The WAH Factor

I just returned from Blogworld Expo and once again I got to witness first hand something that has long plagued this corner of the market and that is what a friend of mine referred to as “the WAH Factor” that far to many online content creators have decided is the way they want to approach and use social media.

We’ve all seen them. The people who have an unrealistic sense of reality, followed by an inflated sense of self worth. The really bad ones also have a delusional opinion of themselves in a celebrity/rock star level that goes straight to their head.

They are the ones who actually walk up to a booth at a conference and say, “you really should give me one of your products because I’m a ______ blogger” and then proceed to pimp themselves. They are also the ones who stand in line at a coffee shop and openly say “I really should tweet about how slow the line is to see if they are paying attention.”

Both of these I witnessed while at Blogworld and both times I had to walk away so I didn’t punch the people doing it.

Let me explain something to everyone right now. If you have to tell someone you are influential, then you are not. It IS as black and white as that.

If you want a brand to pay attention to you, do business with you or give you free stuff then spend time getting to know them. If you have a level of influence or a voice that they are interested in then it will proceed from there. No one likes to start a conversation with you telling them how awesome you are and that they should give you free stuff.

We’ve all tweeted in anger. It’s a great bitching platform and we’ve all fallen victim to it’s tempting nature (I sure have on more than one occasion), but next time you have the impulse to WAH out loud, stop and think if it is really going to help anyone? Most of all, think about the light it is going to paint you in if it is all you ever do. Got it?

I’m a business person first and a content creator second. I know how business is conducted and way to many people in this space seem to lack the basic common courtesy skills that will make them successful. Can you believe that during one of my sessions I actually witnessed someone go up to another individual who had just asked a question and started pitching them during my talk? That kind of stuff should not be happening. Didn’t our parents raise us better than this?

If I read one more story about someone threatening bad coverage if they are not given what they want I’m going to scream. Also, trust me when I tell you that the brands are making note of who is full of WAH and who is full of reality. I’ve spoken to more than one company, who has told me horror stories about certain individuals and in case you didn’t know, this is a SMALL fishbowl we are playing in so everyone talks to everyone else.

Get over yourself and start acting better. No one likes a cry baby or an overly pushy blogger. If you want to do business in this space, drop the attitude and figure out that screaming WAH all the time is not going to get you anywhere. Find your sense of ethics, reality and basic common courtesy and then go out there and be successful.

  • Standup and Shout this from The Rooftops , this post rocked CC .
    Good on you CC for this one … jp

    • Trust me I am. I know it isn't only in this market that things like this happen, but I'm sick of seeing it here. People think WAY to highly of themselves.

  • I love it when you rant!

    The gem is here: “If you have to tell someone you are influential, than you are not. “

    .. Wouldn't mind seeing you punch offenders, but I think you'd run out of punches long before you run out of targets…

    I don't think you'll change the behavior of these idiots, but calling it out is a good warning to those about to start.

    • I may just start a list and calling people out. A public “punch” like that would be even more effective then physically knocking them out.

      • whitneyhoffman

        Justin Kowanacki Did something similar to this in terms of outting sleazy hacks with lots of MLM plans on his blog. I loved that series.

        With great power comes great responsibility, but it seems like not many people really believe that. And I totally agree with others who have already said here that “Respect and influence is earned, not demanded.”

      • Julien

        Whitney, where is that series? – Julien

      • whitneyhoffman

        He set it up as a tumblr blog.

        But I agree- we are all really nice and tend to keep our compaints and critiques in a very small circle most of the time, which leaves others vulnerable to “MDB” as Justin calls them.

  • Couldn't agree more with everything you say here, as you know well.

    One experience that seems unconnected but actually is pretty relevant. 20 years ago I worked in the music video industry in London, shooting music promos. For small bands, I would be the DoP. On big acts, I was pretty much the runner. And I noticed exactly the same behavior there. I'd work with small, no-name indie bands with a noche following, and on set they'd act like they were superstars – getting drunk, acting abusive, turning up late (if at all), thinking they were hotshots. Complete nightmare.

    And then I'd work with big acts – U2, Depeche Mode, Bryan Ferry – and every one was courteous, professional, humble and businesslike – “where do you want me to stand? What can I do to make this easier?. Whereas the small bands would storm off the set when they got bored, I remember the lead singer of Depeche Mode going up to each and every crew member at the end of the shoot, including myself, shaking their hands and thanking them for everything.

    The fact of it is, those influential people who really have our respect and admiration don't get it because they demand it, they get it because they earn it through hard work and professionalism, and they deserve it.

