Social Media Smoke & Mirrors

Bill & PaparazziOne of the things I find laughable about Social Media is that it’s sold to people that don’t know anything about Social Media.

This makes it possible for people who are ABSOLUTE GARBAGE at creating and maintaining their own online presence to make money telling other people how THEY should represent themselves or their companies online.

I’m not the type of person to knock the next man’s hustle, but that’s exactly what it is.. A HUSTLE. Smoke & Mirrors.

There are LOTS of people who are legitimate and present great solutions to their clients, but some people are just embarrassingly horrible at Social Media and still they’re heralded as gurus amongst their fans.

Presence Management

I was walking with a friend the other day and we were across the street from a store. I pointed the store out to her and she read the name of it from the letters that spanned the top of the storefront. I balked when she said the name, because something sounded odd to me. I knew it wasn’t her accent, so I looked at the store again and told her what the real name was…

The reason I had to tell her the name was that I had seen the store when it first opened and she was seeing it now for the first time in life. Between now and then, A. LETTER. HAD. FALLEN. OFF. OF. THE. BUILDING. AND. THE. OWNER. DIDN’T. HAVE. THE. PRIDE. IN. HIS/HER. OWN. STORE. TO. REPLACE. IT.!!! :/

There was no way my friend could have correctly pronounced the name without the missing letter. There was also no way she could have known the letter was missing from that distance. This is someone’s STORE that they want you to ENTER and BUY items from. That letter has been missing from that sign FOR YEARS, and regardless of how much income the owner receives, he or she refuses to replace the letter and restore the sign to its original quality. The NAME of the store!… The owner doesn’t care about the public’s perception of the store that they’re hoping to make money from.

This is what I see when I go to certain so-called Social Media Experts’s sites. Garbage. Eyesores. They have the nerve to tell you that they’re going to help *YOU* with your internet presence when their own presence is entirely unacceptable.

Conversion Of Cred

What’s laughable about this is that people actually need a consultant to tell them which consultants are doing the right thing. Since I knew what the sign was SUPPOSED TO SAY, I was able to instruct my friend as to what the store was actually called. Similarly, people approach supposed SMEs for help, consulting and guidance and they don’t realize that the people they’re hiring aren’t any good, but just happen to suck a little less than they do. They would be better off asking someone who they TRUST to point them in the right direction instead of hiring someone based on their number of Twitter followers or some other useless statistic that’s held up as an indicator of proficiency in Social Media.

It’s supposed to be a big deal and SO GOOD for your company if you have a bunch of Twitter followers. SO GOOD for your company if you have a bunch of Facebook fans. As of this week, SO GOOD if you have a bunch of followers on Google Buzz. The problem is that a lot of these people don’t tell you what you’re supposed to DO with your bunch of followers.. because they don’t know themselves. O_o

These SMEs have all these people supposedly in their pocket, yet they can’t convert them into ANYTHING useful. They don’t convert into video views. They don’t convert into blog post hits (CPM). They don’t convert into live stream audiences. They don’t convert into click-throughs (CPC). They don’t convert into actions (CPA). They don’t convert into sales (CPS). They don’t even convert into people that might sit down and have a beer with you when you come to their town.

The reason they can’t convert is that they have no idea what they’re doing with Social Media because they spend all their time name-dropping, reading about new technology, reading other people’s OPINIONS about new technology, blabbering about nothing on microblogging sites and shilling for companies while spending No. Time. In. The. Trenches. None. The same sites they’re telling you to be a part of?.. They’re not on them themselves. They don’t have any time to USE the technology because they spend all their time trying to make money with Social Media by telling YOU to do what THEY’RE NOT EVEN DOING! O_o

Do As I Say

That person that told you to get on Ustream or BlogTV or Qik or Livestream or Tinychat or Tokbox?.. When was the last time you saw THEM do a live show? Usually Never. That person that told you you needed to be on Blip or YouTube or Vimeo?.. What have you seen THEM do with internet video? Usually Nothing. That person that told you they were going to build a website for you?.. What does THEIR website look like? Their business site? Their personal site?

