Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things Media

Tag Archives: Chris Brogan

Price vs. Value

It’s not secret that I think Chris Brogan might be the biggest snake oil salesman ever to walk the land.  The other day he might have jumped the shark.  Chris shared with the world his “day rate.”  Are you ready for what it is?  Sit down.  Get comfortable.  Please don’t have any water in your mouth as I am not responsible should you choke on it.

Ok, here we go.  Chris Brogan’s day rate is $22,000.00.

Did you just say WTF?  I know I did when I first read it.  Let’s break this down.  At $22,000.00 a day, he’s worth $8,030,000.00 per year.  What does that really mean though?  Let’s add some context shall we.  That annual “salary” would make him 2x more valuable than Drew Brees, 8x more valuable then Evgeni Malkin (and only 1 million less valuable than Sindey Crosby) and roughly the same cost as having both Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis on your team.  You might ask why I picked professional athletes as a comparison point.  Well I did it for two simple reasons

  1. The public often complains about the skyrocketing and out of touch with reality costs of super star athletes
  2. We’re passionate and attached to our super star athletes

Usually with athletes we have a way of comparatively reviewing them against their competition.  Whether this as at the contract negotiating table or the arbitration table, this happens all the time.  Athletes and owners will often lament that it’s not personal, it’s business.

Heck, even Chris argues, “Pricing. This isn’t black magic. It’s business. It’s commerce. It’s fairly basic.”  Well, he’s right about it not being black magic.  He’s right about it being fairly basic.  Let’s see how basic it is:

Price: Price is the starting point for what the owner/author/provider/etc. thinks something is worth.For example, the suggested retail price of Trust Agents is $24.95. That’s what Chris thinks his words are worth on a per book basis.

Value: Value is what the market deterimines something is worth. For example, this copy of Trust Agents currently being sold for $6.00 on eBay.  Hmmm…$6.00 sure doesn’t seem like $24.95.  Actually it seems like people value Chris’ words 75% less than Chris does.  Well it’s like Chris said, “This isn’t black magic. It’s business. It’s commerce.”  Well said.

I don’t begrudge Chris charing $22,000.00 a day for his “services.”  On multiple occasions I’ve asked him what those services are and what he’s actually done, but he’s yet to respond or provide any real backup to substantiate he’s capable of doing what he says he can do.  And it’s for that reason, that while Chris’ price is $22,000.00, I value a day with him at $1.05.  That’s the cost of a McChicken + Tax.  It seems appropriate, at least with the McChicken I know what to expect from the experience.

So, Chris is right, he charge what he wants and I can pay what I want.  Although, there seems to be an interesting gap between price and value doesn’t there :)

Why I Hate Chris Brogan

I bet that got your attention.  Let’s start with the most important take-away from this post, I DON’T hate Chris Brogan.  I’ve never even met the man.  I’ve never had a real conversation with him.  I’ve never traded an email with him.  I have on rare occasion traded a few tweets with him and I have written a few blog entries that reference him.  But, I’m not sure how it is I could hate a guy, I’ve never met.

By the same token, I don’t love Chris Brogan.  I don’t think he walks on water.  I don’t think that everything he says or writes is smart, accurate, or perfect.  I also don’t think everything I say or write is smart, accurate, or perfect.

My top line belief is that Chris has done a great job of seizing the day.  In a world filled with preachers, poseurs, and incoherent ramblings he steadfastly has maintained a clear, concise, helpful, proactive and witty voice.  He speaks well.  He presents well.  Hell, he’s the Barack Obama of the social media world.  He’s even written a book to boot.

Does that make him talented? Yes.  Does it make him smart?  Yes.  Does it make him an expert? No.

My job, on a daily basis, is to evaluate partners, companies, and opportunities for each of my clients and the agency I work at.  Chris as a person and his company are opportunities I need to evaluate.  I need to evaluate him against people like Jeremiah Owyang, David Armano, and Jason Falls.  I need to evaluate his company against companies like Dachis Group, Zocalo Group, and even Forrester.

To blindly simply buy something because someone has X number of followers, or was featured in Y magazine, or is recommended by Z person is silly, short sited, and irresponsible.  So how do I uncover the right voice to listen to?  I start by digging.  I read what these people/companies write.  I talk to existing and previous clients.  I watch them present…and more importantly I watch their interactions with real people.  In short, I LISTEN.  Isn’t that the foundation of social media :)

Then, I ENGAGE.  That’s the other pillar of social media, right?  I ask them questions.  One of the funny things, I’ve found with these companies and people is that they hate being asked questions.  What they really want is for their social and street credibility to simply grease the wheels and land them the job.  It’s almost as if, they believe they are above questioning and reproach.  Like hell you are.

If President Obama has to answer questions about his birth certificate, you can answer questions about your credibility.  I ask tough questions.  I cut through the bullshit and don’t try to be their friend.  That sounds crazy to some people.  But, my job isn’t to be their friend.  My job is to evaluate them as a partner.  Now, that all business style, rubs people the wrong way.  It’s clearly rubbed Chris the wrong way and that’s a shame.  Because, I think he and I have hit on a serious topic that’s being debated by companies and people every day.  I hit on the heart of that issue here a few weeks ago and it generated a great deal of discussion.  That tells me we’re on to something.

