The clash of the social media know-nothings


The know-nothings.

You know who I’m talking about right?  Social media “marketers” who have never practiced marketing.  Maybe have never even had a sales job or a college-level marketing class. But they’ve created a Facebook page and have 500 followers on Twitter so somehow that makes them a guru.

“You can’t walk out your house without bumping into a social-media expert today, said Forrester Analyst Sean Corcoran in a WSJ article. “The reality is the space is still very much a Wild West.”

I’m not going to dwell on the shake-and-bake “experts” and their webinar info-mercials promising to unleash profits through the magic of follower lists and multi-level marketing scams.  Enough has been written about that. The point of this post is that there is a clash in the marketplace because there aren’t enough true social media marketing experts — with the emphasis on MARKETING — to go around.


Look at what’s happening on the demand side.  Ad spending on social networks world-wide is expected to rise 14% this year to $2.5 billion. Every advertising, marketing and public relations firm in the world wants a piece of the action and is looking for talent.   Consider these news bites from the past week:

  • Universal McCann, is launching a social media practice this month called Rally.  “Social media is now part of all our clients’ plans; we can’t not be in this space,” says Matt Seiler, chief executive of Universal McCann.
  • Publicis Groupe‘s digital umbrella organization, VivaKi, says it also will open a social-media consulting practice this year.
  • Pepsi‘s Gatorade brand created a “Mission Control Center,” which is set up like a broadcast-television control room, to monitor the sports drink around the clock across social-media networks.
  • Kraft hired 360i, a digital ad agency owned by Japan’s largest ad company, Dentsu  to monitor brands like Oreo and Jell-O.
  • Microsoftis currently searching for a social-media firm to handle duties for its Xbox videogame system.

In other words, social media marketing is white freaking hot.

Now for the supply side of the clash.  Who is going to fill all these positions?   Unless you define success by the loosey-goosey standards of “engagement” and “conversations,”  there just aren’t many individuals out there who have actually demonstrated an ability to use social media to move the needle for a business.  And I don’t mean new “followers.”  I mean sales. Cash flow. New customers.

If you have the fire-power and mega-budgets of Microsoft, Pepsi and the other big brands, you can certainly buy your way into success on the social web.   But the vast majority of businesses out there are going to be stuck with the no-nothings instead of the exceptional marketing talent they really need to grow their business.

The dirty little secret the know-nothings are keeping from you is that, with the rare exceptions, nobody wants to be Facebook Friends with your company. You’re going to need much more than an intern tweeting earnestly about your latest coupons to impact your bottom line.  We live in a society that is absolutely sick of being advertised to, sold to, and marketed to, which is why most people turn to Farmville and the social networks to ESCAPE commercialism. So if a know-nothing is promising that they have this figured out and they’re going to help your car dealership or clothes boutique be the next Old Spice succcess story by “listening” to the Twitter stream … well, be afraid.

At the end of the day making money on the social web — or anywhere — still gets down to MARKETING FUNDAMENTALS.  Research, strategy, planning.  Creating points of differentiation. Finding a unique way to delight your customers and out-smart  your competitors.  And then, using the social web as a channel. Maybe.

For most businesses trying to figure out what to do with all this social media stuff, forget about finding a social media expert. That’s a hammer looking for a nail. Find the best, most experienced marketing pro you can afford and let them figure out where it fits for you, if at all.

Can I hear an “amen?”

All posts

  • Great article Mark! The day I knew there was a housing bubble was when I read in the LA Times there was 1 registered Realtor in the state for every 1.1 homes on the market.

    This is similar. I have marketing and sales experience. 18 years worth though 16 were B2B sales. I didn’t realize the difference between my own use of Social for fun and networking and what a B2C business has to do. I accepted a client that is a start up business and was floored at how much effort and work it takes to add fans and followers and grow sales. Personally I don’t see the big agencies being able to help big companies. Scale is so different for Social. People want real people talking with them! Not auto tweets or responses.

