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.



  1. I love your points about not taking yourself too seriously (after all we in the ‘social’ space are not solving world peace or keeping a nuclear plant from exploding at our own peril) and the point about perspective. If you don’t have perspective, you likely don’t understand the role of social technologies in people’s real lives.

  2. So much great advice here, Doug and, no, I’m not just saying “great post.” That, in my opinion, is the secret to not only social media success, but life success. I started thinking “that’s my favorite part of this post” early on, but had so many of those moments it was difficult to pick my favorite part. This might be it:

    “Take it in the spirit in which you would like it to be intended, and be secure in your own competent yet fallible self. ”

    And therein lies the rub. So many are insecure that most of what you suggest is, quite simply, impossible.

    Thanks for a terrific read!


  3. Geez, you’re on a positivity kick. ;)

    I mean, thanks, Shelly. I just don’t want people to be afraid to criticize. I want us all to be better. I have no problem shaking off the people who can’t take it– I think my biggest problem right now is that I should do it more.

  4. Doug, I totally disagree. No reason. Just because. So there. ;-)

    When we stop questioning, we stop learning.

    History has shown us over and over why it’s bad to blindly follow and what the results are…and there is rarely a positive outcome.

    And yet, there will always be lemmings.

    Beth Harte

  5. BTW, when I mentioned history… I was thinking of people like Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot, etc. I am sure some positive historical examples could be argued.

  6. Beth– thanks. It’s much more interesting when we disagree– where are the folks scalding me for not calling out names in my post? You must be out there.

    On that note– I’m trying to find a way to twist your comment to make it sound like you are comparing certain social media Influencers to Hitler and Pol Pot.

  7. Phenomenal! (i avoided “great post” but you can’t stop me from thinking that). Yes- iconoclasts have a constructive role in society as you put so well “to improve the Influencer’s material”. Gee- if only we could come up with an Iconoclast scoring system, then we’d have some klout..uh – make that dark force anti-klout.

  8. Why bother calling out people and naming names?

    There are multiple fishbowls out there where someone has deemed themselves the big trout.

    The litmus test for me is when I ask my non-social marketing buddies (i.e. people not on Twitter, Facebook, etc.)this: “Do you know who Chris Brogan, Jay Baer, David Meerman Scott, [insert name here] are?” The answer is usually no. They do, however, always know Seth Godin’s books. Go figure!

    I recently spoke at an IABC meeting and I asked if anyone had read any recent books on social media, ‘new’ marketing, etc. Again, the answer was no.

    Take that for what it’s worth, but to me those responses smack me in the face with what is reality.

  9. Nice set of “rules” here.

    One of the hardest things for people to tolerate is criticism. I personally hate it, however, I always try to look at it as an opportunity (to grow, to learn something, to prove I am right).

    One of the things that make cool people cool is their ability to stay cool in the face of criticism. It is a skill, and without it you really do become a laughing stock.

    Oh, and on the point about not being an idiot. We are all idiots waiting to be “found out.” I say embrace whatever mistakes you make and take the ride with humility and confidence.

    Or as you say, “Be secure in your own competent yet fallible self.”

    Great post. (snark)

  10. If I just go ahead and call bullsh*t on this right at the top, do I get a tarnished star? As a “D” lister, I hold no illusion of taking myself seriously, or that anyone else will. I do think I have read lately of several individuals pretending to not care, while clearly caring deeply, and self-servedly. Present company excepted. Great point from Walter Cronkite, paraphrasing, “As soon as I think what I say is important, I walk outside right after the broadcast and see how many people cared not at all”.

  11. I think we all want blogs where we can exchange opinions without having to deal with cult followings. I prefer to read and discuss with people who have their own opinions. Those are better blogs and typically people with more actual value.

  12. Brian, Agree totally. The funny thing about the “cult followings” is that I have never felt the wrath. Maybe I’m not being funny enough

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