On Sunday nights, Mack Collier runs a Twitter-based group chat called #blogchat, which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about blogging while hobnobbing with their peers.

But, based on the defensive reaction to some of my comments from several of the #blogchat participants, I’ve realized that #blogchat is strictly a place for sunshine and puppies, and I rarely come armed with either.  So I thought I’d take the time to do some much-needed bubble-bursting here, rather than continuing to ruin the #blogchat vibe.

NOTE: If you cry at the sight of anything other than unicorns, hugs and kittens, please close this window now.  You’ll only depress yourself, and you’ll spend the next hour telling me why I’m wrong, when I don’t really care.

Still here?  Great.  Because…

1. There’s no rule that says you have to be nice in social media.

I know, all the important people are.  But I’m not important, so I don’t have to be.  And even if I was important, I’d probably still be an asshole.

(In fact, most people become assholes after they’re important, so the fact that I’m an asshole before becoming important means my assholishness is actually authentic.  And isn’t authenticity one of the social media cornerstones?)

2. All social media is not created equal.

Yes, the tools are “democratic,” inasmuch as anyone with an Internet connection can use Twitter.  But you are not Chris Brogan, nor are you Sara Schaefer.  You are you.  And you matter exactly as much as you matter, to whomever is counting.

To say that there’s “no social media hierarchy” or “no social media pecking order” is ludicrous.  Just because there isn’t an officially accredited list of A, B, C and Z-list bloggers doesn’t mean we don’t all know who they are, give or take a rung.

(And yes, you can be a Z-list blogger and still produce A-list work, and vice versa.  Quality and reach are two separate factors.  In the end, we’re judged according to other people’s criteria, not our own.)

3. I am not required to help you for free.

Granted, some people do it really badly, but yes, social media is a business.  Not for everyone, but for some people.  And no, they don’t have to help you, or give you free advice, or even be nice to you (see above).  Some of the nicest ones do; others don’t.

Being nice is wonderful, but to anyone for whom social media is a business, what matters to them is paying the bills.  If they have time to be nice, or if being nice is part of their brand — and, therefore, their business — they’ll do it.  And, in general, social media people tend to be overly nice, almost to a fault (usually because they want you to talk about them).

But if you’re waiting for Seth Godin to write a guest post on your Blogger blog that has 2 subscribers because “helping people is the right thing to do,” don’t hold your breath.

Your two readers will be heartbroken if you asphyxiate.

Dig this blog? Subscribe and you’ll never miss a witty insight again.


31 Comments

Payton_vege · February 23, 2012 at 2:13 am

Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

Nic Wirtz · July 25, 2010 at 6:56 am

Does every individual have two parallel hierarchies in mind? The consensus A-list and their own A-list?nnCrossover stars is an interesting discussion. Shakira might not be but she is one of the first multi-geographical stars, with no real fixed base. As more migrants move to the US, the chances of a crossover star increases.nnWill the US ever get into Bollywood/Telenovellas etc I can’t say. Chances are as we grow up with kids from vastly different cultures, that one will crossover. Maybe Selena Gomez paves the way for an Hispanic crossover?

Michel J. Gagnon · July 23, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Quite entertaining Justin,
I think there's a difference between being an asshole and having your own opinion. The world has more assholes that it needs. Obviously, you can't give time to everyone, but that doesn't mean turning them down like they're whale shit.

If you're saying that the blogging world needs more dissenting opinions, I'm all with you.

P.S. I appreciate the authenticity of your assholishness.

Nic Wirtz · July 22, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Justin, we had a mini-discussion at #blogchat. I disagree with point 2. You are quite correct about reach/quality. The problem is that categorising people within social media is very difficult to do. We live in such a fluid online society that asides the top bloggers the rest of us are made up of wannabes.

Niches confuse matters, someone top of one niche may well not have been heard of by the majority of bloggers if you don't happen to have an interest in that subject. Specialisation further fragments opinion and when you ask people who to recommend, chances are they'll go for someone that posted something that resonated with them and/or helped them with a query.

Ultimately there are very few crossover blogging stars, which is still dominated by blogging tips/social media. So we have the heavyweights and the rest.

    Justin Kownacki · July 23, 2010 at 5:11 am

    But even within a niche there are still influencers, conversation drivers
    and perceived A-listers. It's a system that asserts itself anywhere that the
    flow of information can be maximized (or controlled) by the few.

    Is that bad? For whom? And, if so, how could it be changed?

