Social media meltdowns highlight the power of the audience

“The audience has more control than anyone realizes.”

Well, except for those who spend their days with social. We see it all the time and most recently with Martin Shkreli, who backed down after pursuing a doomed and short-lived battle against the internet.

Although the below article is over a year old, it was a harbinger for traditional media, whose more entrenched practitioners still cling to the old notion that they can be the gatekeepers of the message, story, opinion, etc. No longer. The power has shifted to the audience, and the following article did a great job of explaining it.

The Travel Channel's Adam Richman, last year at a charity event in Los Angeles, had his new show indefinitely postponed after telling a critic via social media to "grab a razor blade and draw a bath."
The Travel Channel’s Adam Richman, last year at a charity event in Los Angeles, had his new show indefinitely postponed after telling a critic via social media to “grab a razor blade and draw a bath.”

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment

At first glance, Adam Richman and Anthony Cumia might not seem to have much in common.

True enough, they are media stars who took a hard fall thanks to untoward comments on social media. Richman, a host on the Travel Channel, saw the debut of his new show delayed indefinitely after an online spat led him to suggest one critic commit suicide.

Cumia, half of the infamous Opie & Anthony shock jock radio duo, was dumped by SiriusXM after using the c-word on Twitter to describe a black woman he said punched him. The shock jock said she objected to being included in pictures he was taking.

He then spent a lot of time on social media talking about “savage violent animal(s)” who “prey on white people,” noting “she’s lucky I was a white legal gun owner,” and that “there’s a deep seeded [sic] problem with violence in the black community.” Later, he insisted he was not saying anything racist; Gawker saved the posts so you can see for yourself (warning: It’s seriously NSFW).

For some, this is the story of how a Twitter fight can get out of control. But I say both Richman and Cumia were kneecapped by the new reality of modern media:

The audience has more control than anyone realizes.

When you think about how social media works, this makes perfect sense. Online platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram take authority from the gatekeepers of media, which once controlled access to large audiences — newspapers, TV networks, cable channels and radio stations. Instead, that power is handed to anyone who can create compelling content.

I found this out when I tweeted a message about the music CBS This Morning played toward the end of a segment on Nelson Mandela’s death. I posted a quick jibe about the use of Toto’s hit “Africa” as a brief observation. But the Twitterverse decided it meant more, sparking enough stories in places like Slate and The Huffington Post that a co-founder of the band eventually weighed in (in my favor, I might add).

In the old media days, an individual’s impact was limited, unless they could get the gatekeepers involved — get a story on the local news, a letter in the newspaper or a call into the local radio station. No more.

When Richman began responding to critics who said his hashtag #thinspiration referenced a phrase popular with anorexics, he eventually suggested one “grab a razor blade and draw a bath. I doubt anyone will miss you.” Amid the controversy, Travel Channel executives delayed the planned debut of his new show, Man Finds Food,which in turn put a crimp in Richman’s plans to showcase his return to TV hosting after losing more than 70 pounds. (He has since released an apology calling his remarks “inexcusable.”)

This isn’t so much about hurt feelings as it is about marketing and branding. The real value of a media personality like Richman or Cumia is the fan loyalty they inspire, which can then be transferred onto other TV shows or products. So when the host’s brand gets damaged in the public space, their value drops.

Anthony Cumia, at an April event commemorating 20 years of The Opie & AnthonyShow, was fired after a series of racially charged tweets.

Cindy Ord/Getty Images Entertainment

Shock jock Cumia faces a different media issue. Radio personalities in his line of work walk a thin line: pushing boundaries enough to satisfy their audience, but facing the risk of widespread public rejection if their offensive shtick becomes widely known by too many people outside the fan circle.

Cumia forgot that his way of talking about such stuff might be acceptable to his regular fans — people inside the closed loop of his satellite radio show and regular Twitter followers. But once his words spilled out into the general public, he found another reaction (just ask Don Imus how painful that can be).

One other thing both Cumia and Richman have in common: Both their social media meltdowns occurred outside their regular jobs. This, of course, is something even the Kardashians learned long ago: Celebrity is a brand that reaches beyond whatever you do for a living into the rest of your life.

And since social media turns everyone into a brand anyway, every interaction there affects a star’s brand — and their possible employment — regardless of whether it happens on the clock or not.

Evidence of the audience’s new power ranges beyond Cumia and Richman. Successful Kickstarter campaigns for the Veronica Mars movie and Reading Rainbow kids TV series have given fans the ability to vote with their wallets to save dead shows. Moves by Netflix and Yahoo to resurrect Fox’s Arrested Development and NBC’s Communityalso shows the power of a vocal niche audience to push programmers into action.

My hunch is that both men will be fine. Travel Channel is probably just waiting for the dust to settle before launching Richman’s new show. More than 21,000 people already have signed a petition to get Cumia his job back as he plans a new show from his home. In fact, there’s a drive to cancel Sirius subscriptions in support of Cumia that’s building — where else? — on Twitter.