    I am a student of what is going on. I see Brands with millions of Followers or Fans getting 0.01% to 0.001% response rates (meaning how many Fans respond to posts). Why does a company with 2 bil customers need social? Can they move a sales needle? What does 1 mil fans give someone with 2 bil customers? And is it a migration of sales vs an increase. And how do you respond to thousands never mind millions and seem genuine?

    So there is a bubble and there will be fall out, re-established expectations, and then we can move forward with reality. Which is that social will be part of all marketing plans but not the primary driver of sales. We still need everything else.

  • EJ Ellis

    Bravo, Mark!

    I’m a twenty year veteran of Corporate America with on-the-job experience in the marketing, sales, finance and strategy & business development. As such, I am constantly amazed at the voracity of the of some of the talking heads who purport their ability to apply social media in business for positive bottom line impact.

    Wouldn’t it be great if they took the time to actually understand the fundamentals of business financials? Wow, what a difference that would make in their ability to deliver sustainable, profitable impact in business.

  • EJ Ellis

    By the way, love, love, love Martin & Lewis! The ultimate clowns, and a fitting picture for this piece.

  • Dan Levine


    Amen indeed. I’ve grown weary of all the self-proclaimed gurus who have zero/little marketing experience but have somehow figured out how to garner huge Twitter and Facebook followings and then book deals and consulting gigs. Kudos to those who have done it — it’s impressive. They’ve taken advantage of the current environment and they’re good salesmen and women. But at some point they’re going to be exposed. It’s just a matter of time. I agree 100% – if you’re looking for marketing ROI, hire the most experienced, most intelligent, most successful marketer you can afford. It’s your safest, smartest bet.

  • Mark, I like your post. You make a lot of good points. That being said, my last agency position was at one of Microsoft’s primary social media agencies. Our goals were mostly related to customer service and branding. As you can well imagine, there is a lot of talk (and misinformation) that goes on online around Microsoft products, so there’s a quite a bit that can be done by just letting people know that you’re available and correcting false information in blog comments and forum replies…only a small part of what we did, but you get the point. To the best of my knowledge, we never worked on a project that would purportedly increase sales or anything like that while I was there. That of course cannot be said of every social media agency or freelancer though.

    One of the main reasons that I moved to my current agency was that I felt I needed to expand my understanding of and skill set with regard to offline marketing. Of course, not all supposed social media experts feel the same need, but to be honest, I find it disturbing how easily some marketers dismiss all social media marketers simply because (let’s be honest) talk is cheap, and it’s just as easy to say “I’m a social media expert who can make you tons of money with Twitter” as it is to say “I’m a direct mail expert who can make you tons of money with remittance slips.”

    While I do roll my eyes at a lot of social media marketers, I’m just as likely to do it to any other marketer that can’t show me a case study or give me a solid reference. Today’s whipping boy is the social media expert, when it should in reality be any marketer who cannot back up his claims. There’s plenty of blame to be placed on snake oil salesmen, but there’s a fair amount that should be placed on irresponsible in-house marketers, who believe their boasting without ever asking for it to be backed up properly.

  • Amen, Mark! Well said. Thanks.

  • Mark

    @Howie. These are keen observations. I guess I’m not so hard on the mega-brand going into the space. This is where people are spending their time and a company like CocaCola is doing it very well, including personal connections. But you ask truly excellent questions. Thank you!

    @EJ — Sometimes it’s hard to keep my mouth shut in this space. There is so much dumbness going around and it really gives marekting in general a bad name. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.

  • Mark

    @Dan — You’re so right and I think the exposure has begun. Some of the orginal gurus have had to eat crow when they go into the mainstream world and their customers aren’t satisfied with tallying up blog comments as a financial measure. Nice to hear from you friend!

    @Eric — I think that is a fair point. And I do think there are a few marketers out there with a social slant who are the real deal. Jay Baer and Christina Kerley to name two. Also, I think you make a very fair point about the general PR value of the social web i.e. monitoring the buzz. Thanks!!

    @Harley — Thanks!

  • I beg to differ.. I am not a Social Guru but rather a Digital Diva.. 😉

    I will give you an Amen AND a Hallelujah on this one.

    Thank you for putting into such eloquence what all of us discuss on a too regular basis. You and I had this conversation just recently.