      Nic Wirtz · July 23, 2010 at 1:50 pm

      I'm not denying that there are certain categorisations within niches, this points more to a love of bestowing pigeon holing titles on people than anything else. At most I can see An A list of heavyweights, B list of up and comers and the rest.

      The entire categorisation of people is bad for the rest of us, if the few are controlling the title bestowing on the masses, you're only getting the opinion of that few.

      Clearly this is bad for those that would like to think blogging is a meritocracy and for those with ambitions of joining the elite. Unless more people network and publicise bloggers they approve of, this won't change. In the example you give above a Z-list blogger can produce A-list quality, surely if enough people see the quality post the blogger would move up your ranking system?

      Change I'd like to see is more exposure of thought leading bloggers from other cultures. The French, Mandarin, Spanish and Urdu speaking bloggers that hold sway over huge markets. Will there ever be non-English speaking crossover star bloggers?

        Justin Kownacki · July 23, 2010 at 2:03 pm

        The more we debate, the more I feel there might be two parallel
        “A-list” hierarchies in blogging (and in any other medium): the best,
        and the most popular. You don't have to be good to be popular, or
        vice versa. Everyone has their favorite artists in any genre, but the
        world at large also knows of the select few influencers at the top of
        every food chain. (i.e., You don't have to know fashion to know that
        getting a write-up in Vogue is worth crowing about, and you don't have
        to understand soccer to recognize Pele or Beckham. So, too, with
        blogging.)

        Meanwhile, forget blogs. A less happy discussion might be, Will there
        ever be non-English speaking crossover stars in any American market?
        (Answer: Probably not in my lifetime, unless you count Shakira; I do
        not.)

          Nic Wirtz · July 24, 2010 at 11:56 pm

          Does every individual have two parallel hierarchies in mind? The consensus A-list and their own A-list?

          Crossover stars is an interesting discussion. Shakira might not be but she is one of the first multi-geographical stars, with no real fixed base. As more migrants move to the US, the chances of a crossover star increases.

          Will the US ever get into Bollywood/Telenovellas etc I can't say. Chances are as we grow up with kids from vastly different cultures, that one will crossover. Maybe Selena Gomez paves the way for an Hispanic crossover?

Kathydibling · July 22, 2010 at 9:40 am

Thanks for keeping it real. Not arguing with you. But I see social media as all about relationships. Buildling ones. Maintaining ones. So entertain me:

(1) There's no rule that says you have to be nice in social media.

My answer: Yes, don't sugar-coat stuff. But if you want to build relationships, make sure what you say is constructive.

(2) All social media is not created equal.

My answer: Yup. that's true in any culture. But so what? It's a great opportunity to find a society and be a fellow among fellows.

(3) I am not required to help you for free.
Yes, and I am not required to buy anything from you and I probably won't if I think you don't care about me.

Dave Perks · July 22, 2010 at 8:27 am

Like you, I went to art school (well ad school where we talked about art – buy hey, we're all the same, right?) I had a professor there who forever changed my way of thinking because he came off as an asshole, but once you got past the fact that he just called your work a piece of shit and realized that it really was a piece of shit – *ta da* – you were actually motivated to do better work.

Too often, people in a position of authority like to say they're going to weed out the underachievers, but don't have the chops to back it up when it comes time to speak truthfully. It's not personal, it's business.

This professor used to tell us that he was doing us a favor because maybe advertising wasn't what we were good at and we just liked the idea of being good at it. Could be that we were supposed to be doing something else.

I don't have a single problem with people being blunt, up front, honest or real. I wish more people would accept the fact that we're not all equal, no matter what business you talk about.

And another thing about the whole, “everybody's great, we're all the same” thing: I'd love to see you at a 12-year-old Little League ceremony where everybody gets a trophy.

Keep up the great work.

ldrider · July 22, 2010 at 8:12 am

Hardly an asshole post. (Mel is the definition of an asshole, so if you can't match him, you are a poseur.)
Good thoughts here. Eventually, people simply have to be who they really are; anything less and their lack of authenticity will eventually emerge or be uncovered. Happens all the time with philandering politicians, right? Right now, in this social climate in the US, there are more people out there trying to unmask you than help you, so hiding is not an option for long.
And, as long as there are people, there will be a pecking order. Hard-wired, I think.
Thanks for the post. I'll try to check out #blogchat.

