Is this the end of the social media purists?

Jason Falls

I have never used this community to comment on another person’s blog but today I’m just so happy, so enthralled, so downright giddy that I could kiss my keyboard.  One of the social media purists has finally discovered the bright, clear light of capitalism.

And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy — Jason Falls.  Jason is one of my favorite bloggers but has historically been one of the stalwart “keepers of the conversation.”  You know the type — the social media country clubbers who set the industry’s tone with a relentless mantra of “it’s all about connection” and “conversation” and “relationships.”  In fact, a few months ago, Jason went so far as to write that any company expecting to make money off of social media will fail.

But a new day is dawning.  Yesterday, in a post entitled “Why Social Media Purists  Won’t Last,” he wrote:

Each time I discuss the business goals or reasons why a client wants to use social media, the answers come down to one thing: selling more stuff. It’s a harsh business reality. If you don’t make money, the business goes under. If you don’t make more money, people lose their jobs.”

The social media purists have laid down the law and, so, to participate in social media as a business, you must do things like, “participate in the conversation,” “engage your customers,” and “talk with us not to us.”

I’ve got news for you. In the world of business, all that talk will get you exactly nowhere. Conversations do not ring the cash register. Engagement does not sell more product. Talking with people just means you have to take time to listen which prevents you from spending valuable time selling more product.

Halleluia.  Maybe I’ll finally have some company out here in the social media netherworld of business rationality.

And if this isn’t enough reason to celebrate, read what the Ultimate Blogging Machine Chris Brogan wrote just a month ago:

Think Like a Business – if you’re in this for business, always ask yourself how this work ties to more sales (and if you’re not trying to make money, think of “sale” as whatever you hope to convert. Hint: it’s not “more audience.”). If you’re just writing to write, shooting video to get it up there, tweeting because people said you should, rethink all that. Decide what’s going to ring your register and work on that.

What???  Ring the register?  Not seeking “more audience?”  Could this be an era of enlightenment for the guy who recently yelled at his audience:  “This is NOT about you and your STUPID COMPANY” ?

What’s happening around here?  My guess is that both have recently had a big dose of the real world.  Falls went out on his own and had to come out from behind the P&L  protectionism of agency life.  Brogan’s sudden emergence on a bigger stage probably got him in front of experienced business people instead of the sycophants who dutifully re-tweet his every blog, bluster and burp.

So this begs a new question.  Are my days as a contrarian coming to an end?  I mean if Brogan’s in, the burp tweeters will fall right in line. If the social media elite are finally figuring it out, what do I write about now?  Hmmm.  How about, “It’s all about the conversation?”  : )

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  • Hooray! Given the impending holiday, let’s say “Welcome to the grown-up table, former purists – for today you are an adult businessperson, responsible for getting your clients results.”

  • I hear what you’re saying Mark. On the one hand you have the analogies of Social Media being the new “Punk”, and the idea that the crowds are easing in to take over control. Defiant, yes. Strong, maybe. Yet no matter how many statistics you throw out, comparing the way the Internet, Facebook and Twitter have generated audience growth faster than radio or TV, its a growth that is absent of factors such as generational persistence and history. The kind of things which really matter in terms of the kind of tribal solidarity that translates into the real world.

    And while analogies such as the one presented through the shared video montage are well reasoned, there is always the residue of “commercialism, which might seem abhorrent to some, but its also what allows us to justify the hours we spend tweeting, blogging and sharing ideas.

    At the center of a thriving social media ecosystem are people, and in order for enlightenment, progress and advancement to occur, one must eat to survive. The problem occurs when we we develop our own ideas of how to monetize in the attention economy, and unwittingly assume the role of social media pariah when found driving around in a Rolls Royce with the signs “Get Rich Quick” pasted all over the car.

    Modest, not decadent. Practical, not flashy. And maybe even minimalist instead of purity.

    Joseph
    @RepuTrack

  • It may just be a natural evolution – when you don’t have the volume, you naturally go with “it’s about quality, not quantity!” When you can finally move the needle a little bit, you better bet I’m going to take credit for the revenue.

  • Wow. You make it sound like until yesterday, I had my head up my ass. Fortunately, the post is but a device to help business people separate the crap from the credible in the social media space. I’ve been focused on business drivers for a long time. Yeah, I feel like the protector of the principles as well and do think that a primary goal of driving sales can get you caught in a world of mess with social media (if you don’t do it right), but I can assure you that three years worth of (mostly) happy clients can assure you I didn’t just see the light.

    But I see what you’re saying and can certainly defer to the notion that all the rah-rah about ads suck and sales won’t work that many purists spout has to be considered bunk. You either move the needle or you find another job. And I thought that three years ago, too.

    Thanks for the pretty picture. Heh.

  • Jason – I didn’t take it that way. I inferr you are an innovator and a leader who is unafraid to learn, grow and evolve. I think most other readers will see you in the same light.

  • (Just to be clear, I was speaking about the social media field in general and my personal experiences in particular. I don’t know Jason but he was one of the first “social media” blogs I subscribed to.)

  • Mark

    @Jason In the name of balance, if you scroll down to Nov. 13, you’ll see I mentioned you in another blog post. In that I wrote:

    “For my money, Jason Falls is the best social media blogger in the business. He covers it all — technology, business applications, trends and opinion. He’s freaky smart, a superb writer and a fellow WVU grad. What’s not to like?”

    In the past year I’ve probably read every post you’ve written. So there you have it. You are my favorite blogger.

    From this perspective I also have a pretty good feel for the evolution of your thinking and yes, sometimes I think the perspectives you expressed on the almost altruistic nature of social media were way off the mark from a business perspective.

    In my social media world, you have been THE MAN and now you’re even more of the man. I admire the way you put yourself out there and take on tough topics for us all to consider. Thanks so much for your perspective and your contribution to the community.

  • We need to cut this post out somehow and pin it up so that the rest of the world can see how two very classy guys take something that might have turned ugly and confrontational and use it for rational discourse on what’s right and wrong with “social media” and the practice thereof.

  • Jonathan Sherman

    It really is simple, the point of any business is to make money. If it can’t help the business grow, why do it? Mark, I believe you wrote an earlier blog post about followers on twitter not necessarily equaling $$$ and that you’re seeing signs of the bubble starting to burst.

  • You know I’m all about ROI and business value but there will still be room for “Purists” as they tend to keep all of us “Honest” with our methods and attitudes. At certain times, both of you (Mark and Jason) have discussed “Purist” attitudes regarding topics like ghost writing, trust and authenticity.

  • Mark

    The more I think about it, I’m not even sure what “purist” means. I’m not a purist anything as far as I know. I’m a capitalist. Free market and all that old chap.

  • @Mark,
    I think you’re making a good point here. Social media strategies are maturing. In the past we’ve been talking to get businesses to listen in the first place. Now I think there’s less evangelicism out there and more practical implementation. As the sector matures, there’s a need for more focus on what social media actually delivers. And of course when it comes to business, that ultimately means money because that’s what makes it all go around.

  • Mark

    @Jon Yes, I think this is exactly right. I’ve used a few examples here but I have seen a huge shift in the tone of the blogosphere as social media goes more mainstream. It’s kind of like “wait, there really are economic realities we all have to acknowledge here.”

    This is very healthy because many of those realites were never resolved in the Internet bust of the late 1990s until it was too late. Thanks so much for commenting, Jon.

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