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:
- I don’t hate you, I actually think what you’re doing is great
- I have lots of questions and push back; but I’m not alone
- I think there’s value to the community at large for you and I to have this discussion
- I’ll buy the beer, if you’re willing to show up
- 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?