    • EARNING is something that I think far to many people view as a quick, instant and easy road when it is the farthest thing from that.

  • kmskala

    The comment that I love is “get to know the brands.” So often these self-titled “influential” bloggers have a me, me, me attitude. They expect brands to reach out to them all the time. Instead, turn the table and develop a relationship with the brand.

    • I agree, but I will say that it is very hard in some cases to build those relationships. I can think of a couple of brands that I have no professional relationship with, but I just love their products and would love to get to know them better but it has fallen on deaf ears.

      But, every day I see brands (and their agencies) getting smarter and smarter about engaging with their customers. Fun times ahead.

  • This made me smile, CC. Great post.

    • I'm glad my angst gave way to your smiles! *grin*

  • I love that comment about “this is a small fishbowl”.

    You know, part of all of this is our own damn fault.

    Bloggers, unless you are a political blogger, are unfailingly polite. We might disagree on a blog post, but we rarely, if every, call people out. From what I have seen, bloggers do not name names. There is a lot of going along to get along.

    We should stop that. If you want better behavior, we need more self policing. Tell the people that are following the latest “get rich quick by blogging program” that maybe they should stop claiming rockstardom and start proving it.

    CC, have you listened to Mitch Joel's and Joe Jaffe's ongoing conversation on Six Pixels about “abusing the platform”? Is this your take on that?

    • Well we are polite, but we are also being courteous. What benefit would it have done me (or anyone) if I named names of the people who I talked about. It just doesn't really help anyone in my mind.

      I haven't listened to those conversations, but now I need to. I should be anyways since I respect both of them.

  • Christy @morethanmommy

    Fantastic post from start to finish (although I did read “WAH” to be “Work-at-home”). I'm off to start tweeting this…

  • You missed the next step.

    โ€œyou really should give me one of your products, and pay me to review it, because Iโ€™m a ______ bloggerโ€

    This morning I was reviewing tweets and blog posts from #bwe10 where the discussion revolved around only writing about products if you were paid to.

    Maybe it's because I've been doing this so long, when there was no money in it, but I blog about products that I'm interested in, products that I've learned something about and want to share, products that are cool and new that I want people to know about.

    I'm not blogging for bucks. I'm blogging for the love of blogging, sharing information, and connecting to people.

    This has lead to consulting, teaching, speaking, writing, hosting and many more opportunities that make being paid to blog pale in significance.

    Since 1997 I have had less than a handful of sponsored blog posts, and of course, I disclose them.

    Do what you love and the money will follow.

    My show on The Pulse Network, is sponsored by .tv

    • And Steve you are one the people out there who is the farthest thing from The Wah Factor and I love you for it.

      You share, review and educate more people than most and brands AND people love you for it.

      Don't ever change!!

    • And right now I'm in the very happy place of having reviewed something for one of my blogs, and being so pleased with the product, that I just called up the company and asked them to invoice me for said piece of audio kit because I *really* didn't want to hand it back.

      Did I miss something in the rulebook?


      • Hey Ewan,
        I just did the same thing with the Sennheiser MKE 400 shotgun mic. I liked it so much that I emailed the company and asked them how to pay for it so I could keep it.

        You've got it exactly right.

        Plus, one thing I didn't say above, I've purchased lots of things with my own money so that I could review them.

        Great seeing you in Las Vegas too!

  • Great post CC! I'm amazed people still don't get that it's not all about them. If I ever act like this feel free to punch me in the face.

    Jim | @jimstorer

    • Way to many people do always think about themselves first and it is a me, me, me game.

      Those people burn out and go away usually. I'm just wishing it happened faster for some of them out there.

  • Sam

    I think social venues will forever be confrontive. I would love to dig around in some of those ppl's psyches and see exactly how unsafe/uncomfortable they feel in a sea of human beings-it's not easy being nobody-trust me, that's exactly what I was at BWE10. It was hard being in a sea of others who were already clustered in compelling conversations. These “wah” types have just bypassed being in touch with what it really felt like to be nobody-by being bloggers, they thought they'd get to be somebody. I wonder if posts like yours get read by the person that you're talking to?

    • Sam, whoever you are, you're no more of a nobody than anyone else, trust me on that.

      • Sam

        I really appreciate that you both were concerned about me feeling like a nobody (I certainly felt included in your thoughts) but my point was that how someone handles that experience of feeling lonely, not knowing anyone and not seeing openings makes all the difference in whether or not they'll be obnoxious when they do have a group or sense that they have earned their right to be “somebody” – social stuff, if we're in touch is activating no matter how you slice it – I am suggesting that these ppl that activated you weren't able to “be with” the group dynamic and that you felt “put out of the circle” and disconnected from the person that was being self-aggrandizing! I felt freer because you wrote this, but I'd feel even better if we could all acknowledge that “It's not all good” – social moments bring up feelings for all of us…

    • Steve said it right. No one should consider themselves a “nobody” because that is SO far from the truth.