To that end, I suggested to @genuine that for next year’s Blog World he help organize a panel with Chris and I to talk point/counter-point about social media.  It would be a great discussion topic that would really benefit the audience.  Chris, took this as an attack of some kind, instead of presuming positive intent and responded sarcastically.  Now, I followed up with him via direct message and offered my cell phone in the event he wanted to discuss.  I’m still waiting for a call.

Look, this space changes every day.  We’re all looking for answers and we have tons of questions.  If social media is about providing value, having a conversation, and co-collaboration – it would seem to me that our “thought leaders” are running the other way when they get a question they don’t like.  That’s one of the reasons I like David Armano.  He and I have maintained a fun and spirited relationship.  We don’t always agree with one another.  He’s cool with that.  But, he’s willing to have the conversation.  He’s practicing what he preaches and I respect them hell out of him for that.

With that in mind, here’s what I have to say to Chris:

  1. I don’t hate you, I actually think what you’re doing is great
  2. I have lots of questions and push back; but I’m not alone
  3. I think there’s value to the community at large for you and I to have this discussion
  4. I’ll buy the beer, if you’re willing to show up
  5. Let’s get a moderator to orchestrate the dialog – it’ll be fun; maybe we get a client side representative like @vegasbab to the moderator.  We could even crowd source the questions.  Think of how much fun it’ll be to have an open dialog…think of the benefits.

This isn’t a question of right vs. wrong or you vs. me.  It was and has never been personal.  But, there’s a great conversation worth having.

Are you in?

How Much Will Lying Cost You?

The last few days have been rather piss poor.  But, today’s announcement by the FTC regarding “sponsored” blog posts was like sunshine on a cloudy day.  Yes, I can hear Marvin Gaye playing in the background.  Andy Beal does a great job of covering the situation here and AdAge even manages to do “report” and not just offer opinions here.

Here’s my perspective on this latest news. I LOVE it. For month’s I’ve been complaining about companies like IZEA and their shady practices.  See, here’s how companies like IZEA work.  They are the leader in “sponsored conversations.”  What’s a sponsored conversation you ask?  I mean it sounds harmless right?  IZEA, even makes it sound simple and harmless.  Here’s what they characterize a sponsored conversation as:

A sponsored conversation is a social media marketing technique in which brands provide financial or material compensation to bloggers in exchange for posting social media content about a product, service or website on their blog.

That sounds harmless right?  How could that totally be anything, but bad.  Right?  So let me give you a scenario:

  1. Let’s say a company like Kmart comes to IZEA and says, boy can you guys help me leverage the power of social media to change perceptions about our stores and products?
  2. IZEA, says, well sure, we can do that!  As a matter of fact, we have this one guy, Chris Brogan, who’s really influential.  He writes and awesome blog, has lots of followers, and is very credible.  He’d be perfect.
  3. Kmart, says, sure, whatever, just find some influencers to make this happen, cool?
  4. So IZEA gets people like Chris to write posts about Kmart.  Chris does just that, right here.
  5. And look how big and obvious it is that what he’s writing is a “sponsored post.”  It’s really similar to the tiny legal copy at the bottom of pharma ads on tv, isn’t it?

So in this scenario, can you believe Chris?  I mean sure, what he was offered was rather small compensation, but did it make you pause for just a second and wonder was Chris being truthful or was he just full of it?  Full of it, like how we all obviously believe that given the choice of any car in the world, Tiger Woods elects to drive a Buick :) and Derek Jeter ALWAYS chooses Gillette.  Right…For what it’s worth Chris’ point of view is here.  But, also keep in mind, he’s an IZEA board member.  To me, the fact he had to defend his decision to participate in a “sponsored conversation” proves my point that when you engage in IZEA’s shady practices you really stop being seen as a “Trust Agent.”

Ok, so here’s what the FTC now says:

The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

The key piece of language is case-by-case.  I don’t know how the FTC would have looked at this specific situation, but if they had deemed Chris overstepped, well he’d be paying an $11,000.00 fine.  Folks, let me be clear on something; you can NOT purchase influence.  If you pay people to push a crappy product, guess what, when people buy it, they will realize it’s a crappy product and they’ll be pissed.  You can’t screw with the public and get away with it.  Companies like IZEA sell marketers on the concept that you can buy influence and buzz.  All you need is some sponsored conversations to get the ball started!

If you’re a marketer, brand, or company thinking about trying to purchase some influence you might want to think again.  More importantly, if you’re a blogger, tweeter, social media evangelist, etc. you REALLY need to think again before you start accepting payola.  After all you could find yourself $11,000.00 lighter in the bank account.

