A couple years ago, I stopped looking for fans and followers. I don't mean that to say that I didn't want to continue gaining a following, I just mean that I stopped looking. I stopped being politically correct online. I stopped avoiding conflict. I stopped holding back when I had a strong opinion. I started being true to my beliefs and focusing on providing value to my network.
This didn't just happen with my social media audience, it happened with my business as well. Friends, clients, partners… I walked away from many people. I lost some friendships, many fans, and a lot of followers – forever. And it continues. Just the other night I was told that I wasn't being civil on Facebook and it was not cool. I let the person know that they could stop following me at anytime.
The truth is, I don't want to act like someone I'm not to try and deceive people into following me. I also don't follow other people who I watch appease their following. They're Vanilla… and I like Rocky Road.
People confuse respect and authority with like-ability and coolness. I don't want to put effort into being like-able, I want to be passionate and honest. In the workplace, I don't want to surround myself with people who say yes… I respect people much more when they quit dancing around and tell me point-blank what I need to do. If you really want me to chase you out the door, be passive aggressive or disloyal. There are no second chances.
When I think about the people I respect online, there's something in common with them. Here's just a few off the top of my head:
- Seth Godin – nothing stops Seth from stating his opinion. I saw him deal with an overzealous fan once and he simply drew a line in the sand and never allowed it to be passed.
- Guy Kawasaki – about 6 years ago, I made a smart ass comment about Guy's team of folks tweeting for him. He shot back immediately and made it clear who was behind the keyboard.
- Gary Vaynerchuk – transparent, unapologetic and in your face – Gary always tells his audience what they need to hear.
- Jason Falls – There's no stopping Jason. Period.
- Nichole Kelly – this woman is the tops… transparent, funny as hell, and – again – never holds back.
- Chris Abraham – I'm pretty sure that Chris and I have the same reaction whenever we see a political post written by the other. He never backs down and he's sincere and passionate.
I'm not sure if any of these folks like me (I know for a fact some of them despise my politics). But it doesn't matter because I respect their authority. I know that when I need an honest answer, these are a few of the folks that would never blow smoke. They're not going to mince words… they're going to say it.
Over the last few years, I've learned that a happy customer does not always stick around. A customer that's getting great results, though, always sticks around. My job isn't to be a friend of the client, it's to do my job. That sometimes requires that I give them crap when poor decisions are being made. Given the choice of demanding respect and ensuring results OR having my client's business hurt and have them fire us – I'll always give them the bad news.
Has it hurt me on social media? It depends what you mean by hurt. If your measurement of success is fan and follower accounts – then yes. I don't measure success this way, though. I measure it by the number of companies we've helped, the number of recommendations we receive via word of mouth, the number of people that step up to thank me after a speech, the number of thank-you cards hanging on our wall at work (we have every one!) and the number of people that have stuck with me over the years.
Respect and authority don't require agreement nor like-ability. I have great clients, great employees, great readers, and more friends, fans and followers that I need for a lifetime.
Be true to your audience. That's the only way to be true to yourself.
PS: If you're wondering who I don't respect online… the list is quite long. Currently, the top of my list is Matt Cutts. It's nothing personal… I just can't stand his politically correct, carefully measured, scripted responses to overly general questions. I've asked Matt several pointed questions over the years but, apparently, my Klout score isn't high enough for him to ever respond. I consistently see him chatting with the who's who. Perhaps it's something I said… I don't know and I don't care.
Add to this list anyone who continues to take photos of themselves to share all day or talks about themselves in the third person. If they share their own quote, I really want to stab them in the throat. Just sayin.