Unsung Heroes of Social

I had a really interesting conversation this morning with Marc Meyer and Mike Pascucci, which was sparked by this question from Marc:

Is engagement in social media a prerequisite to writing a book on social media that’s to be taken seriously?

That had me thinking and led me to the observation that the social web makes the answer largely based on our online writing (blog), all-around connectivity within the social community and for good or bad, popularity (call it influence, if you’d like).

There are a lot of factors that play into Marc’s question, one of which he asked – is success based on social observation or social experience? I started chewing on that on a broader basis, as I feel there’s a misconception with those who have visible experience and activity online vs. those who may not have as large a footprint but work more so behind the scenes.

The Unsung Heroes

I get it. The relationships we build and content we produce online provides us with unique experiences and an immense amount of opportunity in this space. Trust me, I know firsthand. But there are individuals who may not have strong influence/visibility in the public social eye because they don’t tweet or blog as often, or attend many of the conferences that we all go to on the regular.

But these folks are in the background – busting away at their craft, understanding the ins and outs of the business, and putting to action their knowledge of social & the former and doing great things for their company or client. Are they deemed as ‘prolific’ in the social space? Maybe not. But I’ve worked with numerous leaders and peers who fit this mold and have my respect and sign-off on what they would bring to social, a business, a book deal, etc.

Is That Enough?

On the flip side, I understand the nature of the space and what/how people get recognized for their work – but I also feel that there needs to be a shift. Do we ‘over-vet’, as Marc would say, those who are visible to the masses to the point that others are overlooked? Is it to the fault of those who have chosen to focus their work in a different manner vs. those who have chosen to communicate, create and develop their footprint in the more public social arena?

There’s a lot to be said for both sides of the table and I don’t necessarily have the answer, but let’s hear your stance on this.

Do the unsung heroes deserve more recognition or is it up to them to create it?

12 comments On Unsung Heroes of Social

  • Sonny, I also thought Mike brought up another good point about coaches who never played the game at say the collegiate or pro level. In some cases, this doesn’t make them any worse than those that did and in some cases they are better than those that did. The point being as you have so deftly pointed out-some are so busy “doing” for others that they don’t have time to “do” for themselves. And at the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with that.

    Most, or rather some though in our space, will judge one’s perceived abilities by their social footprint if you will, and you and I both know, in some cases that can be completely gamed, bought and fabricated.

    Maybe it’s a curse or the burden that we bare in the social space that we can judge someone’s body of work sometimes so transparently through glasses that skew the body of work based on the fact that we don’t even have to talk to them about their work. We make snap judgments based on number of friends, followers, fans and mentions. Oh, and a Klout score…

    • Marc – you succinctly captured the essence of our thoughts in your comment. You’re right, it is the curse of the space that others are quickly judged (or just not thought of at all) based on the spread of their social footprint and what they do for themselves in the public eye. Sad state but hopefully the unsung ones and those who see their work, proactively make their abilities better known to the masses and the space as a whole realizes that ones footprint shouldn’t be the sole indicator of their abilities.

  • Sonny,

    Thanks for posting this, as I do feel that it is an important topic to discuss. At 2010’s SXSW conference, I remember talking about the Social Media “Douchebags” out there, you know the people who have a huge following, talk just to hear themselves talk, but have not been in the game for that long. Just because of the huge following, and their 10,000 followers, that does not mean that they know what they are talking about, or that they can write a book and be successful. Obviously that is the other side of the spectrum that we are talking about, but another valid point.

    In the end, it is as it always has been – It is about the quality of your content and interactions, not about the quantity.


    • Mike – right. And to Marc’s point, those aspects can and have been easily gamed to benefit that person, regardless of their actually ability.

      It is about the content and interactions but wonder how those with less of that and much more of the getting dirty in the back-end, will gain more recognition. Time will tell with how that evolves.

      Thanks again for the great conversation.

  • Sonny, Mike, and Marc,

    All great points!

    I had a great conversation with some colleagues at SXSW talking about hiring people in marketing roles with a social component (either in house talent or as agency vendors).

    Conversely, a lot of “personal” social activity was seen somewhat as a negative to a lot of people I spoke with.

    The point was brought up that some of the “Social Douchebags” are at so many conferences, tweet so much, and write so many blogs that many people wonder how much time they actually have to do work!

    We all understand that a lot of people with agencies have a specific role to promote their company and that is their job.

    But, I found it somewhat assuring that there isn’t as much credence put into the personal social footprint to validate social skills.

    • Hey Brandon – interesting to hear about some people’s perceptions of those who seemingly focus on the personal/social footprint, which we all know exist and try to position themselves (successfully, sadly) as leaders in the space. It’s reassuring but definitely a ways to go to realize the difference.

      Appreciate the feedback from your experience at SXSW!

  • I will echo Brandon’s point but with a caveat-when not working on a project or whenever I have time for that matter, alot of my efforts are focused on engaging in the social space-partly to share, partly to interact, and largely to learn.

    But I think it might be very hard to articulate to a client how things will go down and “happen” in the social space without being a seasoned practitioner. What do you think? I know some who can fake it pretty well intitally…

    I’m not sure I want someone who dabbles unless I’m hiring for a marketing position where social media skills are not the focus. But then again, social is very much part of the marketing space right now.

    I tell you what though, I would definitely weigh their social presence and activities equally with everything else they have done when hiring for a marketing position..

    What do you think?

    • You make a good point, Marc. I agree with you that I feel they need to be a practitioner of some sorts but is it a matter of behind the wall experience within an org or is it of the public facing kind?

      I think that’s where the blurry line is with one’s presence and how effective we feel they are in the social space. It’s always been the constant that we Google someone to see how active they are within social and what their conversations and content revolve around. But it’s the latter of those who are putting into practice their knowledge, but in a different way by way of the org/client they work for, if that makes sense?

  • I think it is everyone’s responsibility to celebrate themselves, hustle their own brand, and create their own awareness. I also believe that if people are quietly doing smart things behind the scenes, they eventually will get the attention they deserve from their peers and their industry.

    People routinely get rewarded in all walks of like without



    • Jason,

      At the end of the day, that is very true and is what it comes down to, regardless of how the industry as a whole functions or perceives as success.

      Thanks for stopping by!


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