Oh, the ripples a single blog post can make. It’s been a long time since a post about social media got people as worked up as Cathryn Sloane’s “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25” at NextGen Journal. I’ve read dozens of blog post responses to her, and as of writing this post, there are 482 comments on her post itself.
In reading the responses, there are a lot of very thoughtful points being made. At the same time, there’s something about this whole discussion that is making me cringe a little. It’s highlighting a very important and oft-ignored problem in op-ed blogging: the tendency to overvalue the popularity of our own posts when they haven’t truly added any value. As I continue to read blog posts about age and social media, it’s making me more and more uncomfortable.
Cathryn’s post struck a nerve with a lot of people, but the vast majority of commenters were older social media managers (and other older people working in the social media space, regardless of official title). Understandable, since those were the people she was attacking with her post. And the vast majority of people who wrote rebuttal posts were also older social media managers. Again, understandable given her attack.
But what I’ve seen most of the time (read: not all of the time) are defensive rebuttal posts that are simple masquerading as a “discussion” or “conversation” on the topic when they aren’t really adding anything to the debate at all. I have to ask myself, what do these posts accomplish other than perhaps making the blogger feel good about him/herself?
To me, a discussion or conversation about the topic is all about debate and, more importantly, learning. I actually think that’s where Cathryn’s post was extremely successful. Regardless of your opinion of the piece, what she published was an opinion about something that she felt needed to be addressed. She supported her opinion with a few reasons and put it out there for the world to read. Whether or not she did a good job or has a valid opinion is a moot point. She was, in her blog post, seeking to make a difference, to change your way of thinking, to highlight an injustice she thinks is a problem in this industry.
Did the rebuttal blog posts do the same? Or did they just say, “NUH UH!” and get liked and tweeted by the same hundred or so people who’ve been liking and tweeting all rebuttal posts and comments?
In other words, did your post make a difference, or did it just tell your community what they wanted to hear? Did you actually add to the conversation with new ideas or did you just defend yourself by calling someone wrong? Did you seek new ways of looking at the topic or did you just rant?
Take a good hard look at how successful you are on social media. If you say, “HITLER IS BAD!” it’s not hard to get your audience to agree with you. But what does that prove? Did you teach your readers anything? Did you really start a conversation? This applies to every controversial topic, not just the wildfire that caught online about age and social media this past week.
An example: Let’s say I write a post about how automated DMs are bad. Of course the vast majority of the NMX/BlogWorld community is going to agree with me, and if I write a passionate, well-written post, it’s likely going to get a lot of social shares. But so what? All I’m doing is preaching to the choir. I’m not bringing new people to church. Putting the popular opinion into a blog post doesn’t alone make you a good blogger or good at social media.
That’s not to say that you have to be controversial when you blog about something, but I do think it is important to be honest about your social media success. Before you smugly say that Cathryn knows nothing about social media, perhaps take a good hard look at how often her post has been shared, how many true discussions it has created, and how many people have admitted that she does have some valid points that they hadn’t considered before.
Are you achieving the same things with your op-ed posts or are you simply telling people what they want to hear and patting yourself on the back when people like it?