That person that told you to get on Facebook?.. How often do you see THEM on Facebook? Did you notice that everything you see with their name on it has been AUTOMATICALLY. REPOSTED. FROM. TWITTER. and that they’re not actually on Facebook at all, except as another repository for followers? Have you noticed that they never comment on or even click “LIKE” on anything you or anybody else you know ever wrote? Have you noticed that they never respond to any Facebook responses they received from their auto-posted material? How is that a Facebook presence? How is that helping THEM? What do they know about Facebook that they’re going to turn around and instruct YOU to create an account there?

That person that told you to get on Twitter or Jaiku or Pownce or Buzz? What are THEY contributing to their community when they post? Usually Nothing.. Regurgitating links to other people’s posts or other people’s ideas with no ORIGINAL CONTENT whatsoever. How is it humanly possible that they’re following hundreds of thousands of people when spending only one second per update would mean they can only read 3,600 posts in an hour, FORGET ABOUT thinking about that post and/or typing a response. Do these people spend an hour a day reading Twitter? Four hours? Eight? When do they do their actual work then?

What does the discussion look like that follows what they write? Who cares enough to chime in? Do the commenters know anything about the topic, or are they just fanbois going “ME TOO!.. ME TOO!”? Who’s even paying attention to their posts? How many of their “followers” represent currently active Twitter accounts? What’s been the tangible result of any “Call To Action” they’ve ever made on Twitter? How many people watched their video? How many people arrived to watch their live stream?

High TechThat person that told you you need a blog?.. What does THEIR blog look like? Original content? Paraphrasing stuff they just read on Mashable?

What do their comments look like? Is the blogger even PRESENT in his or her own comment stream? O_o Do they even READ the comments they get on their posts? Do they respond intelligently or AT ALL?

Do they even CARE whether anyone comments on their page, or are they just interested in getting the retweets, shares and reblogs?

How much time do they spend interacting with their own community?.. The people that cared enough to read their blog and then bless them by joining in the conversation?

Do they even bother to check whether the comments they’re getting are from real people? How many times have you gone to a blog and there are 13 comments on the thread and 11 of them are obvious spam? Do you have your system set up like mine, where I get an email every single time someone posts a comment on my blog? Are you getting the emails from your blog, or are you just not reading them? Do you care what your blog looks like? Are you planning to fix the sign on the front? If not, you’re not the right person for SOMEONE ELSE to hire for Social Media work, are you?

Also.. If you’re a blogger and happen to be illiterate, instead of hiring someone to make you a custom theme and incorporate fancy pictures of yourself, hire a proofreader. I know this is slightly problematic because if you don’t know the difference between “there”, “their”, and “they’re”, you can’t very well tell that you need HELP in order to know that you should hire someone to fix that for you before you announce your level of education to the world.

Educated Decisions

The first thing you want to do if someone wants you to pay them to do ANYTHING is see examples of their work. If they’re going to paint, you want to see something they painted that’s similar to the job you want done. Social Media offers you the double-opportunity to judge someone’s potential worth to your company by a) seeing what they’ve done for others and more importantly, b) what they’ve done for themselves.

If you’re telling me that your company creates websites and YOUR website is garbage, you’re a clown. If you’re telling me you’re a video editor and there’s no tangible evidence that you ever edited anything for anybody in this lifetime, you’re a clown. If you’re telling me that you can bring crowds to your clients’ shows and you can’t bring crowds to your own live streams, you’re a clown.

The second thing you want to do when someone offers you a Social Media strategy is ask them “WHY?”.

WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? Keep asking them that until you’re satisfied with the answer. If you know you’re not smart enough to know what the answer should be, hire a consultant to help you find the right Social Media group to hire for your project. Too many people ask me uneducated or perhaps MISeducated questions like “How much traffic will I get when we make this site?” and “How many people can I count on to watch my video if I put it on YouTube?” because people are running around pumping it up like you win some kind of prize just for creating a presence in the space.

What should I do? Make a Twitter account. Why? So people can follow you. Why? So you can look popular and sought-after, speak to people and listen to what they say back to you. What people? Any people. Why would I want to talk to random people about my business? So you can make them aware of your business and then advertise your goods & services to them. How do I specifically advertise to Twitter people local to me who need my Elite Lawn Mowing Services? You have to advertise to everyone and hope word gets around. For that, why don’t I spend my money on flyers and hand them out around my town? Good idea.

Time, Money, Energy, Resources

Bill Cammack Recent Visitor Map - Jan 07, 2009Social Media is a vehicle. It’s an opportunity for you to express yourself to people that otherwise would never have heard of you or your ideas or your business.

