We Don’t Need Another Hero – A Rebuttal

This morning, one of my Des Moines social media cohorts wrote a post about the recent onslaught of social media companies, consultants and “Superstars” that have recently dotted our fine city. Troy Rutter hasn’t hidden his distaste for the trend of social media consultants popping up out of nowhere (here, here, and here). But in this morning’s post, he created a correlation to other markets and specifically to the hotbed of social media action that is Boston – calling names like Chris Brogan, CC Chapman and Chris Penn as the benchmark to which all social media “Superstars” would be measured.

While Troy opens his post with a slight “hat tip” to the growth of Des Moines’ social media industry, he quickly jumps into a bit of a “back-handed” compliment:

“What is it about Des Moines that is a breeding ground for so-called Social Media Experts? Is it the corn? Can the city support three social media firms, and countless wannabes who think they have all the answers?

“The Des Moines social media scene is concerned more with being local leaders than global. They fight with/over each other to be the definitive “expert” while simultaneously patting each other on the back to make themselves feel good.”

And in comparison to the Bostonians:

“Maybe that’s the biggest difference. The Bostonians give back to the social media community, not really looking for their own accolades. While Des Moines experts seem bent on making a name for themselves any way they can.”

Okay, Troy, let’s talk this out objectively…

While I can’t comment on the national scene, personally,  I’ve felt nothing but camaraderie and compassion from the other local social media citizens. As a matter of fact, in March of 2006, I wrote my first blog post and was immediately welcomed by Drew McLellan – a national Superstar in his own right. I’d say that was pretty encouraging.

I’m also thrilled with the growth of social media in the Des Moines area. And while I agree that Des Moines is “Saturated” with “Social Media Stars,” to compare Des Moines’ social media community to Boston’s is a bit shortsighted.

The “Stars” in Boston certainly have “street cred.” They’ve built the foundation that others all over the country (and the world) are hoping to stand on. And while people like Penn and Brogan can pull crowds and garner attention better than E.F. Hutton, setting the “Social Media Star” standard by their reputations alone is unfair to the efforts being made here in Des Moines.

A simple marketing lesson I learned years ago states (and I’m paraphrasing):

“The first to the market will define and own that market until,
1) They are knocked out of the top position by a competitor
or (and this is the bigger point),
2) Another “segment” of the market is designed for the competitors to shine.”

Brogan and the rest of the Bostonians established the “Social Media Superstar” market. So, for now, it’s theirs as defined to own and defend. And it’s entirely what they’ve built their personal and business brands on.

I say, “Genius!”

What I see Des Moines social media practitioners doing is taking a loose model of what our East Coast brethren designed and creating a niche segment within the social media marketplace that better fits our community and the Midwestern economy. We (the Midwest) don’t need superstars to swoop in and save the day. On certain levels, I think the conservative nature of our neighbors would reject that model, anyway. The business model Des Moines companies gravitate to do not tolerate “Ego,” whether it’s intentionally inflated self-worth or not. Companies like LavaRow, Catchfire and One Social Media are capitalizing on that fact and creating a new “Relational Social Media” niche to fill that need.

So, to your point, Des Moines DOES deserve recognition for the social media acumen it possesses and encourages. Definitely! Should the social media practitioners strive to be some kind of hero or super star to warrant that credibility? Hell no.

To appease your hunger for national recognition, we could cite the recent feature CNN did on regional social media and the noise being made here. Many of the people you point at in your post were linchpins in many aspects to those events.

It’s just a matter of time before this model of “Relational Social Media” to break through to a bigger, more national level. But for now these companies are providing astounding insight, customer service, education and pride for Des Moines, central Iowa and the Midwest as a whole!

With that, I ask plead with my readers. Let’s keep the conversation going.

Does Des Moines (and the Midwest in general) have the social media chutzpa that will bring us to a national and / or international light? Or do you think that we have too many “wanna-be” practitioners muddying the waters?

Back to you…

Until next time,

Keep Cooking! (’cause social media is yummy for EVERYONE!)
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef