#SXSW panel: The Steroid Culture of Social Media: You use? #sxswsteroids

by Kate Brodock on 22 March 2011

Posted in: Conferences & Events,social media

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This is a little late to get up, but better than nothing!  I saw a few good panels down at SXSW, but one of the more notable ones (ok, my favorite, both for content and format) was “The Steroid Culture of Social Media: You use?”  It had the following description:

“Ever think about taking shortcuts to boost your numbers? You know, the numb that show the success of all those interactive social media marketing programs. The numbers that decide your end of year bonus. The numbers that make you “important” to all those other social media influencers. I know you have. You know you have. But did you use those performance enhancing social media techniques? Humans are naturally drawn to shortcuts. Even when they are already successful. Take Barry Bonds. Not the Barry Bonds you remember with the bulging muscles in San Francisco. The younger, leaner version. The one who was with the Pirates and on his way to the Hall of Fame. Each day he worked hard on the fundamentals of the game. Then, boom, he was on steroids, a caricature of himself and a tarnished legacy. Why? The numbers competition. We all know the equivalent of a Barry Bonds in social media. Someone who is enhancing their performance the wrong way. Maybe it started with a simple list buy of Twitter followers. But then suddenly they were researching blackhat SEO techniques for a temporary boost in traffic. Then one day they wake up in a cold sweat after an all night Astroturfing session. It’s time to get help! Join us for a frank discussion on how the steroid culture has infected the social media realm. We will discuss the signs of a social media steroid user, how it hurts us all and a 12-step program to rehab those that have already fallen down the hole.”


Kyle Flaherty, Director of Marketing, BreakingPoint

Laura Beck, Chief Shortie, Too Short Industries

Tim Walker, Content Marketer, BreakingPoint

Troy Nalls, Brand Chef, More Cabbage


Conversation: I loved the way this panel was organized (and suggested it to others throughout the weekend).  Each panelist, including Tim, more or less the moderator, took about 5 minutes to talk, boom done.  They got depth on the subjects, hit several different perspectives, and kept everything flowing and logical.  Oh yeah, and every one of the panelists was also a riot.  That helps.  Note, to put some of the comments in context, the theme of the panel was drawing parallels to steroid use in sports.

[Disclaimer: I apologize if some of these thoughts are disjointed. I was scratching down thoughts on my iPad while also trying to pay attention... probably not the best approach.]

Tim: Are there any of us using social media who are wiling to look the other way when inflating the numbers? We think we know where the lines are drawn, we think we have historical context, much like baseball players. How should we go about achieving success? What’s right and wrong?  Jack Welch never saw his family or kids, and believes in “dumping”…is he a superstar? Things were considered “legal” because there wasn’t a rule against it.  I want you to think about something you’ve done or you’ve seen done by saying “oh it’s ok,” because no one said it wasn’t. Is that ok?

Kyle: There’s a huge difference between cheating and being a cheater.  Cheating is ok, being a cheater is not.  Cheating is smart, “gaming the system” - sending out a tweet at an optimal time, creating tags, optimizing your content etc. The secret to cheating is hiding your sources.  But being a cheater - Blackhat SEO for example - is dishonest, it’s over the line.  Be a Cheat, not a Cheater.

Troy: Everyone here has a connection. A lot of people in social media want to make a persona for themselves. A lot of people might also want to change who they’re rooting for, based on who’s winning. But a lot of people also value authenticity.  How do we convey that message to people? It’s not easy. By leveraging new technology, you can control the image. Be who you are and you’ll attract success. That’s how you play the game.

Laura: Representing the 90 pound weakling on the beach. Any false building of your numbers or persona will hurt your brand. It’s about true fan marketing - every brand only needs 100 true fans who are doing the job they’re supposed to be doing, and you’ll achieve success.  As a company, it’s about nurturing your relationship with those 100 people, who can then pass on the love.

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