What they don’t tell you is that HAVING a presence isn’t enough. You have to MAINTAIN your presence.

If you’re going to make a blog, you have to POST CONTENT on your blog. Photo set? Post photos. Social Media community (Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Ning…)? Get involved.

You can spend as much money as you want on a car, and it won’t be too useful to you or your company without a driver. That driver has to be YOU or someone you hire to.. Oh… I forgot the ever-useful INTERN! πŸ˜€

It’s another Social Media staple to get interns to do all the work for your supposedly-professional company. If you hire interns to do the work, your company will output intern-quality work. If you don’t hire video editors to edit video, you get what you pay for. If you don’t hire illustrators to customize your website, you get what you pay for.

Anyway… No. You’re not going to get any traffic just by having a website created for you. You’re not going to get any views just by uploading a video to YouTube. You have to create the presence, create the content, properly post the content, advertise the content, start the conversation and then maintain the conversation while simultaneously creating new content, beginning the cycle again before the first cycle ends.

Social Media is extremely time-consuming. It’s not “Set it and forget it”. SOMEBODY’S got to maintain it, keeping your internet presence fresh and relevant. A Social Media strategy doesn’t END with creation any more than the Indy 500 ends when a driver’s mechanics BUILD his car. Don’t let these people gas your head up that if you pay them to create accounts for you on Facebook, Ustream, Twitter and YouTube, your company’s going to be on the road to the riches.

Ask them WHY?… What’s going to happen AFTER you create your accounts? What’s necessary as far as time, money & resources to MAINTAIN your internet presence? If they can’t tell you that, either hire someone different to handle the Social Media for your company or get ready for the letters to fall off your store.

Join the Conversation


  1. @Andrew: Thanks so much. I’ve appreciated your penchant to “Show & Prove” and make it happen when the productions have required your expertise to make the shows what they’ve needed to be. Always a pleasure. You’re certainly The Real Deal! πŸ˜€

    @Steve: What you say is true.. so long as the people doing the hiring actually require results.

    When it Absolutely, Positively has to get done, or else you, your company, and potentially your PARENT COMPANY are all going to lose face, lose money or lose business, you can’t afford to pass the rock to unreliable people.

    The grey area occurs when there’s no actual yardstick for measuring success or failure.

    A lot of Social Media “success” is defined by attention as opposed to the quality of the work. It’s defined by “eyeballs” and “hits” and “views”. It doesn’t matter WHAT the people are viewing or WHO the people are that are viewing the video, so long as you can turn around and say to your superiors “We paid X amount of dollars for Y number of people to become aware of [whatever we’re selling].

    Because of this, it makes more sense to the bottom line to hire someone that sucks at creating media but comes with an instant fanbase of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people. The concept being that regardless of what this person creates, a percentage of their fanbois will come to click on the page and then the video.

    You actually see this effect every year when they have these “Sexiest Male In Social Media” contests and the most drab-looking people get the most votes because they have the most fans and nobody cares about such a stupid concept as a sexy male. That’s reserved for the females, where the hottest chick wins the contest whether she’s associated with Social Media or not.

    The funny/pathetic part is that there’s no room for rewarding quality in these situations, because if you create infinitely better media but you have less of a following, the company has to depend on ITS OWN FOLLOWING as well as its own grasp and implementation of Social Media to get the audience to watch your content. Better quality + way fewer hits/views = Your project doesn’t get funded again and/or you get fired.

    It gets even worse when the people doing the hiring are fanbois to begin with, so they’re more impressed with the ‘fishbowl rockstar’ qualities of the snake oil salesman than the ability of the actual professional to make their company look competent & professional.
    I’d also like to address a couple of friends of mine that informed me that they felt I sounded angry in my post. πŸ™‚ I’m not angry at all because I’m not involved in this situation.

    I do REAL work for REAL companies, and have for more than a decade.

    I’m just saying that it’s embarrassing to me that by associating myself with Social Media and saying that I create videos that play on the internet, people automatically assume low quality and skateboarding dog videos because the industry’s more interested in cutting corners than producing quality programming.

    I wrote “Why Professionals Avoid Web Video” in September 2008 and more than a year later, I’d probably write an extremely similar article. I expected more from “the space”, but it didn’t materialize. Am I extremely disappointed? Yes. Does it matter to me at all? Nope. πŸ˜€

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