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Dousing the Firestorm!

Dousing the Firestorm!

Well, I’ve certainly riled the waters with my comments about social media. Virtually no one, except a few enlightened posters, have understood that I am talking about consultants reaching senior executives (buyers) in major firms, and they are talking about either companies reaching out to consumers or consumers talking to each other.

Now, here is an item of some interest. Ezra Butler wrote me what I considered a vituperous and inappropriate post, which I did not permit to appear. But I did reply to him privately. He responded, I responded and, what do you know, we’re talking intelligently together.

He has given me permission to reprint the entire exchange here. My point to you is that emotions cloud logic when you’re trying to debate, much less understand the other person. Logic makes you think, emotions make you act, sometimes not wisely.

I thought this would be a good learning experience for everyone.

Ezra’s original attempt to post was this:

Apropos to spelling names correctly: Why would you put a “-” into linkedin?

There are certain “social networking” sites that I don’t understand, so instead of necessarily lambasting them as worthless, I try to understand them.

While I don’t have a 400+ roster of blue chip clients (yet), I, like Darwin, believe in evolution. In this era of survival of the fittest, it is up to those who accept changes, and not belittle them.

While you apparently do not treat English as an alien life-form, you do apparently approach all advances on this great planet as a Martian. (Google the “Rule of the Martian”)

You obfuscate the line between corporate blogs and blogs about nothing. The commonality between them is the infrastructure on which they rest. That is all. That is like equating the New York Times and the New York Post. They are both “newspapers” in “New York”. One has nice colorful pictures and the other has content. One has a page 6, and the other one defines class. Which one do you read?

Online social networking platforms utilize deep-rooted concepts in social theory for maintaining, extending and creating social and business relationships.

For instance, if you were a cigar aficionado, would you prefer to begin meetings with a potential client over a nice Habano? As Plato wrote, “Like likes Like”. In order to successfully market to a crowd, you have to show that you are one of them. You cannot just take out your soapbox, and expect people to listen. Unlike MySpace, the personas portrayed on Twitter are real, true to life, because there is no filter. It is in these short spurts of consciousness, that you can truly understand the other (a la Levinas).

Perhaps IBM doesn’t need to care about the individual, with their new $100 million supercomputers, but many businesses do. (While IBM’s own viral attempt “The Art of the Sale” would tend to disagree with that statement…)
It humors me to no end that you consider your own drivel worthy of wasting KBs and MBs on the internet. But it was nice that you were self-referential in your post: you used the term egomaniacal. In the age of egalitarianism, even elitism must evolve. Either that, or die like the dinosaurs.

My private response was this:

I like your energy, so I’m going to take the time to reply privately, and merely try to enlighten you on some points.

I’m not against social media as such. I’m against consultants using social media as a primary marketing device to break into the corporate market. That doesn’t work, trust me, and it has nothing to do with age or bias, but my constant, global interaction with thousands of consultants all over the world. I work with everyone from Deloitte and CCL to independents and boutique firms. No one knows the field like I do, and I’ve written more books on consulting than any author, living or dead.

My amusement arises from the violent backlash form the social media community when I suggest such a thing. My opinion is metamorphosed into opposition to all social media, and my quite empirical observations—there is a lot of crap on YouTube and most blogs are unreadable—are received as attacks on the medium and not the perpetrators.

You’re smart enough to argue and debate without attacking me, which is actually pretty dumb, since I AM a guy who knows how to establish a global brand and knows how to use the electronic workplace successfully, as you can see. And don’t sell my readers and clients short. They read my opinion and form their own judgments. It’s not a cult!

It’s the lowest form of debate to argue that someone is “not with it” or “too old” just because they find someone else’s reasoning corrupt. I’m really a very adept technologist personally, and use some of the best people around. I work in all media. But I’m also very smart, and can tell that hoof beats may be a horse but could be a zebra.

The only personal attack I make is against the mindless obscenities, inanities, and banalities that people post, and the lunatic dream that they will be “discovered” through the production of such crap. But that’s their right, even if delusional. However, the fact remains, that’s not how you consult or get business with corporate executives of any age!