    It’s a catch 22 on how to handle it.. On one hand, we all know that if you wait long enough, the cream will rise and the ones that are selling snake oil will be outed. Sadly, on the other hand.. when this happens, those of us that actually know and understand marketing, branding and advertising will be left to deal with some very unhappy clients and will then have to add damage control to our list of things to do. While I don’t mind winning clients from those who don’t understand (I’ve already won a couple and anticipate more soon) that it’s a piece of the pie and not the entire pie.. I am not a fan of having to sell my company AND the damage control package as well.

    Well done my friend.. this one’s going into the archives for sure.

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  • Great stuff as always Mark, and thanks very much for the extremely nice vote of confidence above.

    It’s a tricky subject.

    Indeed, there are a ton of people working in social marketing with not a lot of experience. At the same time, given the youthfulness of the discipline, there’s a bit of a chicken and the egg scenario at work.

    I’ve gone on record on my blog that I’m not a fan of pitchforks and torches when it comes to inexperienced social media consultants. But I will say that (like you) I’m extremely lucky to have more than 20 years of marketing experience and 15 years of digital marketing background as a foundation for what I do in social. I draw on that every day, and I think it keeps me from being too much of a cheerleader and losing perspective with regard to social media’s true place as an ingredient, not the entree.

  • Nicely provocative post for a Monday morning, Mark. I think you’re preaching to the converted here but it’s a good call. Spot on.

    On a related note, my fear is that some firms will hire young, bright, sexy things to build communities because they appeal to the demographic – even if they don’t have the skills.

    As an oldish bald guy with a grey beard I’ve managed to build a community of teens for a client and got some great financial results. But I must admit I’m on the point of hiring a young, video-friendly twentynothing to run the project (under my supervision) from August. Doing tests over the summer I realise I’m not the right persona for the target audience.

    So what happens to us crusties who have small agencies? Do we have to go out and hire a stack of youthful social media “gurus” to persuade younger, more digitally experienced clients? And are we heading to the hinterlands of project management, admin and C-suite smoozing ?

    I want a career for another twenty years in this business, after all!

  • Awesome post. Plenty of people know how to use the tools. Knowing where they fit in a marketing strategy is something else entirely.

  • Mark

    @Kristen — My sentiments, too. It seems that the loudest are being rewarded. Then they don’t deliver anything but have another client on their CV and move on to the next unsuspecting victim. At least that’s what I see in my region.

    @Jay — Well said. I don’t think I’ve aopted a lynch mentality but I do think it’s time to speak some truth about the lack of fundamentals being applied in our discipline. The buzz on social media marketing is horrible. Make us all look bad.

  • Mark

    @Jon — It’s funny you mention this age thing. My daughter (21) wrote a guest post awhile back claiming that we better not look to the young generation for answers on social media marketing because that generation is looking to us. I think that is very true because her generation sees the social web as a plaything and we are stydying it as a business tool. It will be exciting though to see the new energy and innovation coming from new grads.

    @Rhonda — Thanks for dropping by. Pretty sure this is your first comment here so WELCOME!! : )

  • And this is a tough question, too, from Forrester:

    Does Proof Exist That Social Marketing Makes Money?

  • The number of social media “interns” is overwhelming and that needs to stop. It’s funny, at the height of the internet bubble (1999-2000) you didn’t see a lot of interns being pursued for a web strategy. I am not sure why companies perceive this so differently now.

  • The intern/recent college grad thing is making me nuts. On one hand, I respect that they need to gain experience, but I don’t think it should be done at the expense of clients. We have one “BIG” agency here locally who’s just hired an intern to handle THEIR social/digital media efforts. Are you kidding me? All that says to me is that even the AGENCY doesn’t want to put their money where their mouth is. If I were a current or perspective client of theirs, that would make me very nervous.

  • Mark, well-said. IMHO, we’re all so in love with the idea of revolution “OMG this changes EVERYTHING” that we easily lose perspective.

    I think social media is very important, but as part of an overall communications feedback loop. TV and other “old media” spark communications and give us something to be social about, and social media gives us a place to comment and participate if we find it interesting or useful to do so.

