Why Social Media Consultants are Broke

Each day I seem to meet another “professional blogger” or “social media consultant”. It amazes me. When I looked at LinkedIn, I can see almost 100,000 social media consultants. What do these people do? How do they differentiate themselves from the other 99,999 that can so easily be found?

I have a feeling that it comes down to price – and responsibility: two areas we readily sacrifice too easily.

Watch this great rant from Jessica Gottlieb – it’s the same situation. A lot of the consultants that I meet are smart, passionate folk. They get it. But they’re not business people. They want to turn their passions into positions. They’re donating their time to charities, they’re working for not-for-profit organisations and they’re taking time out of their day jobs to help a cause they believe in. That’s great, but it’s not work. And it’s not work if you’re not accountable.

So, if you are working with an organisation and you’re not getting paid – think about these questions:

  1. Who is the charity? Is it you? Are you giving your knowledge and experience away for free?
  2. Are you exchanging your passion for experience? If so, how are you leveraging that experience each and every day?
  3. How can you become accountable? How do you turn your efforts into recognition at the highest levels?

Finally, think about the value exchange. There is a fine line between volunteering and being taken for granted. Just make sure you know where that line is for you.

The Measure of a Life

In the cut and thrust of life we can easily be consumed – with our work, our preoccupations, our illnesses (real or imagined), with projects, friends and family. We keep incessantly searching for the next thing – something cool, someone beguiling, an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime … and yet, in our restless efforts to attain our desires it’s far too easy to overlook what we already hold, easily, within our grasp. For contentment can never be found somewhere other than where we already are.

As a younger man, however, I could not grasp this fact. I rushed from experience to experience as young men do – seeking an anchor always somewhere over the nearest horizon. Along the way I caused chaos – in my own life and in the lives of others. To this day, I still recall moments of loss – that I caused through a careless word or deed; and with hindsight I realise now that these moments could have been recovered, could have been changed even after the words had escaped my mouth. I chalked most of these up to “experience” and promised myself to never make such mistakes again.

What I DID learn from my own mistakes was that it’s hard owning yourself. It’s hard being responsible for your own actions, your own health and the impact you make on others. It’s hard to find a place where you belong and difficult to commit to relationships with others who are also struggling to do the same. In the process we often confuse power with love without realising they diametrically opposed. We hurt others or are hurt by them as we wheel from one experience to another – and slowly (if we are lucky) we accumulate a sobering wisdom, or are drawn in upon ourselves, falling into depression, or loneliness or an abundant narcissism.

For some time I have been pondering this great article by Clayton M Christensen – it asks a simple, but difficult question: How Will You Measure Your Life? This question seems to be at the core of the tangents I have been thinking about (and living for decades). He proposes that we look at this through three lenses:

First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?

That last one is cautionary – but worth considering. After all, the pursuit of your goals can lead in unexpected directions, and the repetition of tiny indiscretions can lead to misdemeanours that if, unchecked, can compound at an alarming rate. Read the whole article – it is well worth it.

But at the core of all of these focuses is one thing: purpose. Now, the interesting thing about purpose is that it’s not something you need to find – it’s something you need to accept. Think for a moment about a personal catastrophe. What if you lost all that you had? What if all those external things – those things by which we measure our stature – were wiped from the face of the earth? How would you feel? I know I would be saddened, but so long as those I care for were safe, it would have little consequence. A purpose tends to attach not to things, but to people.

Over the last week this has come into sharp contrast for me. Last friday, my cousin’s 10 year old son lost his battle with cancer. His was a too short life – but it was lived with all the energy and courage that he could muster. I cannot fathom what it means to suffer such a personal loss. I cannot imagine what it takes to share your son’s passing with his siblings. And I cannot see how any words or deeds would help to ease the sense of loss.

But I know that the measure of that little boy’s life is not counted in bits and bobs. It’s in the richness of memories – a smile, a touch of the hand, the favourite bedtime story shared. And it’s in the raw challenge he leaves behind – to live bravely in the wake of tragedy. Peace, Rex.