      It might sound overly sappy or new age bullshit, but honestly everyone is important. Everyone starts out as being unknown by everyone and the more people you meet, the more things you take part in and the more GOOD you are to other people, the more GOOD that comes to you.

      Any conference with thousands of people will feel overwhelming at first, but realize that all you have to do is say hi to ANYONE and suddenly your not alone anymore.

      Wow….that is way to deep for this early in the morning ๐Ÿ™‚

  • CC , 30 yrs of firefighting has taught me
    a few valuable lessons ,
    # 1 There is no I in Team
    # 2 Check your Ego's at the Door

  • Whitney Hoffman

    Always start with how you would want to be treated if things were reversed. Do you want everything public, or would you like a friend to tell you there's toilet paper on your shoe before you are publicly embarrassed? Do you want to be approached as a friend or an adversary?
    (Can I advocate for an “Don't be an a__hole rule in general?)

    You get so much farther from offering helpful information, not complaints, even if you have something neutral to not positive to say.

    I know I'm raising my kids to be as polite and considerate of other people as possible- that may be the biggest advantage and skill differentiator I can build in right now. Manners are getting to be rarer, and those who remember them will do well in the end.

    • Yes, we were ALL taught The Golden Rule for a reason as children and for some reason far to many adults seem to forget this before everything else.

  • I humbly offer myself to any and all brands (big or small) as a freebie receptacle – under the proviso that they understand the only true and absolute influence I hold is over the little voices in my head…but even that's debatable.

    If selected by said brands to accept freebies, I promise to keep my WAHmbulance locked in its garage. Of course, I can't speak for the little voices…

    Thank you.

    Sam Title
    Influencer of Little Voices

  • Reminds me of when I was standing in line at the airport behind some guy who wasn't getting his way. He screamed at the attendant behind the counter, “Don't you know who I am?”

    She smiled, grabbed the microphone and made an announcement. “Could somebody please help this man. He doesn't seem to know who he is.”

    • Shonali Burke

      That really happened?!

    • Oh man I would have loved to see that and given that woman a HUGE gold star!!!

    • I think that would have been a great viral video if it would have been filmed. I think I might have to give that one to a few clients so they can use.

  • one of the many reasons I have unfollowed many from the early days of twitter and many more from the net. follower and reader count is no accreditation to worth and value. Still though the though of you taking a swing at someone , hah well you know what? I'd sure as hell blog that!

  • Take a quick moment and ask yourself, “Is CC talking about me?” If you already asked yourself that then yes he probably is talking specifically about you.

    …and another thing CC, throw that punch next time I got your back on that one. LOL

    • Sam

      My thoughts too – would we admit this? And so acknowledge that @katfrench referenced her own experience. I have had a big head way more than I care to acknowledge and it doesn't take long until I get a metaphoric “slap” reminding me that I am nothing other than human and that's not so pretty sometimes.

  • Cecilyk

    I find this line can be hard to walk. I know I've JOKED about tweeting to get results, and I make a point of tweeting about GOOD things too.

    For instance, at the Expo, I made a point of introducing myself and telling people I review tech for Cool Mom Tech. That's not bragging, though. Um, right?

    • That is TOTALLY fine. I'm talking about blatant “give me this because I do


  • Troy Rutter

    Great post CC. I have unfollowed a couple bloggers who tweet out things like “Just received a XXX from YYY, review coming soon!” The mere fact of getting something for free was enough for them to toot their own horn about.

    I know I'm a small fish still in the bowl, but if I want to review something, I buy it. And I buy it because I think I can use it. The only thing I really “asked” for was a video iPod, and that wasn't to review, it was an experiment to see if people would chip in to buy a stranger something cool. I think you remember that promotion, CC…

    Anyway, I ran into several different kinds of people at Blogworld. I was intimidated a little at first because the most vocal/obnoxious people try to get the most attention. But then I found other “low-key” people like myself who of COURSE would like a little spotlight and love every now and then… but who don't use a gimmick to try and get attention – they just do what they love and “do awesome.”

    I don't think I could ever write a “review” blog entirely based on things I got for free live cell phones, laptops, what have you. It's just not who I am.

    If you are going to review something, review something you have actually bought. Your more likely to win the respect of your readers than a new sponsorship.

