Social Media Entrepreneurs Need Anti-Hero Status

Last Updated May 13, 2010 9:16 AM EDT

You could say social media has brought anti-heroes out of the comic books and into the business world.

I've always found it hard to believe in role models. Elevating someone to hero status was a sycophantic form of idolatry the hysterical masses did, not me -- I'm a little bit stuck in the pre-30's throes of make-my-own-way-or-die-trying mentality.

So-called heroes were, in my mind, full of it. My belief in the importance of the anti-hero is getting stronger, especially from a business perspective, and I know I'm not alone.

An anti-hero is considered to be a protagonist whose character is at least in some regards contrary to that of the archetypal hero, and is in some instances his/her antithesis. It also encompasses the antagonist who (in contrast to the archetypal villain) elicits considerable sympathy or admiration.

In these days of transparency and widespread media proliferation, entrepreneurs and business people have to consistently differentiate themselves. Being a crisply dressed, polished business demigod is just too commonplace. Being remembered is paramount to success.

Entrepreneurs, especially in the highly competitive social media space, are becoming ever more human, less cautious about the perception of their flaws, more like the anti-hero.

These beer drinking, ADHD'd, location independent and frequently slightly socially maladjusted business people approach their day to day very differently.

They know their message will reach an audience who will buy into it. Their divergent strategies of approach to business are hugely different, attracting followers and exploiting markets.

There are examples of the old guard who have learned to grasp this, like the gruff short-tempered barrow boy Alan Sugar whose popularity has boomed, but the new social media savvy generations appear far more comfortable with adopting a somewhat contrary stance.

Look at Kevin Rose, founder of Digg.com, Angel Investor, beer drinker and frequently intoxicated co-host of his own weekly podcast, Diggnation. Who thought getting intoxicated, doing some blatant self-promotion and being bluntly honest was going to make you successful?

Jason Calacanis -- love or hate him, has a devout following. He's successful, brash, arrogant and self-promoting but he is without a doubt successful despite his continually controversial and antagonistic approach.

What about Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Dropout and a $5 Billion Dollar Man. Hated by many for his unconventional stance on privacy and intellectual property, but founder of the most successful social network in the history of the digital age, who is responsible for connecting and solidifying friendships and developing new business channels globally.

Being a business anti-hero isn't easy. Here's my tips on how to become one:

  1. Be yourself. If you aren't at some point you'll slip and people WILL see through it. Remember that having an audience, client base or following who love you for being you is invaluable. If you aren't ubiquitous, connectivity, twitter and Facebook may well just be your undoing!
  2. Be absolute about your convictions. Have a solid message to send to market, especially if it's somewhat controversial or contradictory. But, be cautious not to completely pigeonhole yourself too early. Never back down.
  3. Be transparent. Mistakes, failures, abandoned projects -- no one is perfect and it helps build trust and inclusion. Besides, it's testament to your growth and openness brings the audience closer.
  4. Don't react immediately to negative feedback. Just keep concentrating on reaching your niche. Learn not to care too much.
  5. Always be vocal. Say what you think something or someone and don't be afraid to have an enemy, it's a very powerful tool. Pick a fight.
(Pic: Ludovic Toinel cc2.0)