Janet Aronica · July 20, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Good post! I think there's a certain finesse to being able to take a stand and get a conversation going, which I think is actually kinda hard when you have to represent yourself and also be a community manager for a brand. When it comes to Twitter, it's really hard because you only have 140 characters. So if you're going to, ya know, be an asshole and make a point, make it well. ;)

Matt Ridings - Techguerilla · July 20, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I'd just like to publicly state that I on the other hand tend to create Double Rainbows wherever I go and am never a contrarian. I only charge $195 for a lunch (limited time only, not valid in states ending in a letter). Also, in terms of pecking order I'm just below Erik Estrada and just above Mel Gibson in famiosity so I have that going for me as well. Critical thinking is for critics, I on the other hand will gladly take your money to blow air up your skirt, just ask.

Marjorie Clayman · July 19, 2010 at 7:10 pm

okay, I couldn't resist. If you're interested, here is the post you inspired: http://bit.ly/bzNiI0 :)

digitalvision · July 19, 2010 at 11:02 am

Love the post, but I have an issue with one of the points. Since when is telling people what they need to hear to accomplish their goals being an asshole? I know some people think it is, but in some ways, I think it's caring MORE to lay it out there constructively. Sure, part of teaching is being supportive, and that's important – but the other part is the “here's how you can do better” part.

Also, I've found in my work there's people that aren't even on the “radar” that are highly effective and trust-influencers in specific places, because they have a topic and *bestill the heart* are using the tool for their purposes as opposed to just talking about it. Those tend to be the folks I learn the most from.

Dave Pinsen · July 19, 2010 at 9:52 am

I'd go even further than your point #2. In fact, I did, on my old Blogger blog that had 2 followers: “Social Media: The New Public Access TV”. The ability to broadcast your thoughts is, for most people, tempered by the reality that no one is listening.

danperez · July 19, 2010 at 9:32 am

Justin, on this post I actually agree with you whole-heartedly. Social media is “social” and that can mean a hundred different things to a hundred different people. Most people have a company exec (or “Big Brother”) monitoring their posts – hence, the multitude of safe, conservative, and dull posts. It's nice when you find someone who posts what they really believe/feel/think. Whether we agree with them or not, it's still refreshing.

So though I might not agree with all you write/post AND think you can sometimes be an asshole…I am glad you're here ;)

PS – Remind me never to invite you to lunch. Thanks.

danperez · July 19, 2010 at 9:31 am

Justin, on this post I actually agree with you whole-heartedly. Social media is “social” and that can mean a hundred different things to a hundred different people. Most people have a company exec (or “Big Brother”) monitoring their posts – hence, the multitude of safe, conservative, and dull posts. It's nice when you find someone who posts what they really believe/feel/think. Whether we agree with them or not, it's still refreshing.

So though I might not agree with all you write/post AND think you can sometimes be an asshole…I am glad you're here.

PS – Remind me never to invite you to lunch. Thanks.

steveolenski · July 19, 2010 at 8:53 am

Hey Justin, just re-tweeted this post which of course you care two shits about, being an asshole and all… this was actually quite refreshing to read something in the voice and WTF tone I prefer… I genuinely like people and like helping people, too… but I ain't here to hold hands and sing kum-bay-ya either…

    Justin Kownacki · July 19, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Don't get me wrong: sometimes holding someone's hand is perfectly
    acceptable, and the right thing to do. But if everybody's holding
    everybody else's hand, we're just making a human chain and we'll all
    drown together.

    Some of us have to start swimming for ourselves; the lifeboats will follow.

davinabrewer · July 19, 2010 at 8:50 am

Justin, Missed the blogchat so I can't comment on that. I do agree that it's not about equality and glitter-farting ponies and everyone working for free. And that diversity in social media a good thing: I can read and enjoy the sharp critique of some, along with the kumbaya of others.

In a way this space could use some more “assholes,” which is to say people who are honest and transparent in professional, constructive ways. I read this http://www.redheadwriting.com/the-bitch-slap-i-… by @RedheadWriting, and loved the part about needing “front stabbers.” Forget those who'll talk about you behind your back, we need those who'll get in your face when needed.

Myths like everyone's mileage, will vary. Some will cling to being nice no matter what, all things being equal. I'm comfortable enough to keep it polite, respectful, professional and real. If I don't think you're legit and just wasting my time, I'll say so; if I'm not the right solo PR for you, ditto. FWIW.

thatdamnredhead · July 19, 2010 at 8:27 am

I love you for this post. I need to read you more often.

That is all.

@damnredhead

sabinem · July 19, 2010 at 8:26 am

Missed #blogchat last night, so not sure what the specifics are around your comments. I've been on other chats where people vehemently disagreed with me, but I run the risk of that happening just as often in real life as it does on a Twitter chat.

