovation that built the platform in the first place.

    The fact that one young commenter considers it “career suicide” to challenge the social media establishment deeply saddens me and should be an alarm to all of us.

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  • I read an ARC copy of Trust Agents and posted my generally positive review some time ago. I also pointed out the same “faux objectivism” comment as you did. It’s actually more insulting in its entirety. But I liked Trust Agents.

    I will be posting shortly a review of an academic book which discusses the research on trust in virtual business environments done since the mid 1990’s. The academicians call them “Trust Brokers.” I wish there was a way to verify who came up with what term when. In any case, building trust across distance and boundaries has been researched in academia for some time, Trust Agents brought it to the masses, and generally it encourages civility. Something I think we can’t get enough of in these gun-toting, Town Hall yelping, tell-the-President “You Lie” days.

    Personally, I welcome the civility brought about not necessarily by Social Media itself, but by the permanence and transparency of personally-identified postings such as on most social media channels. Our nation has swung too far to the extreme that outshouting each other seems to be the only way we think we can debate. Anonymous discussion board threads are so rapidly taken over by haters on both sides of the liberal/conservative bent that many aren’t worth reading anymore.

    So, does transparency and permanence currently make us less willing to engage in debate? Certainly. Will that change over time? I think so. But I think in a way where we can actually debate, and not just yell at each other.

  • The disconnect in this discussion, at least for me, stems from Mark’s argument in number 3 in his post. Telling people to ask any self-appointed “guru” about his or her credentials is an excellent point. Absolutely! But are the people posing as experts when they have no experience or education truly “our most visible advocates”? It seems to me that the members of the “country club” (to continue the metaphor) are actually very well qualified and experienced. Chris Brogan certainly is. Beth and Amber have outlined their extensive, admirable credentials in this thread. I’m not saying you have to agree with them or that their ideas are across-the-board flawless! But they are well-qualified to share those ideas, in publications and with their paying clients.

    Yes, there are posers. And newbies and bandwagon-jumpers, all of whom are out there calling themselves “marketing experts.” There also very well may be a “country club” of elite professionals in social media who know each other, like each other, and support each other’s work. Both groups exist, but I don’t think they necessarily overlap.

    That, I think, is why the post is rubbing some the wrong way.

  • @cheryl

    I asked on multiple occasions for Chris’ credentials in this thread, but was continually rebuffed by him and Beth.

    Specifically, Beth states, “As well, Chris or anyone else is NOT beholden to share their work with anyone else. The only people that matter are our clients and our management.”

    Well, I gotta tell ya, If you’re gonna write a book, speak at a conference, or pose as a social media demi-god shouldn’t you be able to share what you’ve done to EARN it?

  • The need to expand on one’s credentials and experience is telling –defensive, perhaps — and yet lacking either presupposes that an honest, valid point can’t be made without such credentials. That’s a neat, and arguably offensive, trick to attempt to put potential critics at bay from the outset. It’s as if to say some are allowed into the club once passing some unknown, unverified rite of passage.

    Conversely, to place one’s work out there absent of verifiable experience and/or education seems disingenuous as well.

    The fact is: Social media as we know it takes little talent to learn to use. To be mindful and strategic is something else entirely. I’m more curious as to what people are truly doing in this arena. I’m also curious to learn what others have learned from their mistakes if they are so bold as to be open about them.

    Did you change a news story, or hundreds, in your favor because of something you posted on a Web site? Did you squelch a negative news story by pre-empting the news media with something posted on Facebook? Do you counter negativity by opening the floodgates of information (i.e., advocated transparency)? Do you help make your organization so open that people essentially leave it alone (so other important work can get done)? Did you take a beating publicly simply because it was better than looking defensive? Why or why not? Each of these can be relayed without giving away details, so I can’t buy the excuse of giving away client secrets or some such.

    If what you do doesn’t have direct impact on how people can help their workplaces, its constituents and/or clients it may not be of much use at the end of the day. (And sorry, but “how you present yourself” is 7th-grade home-economics.)

  • Time and people like you will eventually bring about change. excellent post!

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  • Mark

    Regarding “credentials” — One of the greatest hitting coaches in baseball history was a guy named Charley Lau. Over an 11-year major league career the guy hit a total of 16 homeruns and had a career average of .255 (he wasn’t very good).

    In other words, you don’t need to have the greatest credentials to be an excellent teacher. However, if you want to be respected as an “expert,” it does help if you at least had experience playing the game.

