Friday, January 1, 2010

Happiness and social media success

Happy New Year, everyone. Since he-who-shall-remain-nameless still hasn't finished setting up the new Wordpress blogs (partly because, apparently, he is unfamiliar with Disqus, which Cheryl was able to set up on her own blog in a few minutes), I'll keep posting here for a little while longer. One of the nice things about Disqus, incidentally, is that it makes it easy to follow your favorite commenters as well as bloggers. For example, you can follow my comments on Disqus-powered blogs by clicking here: The last few comments that come up at that link (in reverse chronological order) I made a little while ago in the comment thread of this post by Fred Wilson1, The Happiness Project - A New Year's Resolution.

You can click on that link to Fred's blog post for the whole exchange, but I'll summarize and excerpt it here, as it relates to a topic I've blogged about before (e.g., here). After recommending Gretchen Rubin's book "The Happiness Project", Fred wrote about her use of social media to promote it,

I'd like to end with a few words on Gretchen's adoption of blogging and social media during her happiness project. In the second month of her twelve month program, she decides to start a blog. It becomes the Happiness Project blog. She figures out how to set up a TypePad account, she decides to blog six days a week religiously, and she starts using Facebook and Twitter. That's how I met Gretchen. Her husband, who is featured prominently in the book and who I've known for a dedade, emailed me last summer and said "my wife Gretchen is getting totally into this social media stuff and I wonder if you might give her some advice". We met for lunch and I gave her a bunch of advice, but was impressed at how much she had already figured out on her own.


So let's all buy her book , get a bit happier, and show that social media can put an author at the top of Amazon's bestseller list.

In response, I wrote (in part),

Social media success in this case would have something to do with having the access and support of prominent bloggers such as you and your wife. This reminds me of a discussion I had with Andy Swan in a comment thread on this blog a month ago, in your post about "The Fall and Rise of Media". Back then I noted,

There are still velvet ropes; it's just that top tier bloggers (including multimedia stars such as Breitbart or Godin) have their own velvet ropes now. The average person starting a blog today doesn't have much more voice than he did when his broadcasting options were limited to writing letters to the editor of newspapers, calling into talk radio, or going on public access TV.

Gretchen Rubin got past the velvet ropes of your blog (and signed on the Gotham Gal [Fred's wife, who blogs under that pseudonym] as a legitimate affiliate) in part apparently because you've known* her husband for ten years. Not exactly social media success ex nihilo.

*Edited as per Fred's correction.

Fred retorted that he wasn't exactly friends with Mr. Rubin; he had just known him for ten years. And that Gretchen Rubin's social media success would have happened without his help. Perhaps so, but then Cheryl shared some background with me on who Gretchen Rubin was. As I noted in Fred's comment thread,

BTW, Hackensack Gal informs me Gretchen Rubin appears on Slate (owned by social media start-up The Washington Post Co.), is a former prominent attorney (including a stint as Supreme Court clerk for Justice O'Connor), and daughter-in-law of former Goldman Sachs chief, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and former Citigroup consigliere Robert Rubin. Again, there's nothing wrong with any of that, but it supports my initial impression that this wasn't an example of social media success ex nihilo

1Fred's not just a user of Disqus but an investor in it, via his Union Square Ventures.

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