Social Media Snake Oil from Brito’s Perspective

A lot of chatter online this week about social media snake oil here, here and a heated, yet insightful discussion going on over here. I thought I would do what I do best and chime in on the conversation and try to be as delicate as I can not to hurt anyone’s feelings (trust me, this is not my intention). Conversation is always good, even if  it’s not always positive in nature.

With that said, here are some high level thoughts on social media experts, social media snake oil and those who are just perpetrating (fakin’ the funk) and I decided on a bulleted list because it’s easier and much more to the point:

  • Branding oneself on twitter (or social media in general) is MUCH different then helping a brand (big/small) build true connections on the social web
  • Twitter is temporary (just a tool) and finite. Relationship building, if done right, can be infinite (at least a lifetime)
  • You (not you the reader, personally) can’t teach/certify/preach/counsel/coach someone on a topic unless you yourself have been in the trenches and (behind the firewall) understand the dynamics of organizational culture. I certainly don’t mean that you have to work for a brand as an employee. Consultants and agencies deal with it all the time too
  • I don’t entirely agree that there needs to be a “social media” certification for this space but I guess I could be convinced otherwise; as long as it’s not facilitated by an agency who is trying to monetize the distribution list either (see below for more on this)
  • Social media experts are bad (very bad) and when I see that in a bio somewhere; i immediately unfollow/unsubscribe because self proclaimed experts have huge egos and I don’t have time to deal with it
  • The folks at the International Social Media Association who created the certification program are just trying to monetize their micro communities. Nothing wrong with that at all; I am a true capitalist at heart. But the question one must ask before spending nearly $3K is … Will I be more credible after graduating? Will it help me get a job in social media with a big brand or even small company? Will it help me kick off my own consulting practice? Is there any value in the curriculum that I can’t learn myself by simply participating?

Hopefully this bit of advice will help someone before they spend a ton of money getting certified and/or hiring an agency or consultant. I would ask them how they would go about:

Measuring ROI: of course, counting twitter followers or RSS subscriber growth is easy; but quantifying those numbers to show how they drive true business value/revenue is not so easy.

Driving organizational buy in: building communities from behind the firewall is no easy task. There are a lot of things to consider; and collaboration across the organization (marketing, legal, PR, business units, customer support) is imperative. Decisions behind the firewall can take months and sometime years.

Integrating social media across a multitude of marketing channels: launching a blog, twitter account and Facebook page is useless unless there is tight integration across the board with retail, online, search, channel partners, resellers, paid media and the list goes on; and then deciding on brand/unbranded community, on domain versus off domain.

Seeking participation across the organization: a blog is good, but a blog without an author is not. A Twitter account is good; but a one way conversation spitting out marketing messages and press releases is bad. Marketing (and I was in marketing for years) is good at hiring agencies and building blogs. What they are not good at are being subject matter experts when it involves something technical or product relates. This is why marketing departments today have to seek out employees within the organization to “volunteer” their time to participate in the social web.

Launching global social media marketing programs: This was part of my responsibility at Intel and it “AINT” easy, trust me. What may work in the US, Canada and maybe the UK will not necessarily work in India. So how would a consultant/agency provide strategic and tactical support for launching a global campaign?

These are some things you should ask before any significant financial investment to any organization.  If they can’t answer any of the above questions in a somewhat coherent and intelligent way, I would suggest moving on.  Heck, these may even be good interview questions when hiring in house social media managers/strategists as well.

Look, I know and understand the game. You share what you know online, build a community; play Monday morning quarterback by criticizing brands when they mess up — and hope you get hired by one as a consultant so you can go create their Facebook fan page. News flash; it’s not going to work.  Companies aren’t stupid and you won’t get paid to have an ego.

About Michael Brito

Michael Brito has been making things happen online since 1996 with a legit hustle. He gets mad when the 49ers lose, really mad. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

  • spikejones

    Michael,

    Bravo on a great post. The last paragraph is my favorite, because it's SO true. You nailed it. “…you won't get paid to have an ego.” I might have to use that one somewhere.

    Keep on keepin' on.

  • http://www.rankingedge.com Elizabeth Crane

    All very good points, but I especially like:

    “Social media experts are bad (very bad) and when I see that in a bio somewhere; i immediately unfollow/unsubscribe because self proclaimed experts have huge egos and I don’t have time to deal with it”

    Self-proclaimed experts are popping up all over the place, in all types of businesses. Not only does it insinuate a huge ego but it also presents certain liability problems. If people follow what the “expert” said to do and it doesn't work, the response can be that he proclaimed himself an expert so of course the advice was taken. It also brings certain liability factors. The sue happy world that we live in would love to take on “the expert”.

    Thanks for the great post!

  • http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com olivierBlanchard

    Great post.

    Though… there are many ways to monetize a community, and some are a lot more ethical than others… but I've already expressed my views on that particular subject. ;)

    I'm not really worried about the ego trip thing you mention in your last paragraph. (Of course… the Frenchman would be the one to say that…) Ego isn't really a threat to anybody. What concerns me is the snake oil itself. More to the point, people who try to sell their services, products and themselves based on a lie. We all have opinions about a lot of things, and we post those opinions on our blogs, on Twitter, etc. That doesn't make us experts – it just makes us opinionated. :D

    If anyone thinks they'll be hired by a company because of their opinion, they're in for a rude awakening. But people who knowingly employ deceptive tactics to sell themselves or their products… that's a completely different animal.

    Incidentally, I'm not a huge fan of that Business Week article. For the writer to stop short of pointing an accusing finger at Chris Brogan while elevating David Armano as a quasi-expert seemed odd to me. I know both Chris and Dave, like them both, but frankly can't say “this guy is legit and this guy might not be.” That was just bizarre. There's plenty of real social media snake oil to go around without having journalists take sides and subjectively pitch one blogger against another. It wasn't exactly a shining moment in the history of journalism.

    Cheers, Michael. I dig what you're doing here.

  • http://www.keithburtis.com Keith Burtis

    Michael, This post is awesome! It sums it up so well. I see there are only three comments (before mine anyway) don't be frustrated by that. I can pretty much guarantee you are flying over the heads of many here. This was truly a huge gulp of fresh air. Frankly, I don't see the point to all of the bickering. The ISMA stuff makes me sick to my stomach! We need to continue to forge ahead and do great work for our clients, ourselves and our network. Big thank you to Gabriel Carrejo for pointing this post out to me.
    -keith

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Brito/900035396 Michael Brito

    Thank you for your comment Kieth. Appreciate it …

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  • http://socialfocus.com/ Social Media Marketing

    I’ve spent time in some social media sites, and have some fairly good idea of what you are speaking. I wish I had kept up the contacts. The time invested was very heavy, but at the time I was there for pleasure, without business motives.

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    Great post, Michael. I think one of your finer points was point number two, discussing the proper usage of Social Networking (like Twitter campaigns). Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, these are great tools for promoting brand awareness and disseminating information across a large spectrum of followers, however campaigns through these social networks should only SUPPORT relationship building efforts, not solely drive them. And when I say relationship building, I'm talking about the pressing of palms (sometimes to the phone receiver) and networking in the “old school” fashion (does 7-10 years ago really constitute the term “old school?”) So, like you said, Twitter and other social networks are great but finite tools that need to fit into an overall relationship building campaign, which as you aptly mentioned, can be infinite when done correctly.