In 1964, Beat Generation poet and then newly-crowned author du jour Ken Kesey packed a merry band of friends into a van and led the group across the U.S. en route to the New York World’s Fair. Tripping on LSD most of the way, the Merry Pranksters set out to enlighten America. Incredibly, though stopped by police on several occasions, according to a new documentary film about the journey called Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place, they were never arrested. Kesey’s friend Neal Cassady, who was the inspiration for Jack Keroak’s On The Road protagonist Dean Moriarity, drove the bus and would fast talk his way around the law enforcement officers.

Remember, this wasn’t deep into the hippie era in the U.S. Some would argue this particular bus trip was the first real exposure to what hippies would become that much of America had ever seen. So when the police pulled the bus over, there wasn’t an automatic level of suspicion about pot or LSD or kids doing drugs. Besides, LSD was still legal then. The bus occupants were an eclectic bunch from California armed with movie cameras. “We’re making a movie,” was probably all the excuse Cassady needed to use to get around many unsuspecting law enforcement officers in that era.

Buy This Book! No Bullshit Social Media

Similarly, when social media’s early pioneers, only a few of whom I suspect of illegal drug use (joke), stood on their virtual pedestals and preached on and on about how the new world of marketing was all about conversation and engagement, many of us were razzle-dazzled by the potential of fulfilling the Cluetrain vision. Brands could become one again with the people. Perhaps even get on a bus, drink drug-laced Kool-Aid and enlighten the world.

While I didn’t live through the 60s, my parents were in the middle of it. Perhaps I am a direct result of them. Still, I wasn’t there. It’s hard for me to opine on what did or did not happen and why. But taking the pragmatists view that the grand bus trip that was the Beat and Hippie Generations was less about enlightenment and more about getting high, one can see the world of social media as less about enlightenment and more about playing online all day.

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit snarky.

Like the police officers duped by Kesey’s merry band of Beats, businesses from the initial inklings of social media’s priests and prophets until recently have failed to see through the bullshit. Engagement, conversation, listening … all well and good, but where’s the other half of the equation? Where’s the money? Where’s the revenue? Where’s the business?

Certainly, there are dozens of companies who have seen the light, or gotten lucky with the opportunities, and have recorded social media successes. The Dells and Southwest Airlines of the world are to be commended for early adoption and visionary activation. But the vast majority of businesses are better trained cops. They still see social media as bullshit.

If only someone could convince business owners, small and large, marketing managers and the like that when you add the word “marketing” to the phrase “social media” it is not only about conversation and engagement, but also about business, the industry could continue to grow, perhaps more rapidly. Erik Deckers and I have (humbly) tried just that with our upcoming book No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing . In it we recognize the genuine and genuinely accurate recommendations of the purists. But we also see through the fast-talk, smoke screen.

It’s not about playing online all day. It’s not a virtual commune where we all get enlightened. It can be a market. And goods and services can be bought and sold there. Companies are welcome, but if they play by the rules of the road, as it were.

For many of the puritanical themes, Erik and I spot the bullshit. In order to help you do the same with the consultants, agencies and experts you’re dealing with as you navigate the road of social media enlightenment, here are some warning signs you might have a bullshit artist at play:

10 Ways To Spot The Bullshit In Social Media Vendors

  1. It only takes them 15 seconds of the first answer to mention Twitter.
  2. They talk continually about “conversation” “listening” and “engagement” but never define what those are or what it means for your company to practice them.
  3. They fumble around, covering their tracks with ministerial-type rants about customer service when you ask them how social media can drive revenue.
  4. They talk about “the rules” of social media marketing.
  5. They only produce case studies everyone knows — Dell, Southwest Airlines, Comcast — and can’t cite local or small-business case studies readily.
  6. Their references don’t include businesses they’ve activated a social media strategy or tactic for.
  7. They talk of “building community” but focus the conversation on social networking software (Ning, Jive, etc.) rather than communications strategies that will foster community among your customers.
  8. When you ask about your website or search engine results they say neither have anything to do with social media.
  9. When you ask how they do market research they answer, “I use Google.”
  10. Just as you get to the desire to reduce customer acquisition cost, their eyes glaze over and the check their phone for messages.

