Define Your Own Social Branding ‘Game’

In a recent post (“Chris Brogan Ain’t No Friend Of Mine”), Ben Lucier discusses a Twitter dialogue he had with Chris and introduces his comparison of LinkedIn network building ‘methods’ by breaking it down to two kinds of people; The Trusted Network Builder and the Unknown Network Builder. Ben goes on to suggest that CB is in the latter group because of his recent open invitation to anyone and everyone to ‘connect’ with him on the ‘professional’ social platform.

Professional Social Personal Branding - LinkedIn

Ben’s post has since been tweeted and retweeted as you would expect with anything mentioning CB as many people rush to argue against some of the points and others in support of Ben’s suggestions that CB is not exactly living up to his ‘Trust Agent’ status by, effectively, breaking LinkedIn’s rules of engagement (only connecting with people you actually ‘know’).

I think (perhaps) the bulk of the argument is because Chris is the ‘Trust Agent’ many of us have learned a thing or two from over the years (I certainly have and I appreciate it), and because of his status among the social bloggers and ‘teachers’ of what is social media fair game and what is downright shady.

Any opportunity to have a pop at CB?

It seems that any opportunity to have a pop at CB, or to mention his name in a blog post, seems to get fingers typing frantically by everyone wanting to be the first to hit the blogosphere with some hot gossip that will bring the traffic flooding to read all about it.

Is it just creating hype for the sake of hype?

Is it just bloggers hyping up a ‘story’ for the one and only objective of getting their own name out there and generating traffic? Can CB not say or do anything without 17,000 retweets bringing up the rear like an army of ants following the leader?

I’m not having a go at Ben as he has had a clear and public to-and-fro discussion with Chris about the LinkedIn issue and Chris has been obliging with his responses – oh, here’s the dialogue;

The Tweets that started the debate:

This rant all started a few days ago when Chris asked on Twitter “Are we connected on LinkedIn? use: linkedin @ chrisbrogan . com for my email.”

Ben Lucier then asked: “I find LinkedIn is more valuable when people who actually know each other connect. Seems like you don’t agree?

Chris: “I don’t agree. I think that threading a network such that you’re 2 away is also a value.

Ben: “I’ve struggled with that. I’ve defaulted to LinkedIn’s rule of “Only connect with ppl you know”. Seems that’s about to change.

And Chris ended the dialogue with: “oh, I’d never tell you to break a rule. : )

Nudge nudge, wink wink?

Having read that, I guess Ben had the right to mention the discussion on his blog just to clear up any loose ends and, as we all like to do, publicise his thoughts – and to perhaps evoke opinions and get other readers’ thoughts on the questions;

Is CB breaking the rules of LinkedIn? Is CB right or wrong?

But, my question is: Is it relevant? We all have a choice about how we ‘do’ our marketing, branding and connecting. I think a lot of blogs and a heck of a lot of tweets and rewteets are started by the blog writers themselves to stir up some buzz around their latest blog posts. Using a bit of ‘name dropping’ to get some traffic.

Chris Brogan on LinkedIn

What I find funny is that, normally, when someone Tweets or ReTweets someone else’s material or posts, they include @name somewhere, but when a ‘known’ name is used, the retweeter makes sure they mention the entire name – usually dropping the ‘@’ altogether… Duh! Why?

If you’re gonna give credit to someone, at least have the decency to include the @name with a link to that person.

As an example, I just counted 64 retweets of something about network activity and every one of them used CB’s full name and none had @chrisbrogan in the tweets.

Unlike many folks, I rarely tweet my own posts. If it’s something worth tweeting then I hope my readers will tweet it. If someone like CB has an opinion, I hope they’ll notice the post and pop by and leave their two-pence worth (or two-cents worth on t’other side of the pond)…

Maybe that’s not the ideal way of generating ‘buzz’ but it’s my way and that’s ‘my game’… Hence, whatever CB chooses to do is his ‘game’ and I’m sure if it works he’ll blog about it and if it doesn’t work he may not… but my guess is that he would.

Attention giving in social media is nice but… is it happily received?

