Beware the Social Media Kool-Aid

Kool-Aid by Slambo_42
Kool-Aid by Slambo_42

“Be a little cautious of the social media kool-aid… It does work slowly over time, but if you need to get attention now, you still need to use traditional methods, too. Social media is not a replacement for anything; it’s an add-on, it’s another way of communicating. But don’t leave the other stuff behind, especially if the other stuff works for you still; don’t drop it just because there’s a shiny new object.”

–Christopher Penn, Marketing Over Coffee

Rational, hype-free discussions about social media are difficult to come by, so I was thrilled to discover the Marketing Over Coffee podcast last week, the best of the bunch from the handful I’ve sampled so far, via Lee Oden’s list of Best Podcasts on Social Media. Hosted by John Wall and Christopher Penn, the episodes I’ve listened to so far have been meaty, informative and thought-provoking, and I’ve found myself going through their archives today while doing laundry, as inspired as I was coming out of last week’s Conversational Marketing Summit.

Wall and Penn keep things in perspective by focusing on “both classic and new marketing,” avoiding the social MEdia tendencies of self-promotional, agenda-driven circle jerks that pass for social media “expertise” on blogs, podcasts and Twitter. I’d name names, but it’s easier and far more productive to call out those doing it right.

Among my current favorites for thoughtful marketing insights and commentary are Seth GodinGeoff Livingston, Jane Friedman, Amanda Chapel and Patrick Boegel. A few others I don’t always agree with but often spark interesting discussions and are willing to engage include Mack Collier, Lauren Fernandez and Olivier Blanchard.

Who are some of your favorites?

On a related note, I’ve stopped updating the social media backlash on my Attack of the Social Media Gurus post, but rest assured that it continues apace, as a series of tweets I posted on Friday and earlier today showed:

  • Social media evangelists love hype and loose “metrics” — great for speaking and consulting gigs; lousy long-term strategy. #smfail
  • RT @jacobm: msg to all SM consultants, stop coming up with diff bullshit definitions for ROI that have nothing to do w/ $$ #smfail (yes!)
  • RT @MackCollier: Check out @griner’s preso on creating a social media strategy: http://is.gd/PhsD (practical, focused, hype-free; kudos!)
  • RT @GeoffLiving: Ah yes, so true. Social media is dead. Let the debate begin… http://bit.ly/bsHnS (Dead, or just being redefined?)
  • RT @newscientist: Inventor of world wide web says we don’t understand the properties arising from its monstrous size http://bit.ly/UiHRe
  • RT @pblackshaw: “Only 7.4 MM out of the 133 MM blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days.” http://tinyurl.com/lxorso
  • notes: “there are 7-10M active blogs, but it’s probably between 50-100k that are generating most of the page views.” — http://bit.ly/aLg66
  • social media = indie film: everyone thinks they have an interesting story; 98% are wrong, and most won’t follow through anyway.

There’s no question that social media will play an important role for publishers, marketers and consumers in the months and years ahead, but we all need to be careful about drinking too much of that unnaturally sweet Kool-Aid. Keeping it all in perspective is the key to not giving in to the fool’s gold rush mentality, falling prey to scoundrels selling fake maps, fattening their wallets on the conference circuit by playing upon people’s desire to have a voice and be heard, and traditional marketers’ relative ignorance of the terrain.

Published by

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

As in guillotine. Old/new media pragmatist. Sometimes loud, one-time poet, still opinionated. Reading, writing, running, gaming, soccer, beer.

6 thoughts on “Beware the Social Media Kool-Aid”

  1. Great post! I've been a fan of Marketing Over Coffee for a long time, and look forward to checking out some of the other people you mention that are new to me. In book publishing, which tends to be behind the curve in consumer marketing in many ways, there is an increased danger of looking for quick results because traditional methods are not providing the returns that they once did. Patience is key, as @chrispenn suggests, and that will only pay off if publishers avoid the “campaign” approach — short term bursts of social media attempting to go “viral” on a single book. Rather, I think the approach should be to listen to consumers, build relationships among readers and influencers, and work to connect authors with readers.

  2. Whether it's publishers, authors or booksellers, connecting with a community is critical to their long-term success. Publishers especially need to break away from the notion that they're in the book business and instead, as Tor's Pablo Defendi noted at BEA, become idea advocates.

    Imprints need to be about more than ego-mania, representing something clear and distinct, and the authors they publish need to accept equal responsibility for developing their platform by becoming valued contributors to the communities they're seeking to represent. Similarly, indie booksellers need to stop acting like they're entitled to their communities' business and add value to the book-buying experience, a la Amazon's virtual community engagement features.

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