Most people, in their day to day life, probably wouldn’t seek out a “rock star” for business advice.
Rock stars have a very specific experience of the world and fulfill very specific needs in the human psyche. And that experience and those needs might not be well aligned with business goals.
Yet, in social media marketing and to some degree technical marketing in general, there has been the creation and status inflation of “social media rock stars.”
People who achieve this status present to audiences about their experiences being rock stars, often providing advice on how non-rock stars should alter their business practices.
I suspect we’re seeing the end of the “rock star” phase of digital marketing. There are several reasons for this, some obvious and others not quite so obvious.
In “The Begrudging Death of the Social Media Superstar,” Amber Naslund lays out the case for the shifting ground upon which social media rock stars perform.
I think it’s no accident that Naslund formerly worked for Radian6, a company that built one of the better social media analytics tools available. The data isn’t there to support the theory of social media rock stardom.
Before I get into the guts of this, and tie it back to the real estate marketing scene, I do want to be sure I note that there are, indeed some rock stars who do have valid and useful business advice.
There may even be rock stars that have valid and useful business advice. But the point being that their advice is often not related to their rock star status, but to their being good business people.
I was recently in a car ride with a marketing specialist who works with large nonprofits. We were discussing the efficacy, or rather the lack thereof, of using high-profile names to generate business results.
For example, just because an individual has millions of followers on Twitter doesn’t mean that those millions of followers will necessarily donate to a given cause.
This is true beyond nonprofits of course. Every industry has attempts at capitalizing on celebrity and sometimes the value is there and sometimes it isn’t. When it isn’t considered strategically, the value is often skin deep, at best.
I suspect that the success or non-success of a “rock star” promoting a particular brand weighs on two main factors: the genuine meaningful relationship between the rock star and his or her audience; and whether that audience is aligned with the realities of the business goals.
Depending on a “rock star” to promote a brand is comparable to advertising in a print magazine back in the old days. Even if the audience is big, it might not be the right audience. Advertising bicycles in a drag-car racing magazine might not be very effective, even if the drag-car racing magazine has a lot of readers.
Similarly, advertising luxury watches in a magazine focused on bargain-hunting watch collectors might not make much sense either. The audience is interested in watches, yes, but they are gathered around the idea of doing things without spending much money.
Thinking of “rock stars” as a media brand really makes sense when you dig into it. For example, Gary Vaynerchuk made his “rock star” status initially from his work with his wine shop. Though I don’t have the data I am almost certain that Vaynerchuk’s wine business is eclipsed by his social media consulting business.
This isn’t a knock on Vaynerchuk. That he could take a small business and make it appear relevant and competitive with larger national retail outlets is a great narrative. He has an incredible high-energy charisma that takes that great narrative to the next level.
Even so, I suspect that Trader Joe’s outsells him in the wine business, and he crushes Trader Joe’s in the social media consulting business.
The challenge for real estate, as analytics continue to press forward into social media and reveal which social channels and media and personalities perform well, is to determine what is going to work now and going forward.
The experience and work of the “rock stars” has been beneficial in exploring these tools and promoting their use within organizations. But the success of many rock stars is difficult to replicate because so often it is founded on the innate personality traits of the rock stars themselves. Not everyone can play guitar like Eric Clapton.
And businesses need that kind of repeatable strategic advantage if they’re going to build their business around social tools — or build social tools into their business. To date, the approach many take seems to be an attempt to build up a social media “personality” that is “authentic” and has a wide reach.
The risk, of course, is that the “personality” is portable and able to move on to the next opportunity while the brand remains behind. The other risk is that the effort expended to create the “personality” in the first place may never have any meaningful return — the follower count may not result in more listings or more sales.
We’re moving into the next phase of social media. It’s being driven by the ability to measure performance of “rock stars,” tools, tactics, channels, and media. This happened before with search engine optimization and the result was better content on websites.
The result this time will be, I suspect, more meaningful relationships between businesses and their customers without the disintermediation of “rock stars.”
End note: if you are a “rock star,” or hope to be one, be sure to read Amber Naslund’s piece linked above as she lays out very clearly how to pursue your future role in the next phase of the social media landscape.
Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt.