What would happen if I adopted all of the Social Media and digital marketing BS I usually warn you about? Wonder no more. Welcome to Day 8 of the #StepfordTBB experiment.

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Before I begin, let’s reset our clocks a little:

1. Nothing says “I’m a rock star” like spending 15 hours a day on twitter and blogging about blogs.

2. Best new pick-up line in a bar: “Want to google my tumblr?”

3. Fact: iPad is the new Porsche. Bonus: You can take it inside the night club.

4. How do you know you’re truly important in the world?

a) You cured Cancer

b) You brought peace to the Middle East

c) You discovered how to turn salt water into emissions-free gasoline

d) Your invention eliminated both famine and AIDS in Africa

e) Your latest album went triple-platinum the same year you won your fourth Academy Award and the Nobel Prize in literature

f) Your blog is listed in AdAge’s Power 150

(answer: f)

Now that we’re all on the same page…

All I really-really want is to be a Social Media rock star

Liz Strauss, Chicago-based blogger and founder of SobCon, wrote a piece for Spin Sucks last month that resonated with me: Five Signs That a Social Media Star’s Reputation is Spin. Let me start by saying that the title is brilliant: First, it’s a list. Second, it talks about Social Media. Third, it talks about Social Media “Stars.” 3 for 3. Verdict: Three gold stars.

I mean… think about it: A Social Media star. How cool does that sound!

I also like that Liz makes a distinction between real Social Media stars and fake Social Media stars. “Spin” is indeed tricky, isn’t it.

Unfortunately, my newly found #StepfordTBB vocation of late has to stop at the title. The five points, ironically enough, describe the behavior that real Social Media rock stars actually exhibit. And it is these very types of behaviors, not intelligence, wisdom or tangible value, that have made them legends in the space: Based on what I have seen, “he talks more than he listens, she only shows up to sign autographs, he’s forgotten to read his own book, she doesn’t keep her word, he expects the world to revolve around him” are actually five sure signs that a Social Media rock star is in fact for realz.

Remember that we are talking about Social Media rock stars, here. Not just mere practitioners, professionals, researchers and teachers. Rock Stars. Of course the rules are different for them. They are above the fray. (I mean, have you seen their klout scores?! OMFG!!! Not. even. human. Zeus must have had a hand in this. Loki even. Surely.)

What Liz and I can agree on (now that I am #StepfordTBB and all) is the crux of the post itself: Brush aside the brilliant link-bait list of five whatevers, the advice itself and the thinly veiled “how to be a Social Media star” theme hiding behind bad practices, what we are really talking about here is the end-game. The holy grail of this whole golden house of cards: Becoming a Social Media star is the real carrot.

Liz’ post is definitely not a Freudian slip. It is simply honest. Some people just want to be rock stars. If they missed out on learning to play the electric guitar when they were little, the twitternets have finally given them their chance, and by golly they aren’t about to let it slip by.

And the best part about being a Social Media rock star? Once you know how to be one, you get to teach thousands of hopefuls how to become one too, one $259.99 webinar at a time, one $699-$999 conference at a time, and one $2,999 certification program at a time. There is value in being at the top of this new industry bubble.

Truth be told, I wish I could be a Social Media rock star too. In fact, for like, a whole week, I have been trying really, REALLY hard. (Can you tell? I even adopted a hot new content strategy.) That’s what this whole #StepfordTBB experiment has really been about: To hell with the work. I just want to get paid for performing. I want to be a Social Media rock star too.

My secret wish: Maybe if I keep playing nice with Social Media royalty, I might finally learn the secret handshake and get my pledge pin in the mail. If I finally start playing ball and stop making waves and all. You know, if I “get with the program.” Because clearly, the way to become a Social Media rock star – aside from acting like one – is to be accepted into the fold by the established rock stars. It’s a lot like a fraternity, really. When you aren’t in it, you aren’t worth the time of day. But when you’re in, suddenly you are all best buds. You get invited to all the cool parties and whatnot.

I know it hasn’t been super obvious these last few years, I so want to be one of their best buds, it hurts.


