Dec 07 8 Reactions to “Beware Social Media Snake Oil”
A couple of days ago, Steven Baker of Business Week published “Beware Social Media Snake Oil,” warning that “hordes of marketing ‘experts’ are promoting the value of wikis, social networks, and blogs.”
Since I run one of the nation’s largest social media agencies (and help some of the world’s largest brands with social media marketing), people asked me what I thought of it. It’s not an answer I can condense to a tweet. So here goes:
1) He’s right
His primary point was that there are too many shysters, too many speechmakers, too many pontificators, that sell social media as a panacea. Even Baker says in the subhead that “all the hype may obscure the real potential of these online tools.” Social media is powerful enough, you don’t need to oversell it.
2) The shot at Chris Brogan was a cheap one
I don’t know Chris Brogan well. But I know he wrote a cover quote for my book, has his own bestseller, and we’re Facebook friends. And I know he’s a highly sought-after speaker. I’ve also talked to some of my clients with whom Chris has spoken, and they liked what he had to say. I don’t know if Chris has solved real business problems for real companies. I assume so, but I have no idea.
But the way Baker wrote implied that Chris was full of hot air, the proof of which was that Chris didn’t choose to answer a question from another blogger. At the very least, Baker should’ve called Chris and asked him for examples of success before calling him out based on nothing.
3) No real case studies? Go away
Having said that, I’m not sure why any legitimate brand would, in 2010, work with a social media consultant or social media agency that doesn’t have clear case studies. A good case study demonstrates the business problem you were asked to solve, the approach to solving it, and the results. If you can’t deliver at least a few of those, please stop delivering speeches. As Jeremiah Owyang said months ago, “Social media play time is over.”
4) Sales matter…
If you’re asking a company to invest money in social media marketing that they are not going to invest in another form of marketing, the assumption is that you’re going to help them make more money then they give you (at some point). Otherwise, why should they invest? Now, having said that…
5) …But if you focus directly on sales, you’ll fail
Social media marketing is predicated on encouraging others to help you with your marketing. You inspire and/or empower evangelists. You attract attention. And virtually nobody wants to help your company increase sales. They want to laugh, or learn, or save money, or solve a problem, or be inspired, or support a cause, or impress a friend, or scratch some other proverbial itch. The art in social media marketing is figuring out how you fit into the conversation and how you maximize it. Shouting, “Buy me!!” is the surest recipe for failure.
6) Want predictable? Keep buying ads
Social media marketing relies on other people’s reactions. You can’t predict those. You can use your experience and expertise to develop programs with the best chance of success, but you can’t guarantee impressions or reactions. If you want guaranteed impressions, buy an ad. And get the same results you always get. Some social media campaigns won’t do as well as your ads. The great ones will dramatically outperform them. There are already countless success stories, large and small. If you haven’t heard any, you’re not paying attention.
7) Clients’ realities are reality
Some of our clients are conservative. They should be. They’re multi-million (and multi-billion) dollar brands. Baker was right to chastise those who “follow a rigid gospel.” The best people in social media marketing know the “best practices,” but they also understand business realities, and they develop programs that work within business confines, and get as close to the best practices as possible.
8) We’ll all be better off when the hacks go away
If you’re a legitimate player in the social media marketing world, or want to be one, you should want to see the hucksters fade away. The sooner the better. I’ve never called any of them out, but I sure know who they are. I hope the economy improves soon, so they get jobs, stop blogging and tweeting nonsense, and leave us to it.
What did you think?
What were your reactions to the story? Let me know in the comments below.