I was called out on my social media BS and I’m relieved

social media bs

By Mandy Edwards, {grow} Community Member

Mark Schaefer called me out on my social media BS … and I am really happy about it. Seriously.

Let me explain why.

Recently I wrote a post about ways to keep your fans and customers happy. At first I thought, “dang, this is a great post!” so I sent it to Mark for a guest contribution consideration. 

Well, I got a very kind but honest email back pointing out everything wrong with that post. Basically he said the “expert” advice I was giving was impractical and wrong. And you know what? He was absolutely right. The post was pure bullcrap because I wasn’t writing for my audience – I was writing for other social media pros, telling them what I thought they wanted to hear.

Serving the echo chamber

Remember when you were a child or teen and your parents accused you of hearing only what you wanted to hear? I see that people in the social media marketing business do that too, mainly to validate that we know what we’re doing. 

Who honestly cares about four more ways to keep your fans happy? Business owners already know how to keep their customers happy. Quality content on Facebook won’t keep the Facebook fans happy. Funny tweets won’t keep their Twitter fans happy. Providing great value, super service, and kind attention keep customers happy, not a blog post.

Sure, I could also write about 10 ways to get more Facebook engagement, but who wants to read that? I mean, just Google it and you can find your answer from about 500 other people.

 It seems when I sit down to write anymore, I’m a captive in the social media echo chamber. I’m putting out the same topics everyone else is writing about but trying to make it sound like my own and adding my own twist.

Breaking through the social media BS 

From now on, here is the filter I need to use to start writing blog posts that mean something: Am I, as a marketing professional, writing for other social media people, or am I writing for those actively seeking our help?

Let’s be honest. Most of the blog posts I have been writing are seeking to impress other social media pros and flex those “I know it all” muscles. I know I’m not alone in this. Look at some of the top posts on Social Media Today or Business 2 Community. Hell, check out Social Media Examiner while you’re at it. We are writing what other social media pros want to hear, not what our potential clients or that local business owner wants to hear.

I’m determined to break out of the social media BS bubble. I’m tired of reinventing the wheel (or topic) over and over, and here is my plan of action:

1. Keep it real.

I have a post in my Google Drive called “Writing from the Heart.” I have a personal blog that I haven’t posted on yet, despite the site being ready, and this is the first post for it. What I wrote about was writing from my true experience — what’s on my mind, what matters to me as a business owner. That’s the kind of post I need to publish.

Until then, I pledge to do my best to keep it real. Be more of myself, pushing beyond the level I did this past year. I may write about who’s doing a great job with their digital marketing or someone who’s not and provide pointers to improve. 

2. Forget the status quo.

I sense that all these social media pros feel like they need to one-up the next social media pro. (You know it’s true. You’re probably shaking your head right now.) We put out a longer post with more stats. We see how many times we can name-drop in an article. We want to show the world we know more than the others.

We need to forget the status quo and start writing again for customers. Our clients aren’t other social media pros, they are business owners. So why aren’t we writing for them? Forget the other social media people out there and focus on writing about real problems.  

3. Focus on truth.

I lost my way because I was focusing on the politics of social media instead of truth, real business issues and real business answers. I am going to ask my clients what their most pressing questions are., find out what they really want to know and help them through my writing.  

Is it time for your wake-up call? Do you need to take an unabashed and honest look at who are writing for? If it’s not your current or potential clients, then something needs to change. Now. 

Don’t worry – that fluffy post Mark rejected won’t ever see the light of day. I’ll save it to look at when I need a reminder of what I really need to do for my customers!

I’m fighting through the social media BS. Who’s with me?

mandy edwardsMandy Edwards is the owner of ME Marketing Services, providing social media consulting services. Follow her on her blogTwitter and Facebook.

Top illustration courtesy of Flickr CC and Missy

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  • Dominika Wachtlová

    This article makes me excited about what you post next 🙂

  • Mary Jane Kinkade

    Excellent post! Thanks for you honesty. This one was definitely from the heart. Thanks again for sharing.

  • What a brave and refreshing post, Mandy! Working with clients in the b2b realm, I’ve seen many of them moving only cautiously toward social as one more way for them to connect with their customers and prospects; these clients have been wary of the kind of echo chamber effect you describe. Your post is a great reminder to those of us on the agency side in particular to stay focused on the right things. Props to both you and Mark!

  • Hey Mandy,

    Wow. That took a lot of courage and I applaud you! I think it’s the hardest challenge to be vulnerable yet powerful and real at the same time. You accomplished that.
    In our business it’s very tough to resist the tempation to try to be part of the tribe instead of the leader of our own tribe. It’s a conflict I feel that most of us deal with.
    I’ve begun unsubscribing to many of the marketing blogs that I’ve read for years. I only get the ones that really help me serve my clients and students better. It’s a tremendous relief!

    Good luck. And I’m going to follow you on Twitter!

  • Well said! I think the lessons learned here can also be applied to other disciplines of digital marketing such as SEO, which is my area of focus. Truth to be told I haven’t written anything for quite some time because I keep getting writer’s block – perhaps what you’ve described here is a big part of the reason behind it.