The Future of the Book According to IDEO

I have always loved books. As a small child I was driven to learn to read and had, midway through Year 2, read everything available in my school library. From there I moved onto more advanced topics – history, exploration and geography. I read it all like a great unfolding story – and it expanded my world.

When I took my first post-university role as an editor at a legal publisher, it wasn’t the law that interested me – it was the publishing. During orientation it was clear that I was becoming part of a tradition stretching back centuries. I met people who had had the mythical “job for life” – starting as apprentice typesetters at 16 and working their way through the printing and publishing business with the same employer through to their retirement. But that was another age.

You see, things were shifting.

I was fascinated in the connectedness of things. History and study had shown me how ideas attract and connections form. And already the opportunities to connect data with knowledge appeared as a huge opportunity.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and we are finally seeing the realisation of these early promises. Web publishing was an enormous first step – but favoured the technically literate. Blogging was its democratisation. And I have no doubt that the social overlay that followed in its wake will take another 20 years to manifest.

But what MIGHT it look like? Courtesy of Armando Alves, here are some thoughts from design firm IDEO (who look like they are moving into the hardware business).

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.

Come Face to Face with Power at FastBREAK

On the last Friday of every month, Vibewire, the innovative non-profit youth organisation in conjunction with the Powerhouse Museum, showcases five young innovators at their FastBREAK events. It’s a rapid fire hour of storytelling and inspiration with a dash of networking thrown in for good measure.

Run from 7:45am – it’s a great way to end your week – and gives you just enough time to get from Ultimo into the CBD in time for work. What’s it like? Watch the video below for a taste – then book your tickets online. It’s the best $10 you’ll ever spend (and it comes with delicious pastries from the Black Star Pastry in Newtown).

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

This week I have a mismash of ideas and topics for you. Some provocative thinking, some things you can do and a couple of ideas you might be able to translate into your work day. Enjoy!

  1. When it comes to participating in a charity campaign, it’s relatively easy to click a button, change an avatar or even to donate some money. But it requires a real commitment to make yourself part of the campaign. And that’s what Neil Perkin is doing with the The Great (Advertising & Media) Football GIveaway 2010. He’s travelling to Tanzania to distribute footballs to disadvantaged kids and hopes to raise £13,500.00! Please help out.
  2. Ever wondered why executives in your company make certain decisions? Lisa Petrilli talks through the processes that great leaders use to make decisions.
  3. It’s pretty clear that messaging and conversations within and beyond the enterprise are undergoing a drastic transformation. Umair Haque suggests this is about Listening Up – not talking down.
  4. For those on the client side of things, Mark Pollard shares an interesting post on how to milk your agency for all it’s worth.
  5. Do you sell things from your website? Do you showcase your products and services? If so, you’re in the world of digital retail. Check out the Top Three Things Every Retailer Should Know by Fi Bendall over at the PowerRetail site

Cup of Chaos Special: Make it Vegetarian

From time to time I drop in a Cup of Chaos special edition for those special campaigns that warrant extra attention. Iain McDonald shared this link to an anti-obesity commercial airing overnight in the USA (courtesty of PCRM). It reminds me of my vegan days.

It will be interesting to see how it goes. At present it has around 20,000 views. I have a feeling it will be significantly higher tomorrow.

And, now of course, I just have one question. Would you like fries with that?

The Wilderness Where You Live

wilderness When I arrive at this site, The Wilderness Downtown, I have no idea what to expect. I know it’s a “chrome experiment” and that it uses Google Maps but that’s pretty much it. The site asks for only one thing – the place where you live (or more precisely, the place where you lived). Already I’m settling in for an experience. I can already feel the powerful pull of nostalgia deep in my gut.

On a whim I decide to enter the childhood address of my grandmother. I am interested to see what this experiment may yield – especially considering what Google Streetview was able to yield in my genealogical enquiries. I am hoping for a different kind of story, perhaps a visual panorama – a mashing of time lapsed images that recreate the emotional landscapes that we once inhabited. Expectantly, I click the Play Movie button and turn up the sound.