Don’t hate me or my message. Try to understand it prior to midnight.



PS: If you agree, I’d like to post this, but only with your permission.

And Ezra wrote back:

Dear Dr. Weiss,

I was making a point. How can you respond to an ad hominem attack against thousands/millions of (probably) intelligent users of Social Media? I could have just ignored your post, as I ignore millions of others, but you are intelligent, so the most dangerous.

I intentionally chose words and concepts that you used in your post and subsequent responses to describe what you were doing. I believe that the lack of intellect and creativity actually comes from not comprehending the tools that you were putting down.

And let’s face it: when someone utilizes blogs and podcast (admittedly earlier forms of online social expression), yet belittles social media as a whole, the word evolution does come to mind.

The underlying humor in this episode is that I would have never come across your blog if someone would have not put a link on twitter (without a positive or negative tag). Twitter has turned into a social RSS-esque feed that enables individuals to be on top of interesting/relevant information based on what other people find interesting. Indeed, Twitter has helped me out in a myriad of ways professionally, and I don’t use it for personal uses at all.

I wholeheartedly apologize for not being completely coherent. That was not my intention. But unlike work, which happens between the hours of 10 AM and 9 PM, reading blogs that have relevance has been relegated to after midnight. It is not a justification.

I understand that it is your prerogative and right as a blogger to filter out odious material that you feel does not educate.

I would not even implore you to try the various Social Media platforms. But please talk to people who do use them, and try to understand a little more than just the hype. If not, you are doing a disservice to your clients.

In any event, this is in the past and has been deleted from all servers. Have an amazing day.

N.B. The Rule of the Martian is a very interesting theory. The highest points of tension between two social groups will be between the two groups that a Martian would not be able to discern one from another, because they look so similar, but they disagree on such seemingly minor points that happen to be so central to their existence. One example is given by Prof. Albert Baumgarten regarding the sectarianism of the Second Temple period.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 4

  • Reg

    June 12, 2008

    “…people with poor skills are also quite bad at assessing their own abilities. They tend to be grossly overconfident, demonstrating a notable deficiency in “self-monitoring skills.” The opposite is also true: better performers have far more humble predictions, and subsequently more accurate assessments, of their performances. (Thanks to Sam Koritz for his recent post on this.)…

    Just saying.

  • Timothy A. Wilson

    June 12, 2008


    I’m not surprised at the firestorm you’ve started. After all, you do call your blog Contrarian Consulting. I appreciate the fact you’ve taken the time to voice your comments on the world of blogging.

    I also appreciate the many voices who have shared their insights and opinions on this topic as this discussion is helping me address some changes I feel I need to make in my overall marketing strategy.

    Perhaps one of the more important points of this entire discussion is simply this: technology is a tool. As with any tool, learning its proper use also means knowing when and where to use it.

    The clients I have are not likely to get on the internet and read blogs, they just don’t have the time, and it’s not what they are accustomed to doing. We have to keep that in mind. I agree some of our younger CEO’s me be more comfortable using Facebook or blogging and as their number grows, we will have to adapt our marketing strategies. In the mean time, those of who write blogs, let’s keep doing everything we can to insure they are of the highest quality and keep in mind there is always room for improvement.

  • Peter Gold

    June 13, 2008


    I think the debate between you and Ezra was a very useful addition to the initial post. People of course have missed the main point but they often do.

    Maybe we have now found the 50% of marketing that doesn’t work! BTW: I’m not anti-social media before anyone starts shouting at me and whilst I haven’t had any CEO’s poke or twitter me, I have made good money from helping a CEO create a blog.


  • mansoor

    June 16, 2008

    Dear Alan,

    While i admire your work and aspire to be where you are someday.. i thought it would be only prudent to point out some of the ‘other’ literature on the net. i recently came across this post where the author landed a consulting gig via their blog. probably might not be the kind of people you get for clients, but not bad for others like us who are aspiring for a spot at the top

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