On Saturday at BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Los Angeles, I gave a talk called, “This is all such bullshit.” Admittedly, it was a clever title intended to separate my keynote from others and attract a good crowd, but the point of the hour was to encourage business owners, marketers and bloggers to take responsibility for the advice the use from people like me. In a way, I was calling B.S. on myself in one regard.

The three outstanding points I made all coalesced against one main philosophy: You can’t always trust experts, data, the media or other sources of information. With the advent of self-publishing in the 1980s and its online cousin blogging in the 1990s and 2000s, anyone can produce media. The difference is that 20 years ago that media was typically vetted by editors and producers hoping to abide by noble practices of journalism and deliver fair and balanced information to a puppy-dog like public audience.

Technology now allows any random person to publish what they want, but we the consumer haven’t adjusted. We’re still apt to pant and chase the stick without properly vetting the information we receive. Sure, we can choose which news sources to trust, but even today’s news sources, in their thirst for ratings, are seldom fair and balanced. Why have we not caught up?

You’ll see from my slides that I talked about listening to social media advice, reading statistics disseminated by software companies and then even listening to conventional wisdom. The main points:

  • Social media (or any other type of expert) advice is only good if you apply it to your situation. Put it in context. Best practices aren’t always best practices for you, your audience, your environment.
  • Statistics you see on infographics or blog posts from companies trying to get you to download white papers and register for their services are not to be confused with fact. Statistics are a starting point for asking questions, not answers.
  • Conventional wisdom, like the fact that printing this blog post hurts the environment, isn’t always wisdom. North American paper companies plant four times as many trees as they harvest and, as such, are some of the most environmentally friendly and reforestation-driven companies in the world. Don’t let one side of the aisle tell you the other is bad without investigating the claims.

All of my questions of experts, statistics, the media and more may come across as sounding bombastic and even aggressive. This is probably just because using the exclamatory and admittedly crude label of “bullshit” brings with it those connotations.

But understand that I use it as an interjection more than an attitude. What my questions are intended to be are thoughtful inquiries to ensure we’re thinking the topics through well enough to discern information and put it to good use. My hope is that I’m criticizing ideas, not people, though the inability for most people to interpret tone in the written word prevents some from seeing that.

The intention is to offer civil discourse around the advice, statistics, insights and attitudes often given us as fact or rules. Without asking questions, exploring the validity of such information and applying our own context to it, we fail ourselves and our audience.

Asking better questions is a fine way to ensure that we’re continually improving as business owners, marketers and people. Asking better questions can change the world. An example I used Saturday was to encourage parents, rather than asking, “What did you learn in school today?” to instead offer this question:

“What would you like to learn tonight?”

It changes the game.

So what questions will you ask today? How much deeper will you go in your understanding of the advice you hear, statistics you analyze or attitudes you’re subjected to? The comments, as always, are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls 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 Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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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?

  • http://twitter.com/DianeStresing Diane Stresing

    YES! Thank you for calling it. In my opinion, a journalism degree has never been more valuable – precisely because it teaches us to ask the right questions, to look at “answers” from multiple perspectives. As the publishing world changes, the difference between quality and crap will be decided in the editing process…as it really has been in the past, but now, writers have a choice about whether to edit well, edit badly, or not at all.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Yep. One of the things I said Saturday was that there’s great benefit in good journalism and we’re all suffering from the scarcity of that compared to our source these days.

  • http://twitter.com/DianeStresing Diane Stresing

    YES! Thank you for calling it. In my opinion, a journalism degree has never been more valuable – precisely because it teaches us to ask the right questions, to look at “answers” from multiple perspectives. As the publishing world changes, the difference between quality and crap will be decided in the editing process…as it really has been in the past, but now, writers have a choice about whether to edit well, edit badly, or not at all.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Yep. One of the things I said Saturday was that there’s great benefit in good journalism and we’re all suffering from the scarcity of that compared to our source these days.

  • http://YourStressMatters.com Dr. Rae

    Bravo Jason…  today’s stress/growth question for me is:  what am I going to learn to fulfill my dreams, and my destiny to gain deeper collaborations with trusted advisors?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great question!

      • http://YourStressMatters.com Dr. Rae

        Thank you, very kind of you to say Jason!

  • http://YourStressMatters.com Dr. Rae

    Bravo Jason…  today’s stress/growth question for me is:  what am I going to learn to fulfill my dreams, and my destiny to gain deeper collaborations with trusted advisors?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great question!