So anyway, I have been doing a lot of research on the subject of how to talk, walk and chalk like a Social Media rock star so more of us can be indicted into that virtual hall of fame. Oops. I mean inducted. (Thanks Wikipedia.) One might say that I have completely immersed myself into the world of Social Media rock stars. Knee-deep into their brown water of awesomeness, in fact. Have I succeeded in becoming a rock star? Not yet, (it’s only been a week) but I did uncover some sure-fire ways of getting there that I want to share with you here. These touch on how to behave like a Social Media rock star when it comes to becoming a staple on the all-so-important speaking circuit. Inspired by Liz Strauss’ list:

How to act like a real Social Media rock star on the conference circuit

1. Combine exorbitantly high speaking fees with the shortest speaking gig you can negotiate.

You have like, thousands of followers on twitter and you have a blog about blogging. Hello?! Of course you’re worth $15,000 per 45 minutes, but not a second more. You’re twitter-famous, aren’t you? Yes you are. And super special too, with your webcam and your 12-second pearls of wisdom. I mean, let’s face it: What you have to say is easily worth twenty times that. If those 150 attendees all paid for an individual session, they would be looking at half a mil between all of them, right? In comparison, $15K is nothing. Conference organizers should be thanking their lucky stars that you are that affordable. Clooney? Pitt? Who are those clowns? The real stars these days are bloggers with other big name blogger friends. Surely, if Sarah Palin can command $100K+ per appearance, a twitterlebrity like you can command 15% of that. Makes perfect sense when you put it all in context.

Just remember: Making $15,000 per speaking gig isn’t all that cool. It’s just business. (If you are a best-selling author, you can legitimately ask for twice that.) No, to be a rock star, you have to ad some spice to it. You have to add a stipulation to that fee: That $15,000 can only be for the first 45 minutes. Any additional time will cost extra. (See #2 below.)

I didn’t know about this little clause until recently. Not that I command $15,000 per keynote (not even close), but it would have never occurred to me to even think of making such a demand. Heck, until I started taking this Social Media rock star thing seriously, for $15,000, you could have basically kept me around all week! Newbie mistake.

PS: Make sure that all of your friends share intel on this. There is no “price-fixing” in Social Media. Showing a united front in this instance ensures that conference organizers know who’s who in the space. The going rate right now for a genuine Social Media rock star is $15,000 per 45 minute session. If you charge less than that, you are just an amateur. (Or worse, a believer.)

2. Real Rock Stars demand real Rock Star treatment.

Nothing says “I don’t know what I am doing” like asking for $15K per 45 minute presentation without adding a slew of stipulations to go along with it. Make your speaking contract stand out, even when the conference is small and can’t afford any extras. Here are a few common ones used by real Social Media rock stars:

– Charge an extra $5K for each additional (and inconvenient) 15 minutes beyond the agreed-upon 45 minute session. Even 1 minute over the 45-minute session gets you the extra green.

– Don’t leave book sales to chance: Demand that at least 250-500 of your latest book be pre-ordered on the conference’s dime, to be made available at the conference. (Bonus: Who cares if the event only attracts 100 – 150 attendees? That isn’t your problem.)

– Demand First Class airfare. Rock stars don’t fly coach.

– Demand that a limo pick you up from the airport and ferry you around town. Cabs are for normal people. (I’ve been doing this so wrong. This whole time, I was taking cabs, airport shuttles, even public transportation to save my clients money. What a dork!)

– Be sure to demand hotel perks like a king-sized bed, a junior suite, a minimum of four stars, ocean-views, and anything that makes your stay as luxurious as you deserve. It isn’t so much about needs or wants as it is about setting the right tone and letting clients know you are a true show business professional.

– Graciously offer the event organizer to take a group of their lucky attendees to a first rate dinner where they will enjoy the full experience of hanging out with your awesomeness. The organizer doesn’t get to go, but he gets to pay for it.

3. Don’t mingle. (Except with other rock stars.)

I saw Gary Vaynerchuck completely mess that one up a few weeks ago. Gary, what were you thinking, man?!

We were both speaking at the MIMA summit in Minneapolis, and after his Keynote, Gary hung out with attendees after his session, and even walked around, attending other people’s sessions like… like… a normal human being. Peter Shankman, Sarah Evans and Chris Barger did the same thing at Brand Camp U this past week! Even Scott Monty offered to pick me up from the airport, in his own car!

