I stood there slightly irked, having realised that I’d been duped into attending my least favourite type of business event – networking. I’m sure whoever pioneered the networking event meant well. But business networking events – specifically a portion of local ones – have turned into something quite awful. They’ve become wank fests for social media ‘gods’, ‘serial’ entrepreneurs, and wantrepreneurs. These groups reek of pomposity; and at networking events, as soon as they introduce themselves, they set off a domino reaction of eye rolls from humble and reasonable attendants who probably showed up out of politeness or were horribly misinformed.
Of course, I played along – listening to people’s stories, exchanging business cards, wishing there were more brownies and pastizzis available to make the event more bearable. At one point, following social mores like a good citizen, I said ‘Hi I’m Tas, lovely to meet you’. The woman looked down at me – even though she was shorter in height – and asked, ‘what do you do?’ I told her I was a business journalist. Interestingly, she introduced herself as a ‘social media goddess’ who was apparently named one of the top influencers in the social media space by some magazine that sounded important enough. She embraced that opportunity to brag about herself – so much, that she actually forgot to tell me her name.
There appears to be a growing number of people with the professional title of ‘social media god’. There’s nothing wrong with people who work in the social media sector of a company. For instance, they may be social media managers or social media strategists. But then there are people who have grandiose delusions. They live and breathe social media and they’re no better at it than, say, anyone under the age of 40. But they think they’re hot shit. Why? Because, like most of us, they know how to tweet.
Not to mention, social media deities love getting on their soapbox to shout idiotically about, for instance, how government agencies should update the masses through tweets when a bushfire strikes the nation or how chocolate companies should inform the masses when a hostage situation is taking place in one of their cafes. Obviously, when you’re amidst a major crisis, the first thing you should do is pull out your smartphone and let everyone know – doesn’t matter if there’s a gun pointed at your head.
I think it’s worth briefly assessing the term ‘social media god’. In Christianity and other monotheistic religions, God refers to the creator of the universe. So ‘social media god’ would then mean social media creator. The only person who could call themself a social media god is the person who created the first social media platform, or perhaps the many successive creators of social media technology. But as it turns out, even Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t consider himself a social media god.
Now, let’s turn to ‘serial’ entrepreneurs. Oxford dictionary defines ‘entrepreneur’ as someone “who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit”. Admittedly, this definition is quite limiting, because it implies that an entrepreneur is simply a person who starts a business. Many entrepreneurs feel that what they’re doing is innovative and unique. This would rule out some businesses, like the local salon or cafe, unless there is something quite unique about them. A culture has also been constructed around entrepreneurialism that would exclude people who start a business one month and quit the next.
I thought a serial entrepreneur referred to an entrepreneur who has dedicated herself/himself to multiple businesses throughout her/his life – perhaps even people who started and exited multiple businesses. But it seems there are a fair few people who call themselves serial entrepreneurs when, frankly, they’ve just had a series of failures. I’m talking about those who start and close a business almost every other month, not people who have dedicated themselves to something they truly believed in for years which may have failed, for instance, due to poor execution. Some of these so-called ‘serial entrepreneurs’ shut down their businesses when the novelty wears off.
Perhaps, these people fall into the category of ‘wantrepreneur’ – not to be equated with ‘aspiring entrepreneur’ or ‘budding entrepreneur’. Wantrepreneur seems to refer to people who parade around town telling everyone about their new businesses, and overall, draw far too much attention to themselves without really having anything tangible to show. They’re also the kind of people who hang around in entrepreneurial communities without having started anything themselves – in a long, long time. Although some may argue that all entrepreneurs have egos, wantrepreneurs, in particular, are thought to have not earned their egos.
If you’re interested in meeting social media gods and wantrepreneurs, feel free to rock up to a business networking event. Be prepared to get nothing from these people aside from a business card and self-serving story.