Chris Brogan

There really are no rock stars in social media.

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I’m about to break your heart, and I don’t even care. It’s for your own good.

I’m enthralled lately by all the discussion around Chris Brogan’s decision to unfollow all 131,000 people he was following on Twitter. It’s mind-numbing. Seriously. Just the comments on the blog post he wrote about it drive me crazy. And at this writing there are 415 comments — about 10 times what he normally gets per post.

A little about Chris: He’s a blogger, who’s amassed 190,000 Twitter followers. You can hire him to talk to your company about using social media. He’s even written a book. You can read a lot more about him on his blog. He’s basically one of those guys who has made a career of selling himself as a social media expert. He teaches people how to use the stuff. Supposedly.

When I started seeing little things pop up online about how he was unfollowing 131,000 people, I was amazed — not over what he was doing, but the reactions. Some people were angry. Some were understanding. Some were confused and hurt.

Me? I laughed.

I laughed because as Chris explained his rationale, I saw the man behind the curtain — the one you aren’t supposed to pay any attention to. The one pulling all the levers and twisting the nobs that create smoke and bluster. And that man wasn’t a wizard or rock star. In fact, he’s probably worse at social media than you or me.

See….I didn’t need to follow 131,000 people to realize you can’t follow 131,000 people. Sure, you can click that button, but you can’t pay attention to them. So Chris Brogan wasn’t following you. Not really. In fact, this guy who preaches engagement really wasn’t engaging those he followed at all. He put out his “content” and replied when people mentioned him. But unless you were talking to or about Chris Brogan, he wasn’t paying attention.

But Chris didn’t perpetrate the “Great Twitter Unfollow Experiment of 2011″ because he doesn’t know how to use Twitter. He did it, he says, because he’d “started receiving over 200 direct message spams a day.”

If you use Twitter, you know you can’t get direct messages from folks you aren’t following. So Chris Brogan was following enough spammers that he supposedly received 200 spam messages daily. Why was he following spammers?

I told you awhile ago about my own little Twitter experiment, where I used some spam bait and gained 60 followers in a matter of a couple of days. If you want Twitter followers, there’s an easy trick I learned from my friend Freddy: Just use keywords that will draw the attention of bots. It’s true! And to keep those “followers” (who aren’t really real at all), you just need to follow them back. You know who ends up with a LOT of fake followers? People who tweet about social media. That’s because their tweets are loaded with phrases Twitter bots love.

Whether Chris Brogan knew it or not, he was padding his follower count with bots and zombies. Do your own little investigation and scroll through his list of followers. It’s not as impressive as you thought, is it? As we all know, nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. After amassing a decent number of followers (and a reputation for following back), you can brag about how many Twitter followers you have…and then get more Twitter followers. And then write a book.

To save you the trouble, I’m not a social media rock star. I’ve got a few hundred followers — not a few thousand or several thousand. I’m just a guy who hates bullshit. Don’t author a book called “Trust Agents” and then be disingenuous about how many real Twitter followers you have and how you got them. Don’t tell me you had to unfollow everyone because you had too many direct messages. And don’t tell me you can’t manage to keep up with all the replies you get — that has nothing to do with the number of people you’re following.

At best, if you give him the benefit of the doubt, Brogan’s clueless when it comes to using Twitter. At worst, he’s no better than Newt Gingrich — padding his numbers to look more popular and more impressive than he really is. Honestly, now, would he impress you if he had 100 followers? 200? A social media expert with 200 followers isn’t much of an expert, is he? I mean, that’s like a rock star who’s never gone platinum…

Absolutely.

Nickelback is an inarguably terrible band. It is also the best-selling band of the past 10 years. The numbers don’t make them good at music; the numbers just make them rich. The record industry has done an excellent job marketing terrible crap. On the other hand, our garages are filled with amazing musicians who will never sell anything.

I’ve told you before, and I’ll tell you again: Beware social media experts. Especially those who seem to market themselves well. Because when your money’s gone, do you really want to tell people you spent it on Nickelback tickets?

Do you?