Guys… How can I say this? It’s one thing for me to do it (I didn’t know any better until now and I don’t even have a book out), but from what I hear in back-channels, you are ruining it for the rest of the Social Media guru crowd by acting so… nice. How do you expect anyone to treat you like rock stars when you’re so… approachable and down to earth? Stop now before you ruin your reputations (and the conference circuit gravy train). Didn’t you get the memo from the real rock stars? Are their interns dropping the ball or sunthin? You guys will never be rock stars if you keep this up.

No worries, I’ve been watching how themz do it, and here are a few pointers for you:

– Don’t mingle. Ever. You’re above that. Does Paris Hilton mingle with the standard admission crowd? No she does not. Neither should you.

– If you absolutely must mingle (you are stuck in a two-terminal airport and your limo driver is nowhere to be found), charge for it. (See 2, above.) Make it a line item in your speaker contract: $5K per 15 minutes of “engagement” with attendees. Your time is way too precious to just give it away. If it has value assign a dollar value to it. (Just because it’s all about engagement, conversations and transparency doesn’t mean you can’t charge for it.)

– Show up in your limo ten minutes before your session. Deliver your presentation. Leave immediately afterwards to catch a flight home. (No worries. The books were already pre-signed by your intern.)

Remember: Always rushing to and from the airport makes you look super important. In fact, you are in such high-demand that if you stay in one place for more than six hours, the stock market will likely crash again.

4. Do not attend the speaker dinner the night before the event.

Don’t even be tempted. As a rock star, this is beneath you. Better to order room service and eat alone than to hang out with those annoying plebes who just want to bask in your glory and tell you about their cat. No one there is worthy of your conversation anyway. Tip: Real rock stars DM each other a super-double-top-secret restaurant or bar where they will meet up to talk about real rock star stuff, away from non-rock stars. Never, ever, EVER attend the speaker dinner.

I’ve been doing this one wrong too. Even the one or two I missed, I missed by accident, not by design. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this rule sooner?

5. Protect your turf.

If someone wants to bring a Social Media related event to your city, make sure they know that it will not happen without both your consent and involvement. Yes, like the Mafia, but cooler because this is Social Media, which as we know is all about good vibes. Here’s how it works:

– Make sure to contact the person(s) putting on the event and explain that the city you live in is your city. Be welcoming though. Start with “Oh, I hear that you want to put on a conference here in (insert city name). That’s great. Would you like some help?” (The last question is rhetorical. You don’t actually want to help.) The answer to your question is irrelevant.

– If the date is too close to one of your own events, make sure this annoying intruder knows it. Ask them to reschedule their event so that it takes place at least 60-90 days before or after yours.

– Suggest (demand) a keynote or session. (Yes, paid. Of course! See item 1, above.) It’s your city and you’re a rock star. You should be the highlight of this conference! You deserve it.

– Demand a percentage too – since you will “help” put it on and get people to attend. (Nobody does anything in your town unless you give them permission to. Including going to conferences.)

– Talk a lot about what you are doing to help the event, but do as little as possible to promote it (except for your session if you have one). This event can’t be any more popular than your own, now, can it? No it can’t.

– Score some free tickets for all your Social Media friends, so they can attend your session like the VIPs they are. It’s the least the event organizers can do for all your awesome help. Besides, it’s an easy way to get asses in seats for your session.

– In fact, demand of the conference organizers that one or two of your cronies be invited to speak as well. You have to look after your friends, right? It’s what relationships are for, after all.

Oh, and don’t forget: Your turf extends beyond city limits. In some cases, your turf may even include several neighboring states.

6. Talking the talk is cheap, and it’s been done. Instead, talk the walk. (Just don’t walk it.)

As long as you write post after post about how transparent and human and genuine (I mean “authentic”) Social Media rock stars should be, you’re good to go. Anyone googling you will know that you are a stand-up person, one who stands for freedom, liberty, and justice for all. Your record will be hundreds of posts talking about how engagement is about building relationships and being really real. That’s pretty important, because people have to read about that side of you. In this, you are your own best PR department. By talking about these ideals and “best practices,” your readers will assume that you dispense this advice because you believe it also applies to you.