Still, everyone in this new media universe should learn from Cumia and Richman’s example.

Power is shifting to the audience. Stars who ignore that change do so at their own peril.

Original POST

How to grow your reputation (and business) in competitive fields

Two things. One, I don’t know about the ethics of posting an article from HBR that allows you to read 5 free articles and then has a paywall in place [I ALWAYS link back to OC, but please let me know your thoughts on this – I do appreciate knowing if I’ve pissed somebody off]. I also didn’t like the original title of, Get People to Listen to You When You’re Not Seen as an Expert. It sounds a tad manipulative to me. Two, what I’ve found that really helps in growing any reputation and business is time and honesty. OK, let’s throw reliability in there as well. Now, I’m not saying that good old fashioned networking and self-promotion are a bad thing, but it takes time for people who decide their marketing spend to get to know you. There is also a wrinkle in this field as we fight to convince folks digital is overtaking traditional in the fight for eyeballs. Many of the the decision makers -or, HiPPOs as coined by Ed Reese of Sixth Man Marketing– need to be familiar with your reputation and opinion of your peers before they even agree to hear your pitch, let alone that their traditional efforts may not be working as well as they did in the past. AND, let alone why they should reapportion some of that spend to the digital realm.

And we won’t even go into the difficulties a new graduate, or someone who’s switched careers at any age will experience [This will be definitely be another post, as I’ve experienced both firsthand]. Again, time, honesty and reliability will win out. I cannot stress enough the reliability part. I am regularly surprised by how hard it is to find reliable folks to help with a project in a freelance/consultant (or even salaried) capacity.

That said, I will repost the article that started this thought below, with links to the original article on Harvard Business Review. Enjoy!

Get People to Listen to You When You’re Not Seen as an Expert

Growing a business when your new can be difficult
Being new to your field can be difficult

One of the most powerful forms of influence, according to psychologist Robert Cialdini’s famous analysis, is authority — often derived from perceived expertise. When a doctor advises us to exercise more, or a Nobel Laureate raises questions about a certain economic policy, we’re likely to pay much more attention than if a random person offered the same counsel. In our professional lives, this principle can be a boon: if you have a Ph.D. in a subject, or have worked in the industry for 20 years, or are seen to be an expert because you write for a certain publication, you have an increased ability to influence others.

But what if you don’t have those credentials? As I describe in my new bookStand Out, when you’re just starting out in a field, or lack blue-chip affiliations, it may be hard to persuade others to listen to your ideas, even if they’re groundbreaking and valuable. Here are four strategies to help you overcome your perceived lack of expertise and ensure you can make an impact.

The first step, if you aren’t yet seen as an expert in your own right, is to borrow others’ expertise. If you’re a thoughtful curator of the best ideas in your field, even if you’re not developing them yourself, others will start turning to you for guidance. “Originality can be overrated,” says Des Dearlove, co-founder of Thinkers50. He cited Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Goleman (of Emotional Intelligence fame) as examples of thought leaders who are actually “synthesizers” of information. Says Dearlove, “These guys bring communication skills and an ability to bring complex ideas and make something out of them, but it’s not their [original] research.”


Another strategy to gain more influence for your ideas is finding commonality with your audience, a technique that makes them far more receptive to hearing from you. In Stand Out, I profile Robbie Kellman Baxter, a consultant who earned her MBA from Stanford and, as an active alumni volunteer, now derives more than half of her business from her fellow graduates. “The reason it’s good for your business is that you’re able to form genuine relationships with like-minded people very quickly, and to me, that’s the definition of good networking,” she says. “There’s a kind of trust: I know what you went through because I went through it, too.”

It’s also important to be strategic about how and where you’re applying your persuasion techniques. In my previous career as a presidential campaign spokesperson, we frequently created powermaps, which identified who the relevant decision maker was on an issue, who she listened to for advice, and how close we were to those advisers. The goal was to create an “echo chamber” effect, in which – even if we couldn’t reach the target directly – we could ensure she would hear about our position favorably from a variety of sources. Powermapping is a highly targeted form of influence that can enable you to bypass objections about your own level of expertise on the subject.

Finally, the best antidote if you’re lacking an expert reputation now is to start creating one ASAP. Creating original content is the single most effective way to develop an expert reputation. Though the best channel will vary (photographers and chefs should double down on Instagram, while it’s less helpful for attorneys and insurance brokers), blogging is a good bet for most professionals. In just an hour or two a week, you can begin to demonstrate how you think about the issues facing your field and sharing your unique point of view. Your content creation sparks a virtuous circle: because reporters looking for comment almost always start their articles with an online search, if your name keeps coming up as someone writing about the issues, they’re likely to contact you, reinforcing your expert reputation with third-party validation.

If you’re not yet considered an expert, it’s harder to get your ideas noticed — but not impossible. With these strategies, you can begin to overcome others’ resistance and make sure your voice is heard.

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and Stand Out. You can receive her free Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook or follow her onTwitter.

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