Jim Long - Digital Media and Culture

Work Hard, Be Excellent, Kick Ass, and Let That Be Your Differentiator

Those who quietly go about the industry of consistently delivering value to customers and clients will win the day.  It’s simple, and it applies to all business.  And when that maxim is applied to social media consultants, so be it.  If they are achieving the aforementioned results, then they will rightly reap rewards.  Those with that moniker who deal in fraud and fabrication – whose only consistency is “outkicking their coverage” – will lose business because, over time, their reputation will deteriorate.  That’s natural selection in the business world.

The fact that the charlatans are laid bare, shouldn’t affect the overall health of any subset of the communications industry, including social media.  If there is a demand, there will be those to meet it.  Some of them will provide professional advice that leads to measurable results, others will take clients’ money, move on, and sell their snake oil in the next town.  That’s the nature of a lot of business.   There will always be phonies happy to separate the gullible from their cash.  Caveat emptor.

To Build Yourself Up or Tear Others Down

It’s surprising to see that the shop worn theme of “social media guru” bashing is en vogue once again and that notable detractors have come out in vocal internet outcry.   Recently two web luminaries added their voices to the chorus in an offensive against the social media expert with bold, link-baity proclamations.

Gary Vaynerchuk and Peter Shankman, both of whom operate social media/customer service consultancies, made provocative statements about those who ply their trade – statements that produced predictably polarizing results. Many aligned themselves with the two – some perhpaps attempting to get out from underneath the umbrella of their criticism. Others took offense and pushed back against their pointed missives.

The Posts That Caused the Kerfuffle:
Gary Vaynerchuk: “99.5 Percent Of Social Media Experts Are Clowns”
I Will Never Hire a “Social Media Expert,” and Neither Should You (Peter Shankman)

I bumped into social media professional Jason Falls at IgniteDC and asked him what he thought of the very public critiques of the industry.

The people who care whether or not someone calls themselves an “expert” are only afraid one of them will steal clients from them. You know who doesn’t care about this topic? Businesses who hire consultants. They hire people who can help their business, not paranoid and defensive ego-mongers who think they’re playing thought leader by minimalizing someone they never heard of and know nothing about. – Jason Falls, Social Media Explorer

By Way of Explanation

Vaynerchuk and Shankman are both accomplihed, successful bloggers, authors, and businessmen so their messages carry a lot of weight.  Heavy hitters like these guys can take the heat and both of them stood by their words. In fact, Gary responded to a lot of people personally and clarified his remarks made on TechCrunch with his own video.

Both of these guys are proponents of social media as a means to deliver genuine customer service. I’ve written here about the disconnect between social media and customer service.  Ultimately, corporate leaders have to decide whether they want to create business cultures that are moral, ethical, customer-centric, and human.  Social media can help them achieve those ends, but only if that is the path they choose to take.

I don’t take a side in what I consider to be a faux controversy, and to steal from Shankman’s post, “neither should you”. So whether you took umbrage with the critiques or cheered them on, I say the best path to success IS to work hard, be excellent, kick ass and let THAT be your differentiator. And if all else fails, you can hire this guy.

Further Reading
I’d hire a social media expert, and maybe you should, too – Shel Holtz
There Are No Experts, Only More Experiences – Geoff Livingston
Never Plan on Hiring a Social Media Expert? Good Luck With That – Esteban Contreras

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  • http://www.ann-sense.com/ Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR

    I followed the fallout of Vaynerchuck and Shankman’s posts with interest. It hit a very raw nerve within the social media community. There was great passion on all sides and rightly so, but I have to agree with Falls. Businesses don’t really care about this discussion. They hire consultants to help build and grow their business because they lack a specific skill. Consultants don’t really need to know everyone’s business, but how ask questions, listen, and share knowledge to assist their clients achieve their business goals. Those who can’t do that will eventually flame out while others who continue to hone their skills, work hard and exceed expectations will raise above all of this rubbish.

  • Anonymous

    I thought it was a red herring.  And I also felt that Vaynerchuk and Shankman’s motives were questionable.  Why bother with this? 

    Great post, Jim. Spot on. I have a similar post coming tomorrow. Will add you to it.

    • newmediajim

      It was strange Geoff.  It was one of those things that kind made you tilt your head like a curious dog.  Still cant figure out how a “devastating social media bubble” would manifest itself and who would care.

  • http://www.socialnerdia.com Esteban Contreras

    The title says it all. Amen.

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  • http://www.markheyert.com markhhsp

    Remember one other thing, please do not confuse activity with progress. You’ll be saving all of us a lot of time. Thanks for a good Sunday read.

