It’s been awhile since I ranted. Like really ranted. I’m about to change that.
It’s no secret that social media marketing has turned largely douchey. Self-important blowhards show up at SXSW, Blog World Expo and many other industry events every year with the sole purpose of being socialites and schmoozing with their peers and getting into the hottest parties. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it.
But there’s no authenticity in any of it. We call those self-labelled social media gurus as social media douchebags for a reason. It’s because no one (with rare exception) is actually doing real marketing. They are doing friend-mongering. If they can get their clients Facebook likes and Twitter followers then they are being successful. But largely, all they are doing is going to their network of peers who are doing the same goddamn thing and getting them to “Like” their clients Facebook page.
How is this genuine? How is this legitimate? Do I really like Ford because Scott Monty is the head of social media for Ford? Well, I might… and I do like Scott… and I haven’t actually interacted with Scott in a long time so this actually has nothing to do with him.
I added someone who I met in a non-professional setting in Chicago last week to Facebook. I joked with her that it’s surprising we weren’t already friends because we had 41 friends in common.
Why is social media all about clustering together? By all means, we see mutual respect among journalists, but I bet Paul Krugman isn’t tweeting Thomas Friedman asking for a retweet simply to get exposure to his economic op-eds. He doesn’t have to. His work speaks for itself and amplifies itself.
If we dig deep on the social media marketing industry, the discovery under the surface is mind-numbing. I’m about to blow your mind. Social Media people have no clout (or Klout, if you want to play on that metaphor). If they did, their work would self-amplify. They wouldn’t need to look like industry hookers trying to make money with the only assets available to them. They would just… be. And they would be successful. And they wouldn’t have to prove to their clients that they can get the job done. They wouldn’t need to add milestones like “Acquire 1000 Likes on the company Facebook page” or “Build up to 5000 followers on Twitter using mutual retweet tactics” to proposals. Their reputation would precede them. They wouldn’t need to write a book to falsely inflate their value. They would have reputation.
Take Dean McBeth, who I also met last week. Dean works for a small boutique agency in New York. I had never heard of Dean personally, but then he informed me that his claim to fame was architecting the now-legendary Old Spice ads. Ok, your reputation precedes you, then, Dean. Thanks for not asking me to let my network of people know to Like your agency on Facebook.
Look, I understand that there are people like Dean doing great work. For every Dean, however, there are 5 people doing shitty work, relying way to heavily on nerd cred and too little on reputation and results.
People earn their reputations through hard work, perseverence, and time. Yes, that involves networking and schmoozing. But there is no credibility lent to your client by getting a bunch of your friends to “do you a solid” and help you get your work done. If you need 1000 Likes on Facebook, don’t ask me to help unless it’s something that I genuinely like. I’m not going to follow you because you follow me on Twitter. I don’t care about your client… you do. Do good work and let it self-amplify. Otherwise it’s all smoke and mirrors.
Update: If you still feel like you need to get a handjob, here’s a list of Social Media conferences where you can meet people, follow them on Twitter for the purpose of using your network for the benefit of your client later down the road.