    • Troy Rutter

      Clarification: I think sites that are strictly reviews have a place… even though I don't use them. Personally I like the community-type reviews (like Amazon's review system) more than just 1 person or the editor giving their opinion.

      This post reminded me of people who start a videogame site and think the developers of all the companies should send them copies of the latest games. That might have worked in the early days, but getting something for free is never a good business model in my opinion.

      And if you DO get something for free, don't be a jerk about it. And if you don't, see the part about if you DO.

  • patrickdh

    If you have to tell someone you are influential, [than] you are not…

  • Thank you for writing this post C.C. Someone had to tell the truth about the bad behavior that exists.

    Ironically, I see some of this behavior in the very people who try to “school” people on proper social media behavior (not you, of course!!). Yes, indeed the fishbowl is small (and seemingly lacking oxygen these days) and it's not just companies and brands taking notes. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    โ€œIf a man [or woman…] be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them.โ€ -Sir Francis Bacon

    • Great quote.

      We all use our channels to complain. Hell, I've done it plenty of times and it is something that I'm trying to not do as quickly and impulsive because I realize it helps no one.

      But, it seems that it is getting worse. Just one guys opinion. Who knows.

      • I have too, but I really think about how it will make me look by complaining before I complain. And there are brands out there that are working really hard to get this social media thing right. We need to give 'em a break.

        My issue is with the “do you know who I am attitude.” It's tiring.

  • This is, I think, the third or fourth blog post in the last couple of weeks I've read that calls out bloggers for bad behavior without naming names. (Olivier Blanchard's StepfordTBB post on “rock stars” comes to mind off the top of my head, but I know there have been one or two others.)

    And I get the rationale behind doing it as a “blind item,” but still… something about blind items makes my stomach knot a bit.

    Regardless, I do think pulling back the curtain enough to show people who don't get the opportunity to go to conferences and see some of the ridiculousness firsthand is a good thing, even without names.

    People are not always what they seem. Hopefully for some, they're going through a phase. I'll admit I got my own head turned a bit in some ways over the last couple of years (although not to “do you know who I am? proportions, thank God.)

    I think it's important to remember that social media has opened some doors for a lot of people who could never make it on a more traditional path, and who aren't always prepared for the character demands of success.

    Hopefully, it's a blip on their learning path.

    • You raise a VERY good point and that is that many are not prepared for what they have found themselves in and that is something that I should have discussed a bit because it is certainly true.

      In two of the situations I discussed I know that they are fairly new in the space and have suddenly got some attention and my guess (and 100% a guess) is that it has gone to their heads. I sure hope they outgrow it soon.

  • If you don't reply to this comment, I'm going to tweet that you didn't reply to it. So there! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Great post C.C. I really dislike people like this too.

    • Wow, so you are going to play that game huh? Damn you!


      Missed you in Vegas my friend.

      • You too man.

        BarCamp Nashville was a huge success though. Happy I was here for it.

        Hope to see ya one of these days soon.

  • LL

    Just returned from BlogWorld and noticed the exact vibe you describe. Saw multiple examples during my stay. I find it interesting some of the folks I'm thinking of were later in the #bwe10 hashtag stream sharing and promoting “quotes” representing the opposite of their own behavior. Anyway, what speaks to me – so much – in your post is something you or me, a team or even army seemingly can't change…and that is lack of grace. Manners, if you will. In ANY meaningful relationship there must be respect. Respect is demonstrated through manners and grace. โ€œPushingโ€ with an explanation of how influential you are, in the hopes of cultivating or manipulating an outcome is not exercising grace or good manners. I hope the message can reach to, or eureka moments occur for, those who need it most. Otherwise, a few bad apples will eventually spoil the whole dang barrel. You say it best: “Get over yourself and start acting better.”

  • Cool stuff C.C. Couldnt' agree more.

  • Do you think it's a tact thing? As in some people don't have it? Or maybe just an ego thing. Either way — online or offline — there's a thing called common sense. And as you noted…earned reputation.

    See, I think there are instances were it's ok to WAH. And there are people who we all listen to and respect when they do WAH, because they've earned that trust. Not because they've told us they deserve that trust.

    I like your use of the term WAH because it reminds me of Charlie Brown's teacher. And that's exactly what these people start to sound like. Thanks for the thoughts, CC. And great to meet you IRL at Blogworld. Enjoyed your panel.

  • Great post C.C., and some really great comments too! I also like Steve's comment that not one of us is a nobody, and while some are true influencers, few of us have as much influence as our social profiles make it seem.

    Each of us is highly followed by a few. These are the few who bypass their usual feeds, and elect to receive our updates through push notifications (SMS, email or application). From there, the degree of attention falls off rapidly.

