Success: Old School versus New Age

This is one of those blog posts I feel some hesitation to write.

There are thoughts that have been swirling in my brain for a while now, but honestly, I’m nervous to say them out loud. Nervous because I think “will this make me enemies? Is it too controversial?”


Nevertheless… here I go.

In September, I attended The Art of Marketing Conference. Arianna Huffington was the last speaker of the day, and, in fact, the only speaker in a day full of men. I’m not putting the men down, I loved what they had to say, and learned tons.

But Huffington was different… she started talking about what success looks like, and how women are starting to create new definitions of success. “We need to change our language around business,” was one thing that really stuck with me.

I have noticed this trend lately in social media in general. The trend is, that generally, the louder someone is, the more noise they make, the more successful they appear to be.

I get it–I fall into this trap, too. I see my friends posting photos from fabulous events they’re at, and I get a bit jealous. This is the world that social media has created for us: we now have this conduit, this megaphone, and we can shout about how fabulous our lives are.

I’m not innocent in this equation. I do it, too. But I think there is a very fine line between building a personal brand through social media (which is what I’m trying to do), and tooting your own horn waaaaay too much. For example, whenever I get invited to an event, I try to pump up the business that is hosting the event as much as possible through my social media.

I feel like this “bigger + better = success” equation is slowly changing. For me, I feel like I have been successful if two things happen: first off, I want to create some value for my followers. So if I get invited to a new restaurant, I’ll want to tell my followers what I think the best dishes are, or if they have vegetarian or vegan or gluten-free options. Second, I want to create some value for the business–if I can send some new business their way, that means I’ve done something right.

It’s not all about me. It shouldn’t be all about me. It should be about creating a community, and creating success for all of us, not just the one who shouts with the loudest voice.

My favourite people to follow right now are people who are trying to make a difference. And I think, for me, that’s the real definition of success. People who are experiencing their 15 minutes of fame only have that to leave behind. I want to make a greater impression. I want to leave a legacy, and I don’t feel like I need to burn hot and heavy in a short time in order to do it. I’d rather smoulder over the long run…

What do you think? What should the definition of “social media success” be?

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 11

  1. I’ve experienced this recently too – a family blogger event where everything presented was loud, brash and in your face, like the new crowd was trying to lay down their rules and ignore the past. Alienating 🙁

  2. I totally agree with you, Rebecca. What you describe is how I approached my life before Social Media. Now,at 72 years of age (just about), I am happier for it, because my kids & family life are alright.

    Social Media through me for a loop because I just didn’t know how to relate to it from an “authentic” place. I wanted to because I believe the internet, as a whole, is our hope for a sustainable future on this planet.

    I really took my time with it and experimented until what I was putting out felt like it was coming from an ‘authentic’ place inside of me.

    Slowly I am seeing what ‘feels right’. But I am needing help in navigating all of the choices & will contact you soon, Rebecca.

    Really LOVE your outlook and posts.

  3. Hello Rebecca, Your post is certainly not controversial with me. I think that the true measure of success – any kind of success – is the greater good. If we can help each other along the way and make enough money to support a moderate lifestyle, that’s success!

  4. Loved this post, Rebecca, and it really resonates with me. I’m a social media late-bloomer and what I love about it is all the potential ways we can amplify one another’s success by sharing the love, creating connections and community online and not by shouting through a loudspeaker. I believe in ‘social media for good’. In fact, I believe we all (humans) sort of ‘dreamt up’ the internet and social media from our deepest longing to be connected, as Sandra says, authentically. Keep this convo going. Happy to join you in this brave, new world.

  5. I think you got it! Social media – at its most successful in my opinion – is not about the hottest places I’ve been (though that might give me the warm fuzzies): it’s about the community you can build and what positive change might come out of the creation of that community.

    You are building community by sharing your expertise so don’t forget you are successful at that!

  6. This post raises a lot of issues for those using social media. You say, “For example, whenever I get invited to an event, I try to pump up the business that is hosting the event as much as possible through my social media.” Do you feel that they are expecting you to do that, and that’s the only reason you’ve been invited? Do you fear that if you don’t tweet/fb/blog, etc. that you will no longer get invited to future events? The answer to those questions have to do with your end purpose, I guess. For me, as a freelance journalist, I’m always looking for a good story I can sell to someone who is going to pay me to write/broadcast the story. I need to sell stories because that’s how I make my living. If the business mentioned gains a benefit from my coverage, it’s because they fit the profile of the stories I am trying to tell. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope that my coverage would help promote their business in some way. I’m mostly covering ‘the little guy’ and that’s the way I like it. My audience/readers benefit as well, just as you base your coverage on the value to your followers. I could really go on and on about many aspects of your post but I’ll let some other folks chime in if they like.

    And I would just like to say you are very ethical, which is great.

    1. Thanks for this. It’s a really good point.

      I feel like, while I certainly am going to events and blogging or whatever to build my own brand (so that I can write more stories in the future, and hopefully continue to do this work that I love), I do also really want to support the business. I don’t think, for example, that I’d choose to support a business that contradicted my values, just because I wanted the shiny swag bag or whatever. I value small, local businesses, and I really want to support those if possible.

      But I like your question–and I think it’s a good one for us to ask ourselves–what’s the deeper motivation? I think if you’re doing something purely to drive your own agenda or to feather your own nest, you’re not going to be entirely successful, because I think people can see through that, and they will not have as much respect for your opinion if they think you are just a “shill.”

  7. You guys, thank you so much for your support. 🙂

    I feel like community is really one of the most important things–and look what we just did… built a little community.

  8. Hello everyone!!

    Rebecca, I do support your ideas and follow your post closely because I identify with what you say and they way you say it. Plus I feel like a part of a community since I started sharing my ideas through micro-blogging(social media) and when I started my own blog I felt more included.
    I have also stopped supporting someone else’s projects just because I don’t agree with what they do completely.

    I think it’s hard to identify who is shouting louder, they might have more opportunities presented to them and decided to take them all. They might thing it’s a good strategy, but that is the great thing about social media. I see your posts and follow you because I put you in a list, added you to my circles and decided to get your facebook notifications and emails. It’s very easy to opt-out these days.

    Keep up the great work Rebecca!

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