We’re sure you have more ideas on how to spot the bullshit. The comments are yours.

For a free chapter of No Bullshit Social Media, jump over to the book website and download away! While you’re there, be sure to pre-order your copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million or Que Publishing.

And order a couple extra for those bullshit-sensitive friends and clients. We’d be honored if you did.

Your pre-orders should arrive in late September.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

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?

  • http://twitter.com/HeyAdamE Adam Eckhardt

    Great post, very well written Jason!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Adam!

  • http://womeninbusinessradio.com Michele Price

    Jason I love it!  We can discuss some of these today on Breakthrough Business Strategies radio. I can see a few things here that I would be hesitant to talk about too much with clients as they want to “pull out of you”  your knowledge (which is what consultants sell). Like a doctor and lawyer they want arm chair advice so they do not have to come see us as professionals. 

  • http://twitter.com/socmediacurator Mtn Jim Fisher

    I think we all need a good social media bullshit detector!  Thanks Jason, looking forward to the book.  Just pre-ordered the Kindle edition.

    Mtn Jim
    Legendary Social Media Curmudgeon

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Big thanks, Jim!

  • http://www.factotumep.com Erin Feldman

    Great list! Thanks, Jason.

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

    Lookin’ forward to reading your book Jason!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=825970334 Annie Pettit

    LOVE this one. It is oh so very true. :)
    When you ask how they do market research they answer, “I use Google.”

  • http://twitter.com/jwongjk Jan Wong

    I find this post very relevant to the social media scene today. “I use Google” cracked me up. These are 10 sure signs to spot for in a social media ‘guru’!

  • http://twitter.com/SocialMMMDiva Karen RogersRobinson

    A good start to a long list!

  • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

    I love lists like this, because it helps agencies trying to assist clients with social media realize where they might be weak, and validates that what they are already doing is on track.

  • http://twitter.com/roundpeg Lorraine Ball

    I would add:  They push a package which includes equal doses of LinkedIN, Twitter and Facebook, regardless of your industry or target market.

  • Anonymous

    Snarky is one of my favorite words – along with being one of my more defining characteristics. Love calling bullshit when required as well. Great post…oh, did I mention Twitter on Google+ where I am currently building community? Just checking :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10618874 Chase Sherman

    Here’s one:

    They try to sell you on the need for a blog than up-charge you an unethical amount of money to ‘get it set up’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10618874 Chase Sherman

    Here’s one:

    They try to sell you on the need for a blog than up-charge you an unethical amount of money to ‘get it set up’.

  • Hal

    You’re right – those are exactly the 10 most typical ways to spot a social media b.s. hyper.  Here’s the problem with that though: you point it out accurately in a general way, then you continue to enable it on the other hand by not calling out any of the specific people who do that.  In fact, you protect them and, in your own words, at least one such is your “good friend”. In other words, what you really prefer to do is social media platitudes.  I don’t number hucksters amongst my friends, so I guess I don’t understand how you do your type of compartmentalization between talking one talk and walking a very different walk. 

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Hal, I don’t call people out specifically because it’s mean-spirited and unnecessary. Plus, it’s awfully presumptuous to do so if I don’t know their experience, background, etc., myself. The tips are there to let people decide for themselves with people they encounter.

      And the “good friend” reference you make is not mentioned or relevant to this post.

      • Hal

        Yet the people I reference have themselves long been what you call mean-spirited in their attacks on conventional print media – specifically in the travel category I specialize in. Pot and kettle, I guess.  Nor is there any way to make a substantial case for those “10 Ways..” unless you do in fact get specific.  Anyway, I’m tweeting it out and naming names there in Twitter…Isn’t it great how you can drive new following in Twitter?