It doesn’t.  Not if you want to be a genuine Social Media rock star anyway. Example: When a car rental company, airline or hotel asks you to actually “pay” for the upgrade you requested, throw a fit and threaten to give them bad publicity on your blog and all over the twitternets. If the clerk doesn’t know what that means, slam a copy of your latest book on the counter, brandish your phone, and cry “Don’t you know who I am?!?!?! I’m listed in the top 450 of… the AdAge Power 150!!! I WILL CRUCIFY YOUUUUU!!!!!!!”

Works every time. Just make sure none of your followers or fans are around to see it.

Truth is that rock stars don’t get to be rock stars by being reasonable or decent or self-effacing. They become rock stars by making demands. By applying pressure. By being threatening. But that’s for insiders to know: Conference organizers and Social Media Club presidents mostly. Hotel and car rental clerks too, on occasion. As long as you otherwise portray yourself as an approachable, friendly, down-to-earth person, all will be well with your outwardly “personal brand.” Just remember the golden rule: Talk about good karma stuff a lot on your blog. Become known as an advocate of good behavior. People will assume that you believe it applies to you as well.

Just like those televangelists. They’re rock stars too.

The advantage of being an outsider with access to “the inside”

One of the advantages of being involved with a number of marketing, digital and Social Media conferences is that you get to experience this kind of awesome rock star behavior firsthand – as a fellow speaker, occasionally as a volunteer, and also as an event advisor (something I might have forgotten to mention. Ooops!). You don’t just hear stories over beers or coffee. You see it for yourself. You get the emails. You sit on the calls. You get to review the contracts. You get to see who in the space puts on a good show, and who in the space is a genuine human being. (What the real rock stars like to call a “sap.”) It’s an education. You really have to see it for yourself to first believe it, and then truly appreciate it for its genius. I would have never known about this otherwise.

Remember stories of Jennifer Lopez demanding white doves and tulips for her on-location trailers? Same thing, except Social Media rock stars would never stay in a trailer.

What’s unfortunate is that the majority of the folks who hang on these rock stars’ every word never get to see what goes on behind closed doors. They (you, many of my readers) have no idea how cool their social media heroes really are when they are off the stage. With all that talk of engagement and conversations, of being real, of caring, of “the money isn’t important” and “it’s the relationships that matter,” you would think these otherwise brilliant bloggers are kumbaya-singing hippies or something, grabbing coffee with strangers in airports! Thankfully, no. They are shrewd businesspeople with a firm grasp of how to rise to Social Media stardom by acting every bit the part of a real-life rock star, and how to make money out of every handshake.

Too bad they don’t give out academy awards for some of these tours de force. They would be well deserved.

It’s true: Two weeks ago, I was appalled by this kind of behavior. Disappointed, even. It depressed me every time I found out that another person I had respected for years had begun acting this way. Today, now that I have fully embraced my #StepfordTBB experiment, I find it awe-inspiring. They are once again my role models and heroes. Remember: it isn’t technically hypocrisy if you’re a rock star.

Damn, that koolaid is delicious!

No wonder Social Media royalty has been treating me like an annoying little peasant for the last few years. I was doing it all wrong: Actually talking to everyday people on Twitter, responding to most comments on my blog, spending hours chatting with conference attendees in the halls for free if my flight wasn’t for a few hours yet, attending most speaker dinners (and enjoying them), mostly flying coach, grabbing the subway to and from the airport, adjusting my speaking fees to match each event’s size and budget, offering to speak a lot longer than 45 minutes at a time (at no extra charge), making no demands on hotel room size, attending other people’s sessions and even asking questions, questioning shady practices and claims that made no sense – basically acting like a normal person. A plebe. A tool. I totally understand why the real rock stars were getting so frustrated with me. Good thing I finally decided to listen to their advice. There might be hope yet.

But hey, I do wear tight pants, and I missed the #SocialStory speaker dinner earlier this month. It wasn’t on purpose (the missed dinner, not the pants) but it’s a start. Somebody turn off the lights and take the lid off the cookie jar. Here I come!



Mmm-mmm, delicious!


You know you like me better this way.


Content Note: The tone and sarcasm of this post may be typical #StepfordTBB, but the facts and anecdotes shared in this post are real, from the $15K price tags and speaker contract demands, to the turf-war  intimidation tactics and upgrade tantrums.

Personal Note: I wouldn’t dream of asking for $15K for only 45 minutes of my time. If I ever do, you have my permission to smack me.