Dude, Shut Your Effing Social Media Mouth.

Honey Badger
Honey Badger don't care! (Photo used under Creative Commons. Taken by Bruce McAdam)

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.

30 Replies to “Dude, Shut Your Effing Social Media Mouth.”

  1. Great post, preaching to the choir. The other week someone ranted in a similar vein:

    “so here you have all these g___d___ed college kids, they set up a twitter account, post b___s___t on it and when they get back 10 followers, they think they’ve found the holy grail of work!!! Wow…create twitter accounts for twits who don’t know any better…then they go to all the tweet ups they can find and spend the time doing the smart phone prayer. Next thing you know, they’ve discovered mobile! Wheeee!! Another vertical they can charge money for!! And they know absolutely nothing other than how to leverage the technology to display it!”

    End quote. And lots more in that vein, including very descriptive names for the young ones. And no, I didn’t say this rant. Mine was much worse.

    1. I don’t know if the “young ones” bother me as much as someone that was like in real estate and then said, “Hey this social media thing looks cool”… Those people know how to bill, network, and probably have caused more damage than some kid out of school that just doesn’t know any better.

  2. When one is a charlatan, there is little difference between selling snake oil and social media. A charlatan will tweet anything without the vaguest understanding of the Ideal customer or what is truly important to them. Now, what does that say about Guy Kawasaki these days? While he has a great deal of street cred, his twitter feed reads like the back of a public bus or a spot on TruTV.

  3. Good, I was beginning to think I was the only one who thought this way. Now if I could just get my co-workers and top-level execs to feel the same…

    I always feel overwhelmed at “social media” conferences and events because of the amount of people selling the same damn thing with no measurable results. “Oh, look at our monitoring dashboard!” “Ooo, we gained this many followers on this campaign!” That’s great but how many leads for your customer did that campaign generate? Do the followers engage with the company’s website or do they just hit Like and never look back?

    Can you do a rant on people who market themselves as adept and experienced social strategists and managers to get companies to hire them? They’re even worse than agencies and consultants.

  4. Omg. Its the truth. Social media is the biggest circle jerk of the 21st century. But I do like being vip at parties even though i know i am a “no talent ass clown” maybe we need more free booze and less Social Media

  5. It’s not social media marketing if you have to ask people to do it. That’s just called bad marketing. And there are A LOT of bad marketers out there.

  6. Awesome post, Aaron. And this is one (probably the main) reason I’ve all but stopped going to these types of schmooze-fests. I love seeing old friends and colleagues, but I was never the ass-kissing type and I never saw much value for me or our clients out of SxSW or Blogworld.

    I’m getting real close to having my own rant about social media douchebags, and the “industry” they’ve fabricated. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a place for companies in social media, but the whole “social media marketing” industry reeks more of sleeze than car title pawns. And they wonder why they have a hard time finding clients….

    And I thought it was bad when clients would say “my nephew knows how to design a website…”

  7. Aaron, I love this post!! Thank you for writing it. An agnostic AMEN on the quality of work statement. “Do good work and it will self-amplify” – phew, there are still people that get that concept. Although, a little modest self-promotion never hurt either…

    Hey, how about this permission-based marketing request – mind if I tweet a link to your post?


  8. Great post, very well said. I think the first people to go back to school when this bubble bursts, is gonna be the SMDs..

    PS: Thanks for the list of hand jobs.

  9. ” If you still feel like you need to get a handjob, here’s a list of Social Media conferences:” – /me falls on floor and cries laughing. :)

  10. Fuck Like. I love this. I’d say +1 but I’m honestly not sure what that even means and I’d rather have this post printed on a heather gray v-neck.

    Holding down the fort in Baltimore as the shaved head WordPress guru with a first name beginning with “A.”

  11. Amen. Social media guru’s and mavens typically know a little about facebook and nothing about marketing. I had a friend compare it to a cruise boat of 1000 musicians all trying to sell their cd to each other… and the scenario you describe – the circle tweeting to get your name out, and do favors for your other social media ‘guru’ friends is happening in my home town where everyone thinks they’re a marketing expert and nobody actually is. I’ll be sharing this blog on a few social site (yes i see the irony in that statement ;) )

  12. To be fair… We all kind of went through that same phase when we were starting out. Thought we were experts due to X, told people we were experts, started eventually doing “real work” and learned as we went.

    Granted, we weren’t pitching companies really, so there was less harm, and we were all having so much fun that the “social” in social media was more important than the “media”…

    But still, I feel folk let us get our feet wet, learn and screw up. So while it sometimes annoys me tremendously, I ask myself what I’d do in their shoes and have a hard time coming up with a list of things that isn’t pedantic (ie: don’t hand out business cards everywhere, have a beer with someone instead of pitching them, etc).

    Maybe I’m just old and weird though ;-)


  13. Just have to say thank you for this. Like many companies, we utilize social media. However, it’s only a portion of all of the marketing we do. I believe the understanding of cold calling has been tossed out the window. Well…people want to speak with a human and they want content that’s simple and reliable. Facebook is for quick updates and more about the news of the organization than anything.

    I with you!

    Editor: Link removed. You can pay me to advertise on my blog

  14. I don’t think you can go broad strokes here Only rarely have I been asked to like or follow by colleagues Maybe because they know better but irs more about the meaningless numbers that are easy to measure & sound good to spreadsheet junkies The clustering isn’t a bad thing Niche was my word of 2011 for a reason You want to reach more of the right people & satisfy their needs, wants, interests but you need good engagement & content approaches I only have 3 metrics: Thank you, wow & done Also, some of those who write books are helping people understand the difference between numbers & engagement (For the record I like the parties & events but could do without the egos)

  15. Well social media was always going to invite this sort of thing but what has to be considered is the ramification of it all. If there were at least three to every two dozen bloggers and social media users who could guarantee something that would detract away from what has been explained then I don’t think we’d be in a situation where we have to get like that. Still, looking at it from an impartial perspective I think you also must consider why people use social media in the first place and, when that is opposed to the initial statement, the obvious conclusion is made. But, taking into account these elements, you then have the additional purpose of seeing where the whole process will be in a years time. Ultimately I would argue that it is an openended dilemma of somewhat irrelevant but necessary importance.

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