    • newmediajim

      I’m a big proponent of working SMART and not working hard. (i.e. spinning your wheels)

    • newmediajim

      I’m a big proponent of working SMART and not working hard. (i.e. spinning your wheels)

    • newmediajim

      I’m a big proponent of working SMART and not working hard. (i.e. spinning your wheels)

    • newmediajim

      I’m a big proponent of working SMART and not working hard. (i.e. spinning your wheels)

  • http://soundadvicesales.com Phyllis Nichols

    “…work hard, be excellent, kick ass … ”   
    Advice worth listening to!  Jason’s comments are also spot on.  
    Many of my clients (I’m a sales consultant) have no idea who Peter or Gary are. (I’m a fan & follower of both) because they are busy being the difference maker in their industry. 

    One client who is leading the technology wave in tele-medicine is still trying to decide if social media has any ROI value for his industry.  (It does) and would find this little spat a reason why he shouldn’t take it seriously…

    • newmediajim

      Thank you for stopping by Phyllis! I think those who stay out of the fray and consistently demonstrate results, will be ones who create real value and help the industry mature.

  • http://www.dogwalkblog.com/ Rufus Dogg

    Only someone who is insecure about his skills and abilities looks sideways or back to see where others are. While it’s true that a flood of unskilled hacks dilutes the marketplace (look what desktop publishing did to graphic design!) it is only temporary and rarely affects client relationships worth having. I welcome the hacks as they peel off the low-paying, invoice-stiffing clients who only really want to “pick your brain”and clog up the calendar on useless meetings that will never amount to significant work. As long as these “clowns” exist, I have a ready referral early on in the process that save me a ton of time and expense.

    • Josh Humble

      And my point about your thoughts are made above. Too many people think those who are frustrated with hacks and frauds are insecure or arrogant. To ignorantly classify all objectors into a single thought process with that kind of of an absolutist statement is absurd and arrogant. On the contrary, it can be argued those who demonstrate frustration with hacks are only passionate about their craft and the quality of their industry. The quality of a REAL professional’s work won’t stand on its own if the prospective customer won’t even look for SEO, due to the bad image of the industry. There is, in my view, no reason to be complacent with an influx of professional hijackers on one’s own trade. And I disagree about hacks having temporary impact. They keep coming, and they do damage from the top down, from the consumer, to the legitimate practitioner. How long has the SEO industry been fighting this???

      And while there are bad clients, you’ve also made another nasty stereotype about clients – many of whom, would be happy to work with legitimate professionals if they were educated. I get tired of having to defend SEO – whether it’s me promoting the value of SEO optimized copy in a site I’m building, or advising for the services of my SEO professional friends, SEO has a bad image, and too many black-hat “experts” have caused this. How is this not apparent?

      The best way to defend our respective industries is through consumer education. Many of the great professionals in the social media and SEO industries I greatly respect are doing just that – a wonderful job of educating consumers about what white-hat SM and SEO can do. We need to keep doing this.

      • Josh Humble

        BTW: I meant, “or REFERRING to the services of my SEO professional friends…”

      • newmediajim

        Implicit in some of the messaging I noted was a certain hubris toward “small”.  Not every client is Fortune 500.  Not every client can afford the stratospheric rates charged by a handful of well known names.  It reminds me of my line of work.  I’m fortunate to be working at the network level as a news cameraman.  For me to dismiss 99.5% of camerapeople working in small markets would be arrogant.  Fact is, a great many of them could shoot circles around me.  I just happened to position myself well throughout my career.

        • Josh Humble

          Thanks for your reply, Jim. I need to clarify, in that my latest response was to Rufus Dogg’s comment, “Only someone who is insecure about his skills and abilities looks sideways or back to see where others are.” With this, one would also not be aware of new blood bringing with them new ideas (looking behind or sideways). Without looking around and being aware, one can’t do competition analysis, which leads to new inspiration. There’s a flip side to every comment and philosophy, and I can’t imagine industry leaders like Shankman are insecure about their work in comparison to what a scam artist or newbie would do. If damage is being done to your industry, you’re going to know about it… what one does about it is up to them.

          And yes – to Jim, I agree the 95% dismissal of an industry IS arrogant – unless it’s accurate, and I certainly don’t believe it is. Better words could have been chosen. Vaynerchuk and Shankman were over the top, and far more shrew than I think was necessary, but then, that’s the fire behind this storm, which points to a lot of valid issues. I don’t agree with the extra-abrasive approach.

  • http://www.smallbizsurvival.com Becky McCray

    If you are grasping for fame and attention, you will worry about other people and their supposed “worth.” If you are focused on providing exceptional value, you’ll spend very little time focused on other people who are not your customer. 

  • Clippodcast

    Hmmm…reminds of me of the world of academia that I’m in.

    • newmediajim

      That’s a whole different hornets nest. I’m sure there are parallels though.