    Here’s how I think about it.

    The media landscape isn’t 1990 plus the internet. It’s more like 1810 plus TV.

    Most of what we call “social media success stories” are actually triumphs of integrated marketing, and a successful activation of the feedback loop.

  • You sucked me in and made me read your whole post again, Mark. I don’t have time for things like that, I’m a social media guru for Pete’s sake!

    I got my marketing start in college, interning for marketing and PR companies. Then one summer I decided to become a door-to-door salesman. My father had done it and I thought, “Hey, I’ll earn some money this summer.” So, I did. I took to the streets and got to see what it was like working for myself and relying on the effort I put in for the sales I got. It was eye-opening.

    I’ve been in marketing and PR for the last 6 or 7 years and can honestly say I rely on fundamentals for whatever changes come my way. I love social media and have focused my efforts there for the newest phase of my business, but it is a tool that is still being understood. My generation is looking to yours for your study results, knowledge and experience and your generation is looking to mine for the newest avenues to implement marketing strategy. We all work together and I love that about social media; the true social aspect to it.

    There will always be phonies and frauds, it’s our job to be the best-educated marketers for our clients and learn together.

    Thanks for the great post and if you really want to start getting some followers on Twitter and Facebook, I may just have a pyramid sca…I mean, Social Marketing Opportunity that we should discuss.

  • You got it! Amen. As an old professor on mine used to say – “garbage in, garbage out.” Gotta start with MARKETING FUNDAMENTALS.

  • Thanks for the article Mark. In my view the tide is beginning to shift back around to social being recognized as PART of marketing. To be fair, traditional marketers are partly to blame for social being scene as separate for a while. (I realize many of your readers have decades of experience so I’ll likely hear about this for a while)
    Let me start by giving your readers my background – I have 20 years of sales and account management experience. Most of that in relationship management-fighting fires, introducing new lines of business, contract negotiation and introducing rate increases; all while helping the client meet their business goals. I’ve had 1 master’s level marketing class.
    Here’s my experience with social media and traditional marketers. Many traditional marketers ignored social channels for a long time. They didn’t make time to learn about them and therefore believed them to be unimportant. That left the door open for those who figured out the mechanics of a given platform to claim expertise. Navigation expertise and results expertise are clearly 2 different animals. Traditional marketers were in a tight spot when the c-suite went to them and said “tell me about this stuff.” They couldn’t, but needed to keep up appearances. That created friction and opened the c-suite door to for those with navigation expertise to play for pay. There was defensiveness all around. As seasoned marketers jumped into the fray, strapped onto the learning curve and opened themselves to evaluate the possibilities things are shifting, and shifting quickly. Experienced marketers are integrating the concepts of marketing with the concepts of social and then forming meaningful new hypothesis to explore the true value of using social as part of overall marketing strategies.
    One last note – if the “bang” of social had happened in the height of an economic boom instead of in the trough of a recession things might look a lot different right now. Guru’s had time on their hands and marketing staffs were pinched hard with no time to breathe. Timing can be everything.
    Thanks for the forum!

  • Amen? Hallelujah!

    Great post. I love to knock people’s socks off in any social media-themed meeting by asking questions such as “why do we want to do this?” or “what are we selling?” Then ask “how will we define success?” Etc.

    If success equals 500 Facebook fans, I’ll be the guy leaving the room to upchuck.


  • You can get a AMEN Brotha!

    Great post!

  • AMEN, brother! You’ve said it all Mark, even including my favorite word–fundamentals–which when associated with marketing, is amazingly still an uphill battle. Conventional “wisdom” of course being “[your topic here] changes everything!”

    Just one small point to add: the social media know-nothings are an equal opportunity mistake. Hiring them is just as bad for a start-up as it is for the big brands you mentioned. Actually it’s worse: start-ups can’t afford mistakes and wasted time.

  • Amen, a-a-amen, a-a-a-a-a-amen (hallelujah)
    Amen, a-a-amen, a-a-a-a-a-amen!

