The Iconoclast’s Guide to Social Media

Rules are for the weak. #fb

Rules are For the Weak

There are many guides, books, ebooks, blogs, podcasts and conferences about how to use social media effectively. “Influencers” make this world go around. However, I think people, at times, need to approach social media from the “Iconoclast” rather than “Influencer” point of view. Here are the symptoms that you might need to shake yourself up a bit:

– Blindly agreeing with the social media “A-Listers” and posting “Great post!” comments on their blogs?

– Can’t eat your morning scramble without the latest news from Mashable?

– Obsessively reading every social media book, even if you feel like you are reading the same book, over and over and over again?

You need to take an antidote. Become an Iconoclast. It doesn’t mean you have to become a jaded, cynical, mean-spirited jerk, but it helps. The option is becoming a too-agreeable, sycophantic, bland jerk. The choice is yours.

As a help, here are a few rules for the Social Media Iconoclast:

Do Not Take Yourself too Seriously

This is key to having it both ways (I prefer not to call it hypocrisy). Not taking yourself too seriously is important in case you become a popular blogger or (gasp!) an Influencer or (horrors!) a social media keynote speaker. It’s a great trick and it works. This is the first rule because it allows everyone in– even you, Mr. Social Media Influencer, can become an Iconoclast too. Just make it believable, or the rest of us will flay you.

Relax- You Jerk

Non-Iconoclasts are uptight, even defensive. Non-Iconoclasts (not limited to  “Influencers”) have endless reserves of energy. Non-Iconoclasts talk about social media 26 hours a day. I like sports, music, films and family activities. I need at least two hours per day for non-social media activities. I forget if I included sleep in my figuring. Perspective allows you to deflate the gas-bubble of social media importance.

Feed the Trolls- For Fun

Go ahead, poke a stick in the lion’s cage. I’m not sure this is really constructive, but I would like to see some of you try it to see what happens. The rest of us will learn from the consequences.

This is tricky, because a real Iconoclast won’t listen to this advice and stay far away from relentlessly negative Internet trolls. However, the best Iconoclasts can get away with troll-sparring. It’s an art, a master skill. The only way to find out is having the rest of you try it and see who succeeds. Let me know how it goes.

Ok, now that the troll-baiters are gone…

Befriend Your Critics/Criticize Your Friends

Befriending your critics isn’t Iconoclastic, but it makes this section header sound better. It does make you better to befriend your critics- rather than being defensive every time someone disagrees with you. Embrace it. Improve yourself. After all, those people may also be Iconoclasts.

Criticizing your friends is important, because it makes them better. Don’t be afraid of their objecting, or of their minions attacking you. You, sir or madame, are an Iconoclast, and can take it.

Check the water before you splash everybody

It is tempting to jump on the Internet and start ripping everyone. Don’t risk real collateral damage, as fun as it might be to come out guns a blazing and be That Person (not necessarily a Troll) who challenges everyone 24/7. A That Person is not an Iconoclast.

Once you are sure of your surroundings and know the water is good, however, perfect that cannonball. Splash everyone.

Have a Thick Skin

Remember criticizing your friends? Your friends may be Iconoclasts. They are coming after you. Take it in the spirit in which you would like it to be intended, and be secure in your own competent yet fallible self. Does that mean you are an Influencer as well as an Iconoclast? It happens. Remember I mentioned something about having it both ways.

Represent a brand? Go nowhere near your corporate accounts with your personal accounts

There is no room in an Iconoclast’s repertoire for torpedoing one’s own professional brand by being an idiot. Don’t accidentally post your brilliant, yet personal, snark on a company Twitter account (do I really need to link to the popular examples of such?). Keep those accounts far away from each other to lessen the chance. There is also a matter of nuance. Iconoclasm serves debate, scholarship, and improvement, not boorishness and name-calling, If you resort to rank name-calling, you are a weasel.

Have a stomach for others’ imperfections

You are not perfect. I am not perfect. The “Influencers” are not perfect. That’s okay, even if they don’t know it. There is a difference, however, from it being okay being imperfect and not pointing out those imperfections. Point them out. Privately. Publicly. After all, Iconoclasts exist to improve the Influencers’ material. Love the blemishes, while making sure the whole world sees them. Be a friend. Be an Iconoclast.

There you have the rules for being a Social Media Iconoclast. I dare not call it a manifesto, as manifestos (manifesti?) are things I reserve the right- as an Iconoclast- to pick apart.

Oh. and rules are for the weak. Start shredding.


A Wide-Eyed First-Time Attendee’s guide to SXSW Interactive

I attended South-by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive for the first time this year (yes, the first time, despite what several people seem to think), accompanying Voce client What did I, the newbie, see and think?

Actually, before I dive in, I was impressed by the “sxswcares” effort, shaking the attendees into at least some awareness of the world around them, and add some action to our week of talking, by encouraging people to make Red Cross donations to benefit the earthquake/tsunami victims in Japan. So hats off to Leigh Durst and company (I know Leigh, apologies to the rest of you , some of whom I met briefly). And please- go to and do what you can.

