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Social Media Titans & The Influence of Benevolence

Virtuous cycleHow do the heaving-hitting influencers do it? How do the Social Media Elite continue to amass loyal followers, fans and fanatics willing to fan the flames of their content marketing efforts?

Take Chris Brogan, for example. Here’s a guy who has more Twitter followers than most folks have hair follicles, and his name is ubiquitously known among the social set. He’s written best-selling books, consulted to industry captains, and his name on industry panels sparks a sharp uptick in attendance.

Or take Brian Solis, a prolific writer of several books, an analyst at Altimeter Group, and a frequent consultant and lecturer who has more fans than your local high school has pimples.

I wouldn’t say I’m “friends” with them, but I’d say I’m friendly with both. And let me assure you that thousands of other people would make that same distinction, which means they’re doing it exactly right. People who think they’re friendly with you are likely to help spread your gospel. It’s just human nature.

So, what’s different about them? Or, more specifically, what’s similar about these prominent figures of the social media world?

Benevolence – Despite being “Internet Famous,” I know them both to be incredibly humble, despite their self-promotional nature. More than that, and this is the key, they make the time to make their followers feel important. This can’t be easy to do, when their inboxes and feeds are brimming with folks who want stuff from them.

Random person: “It would mean the WORLD to me if you’d retweet my new app that lets anyone, anywhere, measure the precise length of a giraffe’s neck from a simple photograph!”

But they make time to respond graciously to comments that far less recognizable people would dismiss out of hand, based on Klout scores or other metrics that supposedly determine an online person’s currency. They don’t suffer fools, but neither do they make the rank-and-file feel foolish.

They give what they get. You should, too.

I won’t speak for them (lest I ruin any future opportunities to work with them) but I’d venture to guess they make the time to make their audience feel important because their hard-won crowd is the lifeblood of their staying power. Their benevolence, their essential kindness to admirers, is born of necessity but also grounded in something much more primal than that, something more intrinsically human.

Aristotle mused about whether there was such a thing as an unselfish act. I think there’s not, frankly. We help an elderly lady across the street because we want to help, but also because doing so makes us feel, well, good. No matter the scenario, it all comes back to us. All of it.

I think the truly successful social thinkers of our time honestly believe they add value to their respective streams, and by extension to progress in general, by honoring the spirit of engagement and by behaving in kind. And in doing so, it all comes back to them. It’s a square bargain, really.

Prolific, quality writing – Both Chris and Brian produce an astonishing amount of content, whether it be books, presentations, tweets or blog posts. Rare is the day you don’t see Brogan’s twitter feed machine-gun firing throughout the day, ending with his signature “Goodnight, Moon” signoff.

Solis, a content machine in his own right, churns out more copy than a heavily caffeinated Steven King (much of it detailed analysis of the social world), and yet he still finds – makes? – time to engage appreciatively with his supporters.

Both gents share in common prevalence and benevolence, and a seemingly insatiable desire to inform and educate their audiences with actionable insights.

There are many others cut from this same cloth, and the takeaway for me goes back to the old saw about the rich guy treating his waiter poorly. It’s better to be the nice guy and enjoy a free drink than to be the jerk with spit in his soup.

If this reads like an ode to two dudes, I’ve botched the post. The point is that we all need to remember that content marketing begins and ends with the people willing to spread the love. The least we can all do is return the favor.