    I'm reminded of a comment you made on the How to Hire a Social Media Agency panel, that the ROI on social is smaller than people think, and no one is really reporting true numbers, largely because we don't want to destroy the hype about great potential ROI. Social media is a powerful platform, especially when you are able to tap into your most avid fans. After that, attention, once again, drops off rapidly. It's easy to care for the people that care for you. Building relationships in the long tail is much harder. It requires more finesse, more genuine care and more cognisance of how others receive both your good and your bad behavior. As I write this, I'm not even sure if those three things (finesse, care, and cognisance) allow much room for bad behavior.

    In other news, I regret not saying hello to you at Blogworld. I enjoyed your panel, and would love to sneak in a hello and hug next time I see you. It's been too long since our meeting at LA #140conf.

    • Sam

      I like what you wrote alot – in fact, I came out of BWE10 clearer that my time in this is being dedicated to being a great follower – the kind that I'd want if I had something to lead – it would take some risk for those that I follow to get into my head and really connect with me, as you mentioned. Have to be willing to explore and think about the person in more depth – as for the small roi – the “usery” nature of the business world wants to quantify things so they don't have to risk exposing themselves and their “come from” translates to their skepticism about social media – we just have to pierce through the language and fear masking itself as “business acumen”. Thanks again,

  • Love, Love, Love this, C.C.!

  • Hi C. C.,

    I came by here today because @JustinLevy Tweeted about your post. I met you at #BWE10 and had a nice visit with you at the keynote prior to your session on “How to Hire a Social Media Agency”. Anyway, wanted to say it was nice to meet you and I am glad I stopped here today to hear your thoughts. I agree. Self importance can be deadly.

    I will stop by again. Here's to your success and to West Lebanon, NH!


    • Anyone who gives a shout out to West Lebanon is good in my book! *laugh*

      It was great to meet you at BWE and I hope our paths do cross again. It is a

      small world so hopefully!

  • totally agree about the self-promotion means that you are not as important as you think you are. also, if this is accompanied by name-dropping, i think is more than a social faux-pax.

  • It still just blows me away when brands or even other bloggers know who I am. I ran into another blogger briefly at BWE and they told me how they have followed my photo-a-day project from the beginning. I was floored. I can't imagine having the audacity to say, “do you know who I am?” Even if I ever get to a level where brands are recognizing me more I'm pretty sure that it is not going to go to my head in that way. I think that sometimes Social Media “fame” just amplifies the douchebaggery that already exists.

    • Isn't that always the coolest feeling? It is one that never gets old.

      This problem extends way beyond the social media world as well. It is human

      nature for some people to get inflated heads and maybe it is part of

      evolution because they end up getting weeded out? *laugh*

      Great to see you Ben and let's make a promise that we actually get the

      kayaks in the water this spring. I can't believe we've been so busy that we

      haven't done that yet. OR lets do a Metro-West Photowalk!

  • Veronica Jarski

    When I was 15, I was a cashier at a local fast food place. Regularly, other high school kids in my class would come in, and the most popular ones would flirt and try to get free food. (My standard reply: “If you have to beg for food, you shoulder consider getting a job.”)

    Now I am decades away from being 15, but I still see stuff like that happen in the “grown-up world.”

    It's sad that common sense and common courtesy is becoming increasingly less, well, common.

    • Veronica Jarski

      And it's even sadder that I was SO irritated that I used the wrong verb. I should have said “are.”

      • *laugh* No worries. I don't think anyone noticed.

      • Veronica Jarski

        Yes, you can totally share that story. ๐Ÿ™‚ And you’re right. No one noticed … but the editor in me had! to! fix! it!


    • What a GREAT story and a great quote! I hope you don't mind me saying that

      again to people in the future because it is a perfect fit.

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  • Old boss used to say: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. It’s not just clothing, but actions, too. Team #WAH is dressing for unemployment.

  • It’s always a jolt to read columns like this. I think I must live in a sheltered online world because I haven’t run into this kind of boorish behavior. Sure, there are plenty of inflated egos but I also see pandering by other users (why?) to certain higher profile people, flattering them excessively, which makes it hard to stay grounded.

    As I’ve heard, you should never believe your biggest fan or your worst critic because they both exaggerate your best & worst qualities.

    But some of the behavior you highlight (threats to companies & stores) is basically extortion, even if the benefits are small. I haven’t seen this but I heard about it occurring at BlogHer and I doubt it is specific to one group of bloggers. I hope companies will be strong and not cave to this kind of manipulation or let it tarnish their view of bloggers, in general.