    Thanks for sharing a fresh and honest perspective.

  • Thanks Beth!! Yes, this can definitely be applied to many industries out there – online and offline.

  • Thank you SO much Betsy!! It is hard to do and does require focus to stay on task with who you’re writing for. I’ve gone through and started unsubscribing to all the marketing emails I get as well – there’s only so many that actually help.

  • Thanks Dominika!

  • Thanks Mary Jane!

  • Thanks Pete! It does require focus – and the discipline to stay focused.

  • Hi Mandy, it’s my first time to to your site and what a breath of fresh air!!! I can feel your heartbeat and the excitement.

    For many people, they dont’ realize that they don’t know what business they are “really” in. They have no idea of their uniqueness and when you repeat in various forms the echo chamber they end positioning themselves as commodity.

    For a business to discover their uniqueness they have to go through a process of laying out their business foundation by identifying:

    1. Their tangible values – ie how do they want their customers to think and feel after they have done business with them?
    2. What “specific” problems does each tangible value solve?
    3. Who are the “specific” people that the problems are being solved for?
    4. How are the products or services “a” solution?

    It can take weeks or months to glean that kind of clarity. Which is what businesses really need. I shared in a short YouTube video this morning that too many of us are “focusing” on strategies and “how to’s” before we are ready for them. We end up chasing technology and customers instead of being an attraction for them via our own uniqueness.

    Kudos to you Mandy! What a great introduction and way to meet you for the first time. Very impressive openness and transparency!!!

    I hope you have a great weekend and I will be bookmarking our site and sharing this post on my social media.

    ~ Don Purdum

  • Jennifer G. Hanford

    I LOVE this post, Mandy…and you’re so right about the social media “echo chamber”! You got my attention, too – and I’ll certainly keep this in mind as I write future posts!

  • Amen! I quit writing for my peers years ago & my biz hit turbo! I have been criticized for my list posts & other posts by my peers & I don’t give a rip. I write for my customers and ideal customers, period! My content helps me serve my audience and achieve my biz and life goals and that’s what’s matters.

    Congrats to both you and @Mark S in this realization!

  • Thanks Don! It was an honor to guest post on Mark’s site again. This is site is one of the few where I read each and every post that gets published.

  • Thanks Jenn!

  • Awesome post Mandy! Sometimes you just have to take a step back and reevaluate things. And sometimes, it takes someone from the outside to give you a little push to take that step back. Too often, sharing our “expertise” actually turns into telling people what you think they want to hear as you put it.

    I like your new filtering process, and it’s something I’m going to start implementing for myself too! Keep on keeping it real!

  • Thanks Pam! You are so right – we need to position it to help us achieve our end goal.

  • Thanks Dominique!

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  • Hey Pam…I wonder if there’s a point that we all reach at around the same time when we decide to stop devouring other people’s content and focus on our own audience, goals and perspectives. And I love list posts! B

  • Hi Betsh, I think it’s all the same, probably in all fields. In terms of writing, there are so many ways to combat writer’s block…and one of them is to think about the questions that your clients always ask you. If they’re asking you, then they are probably asking Google, too! You should be the one they get the answers from! B

  • me, too!

  • Social Skelly

    Mandy, I’m a first time visitor, but have read Mark’s articles for a couple years now.

    Your moment of clarity is something that many disillusioned readers of marketing blogs (like me) have known for a long time. Most “pro” marketing blogs pander to the pros, who repeatedly publish the same meaningless advice over and over again to the extent that no one dares question them in a comment section anywhere on the Web. Usually because their list of “3 Things You Should Do” are so general that they are both irrefutably correct as well as veritably useless.

    Truly, view the comment section of a marketing blog article, and if you find a healthy amount of dissent, then you have likely happened upon the articles you NEED to be reading. If, however, you find nothing but comments like “I couldn’t have said it better,” “Such a great article,” and “Everyone should be doing this”, then you may be reading marketing’s equivalent of the theory of gravity. Everyone already agrees it is true, so shouldn’t we be focusing on the things that are still controversial.

    Probably.

    Ok, I’m done being a curmudgeon. Thanks for your honesty, bravery, and willingness to share your shortcomings. I hope we all can follow your lead.

  • Rachel Smith

    This is great. I think it should always start and end with the truth!

  • TheSocialMarketers

    Mandy: Kudos for the honesty!

    A while ago I wrote a rant about what you so fittingly described here as “the politics of social media” (and what I call marketers marketing marketing to marketers 😉 ). Maybe you can have some fun with it: http://blog.thesocialms.com/marketing-community-wake-die-trying/

  • Thoughtful! You are right, the only worthwhile point of focus is on the customer. Best lesson we’ve learned! That’s why our service, gifts and souvenirs are all about the qualities and relationships our customers value.

  • Mandy – thank you for stating what needed to be said! Beautiful! I love the part where you were “being real” and said, we all knew it to be true (even if we are shaking our heads). Good example of truly being real with us!

