The Tyranny Of Social Proof

Books Benches, Dr Seuss

There are are a group of terms that are tossed around social media that I have come to hate:

  • A-Lister
  • Social Media Guru or Ninja
  • Social Proof

They irk me because they are meaningless buzzwords that once may have held some value but have long since lost it.

What is an A-Lister? I suppose it is supposed signify the top bloggers but the problem is that it doesn’t identify what metrics are used to earn that title. Without metrics it is hard to have an honest discussion about who deserves those accolades. If you can’t measure a blog there is no reasonable way to use that label in effect it is rendered useless.

Social Media Guru or Ninja is a term that many people roll their eyes at. Many people associate it with the stereotypical used car salesman. Call yourself a guru and people start wondering about what kind of snake oil you are selling.

Social Proof is a term that people talk about in reference to how popular a blog is. They’ll tell you that you can measure social proof by the number of comments, likes, tweets and or shares a blog receives.

Those tweets, likes and shares serve as the social proof that blogger XYZ has a blog that is well read and respected, at least that is what some people say. I don’t.

What Do You Mean?

In concept the idea makes a certain amount of sense. If I want to determine whether a blogger is influential one method of trying to do so is to see what kind of action their blog generates.

Are people commenting on their posts?

Are they sharing their posts?

If they are active on Twitter do they have a lot of followers?

That is a rough list but you should be able to see the general idea there. What you won’t see is the big flaw in this system.

It doesn’t tell you whether the comments advance the conversation or who they are. You don’t know who is sharing these posts or what happens once they have been shared. You can buy followers on Twitter. Unless you start to dig into their stream you don’t see what sort of engagement is taking place between people.

Remember this phrase:

True power in social media is measured by whether people respond to your call to action.


Will people respond or ignore your requests?

Doesn’t it warm the cockles of your heart to know that a million followers on Twitter might not be a sign of real influence.

The Tyranny of Social Proof

I define The tyranny of social proof as what happens when people use those inaccurate measurements to judge your blog and your knowledge about social media. It comes into play when you don’t get picked as a speaker for blog conferences because you aren’t seen as being an A-Lister whose presence lends more credibility to the conference.

It comes into play when you don’t get hired for certain writing or social media positions because people aren’t taking a serious look at your blog and are relying upon these inaccurate measurements to make a quick decision about you.

It is a bit like the Sneetches from Dr. Seuss. If you had a star on your belly you were cool and if you didn’t…well you just didn’t have the same juice.


Do you agree with the premise of this post?

Does any of this matter?

What changes if any would you like to see?

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  3. Bill Dorman August 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    You want proof? You can’t handle the proof…………..

    It’s all a bunch of hooeee if you ask me. However, if you are holding a ‘social mix’ then the so-called ‘names’ are probably going to help your attendance.

    I would go to one if all my peeps were going to be there. I would probably be just as ‘ok’ if I didn’t hear a single speaker talk unless it was one of my peeps……so I could heckle them…..

    There are definitely superficial measurements being used; sometimes perception is reality whether we like it or not.

    I’m not losing any sleep over it; just keepin’ my head down.

    • Josh August 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      Perception is reality- I have always had an issue with that but there is a lot of truth in it so much as I don’t like it….

      The names do help with attendance but that goes back to the whole Sneetches thing. Sometimes people have sheeplike tendencies.

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