If your head is buzzing with such terms as “Instagram,” “Pinterest,” “Klout” ratings, “Smithgrams” (your life in six words of less), and “RockMelt,” not to mention Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter, worry not. You’re not alone. We feel your pain.

Rambling through the world of Social Media is like trying to stand up on a wavy carnival ride. You think you’ve got it, you manage to find your balance and you are knocked off again by a new technology or another drain on your time. Instead you try to find a handle in a not-so-rocky corner and just hold on until the ride is over.

But the ride may not be over for a long time. Social media is here to stay. But do you need to take that ride? Yes … and no.


Media guru and trend reader Peter Shankman came out with some pretty stern words recently when he addressed the subject in an article first published on his site in March entitled, “I Will Never Hire a ‘Social Media Expert,’ and Neither Should You.

I was going to call this article “All “Social Media Experts” need to go die in a fire,” but I figured I should be nicer than that.
But my title stands. If you call yourself a “Social Media Expert,” don’t even bother sending me your resume.

No business in the world should want a “Social Media Expert” on their team. They shouldn’t want a guru, rock-star, or savant, either. If you have a “Social Media Expert” on your payroll, you’re wasting your money.

Being an expert in Social Media is like being an expert at taking the bread out of the refrigerator. You might be the best bread-taker-outer in the world, but you know what? The goal is to make an amazing sandwich, and you can’t do that if all you’ve done in your life is taken the bread out of the fridge.

Social Media is just another facet of marketing and customer service. Say it with me. Repeat it until you know it by heart. Bind it as a sign upon your hands and upon thy gates. Social Media, by itself, will not help you.

We’re making the same mistakes that we made during the dotcom era, where everyone thought that just adding the term .com to your corporate logo made you instantly credible. It didn’t. If that’s all you did, you emphasized even more strongly how pathetic your company was. You weren’t “building a new paradigm while shifting alternate ways of focusing customers on the clicks and mortar of an organizational exchange.” No, you were simply a freaking idiot who’d be out of business in six months.

Ready for the ultimate kicker? We still haven’t learned! We got thirsty again, and are drinking the same damn ten-year-old Kool-Aid without so much as asking for ice. Rather than embracing this new technology and merging it with what we’ve learned already, we’re throwing off our clothes and running naked in the rain, waving our hands in the air, sure that this time it’ll be different, because this time it’s better!!”

“It’s not about building a website anymore! It’s so much cooler! It’s about Facebook, and fans, and followers, and engagement, and influence, and…”

Will you please shut up before you make me vomit on your shoes?


It’s About Transparency. It’s about not lying to your customers, and thinking that a good Twitter apology will suffice when you’re caught. It won’t, and you’ll lose. Customers will run away in droves, because they can. They can go wherever they want now – It doesn’t matter how loyal they were in the past. Lie to them and get caught, and say goodbye. It’s about using the tools to market to an audience that wants to help tell your story, because you’ve been awesome at providing them with the service they deserve. United’s reaction to “United Breaks Guitars” WASN’T a stellar example of a good use of social media. It was the exact opposite – It was knee-jerk crisis management, that would never have had to happen had United been focused on customer service in their marketing to begin with.

It’s About Relevance. It’s not about tweeting every single time your company offers 10% off on a thingamabob. It’s about finding out where your customers actually are, and going after them there. If you’re tweeting all your discounts, and none of your customers are on Twitter, then you sir, are an idiot. Marketing involves knowing your audience, and tailoring your promotions in specific bursts to the correct segments. “Social media experts” don’t know this. They’ll build you a fan page, and when all that work doesn’t convert into new sales, they’ll simply say “Well, we’ll just post more.” Don’t be that guy. Real marketers know when to market using traditional methods, social media, or even word of mouth. Go ahead. Ask a “social media expert” what a traffic planner does at an agency, then laugh as they quickly ask Google for help finding the answer.

It’s About Brevity. You know what the majority of people calling themselves “Social Media Experts” can’t do, among other things? THEY CAN’T WRITE. The number of “experts” out there who can’t string a simple sentence together astounds me. Guess what – If we have about three seconds to get our message across to a new customer, you know what’s going to do it? Not Twitter Followers. Not Facebook Fans. Not Foursquare Check-ins – NO. What’s going to do it is GOOD WRITING, END OF STORY. BAD WRITING IS KILLING AMERICA. Good writing is brevity, and brevity is marketing. Want to lose me as a customer, forever, guaranteed? Have a grammar error on any form of outward communication.

Finally, it’s about knowing your customer, and making sure your customer thinks of you first. When Barry Diller was running Paramount, he’d call ten people in his Rolodex each morning, just to say hi. That translated into all of Hollywood knowing this previously unknown executive’s name, because he took the time to reach out and communicate. It also translated into Paramount making billions in a time where other movie companies were struggling. Do you know your audience? Have you reached out to them? I’m not talking about “tweeting at them,” I’m talking about actually reaching out. Asking them what you can do better? Asking those who haven’t been around in a while what you can do to get them back? It’s not about 10% off coupons or “contests for the next follower.” For God’s sake, be smarter than that.

You’d never give the intern permission to write the corporate press release to accompany an earnings announcement, so why the hell are you listening to the 22-year-old who says “we’re going to do this social media thing because it’s cool?”
Social media is not “cool.” MAKING MONEY IS COOL. Social Media is simply another arrow in the quiver of marketing, and that quiver is designed to GENERATE REVENUE.

If you’re doing anything else with social media, here’s a book of matches, and I expect to never see you again after the smoke clears.