Social Media is Bullshit

Social Media is Bullshit

Some of you probably clicked that link ready to defend the good name of social media, and you deserve commendation for your efforts. You can put the pitchforks down for a moment, because this article is not what you think. I love Twitter as much as the next person, but it’s the buzzwords around these types of sites that we can do without.

You’ve probably seen tweets testifying to the “money-making” or “brand-building” power of social media marketing. As sites like Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook grow in popularity, it seems like the term “social media” is tossed around a lot as an instant solution to any internet problem. What does it really mean?

Social media is just a buzzword until you come up with a plan. Using a word is easy — coming up with a plan past “register for this site” is not.

Get to the Meat

What do you really do?

One Mighty Roar will never hire a social media consultant, because the title describes nothing tangible. “Social Media Consultant” is an easy resume byline that can be based on as little as a few years of uploading photos to Facebook. We believe that a person who genuinely understands social media presence looks good on more than just paper, and won’t need a title to prove it.

Social Media is to online marketing what “Strong Leadership Skills” is to the resume. Neither really describes the value, and both deserve a series of follow up questions to get a real answer. When used alone, it’s often a very eloquent way to say nothing.

Say Something Concrete

This isn’t to say that you should avoid using the term social media. On the contrary, you should feel free to use it as much as necessary to explain a plan. The term only becomes a problem when used as an abstract answer to a concrete problem.

Social Media Landscape

Let’s see an example of this. Suppose a client says they need to find a new way to survey customers. How could you respond?

  • The Vague Answer: We’ll use social media.
  • The Concrete Answer: We can set up a polling contest across Facebook and Twitter. Fans and followers can respond to the survey. Once a week three people will be randomly selected and given the featured prize.

Even though the concrete solution isn’t the most innovative, you hopefully get the point. Instead of offering a psuedo-answer by way of buzzword, a tangible example is given. Notice how the term “social media” doesn’t even need to appear.

If someone told you that they were using the internet to help their business, wouldn’t you ask them how?

Coca Cola and Social World Travel

Expedition 206

What does good social media look like? Coke recently launched the Expedition 206 campaign. The expedition is a year-long promotion based around the world travels of three “Happiness Ambassadors”. Along the way, the ambassadors actively update Twitter, upload videos, and engage with the community following them.

This is innovative. The campaign takes everything social media has to offer, combines in one place, and does so with a purpose. Even though Coke might not get direct income out of it, the promotion and hype around running such a cutting edge campaign is sure to build brand value. Is this the type of campaign that was pitched with buzzwords? Probably not.

Communicating vs. Impressing

I would much rather have a client understand the proposed ideas than be dazzled with concepts that sound fancy at first, but require more explanation later. At One Mighty Roar, we feel that a basic explanation is at least worth the effort. We’ve found it damaging to assume that the client would rather see us work “internet magic” without explanation.

I also know from experience that there are plenty of clients who would love to hear the first answer from the above example. New and cutting edge words have a way of exciting people, but hype is not a sustainable relationship. In the long run, especially as people get more aware of these services, the term will become as useless as “using the internet”. People will know it’s not that simple, and demand something real. It’s better to lead the charge of tangibility now than wait until the first real “What do you mean by that?” question that leaves you stumped for an answer.

Use with Purpose

Unfortunately this over-generalization has made the rest of us well-intentioned folks feel guilty about using the term. Some even avoid it at all costs for fear of feeling amateur. The pond isn’t ruined just yet. All it will take is some thoughtful project planning instead of buzzword dropping.

What do you think?

Further Reading

If you’re interested in reading more about social media vocabulary and effectiveness, try any of the links compiled below.

  1. Social Media Buzzwords Explained (Part two is linked in article)
  2. Social Media Consultant or Snake Oil Salesman?
  3. Social Media Explained in Plain English
  4. Seven Social Media Consultants That Deliver Tangible Value

Posted Sunday, March 28th, 2010 · Back to Top

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Add Comment

132 Comments 13 Mentions

  1. Dimi Author Editor

    Great read, I love the title and the spin!

    ·

  2. Talking Football Author Editor

    Really enjoyed reading this article. I agree the “pond” is not ruined yet … the waters may be cloudy at times but that what makes this pond so exciting to swim in.

    ·

  3. Koen Coppens Author Editor

    I really like the metaphor of “using social media” is just as vague as “using the internet” for a marketing strategy. Companies need to have a plan before starting with “social media”. Don’t use it just because everyone is doing it… You will fail.