  • Tom

    OP + NT = ENT

    I always included this formula at the bottom of my email signature when I was an enterprise software sales connsultant. People would ask me what it meant all the time and I would explain:

    Old Process + New Technology = Expensive New Process

    As someone just starting to personally experiment and “play” (and at times it really feels like play) with social media, I can tell you that the same formula applies here as it did in the enterprise software arena.

    Companies and marketers must be willing to make changes to their old processes otherwise all their efforts with social media will be a expensive, frustrating and unprofitable extension of the old marketing processes.

    In my very humble “know-nothing” opinion…except I know I know nothing!

  • You’ve got an Amen here brother. Followers don’t buy products all the time. With what I do social media-wise in our company, I keep a tighter relationship circle with people we either do biz with or could do biz with.

    In regards to followers and views, Ad Age did an interesting look at the Old Spice campaign. It’s viral views skyrocket and sales went up. But they also said sales for other P&G items went up as well. What they mainly got at was that a coupon effort they were doing at the same time could’ve been the catalyst of sales (though there’s no way of knowing).

  • I loved the post!

    For a couple years now, I’ve been trying to convince client that social media is a powerful tool for communicating, and that for each job there is a correct tool and a wrong tool.

    I believe we got too wrapped up in how many people we can reach with social media without stopping to think why we want to reach them and what we want to do with them once we reach them.

    Finally, my clients are listening, and together, we’re working to figure out how social media as a tool helps them achieve their marketing goals.

  • AMEN, Mark!!!

  • I’ll add my Amen to the pile here. It’s a shame that the “gurus” are turning social media marketing into a circus, because it really is something that is going to simply be one of the ways that we interact with Customers. No magic wands, no silver bullets, lots of hard work.

    Like Eric P said, I suppose the same thing can be said for any “hot new thing”. I remember quite a few snake oil sales men when the internet was first hitting the mainstream.

    Sooner or later, I think things will settle down a bit and any “experts” who are low on talent and high on volume will simply go away. One can only hope they do, because there really are quite a few VERY talented and VERY smart marketers in the field who have legitimate and effective thoughts to add to the conversation and they sometimes get drowned out by the rabble.

  • Mark

    @Anne — thanks for the link. A key point. A lot of smart companies are pouring money into this channel. I’m guessing they’re seeing results but just not sharing.

    @Marc — interesting observation. Maybe something to do with the labor-intensity of social?

    @Kristen — that is AMAZING and disheartening! Sounds like a guest post topic? : )

  • Mark

    @Tom — Extremely wise point. Integration is where it’s at. Thanks!

    @Joey — I hate being part of the older generation. Ha! Thanks for the insight.

    @Steve — Thanks for taking the time to comment today.

    @Carla — WOW. Amazing comment. I really appreciate you sharing this great insight!

  • Mark

    @Dave — LOL!

    @Flo + @Joe + @Ryan — Thanks for commenting.

    @Steve Parker — Very true. That is one of the points I was hoping to make — small businesses are more at risk.

    @Tom — Knowing you know nothing and being humble enough to admit it can be a competitive advantage. : )

    @Drew – Really appreciate you bringing the Old Spice observation into the mix. I’m wondering if P&G will releaase any specific sale figures. I’m also aware that brand building takes time and even if the sales numbers are modest it wouldn’t necessarily be a failure if non-financial indicators are positive. Fascinating stuff.

    @Clay — A solid approach. Hope you’ll let us know how it goes!

    @Elyse — I think circus is a good metaphor. Certainly how I feel sometimes. Three rings of activity — most of them are clowns. : )

  • Clearly a great article, Mark. I think if anyone promises profit growth it’s just more proof of their ignorance.

    As for the self-proclaimed “experts”, they may as well declare they can also fly, see through walls, and predict the future. I don’t believe social media experts exist. It’s too new, too broad, too unpredictable.

    Most websites aren’t cash-cows. They provide information and a place for customers to communicate with companies. It’s strategically designed based on research – social media should done the same way.

  • There is no substitute for 20+ years in the corporate marketing trenches! Tech savvy doesn’t mean biz savvy. Social media does not replace fundamentals of marketing…it gives us new tools to tell the story and leverage what we know already works.

