Ignore the influencers: The dangers of a social media world

Ian Lurie
four legs good, two legs bad

It’s time for an intervention. Ignore the influencers before you turn into a sheep.

Then: ‘They’ in limited doses

Think way, way back, to before Facebook. The internet was still pretty much a nerd hang out. Sure, everyone tried eBay, or used Amazon.com, but sites like MySpace were for young folk, musical acts and pedophiles. Everyone else stayed out.

Back then, great sources like talk radio, the evening news, our teachers and friends and maybe even a newspaper told us how to think. Two, maybe three times a day we’d get a nice dose of mass media.

Then we’d walk away humming the jingle for Oscar Meyer Weiners, or mindlessly parroting the latest negative press about the current president/candidate/political issue.

We’d get our doses of ‘They’ in small amounts. It was a cinch to start a dinner party conversation with “They say the president’s an idiot” or “They say he’s a socialist” or whatever. Your fellow partygoers knew who ‘they’ were, and had heard the same message.

Things were pretty well spread out. We were forced to process what we heard, because there were pauses in the conversation between ‘us’ and ‘They’. Now? Not so much:

Apparently according to @klout , I'm influenced by @portentint & @alysson Not sure what that says about me.

Shudder. If I’m influencing people (I’m @portentint), social media has really screwed us all up.

Now: Freebasing ‘They’

Not only are there millions of ‘they’s out there, but we’re exposed to all of them, all the time. I could build, run and destroy my business based purely on the endless stream of advice from The Influencers.

You could do worse than creating your marketing plan around Seth Godin’s latest book, or Chris Brogan’s last keynote. If you take the time to understand it.

But the information flies at us so fast we don’t take that time. It’s easy to let that nonstop stream of advice control your every business decision. But if you do, you’re ignoring the fact that that advice is coming from someone who isn’t running your business.

Grab, listen, repeat: Someone says “web 2.0” and suddenly everyone is saying “web 2.0”. They have no idea what the hell it means, of course, but that’s irrelevant. ‘They’ say web 2.0 is the way to go, so dammit, we want our web site to use web 2.0!

sheep - web 2.0

That’s how you end up outta business.

Now, corrected: Don’t record – listen

If I do a presentation and everyone in the room is frantically scribbling down every word I say, I lose hope. Don’t try to record my advice. Listen to it. Process it. Combine my advice with your reality. Then write down the result.

Take the time to understand them. Fold them into what you do now. Pick and choose. If the big influencers are anything like me, they want their advice to be pondered, not taken at face value.

So, take a break from the influencers. Pause for a moment. Process what you learned on today’s Webmaster Radio podcast. Then apply the ideas to your own situation.

Pause, breathe, apply.

And remember that in your own business, you’re the influencer.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. More great insights Ian.
    Your final point is great: Don’t try to record my advice. Listen to it. Process it. Combine my advice with your reality. Then write down the result.

  2. @Daniel Whoa – just read that article. I swear I didn’t read it before I wrote this 🙂
    Great minds think alike.

  3. Great post, and widely applicable to life beyond marketing. The less information you are exposed to, the more fully you can internalize and process the stuff you do hear. I’ve been working on cutting down on my blog subscriptions, whittling them down to just the good stuff. It’s tough, but I’ll end up learning much more in the end.

  4. Great thoughts, Ian, but I don’t think it is in any way limited to social media – it’s just so glaringly obvious there.
    I think in general, anyone who has been on the web for more than 5 years can see that it is shifting to a cart-before-the-horse ideology driving most online activity. People learn how to be “online marketers” or SEOs, or IMers from second rate opportunistic “gurus” who tell everyone (who will pay) all their “secrets.” God forbid, they should have a product or service worth promoting as much as their selected methods of promotion.
    When you are so busy trying to figure out how to get something for nothing, the bandwagon makes the best mode of transportation.

  5. Some very interesting points made. I definitely agree with the last section about listening and not just recording. We want people to have a deeper understanding about what we put out there rather than just having a large quantity of information. Overall, a very good post.

  6. well said, ” Don’t try to record my advice. Listen to it. Process it. Combine my advice with your reality. Then write down the result” You cannot take advice and ideas plainly, you need to understand, analyze them, apply your mind and come to a conclusion. But everyone cannot have that much insight. A few will remain as parrots and social media is a platform where millions of people meet and interact. A few act as influencers and the rest remain as parrots, who repeat what others say. It is unavoidable, what do you say? Interesting Post!

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