    ·

  4. Michel Veenstra Author Editor

    What you say is true, but these articles pop-up a lot lately and therefore isn’t something new. I think most companies know that they need to have a social media strategy instead of starting something out of the blue. You’ve used the coca cola campaign as an example, it’s a good one, but there are more powerful examples like Ikea or the most popular Starbucks!
    In a while no one will use the term “social media” anymore, it will simply be “Media”!

    ·

  5. Ed Baxter Author Editor

    I totally agree, so many times have I heard the phrase “we’ll use social media” and it has amounted to nothing. Like you said its just another generic term for we don’t know what we are doing, of course there are exceptions, but the vast majority of “social media” never achieves anything close to what people expect – which is usually the magic solution to getting more sales online.

    If a company is willing to be active and post lots of great stuff and have a genuine link to their customers then they’ll do alright. But it requires the effort to make it happen.

    ·

  6. Hunter Satterwhite Author Editor

    There’s the edge!

    ·

  7. Craig Author Editor

    There nothing social about sending a message to people who you don’t know over the internet (i’d call it anti-social). Things that trend in social media will be popular in real life without the internet.

    ·

  8. Sune Author Editor

    I agree with you general points about social media and laying of the bulshit bingo, but i have no idea why you think that the coke site is an example to follow. It seems like the high point of BS and the fact that you can’t even comment on post totally undermines the idea of social media. How in the world is this innovative? Care to elaborate?

    ·

  9. Melody Author Editor

    Social media’s “bullshit” lies in the ever so common art of manipulation, where many marketers establish their worth through the razzle dazzle trend approach.

    Is there substance in the results–of course, but not for everyone…

    ·

  10. Sam Author Editor

    I agree…

    I think the term social utitilty is more apt.

    ·

  11. Sean Author Editor

    This post has the biggest M. Night Shyamalan twist I have ever read!

    ·

  12. Zach Dunn Author Editor

    @Sune

    I think the Expedition 206 campaign represents a project with a clear goal that is only made better by the use of social media. Coke started a marketing effort by sending three people around the world. Social media is used as an asset to an existing project instead of a blanket solution. It’s used as a way to spread awareness.

    Also, you can comment on the content of the posts using the site they originate from (e.g. Comment on YouTube Channel).

    ·

  13. Francisco ( @chycoo ) Author Editor

    Great post.
    Thanks for share.

    Prof. Francisco Palacio Jr
    Webdesigner- Artefeito Criação de Sites em Curitiba
    Brazil

    ·

  14. bruce Stanley Author Editor

    Great post. Well said. I couldn’t agree more. Smart people don’t say they’re smart – you just speak with knowledge and understanding.

    ·

  15. Althea Tremaine Author Editor

    The only thing with more bullshit than social media is the “Social Media Guru.”

    I’m honestly sick and tired of seeing so many of them on Twitter, too.

    ·

  16. el vigilante Author Editor

    Must be sweeps month on this site. Hmmm.

    ·

  17. Althea Tremaine Author Editor

    I loved the post, by the way! (I accidentally clicked submit prematurely)

    ·

  18. Tom Walters Author Editor

    I totally agree, I especially hate seeing tweets from people who have just entered the world of web design, who are constantly banging on about “the impact of social media” without having anything to back it up. I think that the term needs to be destroyed, dissipated out of existence, because while it still thrives it serves only to surround the industry with suspicion.

    After all clients don’t want to be paying for a service that they don’t fully understand (not technically, but practically that is).

    Great post!

    ·

  19. Matt Esau Author Editor

    Whoa. A bold move, Build Internet. (or at least a bold title heh)

    I think you’re shedding light on a subject that needs to be examined and handled as carefully as a little baby bunny rabbit. There’s so much power in the social communities of the internet.

    Also, something I try to drive home to people who bring up social media is that unless you’re committed to somehow contributing to and/or becoming a part of the community you hope to utilize, it is no longer social…just a marketing ploy. Unless you are ready and able to engage the people you hope to reach in a somewhat personal or meaningful way, forget about getting results. A strategy involving “socializing” has to be a two-way street.

    And just so my comment isn’t too serious, I’ll include the word “Haberdasher”.

    ·

    • ZQuiet Author Editor

      Social media has not really changed a lot since your post Zach and our opinions still remain varied. Matt Cutts at Google is on record now as saying they do take some notice of Twitter, but how much is still unknown. It will change on a regular basis I would think.

      ·

  20. Mik Author Editor

    Finally! Brilliant read, thanks for making me feel not alone in this frustration.