  • I’ve never been drawn to country clubs of any kind. Same goes for clans, and clannish behavior. Civility goes a long way, and kindness is highly under-rated, IMO. I did enjoy your post, however, and agree with it somewhat.

    Personally, I would love to raise the bar on the utility of social media. I think we’re ready to take it a bit further than the typical SM 101 content, which, as you’ve pointed out has greatest value for beginners, and is often simply common sense.

    I’m keeping an eye out for new uses and applications of social media, and whether sparked by A-lister or newbie, I hope we manage to stretch out of our SM comfort zone a bit.

    Thanks for “going there” Mark. Looking forward to more provocative posts.

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  • Mark,

    Great discussion. It is healthy to challenge and disturb the waters from time to time and kudos to you for having the courage to speak up your mind.

    I couldn’t resist sharing the link to this cartoon


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  • I don’t have a lot that I want to add to the post. It’s pretty interesting to read. I’m probably the most approachable guy I know, so to think that people should somehow cower when they disagree with me is silly. If you’ve met me (which most of the people on this post have not), you’ll know a lot more about the person behind the keyboard. I fly every 2 days right now, so eventually, I’ll meet you, maybe.

    Adam, I don’t have your impressive background. The folks who hire me (Sony, AMD, Cisco, Microsoft, Pepsico, Comcast Interactive, etc, etc) just hire me because they believe I know something. I don’t have decades of experience in sales and marketing. Oddly, they don’t care. They hire me because I know something about how the new thing is working, the thing that hasn’t come before.

    Revolutions don’t come with roadmaps.

    Back on track of Mark’s post: is backpatting rampant? Absolutely.

    Here’s what’s more troubling to me, personally: USEFUL criticism is at an all time low. I can read a post per day (there’s a decent average) of someone crapping on me for something. What I rarely read are those same bloggers offering up useful information on what they’d do better.

    Addressing the book: the book was written to point out some very basic truths, that this stuff we’re doing isn’t like traditional marketing and business communication. Is it repetitive? Shit, probably. It’s our first book. We’re learning. We hacked it the way we hack everything, and then we learn and improve for next time. But it’s selling like crazy, so people are buying it in its current crappy form. And all my backpatting friends aren’t the buyers, so someone seems to be getting the word out there.

    When your books come out, you’ll get the strange feeling in my belly that I get every time I read something negative. I like to learn, but I feel bad when someone calls my kid ugly. I know this because I now feel worse about every negative review I ever gave. I worry that I wasn’t constructive enough.

    Am I someone who loves to learn via constructive criticism? No. Constructive feedback? Yes. But those are two different things.

    That’s all I have to add. Not really going to proliferate the thread, but I’m grateful for your opinions. To those who slam me just for being where I am, that’s okay too. We all get there different ways.

    I want to be the monkey on the right.

  • Mark

    @chris — You truly amaze me. I know you probably don’t have time to breathe right now yet somehow pieced together a meaningful reply to the post. Don’t know how you do it, but thank you!

    Regarding useful criticism, I personally try to strike a balance. I comment on what I observe but also do a lot of teaching through this blog. Much of the time I am throwing out questions because I don’t have the answers — normally my audience does!

    A reality: In the post following this one, I provide my own version of what I would do if I were “in the country club” to tone down the backslapping and enable more debate. It was probably the least-tweeted article I’ve ever written. One possible interpretation: bloggers don’t deliver constructive feedback because readers don’t respond to it.

    I can relate to being protective about your “baby.” It must feel great to accomplish something like that. So thanks for taking the book criticism graciously.

    I tried to distance myself from the “piling on” that occurred throughout the thread. I think it’s unfair to attack individuals for their success instead of the issues. The human tendency toward cronyism and its implications is the issue, not you (or anyone) personally.

    You’re such a likeable guy but sometimes the things you say about business make me want to shake you! Still, nobody works harder or gives back more to their audience than Chris Brogan and that means something, whether I agree with you or not.

    I bought your book because it was my “vote” for you and your contributions to the social media community. If nothing else, you have consistently offered yourself up as a lightning rod for debate. I wanted to reward you for that and all the free stuff you’ve thrown out there for years.

    I’ll buy your next book for the same reason. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be honest about it! : )

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  • Hello from Russia!
    Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?

  • Mark

    @Polprav Certainly. Thanks for asking.

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