I’m sure CB likes some of the attention but as he doesn’t come across to me as a guy who needs his ego stroking on a daily basis by tens of thousands of cling-ons, I wonder if it actually bugs him from time to time. I bet, when he’s away from the cameras he has moments when he thinks to himself “crap will you lot stop sucking up to me”… I certainly would.

What’s Your ‘Game’?

But, I digress (ADD moment) – Chris has his own ‘game’ and whatever he does seems to work for him.

Is ‘mass-connectivity’ breaking rules at LinkedIn?

Perhaps. But we see rules being broken all the time. If it wasn’t CB doing it no-one would give two-hoots ‘cos there’d be no social associational value in ranting on about ‘Mr Nobody’ who broke some rules, would there?

Chris gives good advice about how to use many social platforms and he does provided a simplified ‘how to’ for social branding (personal branding on a professional level) on LinkedIn – see “How To Use LinkedIn Effectively“. Does that mean he shouldn’t sway from his own advice occasionally and try something different? No. If we all stuck with the same ‘game’ we’d never figure out if something else works too…

But let’s get back to the main issue: Ben’s post – it’s actually quite ‘thought provoking’.

unknown network builder“, as a concept, is what happens on Twitter all the time – connections with people who connect with ‘us’ for no reason other than to look popular… “Well, he connected with me so I connected with him (or her)” sort of thing.

But, referring to LinkedIn (after-all, Twitter is a numbers game and I didn’t think LinkedIn was), if you or I land on the profile of someone we ‘trust’ and see thousands of connections, we want to trust those connections but perhaps we can’t. If someone has a handful, a few dozen or maybe a hundred (or so) connections we can assume that the person who made those connections does, in fact, trust each and every one of the connectees… but if there’s hundreds, thousands even, it would be no surprise for us to wonder how one can person seriously vouch for each of them?

How can one person know them all?

Therefore the full trust of the initial connection becomes somewhat diluted – especially when the person we thought we ‘trusted’ is going against the whole principle of becoming ‘known’, being ‘liked’ and building ‘trust‘.

While I am a CB fan (yes I have the books and the t-shirt) I have had a couple of really interesting online exchanges with Chris and rate him as an honest, genuine guy but, while ‘making his own game‘ does confuse me somewhat with the 120,000 ‘connections’ on Twitter and the unknown amount of ‘connections’ on linkedin.

But, it’s Chris’ ‘game’ and he, quicker than most ‘experts’ I know, would say that everyone is right and everyone is wrong, sometimes, including him. What works for one may not work for all. The guidelines are just that, guidelines – recommendations from people who have been there, done it and now own the whole darn t-shirt factory.

So the ultimate ‘Trust Agent’ is going down the ‘Mass Connectivity’ route?

This sort of mass-connectivity is bound to devalue and remove ‘trust’ from any ‘connection’. It certainly devalues any connection with Chris on LinkedIn. By connecting with everyone who asks (nicely, of course) Chris becomes one of those names that, when someone sees that you or I are connect with him (I’m not, I should mention, except on FB), when once it would have meant “wow this guy/girl must be doing something interesting ‘cos CB is interested in him/her”, it now has no meaning (no ‘association’ value) because the person seeing that ‘connection’ could (and would not be incorrect doing so) think “oh, it’s just a connection with Chris Brogan and he connects with anyone and everyone so don’t read anything into that connection”.

I guess it’s like being invited to a party and looking forward to hanging out with a good friend, only to get there and find that 1,000 other folks had the same thing in mind so you actually don’t even get chance to talk to your ‘friend’ (unless you’re in the right circle of friends). They just wanted to seem popular – look how many friends I’ve got.

We’re all ignored on social channels all the time. No big fuss.

What this tells me, and I’m sure Chris will tell us if I’m wrong in this assumption, is that thousands of people are being ignored by the one person they would love to have a real connection with. What I mean by that is, like all of us, CB will have his ‘favourites’ filter whirring away and he will only see the tweets, updates, etc., of a select few, while everything else sails by unnoticed.

I know this from personal experience. I’ve tweeted comments from the book etc., (ref: page 150 of ‘Trust Agents’) to see if anyone was listening… They weren’t. But, so be it. No hard feelings. Not worth getting upset about or getting on his case about.

Maybe Chris changed his social marketing/branding ‘game’.