    ·

  21. Erken Author Editor

    Totally agree! Just saying “we’re going to use social media” is not going to get you anywhere without a solid plan behind it..

    ·

  22. Karen Author Editor

    I couldn’t agree more. I was eliminated from the running in a job search where I knew their industry inside and out, because I hadn’t put a reference to “familiar with social media” in the cover letter. When I later met the director, he said “we have found that anyone can learn the assets of our region, but we need an expert in social media” In my head, I said, “social media is a two year old phenomenon that you can’t even put your finger on, a chimp could become proficient in 6 months. It takes years to amass the knowledge base you need to write and execute the content you want in these links, fb pages and tweets.” Out loud, I said, “Thank you, I’ll keep that in mind.”

    ·

  23. Steve Grunwell Author Editor

    Too many businesses (and individuals) think that by setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account, people will take notice and hang on everything the business has to say.

    Captivating your audience with engaging, interesting, and useful content is the cornerstone of the media. Whether it’s entertainment, advertising, or information, give the people what they want…or they will look elsewhere.

    Great post, Zach!

    ·

  24. Zach Dunn Author Editor

    @Karen

    It’s hard for people who spend so much time with internet communities to remember that some people need to hear “I know social media”.

    I remember being shocked a few years ago when someone cited the most impressive line of my resume as “Proficient with Microsoft Excel”. It’s hard to guess what hits the right buttons with some folks, but guessing is the best you can do. It’s unfortunate that you weren’t given a chance to defend yourself, but it sounds like you and that company weren’t meant for each other anyway!

    ·

  25. Jaki Levy Author Editor

    Good post. I’m glad you included some actual, concrete, real-world examples to back up your case.

    You did, however, fail to link to the social media guru video (which is awesome)

    ·

  26. Kirk Author Editor

    A good post- but there’s a contradiction in there- companies saying “we’ll use social media” are being batted down, but at the same time there is a implicit dismissal of the role of social media consultants. Do we think the social-media savvy should sit on high, smirking at the ham-fisted attempts of firms to get social media correctly integrated?

    “We believe that a person who genuinely understands social media presence looks good on more than just paper, and won’t need a title to prove it.”

    This is a nice sentiment- but tell me how a newbie company who have become aware of social media channels and want to get involved find that person/service?

    ·

  27. tony Author Editor

    I think ‘social media’ is being abused by marketeers and companies, just for advertising purposes. I am _not_ interested in everybody’s brainfart of the minute, let alone a new product.

    ·

  28. David Rojo Author Editor

    Fantastic article. I have seen tons of companies who jump on the social media bandwagon, simply because it’s the thing to do.

    ·

  29. inspirationfeed Author Editor

    I enjoyed your article, and it was very eye opening.

    ·

  30. Jeff Dickey Author Editor

    @Craig (29/3 at 8:08 AM) – you’re absolutely right. That’s why IMO a “proper” “social media” plan like the one mentioned in the original post would be sent directly to folks who are *already following the surveyor*… Indirect transmission via retweets and so on would be subject to the usual social dynamics. (If I get more than 1 or 2 spammy retweets from someone I’m following, I call them on it; if it keeps happening, I unfollow/block them.) Yes, I have to do a tiny bit more work than if Grandma Twitter made all these “nasty people” go away, but that’s part of the price of freedom: I don’t enforce my idea of ‘spam’ on anybody else, and VICE VERSA.

    Back in the day, the Internet, and especially the Web, was thought of as a truly democratic, libertarian means of communication; anybody who wanted to could publish, and anybody who didn’t want to read particular types of things didn’t have to. Spam and “the broadcast-model Web of Big Media” threatened to overturn that. “Social media,” as a buzzword, does in fact suck, but (properly done) what it refers to most definitely does not: the ability of the individual to participate in and control his own access to the googol-PSI fire-hose of data Out There.

    ·

  31. John Robinson Author Editor

    This article hits on something that has been bothering me for quite some time. I’ve had experience with companies billing themselves as “online marketing agencies”, and part of their “search engine optimisation” offering is “social media”. Excessive use of the double quotes there to show just how inappropriate those terms are when related to the actual service that is delivered.

    This service seems to extend to setting up a Facebook page, setting up a Last.fm radio playlist, and… oh, that’s it? So, no content strategy? No optimisation of the code? No authority building exercises? Excellent. Let the Facebook referrals role in!

