Home > blogging, PR and social media > Don’t Follow the Leaders

Don’t Follow the Leaders


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it can be a bad social media strategy.

Early on, as kids, we learn that sometimes you need to crawl before you can walk.

When you start playing sports you quickly learn that you can’t immediately make the one-handed catches or dunks like you see you favorite athletes doing on TV.

When you start a job, you know that while it may be okay for the boss to come in late, leave early or take a long lunch, it isn’t okay for you to do so as the new guy.

But, for some reason, maybe because it has been touted as the great equalizer where everyone has an equal voice, people don’t think that social media requires training wheels.

Now, I’m not saying that we need a rigid highly-political social media system with rules and guidelines. All I’m saying is that while we all should learn by observing others, observation isn’t the same as imitation.

Some folks can tweet  – ‘I need to log off for a while. Be good to each other.’ And that is cool, because he/she is well-regarded and closely followed. But, if I tell my intimate peer group that ‘I’m going to be off line for a couple hundred seconds.’ I look silly.

Some people (we’re talking about a small group here) can tweet out a link to their blog with no other text – or maybe a simple ‘latest post’ and within minutes it is widely read and RT’ed.

But, MOST people tweet ‘my latest blog post’ and hours later it is still just sitting there waiting for its first reader not named Mom.

Well known prolific tweeter can posts things like, ‘sorry gang I’ve been on a train; sorry I haven’t tweeted in a while.’ This doesn’t mean you need to tell your 143 followers every time you ride the local bus home from work that you’ll be unavailable because you are in a tunnel for 6 minutes.

Well known blogger posts ‘thanks all for recent comments.’ This may be because he / she gets 333 comments per blog post. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t personally reach out to your 4 followers / relatives that were kind enough to type a few words of encouragement.

Similarly, a well known blogger can get away with posting things like, ‘here is an interesting conversation I over-heard at a recent company staff meeting.’ This may be because he / she OWNS the agency and can freely discuss what is said. This doesn’t mean that you can tweet the minutes of your company’s confidential internal meeting.

I’ve never been one to provide social (media or otherwise) advice. Miss Manners I am not, but all I’m saying is that it’s good to watch and learn from industry leaders, but don’t just copy. Sometimes you need to follow before you can Tweet. It is okay to start with training wheels.

Photo by jscreationzs

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  1. March 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Great post, Paul! You make a good point about social media strategies in general– just because something worked well for one company doesn’t mean it will automatically work for yours or your client’s company. I appreciate your sentiment that one need not go full steam ahead into social media, but rather, take time to listen and get familiarized with the environment. In doing so, you can better create a more formitable, personalized social media presence rather than just a comparison to the top-dogs.

    • March 14, 2011 at 7:44 am

      Thanks for the comment. I wondered if people would get my point or just scan quickly and say oh good another social media 101 tip. While the post wasn’t breaking new ground I hope it does make a relevant point. You comment sums up my point perfectly. Thanks again.

  2. March 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    Sorry, it took so long to respond to your post. I was offline being a mom and taking major meds to help me get over my injury. Wait? No one cares? I’m shocked!

    Social media is still like high school: the football captain looks cool tossing a football in the air while he walks down the hall, but anyone else who tries it will either get clonked in the head or teased.

    I would never discourage anyone from using their (slightly edited) true voice online, just don’t try to copy anyone else. Learn and discover what makes sense for you.

    Thanks Paul.

    • March 14, 2011 at 7:47 am

      I like your high school comparison it is a good one. Maybe it is just me, but I do find too many people trying to alter what appears to be their true voice just to fit in – and that shouldn’t be what this is all about. Is it?

      And, we do care.

  3. Darre W. Cole (@transPR)
    March 10, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Good take on this topic Paul. I like to use the term “baby steps.”

  4. March 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Good move sidestepping the Miss Manners mantra.

    Seriously, I enjoyed the post which triggered a couple thoughts–

    One, I think people forget we’re still in the early days of social media and even the so-called gurus don’t have this stuff nailed (but no one wants to show a making-it-up-as-u-go-along quality which can be bad for business).

    Also, a little bravery doesn’t hurt in this business. It’s not easy being the lone safe in a sea of sameness. But if there was ever an opportunity to be effectively different, it’s in social media where the rules of the game are still embryonic.

    • March 14, 2011 at 7:41 am

      Thanks for the thoughts Lou. It is always appreciated. Your point is a good one. We’ve all been talking about social media for so long (less than 5 years) that it is easy to forget that these are still early days.

      Just because some people have thousands of followers and a high Klout score doesn’t mean that they are doing it right in the long run. There is still time to make your own path.

  1. March 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm

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