Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things Media

Tag Archives: David Armano

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?

Do We Need A Social Media Sheriff?

As far back as January of this year, David Armano and I have been a having a discussion on twitter about the need for a Social Media Sheriff.  I nominated him for the job, but he declined.  I was bummed because I think he’d do a great job of it.  David has the experience, chops, clout and respect to be the person who can call bullshit on snake oil salesmen, posers and charlatans.

Recently, he and I revisited the topic after a “blogger” decided to plagiarize a bunch of his work and tried to pass it off as their own.  Peter Kim wrote a nice summary of the situation, without naming names.  Although, I think he should have named names.  These “criminals” need to be called out.  And let’s make no mistake, they are criminals.  They steal time, they steal effort and they misrepresent themselves as “experts” to unsuspecting people and companies.

In an indirect way, Peter, whom I respect a lot, basically challenged me on my some claims I was making about thinking around “Social Business.”  I made the claim that this was a topic I had been covering for some time.  He matter of factly challenged me to produce the deck…which I did, in a limited format due to client confidentiality.  Was I irritated that he challenged me and my statement?  Sure, I was.  But, did I understand it?  You bet.

We’re operating in a wild wild west atmosphere right now.  Any NO ONE wants to step up and where the badge.  No one wants to call out someone else.  No one wants to point out the charlatan.  You know why?  Because, as I wrote here:

Our industry is filled with chances to be honest, authentic, and genuine. But, too often we pass on those chances. I’ve been overly critical of so-called professional analysts like soon to be former Forrester Social Media analyst Jeremiah Owyang. An analyst is supposed to dig in to a situation and honestly assess it. These analysts, with rare exception never provide the brutal honest truth. They avoid controversy and critique like it was the plague. In short, they don’t do the job they’re being paid to do.

I tend to believe the reason they don’t provide an honest assessment of company, person, or situation is that it’s not to their personal benefit. They need to maintain these friendships and connections for future gain. They need to keep things more friendship focused than business focused. You need only look at the number of people leaving analyst firms to join a company they’ve previously “analyzed” to see what I mean.

It’s not in their interest to wear the badge.  Well, it’s not in their interest until it starts hurting their bottom line.  When someone starts plagiarizing David’s work and taking potential business away from him, it becomes an issue that’s worth paying attention to and focusing on.  Funny, how that works :)

I really like approach Justin Kownacki is taking lately.  One of things I’ve always respected about Justin is his BRUTAL honesty.  If you want to see that in action, check out his post titled “What Do We Do About Plagiarism?”  He’s facing this issue head on and I like it.  Last year I wrote a post covering the Top 10 Favorite Blogs and one covering the Top 10 People To Follow On Twitter.  This year, and very soon, I’ll be focusing on the top 10 people to avoid on twitter, the top 10 snake oils salesman in social media, and of course the top 10 bullshitters.  I’m sure it’ll ruffle some feathers, but frankly I don’t care.

It’s time for someone to take on the responsibility of being the sheriff and since the “thought leaders” in the industry don’t have the balls to do it, I guess I’ll be the one who wears the badge.  You’re on notice and I believe in a zero tolerance approach.

Personal Branding Under The Microscope

Short Version
David Armano, widely considered to be a really smart guy has left Critical Mass to join a startup company called Dachis Corp. Some people are happy about the above and think this is great. Others are completely pissed.

Long Version
For the last 12 months there’s been a lot of discussion in the interactive space regarding “personal brands.” Not familiar with the concept of personal brands? Let me give you the down and dirty.

For years employees have been cogs in a company’s machine. Employess were expected to live, breathe, and die for the greater good of the organization. But, the rapid evolution of interactive marketing towards “social media” started to change that concept. People mattered. Yes, people mattered. Frank Eliason from Comcast, the man Business Week called “the most famous customer service manager in the U.S., possibly in the world” is perhaps the best example of this evolution.

The people that are pissed about Armano’s decision to leave Critical Mass believe the following:

  1. He was brilliant in getting Critical Mass to fund the trips for his speaking engagements.
  2. He was brilliant in getting Critical Mass to embrace his personal blog, tweeting, and column in Adweek.
  3. He became the outward face of Critical Mass.
  4. He established and built a reputation in the industry because of Critical Mass’ willingness to fund his “personal interests” and “ego.”
  5. He leveraged #1 and #2 to jump to a “better” more lucrative position – and in doing so has left Critical Mass in the lurch.

This comment from a reader of Brian Morrisey’s article on David’s departure captures the spirit and sentiment of those who are pissed at his decision to bail.

Critical Mistake

April 10, 2009
Armano is giving up the sweetest deal of all: Critical Mass paid him a salary to build his own brand at the expense of theirs. So today Armano is a social media rockstar and Critical Mass is still an unknown agency. He’s always feeding us some line about learning from people. Love for him to teach us how he managed to pull that one off.

It’s an interesting point and one I can understand. It’s similar to college basketball coaches that are given an opportunity by a school, paid well, and treated like rock stars – only to abandon that school for a more lucrative or better known school. The people in Memphis are saying this very thing about John Calipari’s decision to leave them for Kentucky.

Here’s the facts, as I see them:

  1. Critical Mass is a great shop
  2. David Armano was a smart guy before coming to Critical Mass
  3. Critical Mass enabled David Armano to become the well know welebrity (his word, not mine) that he is today
  4. David left for a great opportunity
  5. Critical Mass is weakened by his departure

To me it’s that simple. Companies cut employees all the time. Sometimes for good reasons. Sometimes for silly reasons. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it happen, and recently I was part of it.  Whenever we leave an organization we hopefully do it on our own terms and for good reasons.  I left Fallon in 2000 while I was working on BMW Films because the culture had changed too much.  Publicis’ acquisition of the agency really altered the company and made it a place I no longer wanted to be at.  I left Leo Burnett 3 years later for the same reason.  I’ve seen people leave for a title, 5K a year more, and because the company stopped offering free beer on Thursdays.  The point is, people leave a for a variety of reasons.

I’m happy for David. I wish him well. But, this situation definitely shows us the danger of companies investing in personal brands. David has clearly benefited from Critical Mass’ direct investment into his brand, and I’m sure on some level so has Critical Mass.  How much we’ll never know.  What we do know for sure is that Critical Mass invested a lot and now 2 years later they have a massive hole to fill.

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.

10 Great Links

I’ve been compeletely swamped the past few days and I know I’m completely guilty of not offering enough meat in these posts.  With that in mind, I’m opting for a quantity approach in this post.  Here are 10 great links that I’ve stumbled on and are worth sharing:

  1. SEMPO Study on the impact search has on sales.  This is a PDF white paper.
  2. Wii Fit Viral.  Offers proof that viral is sometimes indeed pure luck.
  3. Competitive Intelligence.  Avinash waxes on what competitive information is important for site metrics.
  4. Why Agencies Are Failing.  Great article from Joseph Dumont.
  5. The Marketing Spiral.  David Armano reminds us all that the concept of a linear path to purchase does not exist in today’s world.
  6. WuChess.  Members of the rap group, WuTang Clan, created a PAID site that brings together their two passions: Chess and Music.
  7. Human Centered Design.  David Kelley of IDEO explains the future of design.
  8. Chart of the Week.  From Marketing Sherpa.  Using heat maps to show what’s happening on a web page.
  9. Ning.  This site/platform lets you create your OWN social network.
  10. FWA.  Great aggregator of top sites on the web.  Will inspire you.

Enjoy.