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Well, I suggest you take that up with the people you reference. The 10 ideas above need to be applied to individuals by individuals, not in public on a blog. That would be mean-spirited and unnecessary. And if you’re calling people out as you indicate, my only response would be that it says more about you than them. Good luck.

          • Hal

            In other words, your book lacks all credibility because it lacks any genuine substance.  Those “10 Ways…” are methods that do not exist in a vacuum, as you very well know, Jason.  They exist because particular individuals propagate them.  And what could be more “public” than a book?  It says more about me that I have integrity on the issue but all you care about is selling a book for the moolah that basically just tries to leverage controversy but doesn’t really take any stand. 

          • Hal

            Oh, and P.S.: the “good friend” I reference is totally relevant to this post, but that’s your choice for covering up for her SM charlatan outfit down in Roundrock, TX. 

          • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

            Okay. Thanks for the comment.

          • Hal

            Oh you’re welcome, and it looks like your pal the Bullshit Queen of RoundRock is proud of her B.S. too.

          • Hal

            Oh you’re welcome, and it looks like your pal the Bullshit Queen of RoundRock is proud of her B.S. too.

  • http://twitter.com/shivi_marketing shivigonesocial

    A check-list probably every company should keep when hiring a social media vendor. If not, then  talking only about ROI will help in clearing the air…and give clear understanding about the vendor:P

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  • http://twitter.com/AQTobias Andrea Tobias

    Enjoyed your Top Ten list so much that I just ordered a copy of the book from Amazon. Looking forward to finally reading a book on social media that’s palpable and straight forward. Thanks Jason.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Big thanks, Andrea! I hope you enjoy the book and get a lot out of it. Looking forward to your feedback!

  • Anonymous

    Jason,

    I’m scheduled to be part of a B2B panel at a September social media conference in Atlanta. I think I’ll contribute more to the actual conversation by nailing your list to the wall as a reminder of what not to talk about. And I’ll keep looking at my watch for several minutes before saying a word about twitter too.

    Thanks, I look forward to reading the book. Placing my pre-order now.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      You rock, Billy! Thanks!

  • http://clarkkentslunchbox.blogspot.com/ R_Mattocks

    I have much to learn. Very much looking forward to this book. 

  • Ron

    WOW!!  I read the Ten Points, along with your Comments and right away “Mr. UN-Everything” and HIS “Un-Book” came to mind. I WAS going to buy it until I read a few Professional Reviews. “No real Substance”, “Leads you there and then leaves you hanging”, “Lots of Social Media, SELF Proclaimed Sickness, but NO  Cures!”, “More Flim Flam by Mr. Flim Flam! Notice I didn’t put an UN- in front of that!.”

    (Best One) “The Publisher of this “Book” W—-, will put out pretty well anything. In this case they made a BIG Mistake!  NO Prior To Success, Research on this guy. When, and If anyone does that, what they discover will be UN-Believable!! Does “A Path of Destruction and Chaos.” to get where Un-He is, tell you anything?”

    Why so much Detail Jason? Try this…… (Self Proclaimed) “The WORLDS Leading Expert on Social Media Marketing.”  Would you call that an “UN-God Complex?” 

    Thank you for this Blog Jason. Maybe a few Thousand “Tweeter Sheeple” will “Look Past” what they THINK is Reality!! Books such as Yours MIGHT help them do that!! It’s a “Must Have!!”

    Your Ten Points & Dialogue ….NAILED IT!!! 

    Yes. I realise you’ll probably remove this. BUT!! As you’ve politely said, The Disease is widespread and it’s getting worse by the day.  SILENCE will NOT help stop it!!

    With All Due Respect:  Ron

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the comment, Ron. Not sure if I agree with those other reviews of the certain book you’re talking about, but thanks for at least masking the comments a bit. I’ve got no problem with you reporting that. Thanks for the enthusiasm.

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