OK, now here are my SXSW newbie observations:

Everybody Has a Book

@stevegarfield #sxsw

(Steve Garfield, Author of "Get Seen")

I think it’s great, though I always reserve the right to snark. It’s awesome to see friends have success. Many of us in the social media marketing/PR cliques like to poke holes in the bubbles around the books. Many of us in these circles like to smell our own, um, fumes. Both of these groups include the same people (yes, I am looking at you, and me). I count on my friends having thick skins and senses of humor, especially when I tell stories like this:

I had a dream (true) during SXSW that I was the co-author of a Wiley-published book on social media. The problem was, I didn’t know which one. after autographing a copy of a book and noticing my name wasn’t on the cover as author, I started cussing people out until someone mentioned that wasn’t my book- I had written a different social media book. I couldn’t tell the difference, and neither, apparently, could most of the other people in the dream.

I actually told that story to a Wiley editor. Did I mention the long hours on our feet sometimes lead to unguarded moments?

I also toted around a copy of Olivier Blanchard’s new book Social Media ROI. I plan to read it (I promise), but didn’t have time to crack it on the trip. To further puncture the “celebrity” idea of celebrity authors in our relatively isolated group of marketers, I had a bunch of people, all of whom shared the trait of not being Olivier Blanchard, sign the book for me. Olivier thought it was funny, by the way. Good for him.

olivier blanchard social media roi

Actually, the best thing about SXSW is that if I ever am tempted to think I am “cool,” friends (you know who you are) are ready to prick that balloon, and someone else who actually is cool (periodic conference foil Ewan Spence filled that role quote well) invades my space to remind me what the word really means.

Boston People are the Best (sorry, people from everywhere else)

This is just a blatant excuse to shout out the Boston in Austin Tweetup folks, and the fact that the people from Boston (including those who have left to colonize Austin and make it really cool. The Boston Tweetup was crowded from start to finish, a great testament to the passion of the entrepreneurs, developers and marketers in our area. Now, let’s raise the city’s innovation profile, please. Companies like oneforty, Backupify and Hubspot– the party sponsors- are great examples, and I know there are plenty more.

#bosinaus photo for @JoeCascio #sxsw

Trade Show vs Conference: The Changing of the Vibe

SXSW is huge; there are three conferences, Interactive, Film and Music, that overlap, with a trade show bridging them over four of the ten days. The first few days were all conference speaking and panel sessions, and a real atmosphere combining collegiality and idea sharing sprung up. On Monday the 14th, the trade show floor opened and you could feel the whole event flip over to a new thing. The sessions continued, but all of a sudden there were more people, and a different vibe, as the exhibitors and “booth people” all of a sudden had a huge presence. It wasn’t a bad thing, but the change struck me more than I thought it would. did anyone else feel the same way?

SXSW Expo Floor Panorama

(SXSW Expo Floor Panorama by CC Chapman)

The Only Thing Worse Than waiting in Line is Being Crabby About It

The parties are to relax and have fun. If you choose to attend an event that has a wait to get in, be fine with it and move on. Don’t treat the door people like crap because you don’t like how they are doing things. I saw a little mild unjustified behavior that made me (probably visibly) roll my eyes a little. Relax and have fun, folks. You’re going to have to turn around and work all day on four hours or less of sleep. Did you have fun at SXSW? Did you get things done?


A Brief Word About Facebook Naysaying and Taking the Long View

Facebook | An Update on Facebook Governance

Flickr photo by factoryjoe

I look at Facebook’s moves with a cynical eye, I really do. I think a lot of the changes and features they unveil are done so without fully thinking through the immediate effects on the site’s users, both individual and corporate. I also note that except in a few cases, the initial displeasure with sudden changes has died down after a bit, and people get used to the new Page layout/ad scheme/Like button functions.

Why bring this up now? I was intrigued by the talk about the switch to iFrames from FBML (Facebook’s special language for Page layouts) and tabs. Of course there is the usual uproar from people who will get used to the changes soon enough, but there is a deeper change afoot- Facebook allowing more flexibility to design apps for company pages– opening the door to more effective lead generation and customization with forms, surveys, e-commerce and other content layovers.

The talk about whether businesses need their own websites or not- why not just have a Facebook page?-  has been going on for some time, but with these changes it just got hotter.

The answer is still that Facebook is not your domain, and it is good to have your own site with your own backend- where you own the entire experience, slave only to the whims of your privately-contracted (and, of course, reliable and talented) web developers- and maybe the cloud.

However, I’m not one to make predictions- who thought a social network would supplant the mighty MySpace? Who thought, 5 years ago, that print magazines would be obsolete already (ahem)? Who thought the ease and simplicity of the 8-track tape would be supplanted by audio cassettes (a bone for us old folks)?

I’m not writing off the idea of some companies- probably mostly small businesses) embracing and even being happy with Facebook as their only web presence. I’m not buying it just yet.

I try to consider the longview, which means a number of things are possible.