  • I’m really late to the game here, but I’ll add another “amen” to mix! While I’m just a “young thing” and can’t boast 20+ years of experience as many of the folks here can, I will agree that PR/marketing fundamentals are key in social media, as with any other channel. This post makes me think of your previous case study re: the various cinnamon bun businesses – social media may not be for everyone. I hope marketers take a step back and think about where the customers are before automatically recommending social media.

    As others have mentioned, very few people can really claim guru status in the social space. Jay Baer hit it right on – it’s a chicken/egg scenario. I think many marketers are still testing the space to see what works. Instead of claiming to be a “guru”, markteers should be upfront with clients about their experience and explain, as with any other strategy, that there are no guarantees.

    Good stuff as always, Mark!

  • Two thoughts, Mark:

    >where it fits for you, if at all.

    You could have said the same thing in 1992 about e-mail and 1996 about a Website. What economically viable company is without those now? I think it has to fit; people just aren’t yet certain how.

    >Now for the supply side of the clash. Who is going to fill all these positions?

    Recent graduates and enterprising young people for whom a tattered economy currently holds few options. Social media is the Great White Hope for them.

  • Amen, brotha, AMEN!

  • Great article! As someone with a background in marketing who has added social media marketing to my skills set and experience I couldn’t agree more.

    For those who have the knowledge, but no experience, I encourage you to find a local business you frequent with little/no social media exposure and offer to create a campaign for them pro bono (or perhaps negotiate a personal discount for your own services). It’s important to be able to say that you can improve the bottom line of a business, not just that you can get x-number of people to follow you.

  • I will give you an AMEN as well! It is not just about sales either. It is about competitive analysis, product feedback, and research and development as well. Looking at just the sales aspect is a very “tunnel vision” approach. A holistic vision and strategy needs to be taken into account. As always, thanks much for your insignt!

    Mike P

  • I’m sorry Mark, but you risk branding YOURSELF as a “no-nothing” when you make claims like-

    “The dirty little secret the know-nothings are keeping from you is that, with the rare exceptions, nobody wants to be Facebook Friends with your company.”

    A marketing pro does research, right? A very cursory look at Facebook stats will show that the average person on Facebook has 130 Friends and the average person on Facebook has connected to 60 pages.

    So ONE THIRD of a person’s connections on Facebook are to brands or causes. That’s not “with rare exceptions”–that’s statistically quite significant.

    There are more than 150 brands who have more than 100K Facebook fans, and more than 50 with 1M plus. And no, not all of those are all Fortune 100 brands with big money to spend.

    The social media business is NOT some newly developed craze. Brands have been openly building online communities since the mid-80’s. You might have heard of a little company called Apple that managed to build its business by connecting to developers via an online social network.

    I have personally been involved in the business of connecting consumers to brands via online social networks since 1999, and can tell you that HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people are visiting brands like QVC and HBO each month, with a very real ROI generating very real revenue.

    This is not a fad, and it’s not new. Many of the comments to this article have pointed out that ‘social’ is just another marketing channel, and maybe that’s really the point of your post.

    But please..if you want to be taken seriously, don’t make wild claims like “nobody wants to be a friend of your brand on Facebook” without some evidence to back it up, because the actual data says flat out that you’re wrong.

    Do people go to social networks to escape marketers? Some do. Just like some people get TIVO in order to avoid marketers on TV.

    But the vast majority of Americans are still on ‘regular’ tv and have learned to accept (and some people even appreciate) the marketing intrusion–just like they do on Facebook.

    And social marketing IS a different animal than other types of marketing, just like radio marketing is different than television marketing is different than print marketing.

    There are different dynamics at play with the intended audience, different creative required and a MUCH different skill set required to implement a campaign.

    So yes, having a ‘social media expert’ is HIGHLY recommended if a brand is going to engage in this medium.

    (and no, it’s not a medium that I would recommend for every brand–there are some who patently should NOT be in the space)

    I can give specific examples of when you need a ‘social media marketing expert’ on your team compared to just a ‘regular’ marketing pro if you’re interested in that conversation…but I’ve already taken up enough space with my response.