Although I have seen him respond to others who referred to page 150 so maybe it’s just me – I’m certainly not swinging in the right circles to get a decent seat.

Back to ‘mass-connectivity’… Where’s the value in that connection? Where’s the ‘win win’? Where’s the genuinity (I know, I made that word up) of the connection? Where’s the ‘trust-building’ in that connection?

What does it say about the person making all those connections one day and talking about building trust the next? Do ‘games’ change that quickly or is it just someone trying a variety of ‘social branding’ methods? We all try a bit of everything – why not CB?

How often have we seen a book or blog about building a ‘targeted readership / market’ and then we observe the author using mass-market methods to get their message out?

Come on. Is it a big deal? We’ve seen loads of authors contradict themselves.

Chris is no different to many other ‘famous’ bloggists / authors in some ways. Have you ever tried connecting with Seth Godin or Mitch Joel and many others of that ‘ilk’ who write and speak about building trust in your community, building genuine connections based on mutual interests etc., do you think they would give the time of day to an unknown like moi? I doubt it… I’m not in the ‘circle’ and a connection with me is of no value to CB, MJ, SG (etc).

Does it stop me admiring their achievements? No.

Does it curtail my ambitions to emulate one or two of them? No.

Does it mean I will stop buying their books? No.

Does it prevent me from learning a little here and there from them? No.

Would I make a big deal of it on Twitter or here on my blog? No.

Does that stop me from ‘following’ these people? No?

Because I can learn from what they write and decide to ignore some of it too – we don’t all have to follow the exact same ‘game’. There is no ‘one size fits all’. How often did we hear our parents say “don’t do as I do, do as I say”?

A lot of it is just Name-Dropping… isn’t it? The perceived power of association, perhaps?

I read loads of blog posts where people have ‘had’ a conversation with CB (et al) or have been ‘recommended’ by CB to a particular product or service (I usually take that with a pinch of salt) – it means they read a post of Chris’ that was distributed for the masses, but that wouldn’t sound as impressive as ‘Chris told me’.

Name Dropping Blindness

There’s loads of people name dropping, making out like they know people like CB, MJ, SG etc., by tweeting crap like “Chris Brogan just introduced me to this ____” or “Look what Mitch Joel told me about”… name dropping bull-crap.

I have adopted a new blindness, like ‘ad-blindness’ I now look at name-dropping in the same way – I ignore it, while thinking something like “Get off your high and mighty and face the facts that you saw a darn tweet like 120,000+ other pweeps and the only reason you RT’d it or used CB’s name was so that CB might actually see it – well guess what goof-ball – he ain’t watching you no more than he’s watching me! Get over it.” My opinion, of course.

Anyway, is it really such a big deal what CB is up to? Why are so many people so quick to jump on his back any time he puts a hair out of place? Jealousy? Oh, I’m sorry, did I hit on a nerve?

There’s something we should note about LinkedIn; That a ‘connection’ is not a recommendation. It’s kind of like following someone on Twitter – you can be ignored easily and it means diddly squat in real terms. A recommendation is what you really want and you only get that when someone really does rate you / your work.

I don’t agree with CB on everything he does… but I know that a vast percentage of what he does and says is certainly worth a dabble. Some tips will work – some may not.

We can watch anyone we want to watch (unless we get blocked for stalking or something else unsocial) but it doesn’t mean that person is following or even remotely interested in us… Get over it.

Determine for yourself what you think is a load of tripe and move on… Unless someone has spammed you or given you the hard-sell routine or tricked you into landing on a dodgy website or bamboozled you into revealing you inside leg measurement… what’s your beef?

Define Your Own Social Branding ‘Game’

If you don’t like what someone else does – do your own thing.

Make your own ‘game’, build your own ‘strategy’ – do what works for you. I won’t be opting for the ‘mass-connectivity’ song and dance routine but I’ll be jumping the queue to read CB’s next blog post… knowing that every now and then there’ll be a gem of a tip that I can use right now!

Different Strokes for Different folks…

PS: Thanks for reading all the way through and putting up with my ADD jumping from one subject to another. I had so many thoughts I tried to cram into this post. Hope some of it made sense. Cheers.