The soundtrack pumps and browser windows spawn across my screen. There’s a man running down the street. He’s hooded and he’s pounding the tarmac as though the music is driving him forward. It could be the same street. It could be any street in any city.


In another window I see the street where my grandmother lived. I’m flying with a flock of birds, cruising what is now the high density fringe of the inner city of Sydney. I don’t recognise it from up here – it’s all warehouses and flat roof buildings. Then, on the ground, at street level, I recognise the brickwork, the panorama. Suddenly the aerial view matches up and I recognise the still existing row of slum terraces clinging to their city purchase.


The man’s still running. He’s not looking back. But in a way, that’s what I am doing. I am struck by the changes on the landscapes in which we have lived for generations. I am reminded of the personal stories and current dramas of close friends and family – of unexpected and almost fatal accidents and their aftermath; of diagnoses of cancer and the challenge of its treatment; of chronic pain and helplessness; and of the growing awareness of ageing and what it means to see your own history fade before your eyes.


There is wilderness downtown – and this amazing web experience leads beyond my description. Experience it for yourself – you’ll be surprised – or click here to see what I saw. But there is also the wilderness where you live – where you must live – where you can only live. There is a wilderness in our own hearts.

Be sure to explore it while you can.

The Battle for the Network Economy

Call it what you will – the social web, the network economy or any other buzz word, there is no doubt that opportunities abound for smart operators. But which opportunities? How and where should you play? This interactive map from the organisers of the Web 2.0 summit provides a bird’s eye view of the online world.


What should you look for?

Movements: Click the Movements button to see how the online “continental shift” is likely to play out. When considering your strategies, think about how those shifts will play out 12-18 months down the track

Comments: See the thoughts and suggestions of people all around the world. As always, there are some hidden gems in the comments.

Points of control: The map is titled “points of control” – but you should also consider your position from a situation of control. How will the shifts identified above impact your messaging and sense of control and how do you accommodate this organically?

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

In my view, it’s always best to learn from people who have “been there and done that”. I have never really been a fan of repeating the mistakes of others – so when I realised that blogs were a fantastic way of sharing your knowledge and experience – I was hooked. This week’s five must read posts will make you smarter – well, they worked for me, anyway.

  1. Drew McLellan shares a great new social media training course for those involved in tourism. Check it out.
  2. Mitch Joel interviews David Meerman Scott on the marketing secrets of the Grateful Dead. If you read my blog, then you’re sure to know of David’s expertise, but this interview allows you to hear just how easy he makes marketing sound.
  3. Many of us want to turn our blogging efforts into cold, hard cash. But it can be hard. It can be gruelling. And, as Valeria Maltoni asks, would your content sell? Maybe.
  4. In an age where we are always looking for the authentic face behind the public mask, Mel Peters does us all a service and interviews Stan Johnson from BrandDNA.
  5. Our shifting patterns of social media participation are seeing us move form simple status-style updates indicating presence to a mode which is more collaborative. With geo-location tagging now active, Stefano Maggi explains how universal check-ins are moving us “beyond venues”.

Google Ups the Ante this Instant

As we rush ever faster towards the latest thing we risk being overwhelmed – by data, life, connections – the to do list that sits threateningly at the edge of our consciousness. In an age where the act of doing – of performance – supersedes the act of being, we can sometimes look over our shoulders and realise that while only twelve months has passed, it seems like a lifetime. The pace of change is certainly accelerating.

How do we cope?

Despite our often pathological resistance to change, human beings are supremely well adapted. We can quickly and consciously change our behaviours, our environments and our ways of thinking. We can assimilate technology, create innovation and do so single mindedly.

Google Instant taps into these evolutionary traits, giving us instant matches to our search terms. Now we don’t even have to wait to press the I’m Feeling Lucky button.

And while I like the cleverness of this technology, I am more impressed with the video clip that Google are using to launch it. It’s a nice piece of high-tech high touch that John Naisbitt would be proud of.