The Social Ego System

On Sunday, Brian Solis tweeted:

As you might imagine, at first many people were confused and assumed Brian mean “ecosystem.”  But, in fact, he hadn’t erred.  Nope. He actually meant to type “egosystem.”  I find this fascinating, because the one single truth that 99% of people refuse to acknowledge is that social media has nothing to do with “adding value,” “conversations” or “engagement.”  None of those things really matter.  What social media is all about though, is EGO.  To quote Al Pacino from The Devil’s Advocate, “Vanity is definitely my favorite sin. So basic. Self-love. The all-natural opiate.” That’s what social media is all about.

The rise of social media has simply given everybody the ability to stroke their own ego in public. And let’s be honest, it’s no fun stroking your ego in the comforts of your own home and without an audience.

This isn’t a brand new concept. Years ago I worked on Hallmark. We wanted to understand the emotional reason that people bought and sent Hallmark cards. After months of research, it became clear that the real reason people bought and sent Hallmark cards was they wanted CREDIT. It wasn’t about doing something nice for your fellow man, friend, family member, or colleague. No, it wasn’t something that nice. It was all about them wanting to have you owe them. Think about it. If I send you a birthday card, sure it makes you feel good, but it also makes you say, “wow, that was really thoughtful of Adam, I’ll make sure I send him one too.” If the card was really thoughtful and unexpected you’ll even share it with other people – which simply grows my stature in their eyes.

Kinda makes you feel a little dirty huh? Well guess what? Social media is the same thing. People add value on twitter so that they can grow their followers and get that all mighty re-tweet. They offer helpful advice on their site, because they want traffic, want their site to be “dugg” and passed on. Trust me, it’s all about the means justifying the ends. And in this case the ends are things like money and speaking invites. Having met a lot of the so-called leaders in this space in person I can tell you I’m unimpressed. Maybe my standards are too high. But, for people that are supposed to be about providing value and engaging in conversations – they certainly come across as ego-centric broadcasters (no two way conversation).

I encourage you not to feed these people. If you do, you’re simply growing the giant social ego system.

Can You Spare Some Change

Twitter is fast becoming an over saturated destination for people to “beg” for money. Whether it’s money for Daniela (which I gave $100.00) or Sarah Evans asking for sponsors to fund a conference, twitter is fast becoming the hip place to ask for money. You’ll hear people like Chris Brogan asking for only $10.00 for a good cause. I mean, heck what’s $10.00. Well it’s not much till you keep giving $10.00 to every single cause or request on twitter. And trust me there are 1,000s.

Twitter is starting to resemble an episode of South Park titled, “Night of the Living Homeless.” In this episode:

“The number of homeless people in South Park is increasing as they eat, sleep, and beg for change across the town. While the adults try to find creative solutions to deal with the homeless, the boys are trying to figure out a way to solve the problem for good.”

Here’s a video to show you how I’m starting to feel.

Folks I’m all for a good charity. Really I am. As I noted above I gave David Armano $100 for the Daniela cause. His DM to me indicated I was the first person to donate. But, at what point do we need to draw the line? At what point does twitter simply start to resemble a bunch of people screaming for your money, while you’re just trying to have a conversation with some friends.

It’s gotta change, because I don’t have anymore change to spare. Oh – if you want to support the Susan G. Komen foundation please buy this book…you’ll learn a lot about social media in the process. I wrote chapter 2 and we could really use your spare change to make a difference.

Are You In The Collection Business?

Quality not quantity. How long have we heard this battle cry? We council our clients that it’s about quality. It’s now about amassing millions of email addresses if only 10 of them are people who want to hear from you. It’s not about buying lists from Experian and direct mailing the entire country. These types of frivolous concepts are expensive, wasteful, time consuming, and take focus away from reality.

A trend that’s been on the rise for a while, but now getting absurd is people focusing on the number of followers they have on twitter and the number of friends they have on Facebook. This isn’t limited to people who don’t know any better. Industry leaders like Sarah Evans have started focusing on this as well. I asked Sarah why she wanted to be friends with someone on Facebook that she didn’t know. Her response was

it’s another way for me to get to know ppl. plus there’s a way to create groups on Facebook.

Gotta tell you, while I respect Sarah a hell of a lot, I’m just not buying it. People like Robert Scoble, Loic Le Meur, and Chris Brogan have either reached Facebook’s 5000 friend limit or are close to it. Please tell me how it is you can consider 5000 people your “friend?”  Can you really have a meaningful dialogue with these people?  Maybe I’m missing something…and believe me I totally could be.  I’m not infallible.

Are we simply collecting friends like we did garbage pail kid cards in the 80s?

Think I’m crazy? OK, there’s now a service that asks the question

What If You Could Press Just One Button & Automatically Start Getting 1000’s Of Legitimate New Twitter Followers On Autopilot… Even If Nobody Knows Who You Are Now?

Of course the service promises to help you get those 1000s of followers.

People we’re missing the point. How can you maintain solid, strong, and meaningful relationships with millions of followers and “friends.” You can’t. I’d argue that focusing on more hurts your ability to create value.

Make no mistake, VALUE, is the commodity we should be trading. People are not cards, comic books, or coins to be collected. If you treat them that way they’ll eventually treat you that way and trade you in for something else.