    ·

  32. Zach Dunn Author Editor

    @Kirk

    We believe that the types of people who understand social media are those that already participate in meaningful ways — professionally or otherwise. We live in a world where a compelling personal blog can speak volumes louder than a formalized resume. Building a personal brand (e.g. Dustin Curtis) can be done without a client in mind.

    Think about the industry folks you follow on Twitter. How many of those people have earned your respect based on their content? We feel that this is a much better basis to judge social media understanding. Theory only goes so far.

    Hopefully this answers your original queston!

    ·

  33. Rick Hanson Author Editor

    Good article, and very hard to miss cos of the bold title:-) Finally someone who dare to speak up.

    ·

  34. jimb0 Author Editor

    Thank you! Great article.

    ·

  35. sakina silver Author Editor

    thanks for sharing this good article.
    much appreciated.

    ·

  36. Claudia Guzman Author Editor

    This is an excellent article. I love it. It shares clear insights on social media’s real worth.

    ·

  37. Susan Author Editor

    You will probably appreciate this video. It’s exactly what you are talking about (I think it’s a joke, but I’m not sure).

    http://websmart.tv/fun/how-to-market-on-the-web/

    ·

  38. Cook Author Editor

    a very well written article….keep it up

    ·

  39. digitalbenjamin Author Editor

    HA… that “How to Market on the Web” video from the guys at WebSmart was pretty funny… and yes, I think it’s a joke. (it better be…)

    ·

  40. Clea Walford Author Editor

    thanks for this article about social media and the eloquent way to say nothing, I really enjoyed reading it!

    ·

  41. hanxlk Author Editor

    lol.. I know many people die alot saying Social media, etc..
    but there is alot more behind it…
    thanks alot for the insights….

    ·

  42. Andrej Volčanšek Author Editor

    The term “social media” is a typical american oxymoron. And yes, 99% of meaning of contexts built arround it on the web is utter bull. People trying to explain to the wotrld why they are important, using buzzwords, hoping somebody notices them.

    In fact, the only “brand” that has *any* tangible bennefit associated with most of the things “social media” could actualy mean is – Facebook.

    Needless to say, Web 2.0, Social media, and other generic pseudo-super-brands are constructs trying to salvage the web1.0 bubble, amongst other strange things.

    Agree? ;)

    ·

  43. Brett Widmann Author Editor

    I think social media can be very helpful if used correctly however there are businesses that use it and it is worthless.

    ·

  44. VnTim.Tk Author Editor

    This is an excellent article.I love the title and the spin!
    Must be sweeps month on this site.
    Thank you! Great article.

    ·

  45. wholesale nike jordan Author Editor

    Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money ; it lies in the joy of achievement , in the thrill of creative effort .

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  46. Andrew Groat Author Editor

    Wow, good read! I’ve had so many clients that want me to work “Internet Magic” – I totally get that.

    “The term only becomes a problem when used as an abstract answer to a concrete problem.” – Very well put :-)

    Thanks Zach!

    ·

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  48. Peter Author Editor

    I would have agreed with you when you wrote this article Zach but with the latest Panda and Penguin updates it may be up for discussion now.
    Appears Google has made a point of bringing social interaction into their rankings. Will be interesting to see how long it lasts.

    ·

  49. CCNA Training Author Editor

    I used social media. its good to go with social media

    ·

  50. ccna training chennai Author Editor

    yes . they are making money out of it.

    ·

  51. dotnet training chennai Author Editor

    cheating that one .

    ·

  52. java training chennai Author Editor

    I really hate social media

    ·

  53. Zaki Author Editor

    Social media IS bullshit, It doesn’t matter which way you spin it, Nothing productive has ever come out of it, except depriving people of the ability to go outside and get fresh air and see people face to face.

    Also its heavily overrated, I feel like smashing my screen whenever a commercial plugs facebook or twitter, seriously, enough is enough.

    ·

  54. james lebron shoes Author Editor

    Its just well thought out and really fantastic to see someone who knows how to put these thoughts down so well

    ·

  55. Nikola Author Editor

    I would like to hear your opinion regarding the social media plug ins that people usually incorporate in photo galleries. I included one of these plug ins in my website but it seems to not gather enough activity, even from the people whose gallery it is. First of all is it worth it (since it makes the preview window a little bit cluttered) and second does it help with google ranking?

    Here’s the example I’m talking about:
    http://www.leimageinc.com/weddings/photography/tara-and-can-hamptons-wedding/

    When you click on the photo, the preview window pops up with social plus in.

    Thank you.

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