Love your third bullet item: I've been to too many networking meetings where I've been asked to come in the following week with my laptop and give Social Media lessons to the group. I'm all for helping people, but why single me out? Why doesn't the massage therapist get asked to provide a 10 minute chair massage for everyone?

And thanks a million for the introduction to http://marketingdouchebags.tumblr.com/! Priceless!

David Spinks · July 19, 2010 at 7:38 am

So what happens when you and Peter Shankman go out to lunch? Do you just pay him the difference of $200 between the lunch fees? =P

I agree that a lot of people in the social space are overly nice all the time. I think a big part is because of the business focus. They don't want to miss out on any opportunities. I think it also has to do with the type of people that tend to get into this space. Social people who love to make new friends and hate to be hated. While we're being transparent, that's often how I am too…not to say I haven't picked up a few enemies along the way.

I don't know what you said in blogchat so I can't be a judge of that. The point I think worth making though, is that there's a difference between being an asshole, and being critical. While being critical could be perceived by someone as being an asshole, that usually only means that person is wrong.

Being an asshole is different. In the short time I've been speaking with you, I have not seen you to be an asshole, but rather someone who's very critical, and stern in their convictions. I love that shit and think the social media space could use a lot more of it.

You can be both critical and an asshole. That seems to work for a couple people in the space too.

The ones who suck are the ones who are just assholes. They're not helping anyone.

I love #blogchat, and do hope that you'll return in the future. Professional communities need to be thinking critically.

David, Scribnia

    Justin Kownacki · July 19, 2010 at 7:52 am

    I'm less of an asshole than some others I can think of. But it
    probably helps to lead with that, just so people are prepared for
    whatever I actually do say.

    I went to art school, where people were terrified of having to defend
    their works during a class critique. That same mentality now extends
    to social media, where “I have a blog and you have a blog, so we're
    really all the same” *cough*

    Thin skins are fine, but thinking critically is what'll save you when
    your home — or your brand — is on fire.

    Meanwhile… I guess I haven't had a reason to be an asshole during
    #u30pro yet. ;)

Jake LaCaze · July 19, 2010 at 7:23 am

Justin, this is why I follow your blog and your tweets. You're different from everyone else in social media I follow. Your opinions and deliveries are not the most conventional, and I like the different perspective that you bring.

Please don't become all about unicorns and hugs and kittens. There's too much of that crap already out there.

Marjorie Clayman · July 19, 2010 at 5:29 am

Hey Justin, I saw one comment that kind of attacked you for what you said but I figured me jumping in would just create *dooooom* chat drama.

I don't know that the #blogchat peeps are all sunshine and unicorns, and I think sometimes one has to be optimistic. There are so many stories about people finding success through Twitter and other online media that if you aren't finding success, you find yourself wondering why. However, you are absolutely right that the chances are extremely slim that someone like Seth Godin is going to see your blog post, not to mention ask if he can post on your blog.

One thing I have learned about folks that do find success online – You have to be willing to promote yourself. It's like what they say on airplanes — apply the oxygen mask to yourself before you try to help others. Someone doesn't earn the status of a Godin or a Brogan by spreading himself thin. You build yourself up, then you start offering to help when people come to you with questions. That doesn't mean that people are a-holes, it just means that to get ahead, you have to push yourself, well, ahead.

    Justin Kownacki · July 19, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Contrary to appearances, I'm all about optimism. I just like it to be
    based in reality. And when someone joins the social media fray under
    the auspices that “everybody's special” and “we all matter equally,”
    that's not reality.

    There's a whiff of entitlement and a delusion of equality in some
    social media conversations that I find detrimental to a more coherent
    (and, ultimately, more beneficial) understanding of how social media
    (or any other system) works. If a person can't honestly evaluate his
    or her own contributions, or tell the good (or relevant) apart from
    the bad (or irrelevant), how can s/he expect to identify what needs to
    be improved?

      Marjorie Clayman · July 19, 2010 at 8:27 am

      Well put. I like this line in particular: there's a whiff of entitlement and a delusion of equality in some social media conversations that I find detrimental to a more coherent (and, ultimately, more beneficial) understanding of how social media
      (or any other system) works.

      I might have to riff on my own blog about that. If I do I'll let you know :)

Tweets that mention Justin Kownacki - 3 Myths About Social Media Debunked -- Topsy.com · July 19, 2010 at 8:08 am

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