I’ve lately fallen out of love with Robert Scoble . If I were to meet him in person, I’d say, "It’s not me, it’s you." But since that opportunity is unlikely to present itself anytime soon, I’m going to share this post instead.
PHASE 1: THE MICROSOFT YEARS
When Scoble started broadcasting from within the depths of Microsoft’s corporate headquarters, he was a ray of light on an otherwise overcast Seattle day. He shared with the outside world that which Microsoft was unaware they possessed: a personality. We learned how companies could share their institutional knowledge and, as a result, gain the trust of their community and build new inroads to their brand. We connected with the employees in a way we never connected with the corporate entity.
Scoble showed companies that they should embrace their quirkiness, not hide it. And as a result, he rose to fame as the poster child for corporate transparency and gave rise to the notion of corporate social media. Many social media case studies used his career path as an example of how social media must grow from the inside out fueled by the passion of a company’s employees.
PHASE 2: PODTECH
With the notoriety that Scoble’s efforts received inside Microsoft came many opportunities. Speaking gigs, a huge following on his blog and of course, other job offers. Scoble moved to PodTech , where he went from evangelizing one company to evangelizing EVERY company. He transitioned from an important corporate social media voice to a new breed of infomercial creator.
For a small fee (and often for free), (UPDATED: Scoble did not charge companies for the videos he produced at PodTech) Scoble would come to your corporate headquarters and produce a prosumer-like video podcast that he would then publish to the PodTech network. Because so many people followed him from Microsoft to PodTech, this remained a large and coveted corporate audience.
A Scoble mention inevitably resulted in a spike for web traffic and attention to the companies he covered. The problem was, there seemed to be little editorial oversight. As long as their was budget and/or access, Scoble was in. And as long as a video was produced, most corporate communications or marketing teams felt comfortable checking social media off their "to do" list.
PHASE 3: FASTCOMPANY.TV
As the funding dried up, Scoble took his show to Fast Company, thus completing his transition from corporate poster child to certified media representative. He’s everywhere these days, tweeting, posting video and updating his FriendFeed status from the littlest start-ups in Silicon Valley to hanging out with titans of industry in Davos, Switzerland.
The problem is, there’s no editor. There’s no one telling Robert what is valuable. I get what’s in it for Robert, but I’m not sure what’s in it for me or for the rest of his audience.
In my opinion, Scoble is no longer the signal, but the noise. And as I find more and more corporate entities trying to build online communities, the lessons they share are much more worthy of my attention than the boastings of an online celebrity.
What I used to love about Robert was his passion. Early adopters were quick to find new tools and technologies just by following his blog, which he updates much less regularly than before. Conversations would take place there that were unlike any other blog community in which I participated.
That passion has become to voluminous for me to endure, and I’ve found that there’s little professional value for me in keeping up with his whereabouts these days. He no longer serves as a role model for how companies should behave in social spaces (instead I look to people like Tyson Foods’ Ed Nicholson , Richard AT DELL ) and his travels/interviews are less relevant to my interests.
I’m slowly unsubscribing from the various networks on which we’re connected. Robert won’t notice. After all, he has thousands of friends.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Am I wrong on this? Are you watching his FastCompany videos and following his Twitter stream? Are you learning new things from keeping up with his globetrotting? If so, please share your thoughts. I’m curious what Scoble means to communicators today.
(This is a conversation. Please refrain from using any derogatory language in your response. I will not tolerate any personal attacks against Robert. The dialogue should remain around the topics discussed in this post. Thanks!)