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Human Potential in the Age of Exponential Tech

Matt Bacak – An Online Reputation Meltdown

I have been observing the twitterversy around Matt “The Powerful Promoter” Bacak unfold over the last few days with some interest.

The issue arose when Matt, a marketing expert who specializes in direct marketing and internet promotional campaigns published a Press Release touting his prowess in mastering the wild and mysterious forces of social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The press release reads (excerpt):

Suwanee, GA (PRWEB) December 2, 2008 — What’s better than soaring to the top of a popular social networking site? How about skyrocketing to the summit of two of them? That’s the envious position The Powerful Promoter, Matt Bacak, found himself in last month when he entered the Twitter elite.

Proving just how powerful his Internet marketing promotional strategies are, Bacak not only became a top three Atlanta Twitterer, but he currently outranks 99.9% of all members of the site. Internet marketers who would like to follow The Powerful Promoter’s tweets and improve their own promotional efforts can do so online at http://twitter.com/mattbacak.

Matt Bacak
Matt Bacak

The quote everyone seems to have picked out is this one:

“Anyone can call their promotional abilities ‘powerful’ but I actually prove that mine are,” says Matt Bacak of his most recent accomplishment. “I consistently rank in the top 500 Twitterers on the Net. If you were an Internet marketer who wanted to improve your promotional game, who would you trust? Someone who is all talk and no action, or someone who actually walks the talk?”

The boastful tone did not sit well with many Twitterers, who immediately started a discussion with links being spread through the network like wildfire. Unfortunately for Matt, the most frequent categorization was a “New Media Douchebag”

My Twitter friend MediaPirate, summed up the community’s feelings perfectly in a blog post where he said:

The problem is that this type of ego really contradicts the the overall social media mentality which is basically “It’s not about you, it’s about the overall community”.

In short, the reputation he has so painstakingly built was destroyed through a pompous release. And unfortunately it gets a bit messier. Matt has responded saying that he didn’t know that the press release contained such an arrogant tone, which sort of struck me as odd, considering he is a marketing expert- you would think he would approve or check over the content. What I think he really meant was that he didn’t know he was going to cause such an uproar (ironically achieving the type of rockstar status he was so proudly congratulating himself for only days before.)

Maybe corporations will still eat up these meaningless metrics, and maybe no publicity is bad publicity, but I can’t help but feel a little bad because his online reputation is toast. The web is a finicky mistress and she can turn on you in a second! You have to treat her real nice, lol.

My Take

SHOW DON’T TELL

Ultimately, what this shows is that while Matt could very well be an expert at manipulating followers and Facebook friends he knows very little about building a community. What if that press release had been sent out by one of my favorite gurus, Chris Brogan? Would I have had the same reaction? And the answer is: probably not. Chris, despite having over 26,000 followers on Twitter (compared to Mark’s 2,000) has remained as helpful, humble and friendly as ever. He regularly contributes to the community and answers questions when he can. He adds value.

So if for some misguided reason he DID publish something like that, I would have had a chuckle, maybe poked fun in lighthearted way, but essentially given him the benefit of the doubt. That is what reputation is about, it’s about people believing in your character. Actions and track record speak way louder then words.

I love my Twitter community. They are smart, incredible and funny people that enable me to learn and work in a way that wouldn’t be possible without them. I like getting to know people, I like helping when I can. It’s that digital enjoyment in the company of others, the friendships that I have created. Who cares how many of them there are?  I certainly don’t as long as they keep letting me into their digital worlds, I’m happy.


STRATEGY IS ESSENTIAL

I gave a talk at Rotman last week about my experience volunteering on the Obama New Media Team and the learnings from social media for organizations. My main point was about the importance of strategy. Engaging in Twitter and Facebook without an overall vision or an understanding of how to navigate them can be dangerous. Not only did Matt’s action blow up in his face, but his decision to play the victim instead of accepting responsibility coupled with the lack of responses to tweets just made things worse. Understand why you’re entering this space: just to prove you can, isn’t good enough. Plus you would be missing the incredible wealth of experience and knowledge that way, which also hurts you in the end.

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