Micah December 17th

We Are Killing Social Media

For the past hour or so, I have tried to piece together the movie GoodFellas via YouTube and other online video clips (AnyClip is rad, by the way).

Ok, I will give you a clip. Its NSFW, but fuck you knew that!

As I watched the movie, I began to watch how folks interacted with each other. How did the characters treat each other. What mattered?
And, it became more and more clear as the movie went on. The only thing that mattered was to become a Made Man, because being a Made Man provided you a bit of protection from violence. (Watch how Jimmy and Harry, who never could be Made Men, react to the world, versus Tommy, who is clearly on the path to becoming a Made Man.)
In most professions, groups, societies, there is the concept of the untouchable.
Does that concept exist in social media?
You best bet your bottom dollar.
While becoming a Made Man doesnt require killing another person (thank god), it does require performing at least two of the following tasks:
  • Give a keynote at a major conference: SXSW, Web20, BlogWorld, etc.;
  • Write a book (not a computer book);
  • Have a blog that has tens of thousands of subscribers;
  • Been on mainstream media;
  • Be referred to with a single name;
  • Probably something I forgot.

Is that a bad thing? After all, every profession has its “Made Men.”

But social media is different. In social media, we have “ambient intimacy.” We know more (or at least think we know more) about each other than most other professions. Because we are all such friends, we gossip like teenagers, get excited when we see each other, truly wish for success (for some) and failure (for others). We view the world as “insiders vs. outsiders,” and tend to tell the same stories over and over.

Yet in all of that glorious chaos, there are a few Made Men (and they do tend to be Men). They are above the “internet famous.” They are not just bloggers (mommy or otherwise), They are not just marketers (internet or brand), they are the people that everyone attempts to emulate.

The problem with Made Men, is that they tend to react to the world as the world acts upon them. Its not a drinking of their own Kool-aide, shit, we all do that. But its a protection against mistakes. Its protection against critical thinking. Any message from a Made Man is a Good Message.

Its that lack of critical thinking that is stopping innovation in the social media space. We are now waiting for the Made Men to tell us what next. Even worse, we are waiting for the TOOLS to innovate so that we can be the first to react to the innovation.

For many reasons, we need our Made Men to help validate our industry, but we need to rely upon our own intellectual curiosity to drive the innovation necessary to propel our industry.

We need to stop relying on tool manufacturers to provide innovation. Does the carpenter wait for the hammer manufacturer to create a new hammer?

We, as an industry, have lost sight of what the value of our industry is. It is us. collectively. We are the ones that will help businesses and people reach their audiences in new and intelligent ways. We are the ones that will demand of our tools builders to build tools that truly drive us forward.

If you are in charge of social media for yourself, your company or your client, spent 10 minutes tomorrow thinking about a way that they can use social media to engage their communities in a new and innovate way. And most importantly…

Share it with everyone else.

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  • Looking at who I would consider Made Men, I see a common theme of taking some risks and trying new things. You note the need for intellectual curiosity… yes. Made Men don't sit around and follow a well-described path to certain success. They'll step off the beaten path, and sometimes get beaten as a result.

    The risk takers will reap the biggest rewards.

  • It actually the exact opposite. Once Made, there is less incentive to become
    “unmade” therefore there is less innovation and risk taking. Its easier (and
    frankly smarter) for the Made Men to not deviate from message or brand.

  • Eh, good point, and as I reread my comment I don't think I said what I meant. The Made Men usually reached that status by taking risks, but once there, they tend to have a groove that works and they stay within that groove as you noted… I failed to note the risk-taking was before becoming Made.

    That said, it raises an interesting question: would we rather see the Made Men out there taking new risks, or is it better to let the Made Men continue down their mostly-predictable paths and let new voices rise up with differing ideas and adventures?

    Folks need to stop trying to become Chris Brogan or Darren Rowse and instead become something great in their own way. Chris and Darren are awesome at what they do, but instead of a bunch of clones, we need fresh new ideas and the people behind them.

  • We need innovation. The decision to “follow” Made Men removes critical thinking. Both the guys you mentioned, Chris and Darren continue to come up with interesting ideas, but they are (expectingly so) not far afield from their individual thesis's.

    Ive seen it in the SEO space, where the industry killed itself. The same is happening in the Social Media space.

  • Man talk about food for thought! This reminds me of the fanboy/fangirl thing. You like what somebody is saying, you see others are “following” them so to speak and then you never question there motives, what they say, or do. All the while, following along with usual path.

    Innovation is going to be key. I don't see how we are going to move into a Web 4.0 world (or any field with Made Men for that example) if you don't have that.

  • This is a relevant post at this point in time. And I agree and appreciate what you said. The key is critical thinking. I come from the generation of 'question everything' and I do. Being a 'made man' is less important to me than being true to myself. I do blog, and yes, it would be nice to have people read my blog – and my tweets for that matter.

    The point of all this is simple for me. Just because I read “made men' doesn't mean I believe everything they say. Nor will I do all they suggest. I wish I could add more to what you said, but I can't.

  • This is a relevant post at this point in time. And I agree and appreciate what you said. The key is critical thinking. I come from the generation of 'question everything' and I do. Being a 'made man' is less important to me than being true to myself. I do blog, and yes, it would be nice to have people read my blog – and my tweets for that matter.

    The point of all this is simple for me. Just because I read “made men' doesn't mean I believe everything they say. Nor will I do all they suggest. I wish I could add more to what you said, but I can't.