    Would be happy to continue the conversation if you’re interested though.

    You make some good points in your post, but I think you wander into “false expert” land by not substantiating your claims. And I’m betting that you’re really smarter than that.

  • Mark

    @Gabe — I don’t think there is enough time in the day to become an “expert.” All we can do is rely on marekting fundamentals to help us provide good counsel!

    @Amy + Despina – Thanks

    @Laura — You are going to be a great marketer. Thanks!

    @John — Thanks for the alternative persepctive. Appreciate your view.

    @Becky — Excellent advice. Doing some work for non-profits is a great way to get started.

    @Mike — Thanks, good point!

  • Mark

    @Mark Williams — Really appreciate your passionate dissent. We’ll have to agree to disagree in general but let me make a couple points.

    First, if you’ve read this blog for any period of time you would know I am an advocate of social media marketing and have provided many case studies demonstrating success, including my own. However those success are rooted in good marketing fundamentals. which is the main point of the post.

    I disagree that there are fundamentally different kinds of marketing. At the end of the day everyone, in any channel, is trying to capitalize on un-met or underserved custromer wants and needs. The EXECUTION and the creative of the tactics in those channels are certainly different. We may have new tools to “listen” but we marketers have always listened, right? At the core, there is no difference.

    Finally the 60 average non-people pages really means nothing from a business standpoint, right? Those pages are a mishmash of polictical causes, Farmville fan pages and celebrity sites. I don’t think you can reasonably use that stat to prove that people are flocking to company sites. Sure there are some success, but come on, there are millions of companies out there — mortuaries, coal companies, home health care — that probably are not going to move the needle with a Facebook fan page.

    And by the way, I’m not saying Facebook cannot be a viable strategy as a result of an appropriate plan. Some companies — with the right strategies and resources like Coke — can do it very, very effectively. I’m just saying don’t START with Facebook as a strategy unless you’ve worked through the fundamentals first … which many people are ignoring.

    Any way, I do appreciate your experience in this space and your urgent voice. Thank very much Mark for adding a very interesting perspective to this dialogue.

  • I couldn’t agree more! While I think social media has it’s place at the table, it is still at the kiddie card table in my opinion, with tried and true marketing strategy and implementation sitting in the places of honor. The risk lies in companies tossing out “old school” marketing practices in favor of social media alone that scares me. At the feast of marketing strategy, social media is the pickles and olives. Nice to have, but they don’t hold up for an entire meal.

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  • “Can I get a AMEN?”

    YES. that seriously WAS a sermon 🙂 as usual, good show!

  • Wow, such a fantastic discussion. Some time ago your questioned if we were facing a Social Media “Bubble” and the discussion was really quite heated…but this time you called it. And, your right, just like all other “Bubbles” it’s the false/hype players that create it and ultimately whose followers get burned by it. Fundamentals never change.
    Oh yeah, AMEN!!!! Nicely stated.

  • Amen. But I’m not buying your argument completely.

    I just watched you work a room full of seasoned industry experts all day today while relying on your decades of B2B marketing expertise. It was a long and serious day and it had nothing to do with social media.

    But I couldn’t help noticing the big grin you had on your face late this afternoon when you were reading all the comments on this post. You love this stuff.

    Anyone that’s followed the {grow} blog for long knows you’re not only a social media mythbuster, you’re also one of the best reporters on successful social media case studies.

  • Amen, Mark! When all the fanfare around social media settles, I think we’ll find that social media isn’t just a “marketing thing,” and people will need good business experience and insights to fully leverage the advantages of social media.

    Business functions such as R&D, tech support, customer service, product development can all benefit from social media. The younger folks have a better understanding and experience using the social media tools–what they are and how they’re used. Combine that with business acumen and you have a winning combination. The world isn’t the only thing becoming flat… so too will the enterprise. As always, Mark… another provocative post.

