Rant: Social Media Bullshit Artists Pollute the Space
It’s entirely possible that this post is filled with envy and narcissism. But I don’t think so.
This topic has been brewing in my mind for some time, and yesterday, I arrived at a point at which my thoughts crystallized and I could make sense out of what I was thinking.
My point: I hate social media bullshit artists. As a practitioner, it is getting harder to teach internal and external clients the skills to distinguish what is helpful, concrete advice and what is self-serving of shallow counsel. This frustrates me enormously because some high-profile names pollute and dominate the space with pontifications and advice that I feel is at times, self-serving and at others, a firm grasp of the obvious. This makes it SO much harder to have solid advice sink in when a client’s response might be “Well, [person here] has written four books and was the keynote at BlogWorld Expo. Why should I listen to you?”
Could I have envy that so-called “A-Listers” write books, get huge speaking fees and make a bazillion dollars a year? Sure. But again, I’m content with my place in the world of social media advice but am frustrated that some big names make it harder for the rest of us who try to offer actionable advice. Recently, I was horrified to read a blog post in which an A-Lister posted his normal speaking fees, and the cost of one speech – ONE SPEECH – could easily outstrip the annual salary of a junior social media worker bee in a smaller market.
I have to offer a caveat, and it is a big one: I am writing a book so point the finger at me with many of the same criticisms that I will level here. Here’s the difference, though: I am not trying to sell more books (it’s not even out yet), but an important part of the book is to attempt to help up-and-coming social media practitioners distinguish between those who are smart and they can learn from, and those who I think are phoneys and bullshit artists.
The best advice that I can give here is a combination of my own ruminations, those of my colleagues and friends in a Facebook group (you know who you are) and specifically what my friend and author of “The Like Economy,” Brian Carter pointed out. When starting out or hiring someone to help formulate a social media strategy would be to ask them:
- In the recent past, what accomplishments can you point to that you have achieved for others? The unspoken point here is, aside from writing books, counting your Twitter followers and crowing about your speaking engagements, what have you actually done that has helped others achieve their social media communications objectives? And how have you measured the success?
- What types of clients have you served? Again, many offer case studies about helping Fortune 500 companies (or at least speaking at their events), but the majority of companies in this country are small or medium-sized enterprises. Is the strategic advice that you give applicable to all companies, and does the difference lay in the tactics? Most companies don’t have multi-million dollar budgets to throw at social media. When I was teaching, the fixation of texts and Harvard Business Review articles to focus on Fortune 500 companies missed a critical point: most people will NOT end up working there. They will end up at much smaller organizations and need advice on how to make it work there.
- Finally, is there as much listening as there is pontificating? I spent nearly 15 years in the agency world, and through practice (and mistakes), I learned to listen to clients and tease out what is was that they were attempting to accomplish through the use of social media. Start with the client’s communications objectives. Some more recognized names go on about the latest, shiny tool, but one size does not fit all. Nor does one strategy or one tactic. And tenting ones fingers and saying “engagement” over and over again serves only to pollute the space in which many of us operate. It makes it harder: damn harder.
So yeah, I’m writing a book and have pimped it here. I am at best, a B-minus Lister, but in my career (or for most of it) I have tried to be a good listener, stay on top of what is new and interesting in social media and offer practical, actionable advice to clients. Not sell books. Not trying to build my “personal brand.” Not increase my Klout score. And certainly not crow about what I charge for people to come listen to me.
Am I envious? Not really.
Image: Shark Bait Shirts.