My name is Saul! I'm an award winning Word of Mouth Marketer, Professional Speaker on the subjects of Social Media, Customer Service and best of all... Word of Mouth. I collect Air Force One sneakers and think you should hire me... (as a consultant) to teach you how to get your company doing interesting things!
the smartest man in the world.

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Photos from the Drupal Conference in San Francisco, CA 2010

Monday, Aug 08, 2009

Social Media Talkers vs. Social Media Doers.

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I am kinda lucky cause I get to go to a lot of conferences. Conferences are fun because you get to sleep in other peoples beds and every now (I have been told) and then you get invited to really sleep in other peoples beds.

Even luckier than going to a lot of conferences is that I get invited to speak at a lot of conferences and try to accept every invite I receive, cause you never know when the invites will stop coming.
When I speak I talk about a slew of different topics with interesting examples that almost always involve myself as a case study. I dont do this because I am an ego manaic (an argument could be made) but because I am the only person who can really tell you what was going through my head when I dreamt up whatever idea or concept I am talking about.
I was at a conference recently and I sat through two separate presentations from two people with nothing memorable to their credit explain (as fact) why Zappos sold/merged with Amazon and the best part was that the two speakers who spoke one after the other had opposite opinions…and this makes perfect sense because well, the only person who can really tell you why the sale/merger really happened is Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) and some of his business associates…and this got me thinking about how easy it is to be a social media talker and how few social media doers there are.
I am using Social Media as an example here cause it is easy and makes for a snappy title but in reality I am talking more about people in general.
So still with the conference speaker example (and I can come up with many more examples if you want them) why not make some minimum requirements to speak at a conference….something like you need to have done something.
Pretty outrageous huh?
…and by something I don’t think it even has to be a successful “something” since you can learn more from people failing then you can from the stuff where everything goes well. Conference presentations should be about your projects and learnings from the time YOU did something and not a new spin on something you read in INC or Fast Company.
If you can’t point to a handful of url’s showcasing your accomplishments and you are not willing to present about yourself then what are you really talking about?
Sure there are exceptions like people talking about Metrics and such but even that can come from a personal angle with personal insights.
If the goal of a conference is to teach or inspire then the goal of the conference organizers should be to invite doers and not talkers because people who “do” are usually the ones that inspire…and people who talk, well they are just talking.
P.S. If you are reading this and thinking I am being harsh and making it harder for people to “break in”. I see it as the opposite and if you want to become a doer as apposed to a talker just go out and do something, make some content, stop repeating other peoples stuff and discover something on your own…I promise, you will sleep better at night…and get more of those conference invites to sleep with others.
*UPDATED* I have gotten a slew of (and by slew I mean 4) email/DM telling me that this post is harsh and that in fact I am a consultant (this is true…you should totally hire me) and I don’t know what I am talking about. All I can say is that this is my opinion and I stand by it. All it takes today to become a “social media expert” is getting a shiny stack of business cards and that is kind of the problem. If you show results you are a doer. If you can point to projects and says “That was me” than you are a doer. Anyone who thinks the solution to any companies problems is to sprinkle a little facebook on it and set up a fanpage and walk away is not a doer.….and if you own a home that is mobile and 5 cars that aren’ might be a redneck.
  1. A great point and it's true. The other side of it is those who "do" are usually very passionate about what they do and speak with conviction–which makes for a very engaging presentation.

    I'd argue it's not only at conferences, there are many consultants who spend all their time talking and telling clients what to do, without actually being involved in any of it. I sometimes consult with clients, and like you mentioned, base my speaking around case studies I've actually been involved in and it seems to go over really well.

  2. Hey Kelly,

    Consultants is a whole other blog post. Sadly a lot of the good consultants and the "doers" in this space are not given a chance to make amazing things because all the talkers got into the big agencies first and basically cashed the cheques without showing results.

    Sure this is a general statement but I have spoken to a few agencies and the few I have talked to have had bad experiences…tainting their view on adding SM people to the mix.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!


  3. Great post Saul!

    Doing, in my opinion, is more valuable than the talking.

    Giving case studies about why things have worked or didn't work can be valuable. But only if the case studies being used are from personal experience.

    Here in Toronto, there are people who talk the talk about marketing, social media and business (among other things) but have never done anything.

    My question to you is, why do these "talkers" continue to get stage time?


  4. Thanks for clarifying–there are definitely a lot of great consultants who are doers, like you said. Particularly all the ones I know personally. 🙂

  5. Great post Saul! This is what I meant when I sent my complementary tweet last week. Conferences are full of consultants (and I used to be one) because they make good pundits, but I'd take a CMO, CEO, or other person directly involved with the company any day.

  6. I'm not 100% sure how I feel about this subject. I do agree that it's too easy to become an "expert" in a field without actually having done anything note worthy. I think we can gleam good insight from some big thinkers. It really is folks like yourself, and Gary Vee that actually live social media. I do agree that unless the subject is a broad "idea" topic a speaker should be using real world examples of there own work.

    I'm currently doing some pro bono work for an organization in Iowa. Not because I want to add legitimacy to my name but to actually gain real world experience in a field that I'm passionate about.

    When I pay to see a conference out of pocket I expect to learn things from peers that are out fighting the battles, shaking the hands, and kissing the babies. Otherwise I would probably just end up trolling forums about "making money with twitter"

    On the other hand I think that there are some new people on the scene that are going to do some great things. They need to have a shot at it too.

    I guess that's a big reason why I enjoy SXSW so much. It's a fairly diverse voting system that can help weed out obvious fakes. I'm also inclined to think the folks who think you're being too harsh may very well be the fakers.

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