    I remember learning something that stuck with me at a conference a couple of years ago. I wish I could give credit, but honestly do not remember who said it. The idea is to create a place of belonging and people will be drawn to you. Rather than looking at the other guy and trying to emulate that, just be ourselves and create that warm environment. Whether three people come or three million come, we are being real… Thank you for your post!

  • What a great transparent post, Mandy! I spent the first several years of my blogging career writing for myself and my peers. It brings in great traffic, but lousy leads! I think there is some value in establishing yourself as an authority by publishing content that is of interest to peers and influencers, but surely that post can also be of benefit to your potential customers, too!

  • What a great article. Simply great. You have nailed a lot of people down (including me) because I have been one of those people that have written for the influencer before. Like you, I sensed the wrong-doing in it and finally found the right path. Kudos

  • Thanks Wade!

  • Thanks Alisa!

  • Thanks Deborah!! You are right – if we are just who we are, then the right people will come along!

  • Thanks!!

  • Thanks Rachel!

  • Thanks Social Skelly!! You are very right!

  • Hey Mandy,

    Great post and I see SO many people doing this. The name dropping is starting to become annoying to me. All they want is attention so their stuff can be shared but what are they really accomplishing with it. They definitely aren’t writing for me, their customer, so why do I want to keep circulating the rah rah stuff all over the place.

    I hope that everyone will get this message and become much more clear as to why they are really here. Maybe that’s why so many are trying to outdo themselves. To one up the next guy.

    Bravo to you and to Mark for pointing that out to you. Hey, it just makes you a much better writer and I know your clients will love you even more now.

    ~Adrienne

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  • Thanks Adrienne!! Yes, the name dropping is driving me crazy as well!!

  • Hi Mandy. Thanks for saying this. I’m with you. I only want to write the truth th honestly help people or try to figure out this ever changing field.

    Keith

  • Thanks Keith!

  • Hi Mandy, How brave of you to admit your mistake and share it with others here. Yes, I do see a lot of this and wonder why people keep writing the same old stuff. But I do think it’s tough sometimes to come up with fresh topics to help others.

    I write about personal technology and the equivalent type of post in my niche is rumors about new tech. Write an article about the rumored features of the upcoming iPhone and you will get lots of hits. But you will have helped exactly no one.

  • Hi Mandy,
    No matter your first post was not in accordance but it was quite brave of you to admit your flaws and thus pave the way for other bloggers to wrote something meaningful.

    I am guilty of the sin you mentioned. I have always written to show up those “I know more” muscles. Your post was an eye opener for me and I will soon start writing for my “audiences”.

    Thanks is a small word but Thank you. 🙂

  • Aww, thanks Swadhin!

  • That is true! Thanks Carolyn 🙂

  • Mandy — I found you through Adrienne Smith. I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said. I’ve been thinking about this myself lately and I think I’ve fallen into this trap and now I’m extricating myself. I’ve been too worried about what other bloggers will think of me and my content. I’m not writing for them, darn it. Thanks for this wake-up call and your brutal honesty.

  • Thanks Jeannette!

  • Hi Mandy.

    Found this through a post Adrienne did.

    It’s refreshing to hear someone come out and be transparent. REALLY refreshing. I wrote a post a while ago about ‘Brown Nosed Bloggers’, who were simply posting articles for the sole intention of gaining the attention of ‘authorities/influencers’. Name dropping. Link dropping. Hi-fiving. And all that.

    And they forgot who they were writing for.

    Nice to see your action plan, and thanks for such an honest post.

  • Hi Mandy,

    Good for you! It takes courage to heed advice and change direction when we have become set in our ways. I’m sure, just from reading this post, that you have a lot to offer to your ‘new’ audience by keeping things in the open and being honest and transparent.

    Good luck!
    – David

  • Thanks for being such an inspiration, Mandy 🙂

  • You’re welcome 🙂

  • mark newsome

    Well that certainly took a lot of guts Mandy!

    And truth told, even though this is my very first visit here, you’re probably being way too hard on yourself!

    That’s not to suggest, that maybe after getting some really solid advice from Mark, you definitely saw room for some improvement!

    But I doubt seriously you would put your name on just anything, let alone submit it to a respected source like Mark, for possible guest blogging consideration!

    However, your extremely tough and honest self evaluation, serves notice to all of us!

    We definitely need to have a closer and far more critical look at exactly what we’re doing and why!Thanks!

  • Linda Grunewald

    Hi Mandy-

    I am a newbie just now developing a plan for my social media marketing presence. With all the experts and influencers already out there, I sometimes hear a little voice inside my head saying, “What are you thinking? Why would you want to become the smallest needle in the haystack that no one will probably ever find?”

    But after reading this post, I am more determined and invigorated than ever! Thank you! You made me see that I am on the right path in my thinking of developing something that would appeal to the smaller niche market of businesses I will be trying to locate.

    While I have great respect and have learned a lot from the top dogs in social media marketing, I will not be focusing on what some may consider being politically correct in this industry. I am shooting for a very unique voice with a humorous edge that won’t take itself too seriously but will become a real asset for certain types of businesses.

    If that focus never makes me the most popular kid on the block, so be it. Thank you again for reaffirming just who is most important to impress in this process.

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