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  • Precisely why I have declined to be a media group’s linkedIn “King,” “Guru” or even “Go-to Guy.” I simple have bothered to read the instructions, check the menus – and use the thing. An expert, though? Smells like us Americans: too many chiefs, not enough indians, and stay with social media long enough, and you should grow some humility.

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  • Amen! People with no marketing background are going to get eaten alive online, no matter how good their PHP coding skills are, or how early they adopted Yahoo Meme.

  • Mark Williams

    Actually, I think we agree on much more than we disagree, Mark.

    I couldn’t agree more that social media marketing is first and foremost a MARKETING endeavor and all the ‘standard’ marketing methodologies apply.

    And yep, I see a LOT of big companies who are rushing into these spaces because “we have to do something Facebook”. And even though they might be waving checks in my face, my first response is always “Oh really? Why?” Many of these folks are devoid of any real strategy–although I do have to say that just as many DO understand the space and have clear objectives with a targeted ROI.

    Where we may (or may not) disagree is that notion that if you’re a business, you really MUST be on Facebook, if for no other reason than 500 million people are congregated in ONE PLACE.

    But you have to know why you want to connect, to what purpose for the customer and the best way to connect within that medium.

    Strategy, measurable objectives..those never go out of fashion, regardless of the sexy media channel du jour.

    And btw–check out this recent survey posted on Ad Age today–data that *completely* supports your statement about ‘nobody wants to connect with your brand’…

    …on Twitter. 🙂

  • Mark

    @Rachel — Funny analogy. Thanks!

    @Jillian — Thanks for connecting with me on LinkedIn this week. Appreciate the comment.

    @Steve — We’re probably still on the upswing of the bubble but have you noticed how some of the A-List bloggers have switched topics lately? Either they’re broadening their scope of jumping ship. Time will tell I guess.

    @Billy — Amen back. Good times, good times.

  • Mark

    @Joan — I love this point. Truly, there are many parts of the organization that can benefit — little coverage of this though. Great potential. Thanks!

    @Saul — Humility is truly a key to success in this space but not observed very often, is it? : ) Thank you sir.

    @Andy — I know and it is so sad to see. I never want to see people crash and burn, especially when they have kids to feed. Thanks for your time today friend.

    @Mark W — Glad we passed the peace pipe around. I truly appreciate your dissent and point of view and I thank you for having the guts to speak your mind. I hope you will be a regular around here and kick my ass around with some frequency.

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  • Karen Bicq

    Amen. You hooked me with the photo.

  • Mark

    One of my blog post illustrations, I must say.

  • Amen. Wish I had read this when it came out, but it’s timeless. Agree with you 100% Mark.

    When I remind my 10-year-old to brush his teeth and he tells me “I know, Dad.” My playful response is “I’m glad you KNOW, but I’d rather you DO.”

    True expertise, in my mind, comes from success…results…verifiable outcomes. Not merely knowledge — and certainly not from self-proclaimed Social Media Sainthood.

  • Mark W. Schaefer

    HA! Social Media Sainthood. Outstanding.

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  • Anonymous

    Amen! Great post that underscores the necessity of research, strategy and planning with any great marketing plan. Too often, folks shoot video with their phone, attach some hash tags and call it successful engagement if it gets retweeted.

  • Amen.

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  • Liekem

    Although I agree with your general sentiment, I cannot help but think about the opposite of social media know-nothings. Marketers that have no experience whatsoever in online media in my eyes would be very set in their ways of traditional marketing techniques. Can they really optimally use the power of online media when they have never been educated in Why it is that social media is considered powerful, and what are the possibilities of using it?

    I myself have a background in media studies, so am more familiar in the theoretical background of How and What of online media. Luckily I will have experienced marketeers working together with me to come up with a suiting social media strategy for the company I currently work for. However, as I was saying, is it not just as pointless to have a marketeer that has never set foot online to dive into the wild and wonderful world of social media?

    I did not mean to come across as negative in any way, it just irks me that somehow still social media is considered to be an easy little trick that can be learned in a couple of weeks, as long as you have the knowledge of how to construct a proper business strategy.

    ps: No, I dont call myself a ‘social media marketer’ by a long shot. 😉

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  • Amen, Brother!

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