It’s time for social media experts to clean up their act

I subscribe to the Social Media B2B blog and usually I find the topics pretty interesting. Today, however, they announced (and asked for support of) Hubspot’s Kipp Bodnar’s topic for an upcoming social media conference titled “Curation is King and Content is its Bitch.”

That stopped me dead.


In case you don’t know the etiology of that phrase, it came from prison slang.  It’s a term applied to a man who has usually been raped in prison and then claimed by another inmate, who sometimes will then traffic sex with that inmate to other inmates.  The phrase is meant to convey domination and is intended to demean and humiliate another person.  It is meant to be insulting.  The phrase was then picked up by pimps who used it to describe the prostitutes they controlled; and then it entered gangsta slang.

It’s not a nice sentiment.  It evolved from RAPE.  It’s not even an appropriate sentiment for a business audience.  When a woman complained that the title was offensive, Kipp replied that it wasn’t intended to be offensive.

Come on.

As many people as are attracted with this style, that’s how many people will also be turned off from your message.

There’s this unfortunate pattern I observe among many notable people who blog, tweet, present, or otherwise opine about social media (thankfully, not all).  The potty-mouth…the shock factor…the never-ending SNARK…the zingers…the put-downs…the hipper than thou ‘tude.

It’s clubby and attention-getting and probably considered clever by some. But where is your message in all that?

I’ve paid for a few social media conferences in the past where I saw a lot of this and it really irritated me, as a business person, and made me feel like I had wasted my money.

On a more subversive level, especially in the early days of social media when I was one of maybe 1% of women in the audience, it was hard not to feel like the male presenters were almost trying to alienate women in the audience — or just anyone who  had any class  — by being really offensive.

It got a lot stronger than just the pervasive football references.  Lots of almost-hostile (and always gratuitous) use of profanity.  This makes me think of a particular published social media expert who tweeted a comment  to his followers that was so vulgar and obscene I cannot print it here.

It happens, you know.  The occasional sexist comment; male exhibitors blowing you off if you were a woman so they could talk to the man who had just shoved in front of you.  You know, back when New Media Expo had naked female models walking around at the mostly-male party?  Oh yeah, they did that.  Not exactly a mommy-blogger-friendly environment, to say the least.  There is that aspect among the digerati.  Hopefully not pervasive, but it’s there.

I’m not saying Kipp’s title fell to this level (although I think it kind of did) or that it was his intent to purposely offend women BUT…what happened to class and style in communication? Or just respect for your subscribers and greater audience?

Haven’t we moved beyond this? We can talk about the value and uses of social media — and we can be informal and conversational — while keeping in mind that we are in business for a reason.  While being sensitive to the needs and preferences of our clients and audiences.

Many business people I talk to about social media are intimidated or even unimpressed by the idea of using social media partly because when they DO attend conferences, this is the kind of attitude they encounter. And it’s such a turn-off, and it appears so unprofessional to them, they dismiss the message.

No one is saying you have to win a popularity contest or be someone you are not. All you have to be is commonly professional, especially if you are presenting messages about effective communication.

The style: it is not welcoming. It is not understanding. It is not approachable. It is not accommodating. It is not friendly. And you need to be all these things if you are going to teach anyone (particularly potential clients) anything. PARTICULARLY anything about communication, or social media.

I certainly wouldn’t feel like asking Kipp a question about social media if I needed to, because I wouldn’t know what to expect; if he’d be helpful to me or get sarcastic.

More importantly…this trash…it has NOTHING to do with the business and concepts associated with social media!  Who needs it?  I manage to talk about social media everyday without descending to the shock-value level.

Maybe a little humility is in order.  When you have subscribers to your blog (and I subscribe to the blog that promoted this conference), or who follow you on Twitter, I think you should feel somewhat honored and humbled that people want to pay attention to what you have to say.  I know I feel that way about my blog readers.  And with that humility goes the responsibility to communicate in an effective, helpful, and respectful way, without resorting to juvenile, attention-getting ploys.


About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a mom, teacher, and blogger. She is also the creator of "Living Well With Autism," an online resource for caregivers of children, teens, and adults with autism and related special needs.

Posted on August 13, 2010, in Social Media Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I totally agree Mary. I am no prude, but there should be some decorum and professionalism in this medium. I am glad you gave people the history of that term and how incredibly vulgar and violent it is. I will retweet this blog for sure!

  2. I agree, social media has merged the professional and social worlds of many people, but somehow basic etiquette seems to have fallen away. I tend to be more neutral than most to keep my business opportunities open, and though I may not be fully emerged in social media, I also should never have anything come back and bite me either.

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