News Flash: Not everyone who says they understand or have used social media actually knows what they are talking about.

I know, that’s not much of a news flash for many of us. We’ve been watching as this tremendous growth of social media has created a mass-market of companies selling huge lines of BS to brands who honestly don’t know the right questions to ask. They are like really smooth men with pick up lines that are so brilliant you don’t even see them coming. They know if a company is looking for help with social media, it is likely because they don’t understand it themselves. Therefore, if they talk in buzz words and “fake it ‘till they make it” the company will never realize they are clueless.

This is so prolific you can’t really point a finger in one direction. I’ve seen it with agencies, I’ve seen it within corporations, and I’ve seen it amongst “consultants.”  And honestly, it isn’t that these are bad people per se, they are simply trying to capitalize on a market that is booming and trying to learn as fast as they can. That’s just capitalism taking its natural course. However, it can be really unfair for companies who are placing a tremendous amount of confidence in these providers to not at least have a clear understand of their real capabilities.  Therefore, this post will provide a list of “red flag” pick up lines I’m seeing a lot.

Social Media Red Flag Pick Up Lines

Social media is a great strategy for every company. If you don’t have a social media strategy you will be left behind.

Social media isn’t the “right” answer for every company. There are several factors to consider before diving into a social media strategy. Do you have the resources to support a social media strategy for the long-term? Are there natural places within your current marketing strategy where social media can be integrated? Are there conversations happening about your industry already?

You must have a presence on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and…

There is no magic list of social media channels that applies to every company and industry. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are not the end all be all of social media and for many companies they are the “wrong” places to be. The big question here is whether or not your audience is actually “participating” in a social media channel. If they are which ones are they using? The reality is that for many industries Facebook and Twitter are not the right channels, but represent a drain on resources that could be better allocated to social media sites where their audience actually participates.

We will manage your entire social media presence for you…it’s effortless for you

There are definitely companies that will do this for you, but it raises a huge red flag. Social media isn’t about pushing out a bunch of marketing messages, it’s about engaging in conversation.  Who would you allow to have a direct conversation with your customers and prospects? What kind of training is involved before you let someone pick up the phone for the first time? Allowing a social media provider to manage all of your social media channels without active engagement and commitment from your team to support them can be disastrous.

We developed a strategy for Company X that led to over a bazillion fans

Anytime a provider uses the number of fans or followers or views as a gauge for the success of a campaign, I throw up a little in my mouth.  Were the fans and followers relevant to the company? Did the people who viewed your video do anything as a result? Did any of these people do anything that actually contributed to the financial goals of the company?

We have an experienced social media team

Unfortunately, this is more often than not a bold faced lie. There aren’t enough people who have successfully created, implemented and measured a social media strategy for a business to work for all of these providers who are making these claims. I’ve seen this range from people who have no “real” experience in social media to a team of fresh out of college “interns” being managed by one person who has a little bit of experience. Make sure to ask exactly who will be working on your account and how much experience “each one” has in social media. Also, make sure to ask what companies they have developed and implemented social media strategies for. You will likely have some junior people in the mix, but you should have at least one who has been in the space long enough to know their elbow from their “rhymes with smash hole.”

Social media is special. Your current marketing strategies won’t work, that’s why you need us.

Social media is another tool in your marketing tool kit. It isn’t any more special that email marketing or paid search advertising. Each one of these requires and understanding of what you want to accomplish and a clear understanding of how it can help you reach your business objectives. Social media isn’t any different. In many cases, social media will compliment your current marketing strategies with a little twist.

Social media is the only marketing strategy you need.

Social media is not a silver bullet. It will not fix problems within your current marketing strategy and quite frankly it is more likely shine a big red light on them. It is also not the “only” marketing strategy a company should use. Good marketing is a combination of smart strategy and well-thought out tactics that are executed within marketing channels where their prospects and customers play. Putting all of your eggs in the social media basket is extremely risky.

If you don’t know a lot about social media and need some help, that’s okay. But make sure you prepare yourself so you hire a solid provider who can contribute to your goals. There are some really solid providers out there if you look hard enough. The best tip I can give you is to ask for specific examples and references. Then actually check them. Otherwise, there are plenty of people who have some great ocean front property in Arizona they’d like to sell you.

Have you heard some really bad social media pick up lines? Are you seeing a lot of social media snake oil out there? What raises a red flag for you? How can you help someone select a legitimate social media provider? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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About Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Susan Gunelius

    “Anytime a provider uses the number of fans or followers or views as a
    gauge for the success of a campaign, I throw up a little in my mouth.” That made me laugh out loud! So true and one of the things that really annoys me. Numbers are meaningless without context.

  • Heather Physioc

    So many snake oil salesmen out there it’s disgusting. My favorite part about this article was the comment about touting the number of fans and followers. Totally agree. So what if you have 8,000 useless followers gathered through garbage methods? Unless they DO something with your brand and complete the desired action(s) you are aiming for, it means exactly zilch. That’s another thing I would add to this that probably ties beautifully into point #2 about where to be present in social media – You need to know what you’re doing it FOR. As Avinash Kaushik said “Know what you’re solving for.” Unless you know exactly what you’re aiming for and creating a 2-way conversation that centers around the goals you’re working toward, you’re probably sinking tons of time and money into something that will ultimately do nothing (or very little) legitimate for you. Focus, focus, focus people.

  • Kristen Hicks

    Every time I come across a blog post or article suggesting social media is a necessity for any small business, I can’t help but think of many likely exceptions. What about someone selling used furniture? Are they likely to get a lot of facebook “likes” or new customers via Twitter? There are likely ways for social media to provide value to most businesses, but there are clear limitations that aren’t always addressed in writing on the subject.

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  • Ronnie Charrier

    I just came across your article Nichole and loved the part about watching out for any company that claims “[they] developed a strategy for Company X that led to over a bazillion fans”. So many times we’ve had a client come to us after working an agency or social media “expert” who sold them on guaranteed followers/likes/traffic and the client didn’t realize that these black hat techniques would get them penalized. Great post!