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  • http://www.kevinmullett.com Kevin Mullett

    I already tendered my lengthy video rant on this ridiculous subject. I suggest listening, not watching due to length, but let’s just say my point is that it is both overused and over-vilified. All this catty activity will not change people who oversell their abilities and under deliver on promises in any industry. » http://bit.ly/la930L

  • Josh Humble

    With all due respect to those I HIGHLY admire, but oppose on this – while faux experts and newbie “experts” will eventually be found for their shotty practices, it’s important to remember the damage they can do to both an industry, and the consumers they prey upon. Think SEO and JC Pennys, along with other countless examples. This isn’t about social media, or the term of the day used by frauds – it’s about a much bigger problem. This problem exists in every field, but it’s huge in social media. Social media is perceived as new, easily confused with hype, the results are difficult to measure/present, and anyone can start up a twitter account. These conditions are ripe for the faux expert. 

    There is nothing arrogant, insecure, or egotistical about caring for your industry’s integrity, its legitimacy, and its public perception. My position has nothing to do with how I feel about my own work in social media. I know nothing about plumbing, but I can tell if a plumber has screwed up my sink, ran off with my money, and didn’t bother to fix it. He’s a faux expert, and I have no need to be a plumber to know this.

    More advocacy targeting the faux expert needs to be initiated by both consumer watch-dog groups, and practitioners of these respective trades alike. I believe we should make it very difficult for scammers to operate through consumer education, and speaking out against them. In addition, if the collective attitude of both consumers, and industry professionals, shift to a no-tolerance for this kind of thing, new practitioners will begin to understand they’re not going to get anywhere without the work, quality, and integrity to back it up.  

    • newmediajim

      Josh, you make salient points here, but I believe them to address ideas beyond the scope of what Vaynerchuk, Shankman and I were talking about. In fact, the look like a blog post you should be writing on your blog. Black hat SEO is the purview of Google and they (belatedly) gave JC Penny the smackdown.  And yes there are tons of other examples and that’s why the FTC got involved in this space, but let me make a few points.

      I never used the terms “arrogant, insecure, or egotistical” to describe either of them.  But they took a swipe at a broad swath of professionals out there.  In fact Vaynerchuk pointed the finger at “99.5 percent” of them.  So they should expect that some of those people who don’t necessarily deserve to be lumped into that category.  

      In the TechCrunch interview Vaynerchuk posits:

      “people that I see jumping into social as a brand or business are doing more harm to their business because they’re not all in. They’re doing it as a tactic.”

      Isnt’ that the point of market entry for someone looking for social media consultant?  So in that interview, he demonstrates (with some hyperbole) that. A: there is a wide variety of quality in terms of professional social media advisors (that’s generous of me) and B: there is a need for businesses to consult them. C: Businesses are as much to blame for doing it wrong and being lazy about it.

      None of the discussion was about fraudulent business practices.  The gist of both of their remarks was that social media alone isn’t a strategy that will lead to conversion.  I didn’t find it arrogant, just obvious.  I wasn’t offended as I’m barely a social media technician.  I’m a cameraman by trade.  I don’t know how to build a camera, but I know how to make it tell compelling stories. :)

      • newmediajim

        To be fair to your comment Josh, Gary actually mentions blackhat SEO in his explanation video.


      • Josh Humble

        You’re definitely right, and thanks for allowing me to digress, Jim (in hind-sight, seeing that I veered off a bit). My comments were aimed at some of the general perceptions I’ve heard of this debate. My mentioning of “arrogant, insecure, or egotistical,” was addressed at those who believe opposing faux experts is arrogant or reveals one to be insecure. And I think Vaynerchuk and Shankman did generalize too much with their “broad swath.” I don’t think its 95.5%, but it certainly seems to be very high (those who call themselves experts with very little expertise); today’s hype allows for tremendous ambition and cover to those who would claim it. Their likely exaggeration stems from a lot of frustration with the business world and social media not quite taking to each other as well as they could.

        Also, while fraudulent business practices may not have been directly discussed, isn’t the whole conversation centered on supposed experts with little to no expertise – or one claiming to be what they’re not, while deeming social media, alone, to be the new conversion generator?

        Thanks again for the insightful post and discussion!

    • newmediajim

       and Josh, I LOVE when people hijack my blog and leave great comments!!  in fact, i hate when they don’t.  your comments are certainly “on topic”, but important enough that they deserve a post of their own. :)

      • Josh Humble

        Thanks for your understanding and compliment, Jim. I need to watch it more, though, as some could easily give me the riot act! LOL

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  • Josh Humble

    More to the point of your post, Jim, I think it’s imperative we work hard and smart – and other than making occasional voices heard, one way or the other about so-called “experts,” I think the best thing we can do is educate prospective customers. It’s a wonderful way of building our own brand advocacy, while effortlessly blocking more paths for the seedy “experts” to thrive upon. I know a lot of great professionals who do this, and they’re really helping industries that take a beating from bad press and damage done by hacks.

    Again, thanks for your engagement on this!

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  • http://www.indiebusinessblog.com Donna Maria Coles Johnson

    When it comes to social media, we are all practitioners. Nothing more, nothing less.

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