      • http://YourStressMatters.com Dr. Rae

        Thank you, very kind of you to say Jason!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing this Falls! Wish I had been in LA this weekend. Another question worth asking as a parent (and one I ask regularly) is “what would you like to teach me tonight?” Gets kids talking about their day (at least a little) while sharing and reinforcing knowledge again.

    In terms of the idea of experts I put more weight on who has tried the most rather than who professes to know the most. Give me the person with the dirtiest lab coat.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good stuff Kev. Thanks for chiming in!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing this Falls! Wish I had been in LA this weekend. Another question worth asking as a parent (and one I ask regularly) is “what would you like to teach me tonight?” Gets kids talking about their day (at least a little) while sharing and reinforcing knowledge again.

    In terms of the idea of experts I put more weight on who has tried the most rather than who professes to know the most. Give me the person with the dirtiest lab coat.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good stuff Kev. Thanks for chiming in!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing this Falls! Wish I had been in LA this weekend. Another question worth asking as a parent (and one I ask regularly) is “what would you like to teach me tonight?” Gets kids talking about their day (at least a little) while sharing and reinforcing knowledge again.

    In terms of the idea of experts I put more weight on who has tried the most rather than who professes to know the most. Give me the person with the dirtiest lab coat.

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Slide 26 is hilarious!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thank you, thank you very much. Tip your wait staff. I’m here ’til Sunday. Heh.

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Slide 26 is hilarious!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thank you, thank you very much. Tip your wait staff. I’m here ’til Sunday. Heh.

  • http://www.blurbpoint.com/link-building-services.php Link Building Services

    Great sharing! After reach at some high , asking the questions be the next path to reach at more high. But after knowing the answers one has to start work out on it in right direction that is the way of the success. And path of success never ends , its so long path till the whole life.

    • http://www.visibletechnologies.com Jackie Kmetz

      This comment makes for an interesting tongue twister.  Try to read it out loud…

  • http://www.blurbpoint.com/link-building-services.php Link Building Services

    Great sharing! After reach at some high , asking the questions be the next path to reach at more high. But after knowing the answers one has to start work out on it in right direction that is the way of the success. And path of success never ends , its so long path till the whole life.

    • http://www.visibletechnologies.com Jackie Kmetz

      This comment makes for an interesting tongue twister.  Try to read it out loud…

  • http://www.visibletechnologies.com Jackie Kmetz

    Once again, spot on Jason.  Wish I could have heard your presentation that went along with the slides.  The beauty of numbers is that you can spin them any you want.  At least without the right questions to define the context and relevancy of them.  I think that social media as an industry has at times taken a bit too much leeway with the numbers and churning the hype.  But just as in any other aspect of life, it’s buyer beware.  Make sure you understand what things mean, why they are important to you and what you can do with it of value.

    BTW, I was so hoping that I’d see random factoid like “43.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot” in your slides.

  • http://www.visibletechnologies.com Jackie Kmetz

    Once again, spot on Jason.  Wish I could have heard your presentation that went along with the slides.  The beauty of numbers is that you can spin them any you want.  At least without the right questions to define the context and relevancy of them.  I think that social media as an industry has at times taken a bit too much leeway with the numbers and churning the hype.  But just as in any other aspect of life, it’s buyer beware.  Make sure you understand what things mean, why they are important to you and what you can do with it of value.

    BTW, I was so hoping that I’d see random factoid like “43.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot” in your slides.

  • http://www.i95dev.com Henry Louis

    It is interesting to read. There are many good points are mentioned. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.i95dev.com Henry Louis

    It is interesting to read. There are many good points are mentioned. Thanks for sharing.

  • Webwordslinger

    True expertise is understanding what clients want. SEOs can provide instruction and education on site optimization but only the client/site owner provides the most desired action of site visitors. Only then does on- and off-site SEO expertise have value.

    Most site owners want to know enough to make good business decisions but they don’t want to know enough to optimize a web site. That’s why they pay us.
    PL 

  • Webwordslinger

    True expertise is understanding what clients want. SEOs can provide instruction and education on site optimization but only the client/site owner provides the most desired action of site visitors. Only then does on- and off-site SEO expertise have value.

    Most site owners want to know enough to make good business decisions but they don’t want to know enough to optimize a web site. That’s why they pay us.
    PL 

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