December 21, 2014

Ten Reasons I Won’t Use Social Media Sites

Editor’s Note: Most articles about using social networking websites are enthusiastically positive. Today I thought it would be great to examine both sides of the coin, with two articles with opposing viewpoints. One article points out the positive advantages of social media. The other article, below, is from John L. Mariotti, whose position on social media is, well, not so positive. And I think John’s viewpoint represents the view of the vast majority of businesspeople today — they aren’t ready to drink the Kool-aid on social media sites just yet (maybe never). — Anita Campbell, Editor

By John Mariotti

Point - Counterpoint on Social Media - AgainstIn spite of the fact that I have always been an early adopter of new technology — or communications-based tools, social media turns me off. When I think about why, at least 10 reasons come to mind.

I have signed myself onto a couple in their early stages — at the urging of friends — and that’s when I realized why I wouldn’t have anything more to do with them, at least until they get much further down their evolutionary trip and improve measurably. Here’s why:

1. Social Media/Networking is an invitation to at best, uncontrolled and permanent over-exposure, and at worst, identity theft or misuse.

2. All of us are drowning in a tidal wave of complexity already, and these social networking sites make this complexity worse by an order of magnitude.

3. Social networking is in the evolutionary stage, and as such, all of the sites that exist now will change, evolve become either more useful and secure or go away. The lessons are there in recent history: Compuserve, early versions of AOL, Prodigy and all the other now defunct or otherwise transitory Internet, email or proprietary Web systems

4. Just when a lot of people learn to use one of the social networking sites/systems, someone will come up with a newer, better, cooler or more fashionable one.

5. Security of social networking sites is as great a risk as passing business cards around in a busy bar. No matter how many times the site owner/operator promises your information will be protected, secure, etc., the lure of money will make them liars. Someone will buy the site for the contacts that come with it — period. Then they will sell those lists to as many people and companies as will pay for them, to do whatever they wish with them.

6. There are many other, more focused ways of networking and marketing instead of placing your identity, your information, photos, etc. in the public — very public — domain.

7. Real business people realize that this social networking trend is superficial. True relationships may originate in email or other similar venues, but must become personal and not electronic to be of meaningful value.

8. The hassle of meddling with your computer and the so-called “easy to use” interfaces of such social networking sites is far too great compared to the complexity it adds.

9. When I want to expand my network, I want to choose who will be involved and know that their involvement is willing and enthusiastic — not the result of an email and a few clicks of the mouse.

10. I am simply too busy to meddle with something that is at least largely populated with people who have nothing better to do with their time, or others who think is it somehow an easy way to really be connected to a lot of people.

Nothing good comes easy. If this were all it took, everyone in the world would be connected to everyone else in the world and it would all be such a wonderful place.

Perhaps in the near future someone will figure out Osama bin Laden’s email address and ask him and/or his cohorts to be our friends on Facebook or My Space, or some new, as yet unnamed network.

4 Better, Safer and More Personal Alternatives to Social Media

Face-to-face, person-to-person contact is always best, especially at the start, and there are so many ways and places to find that preferred “human network.”

This can be supplemented later by email contact and Web-based communications. Learn about a person by having them tell you, not reading it on some social network where everyone, and anyone can see it, misuse it, etc. There are literally dozens of ways to connect that are better than “Social Media” on the Web — here are 4:

  • Contacts made through professional societies and their meetings. Consider having business cards just for these kinds of events. If your existing business card only has your company name and contact info, consider creating similar business cards that you can print yourself (templates here) that outline specific benefits that you offer to that particular audience.
  • Networking through current and former colleagues, friends and neighbors. The people you know are like your very own “Sales Force.” So give them a little “tech sheet” on who you are and what you offer. Develop a Referral Guideline (Referral Guideline template) — this is a terrific piece of information that you can review with the people you network with. It will tell them who you are, what sets you apart, who your ideal client is and things these people might say that will trigger them to think of you.
  • Join and participate in clubs. Network through clubs such as: Investment clubs, book clubs, sports fan groups, computer clubs, neighborhood organizations, Alumni and other college organizations, service and community organizations such as Rotary and your local Chambers.
  • Conferences and round-tables that deal directly and indirectly with related topics to your work. Have something ready to hand out at these events. Perhaps a simple flyer or even a book or presentation (templates here) that you can create yourself.

And, when you are face to face, you’ll seldom find a 50-year old man representing himself as an 18-year old man — or woman or vice versa. The social fabric of a community and our country depends on these kinds of human connections.

The key is to be prepared both with your message, your involvement and with information about who you are and what you offer.

Other, More Profitable Mainstream Marketing Options

As I was putting this article together, Anita asked me what I would say to a Marketing Vice President who came to me and said that we needed a social media strategy such as using Twitter or Facebook. I’d say something like “You’ve completely lost it!” And then I’d start looking for a new VP of Marketing.

Here are other marketing options that are tangible and measurable, that I would want to see instead:

  • Creative 3-dimensional direct mail. When you have a “finite” group of customers, meaning that you know who they are and there are fewer than 1000 companies or people, then direct mail is a terrific option. Segment your customers into smaller groups and then create a direct mail strategy that builds interest and relationship while communicating the specific benefits you offer.
  • Create Selling Kits and tools that make it easier for sales people to communicate the benefits you offer. These might include customer quizzes or “tests” that help customers choose which options are best and help move the sales conversation along, or samples of actual products that customers and see, touch, taste or smell. If you have a product that lends itself to demonstrations, think about videos or interactive DVDs.
  • Pre-Trade Show Program. By now, just about everyone is doing pre-trade show mailings to invite attendees to your exhibit. In what ways can you put a spin on that? Choose a theme for your exhibit early and then build interest, excitement and involvement with direct mail. Plan an event during or after each day at the show to give customers the opportunity to interact and learn in a less formal setting.
  • Re-evaluate and optimize your Web site. The whole point of the Web is to constantly update and change content. I would want to see an analysis and benchmarking of our current Web use, traffic and ROI, and I would also like to see options for improvement. Update the copy to reflect current hot-buttons and keywords that customers will be searching for. Include an appropriate blog that builds manageable relationships

I recognize that the marketing landscape is changing. I love and embrace new technology — but for the sake of profitable business and not because it’s a shiny new toy. It’s easy to get caught up in complexity and we know that complexity increases costs and cuts profits.

So, you won’t see me adopting anything until I’m convinced that it is controlled, profitable and safe.

* * * * *

John Mariotti About the Author: John L. Mariotti is President and CEO of The Enterprise Group — Time-shared Executive Advisors. He was President of Huffy Bicycles, Group President of Rubbermaid Office Products Group, and now serves as a Director on several corporate boards. Mariotti has written eight business books and a novel. He has been a conference keynote speaker, a radio talk-show host, and a multi-national columnist for IndustryWeek, Management Centre Europe, the American Management Association, Fortune Small Business, Tiempo de Mercadeo, and a contributor to Business — The Ultimate Resource and the Encyclopedia of Health Care Management. His electronic newsletter THE ENTERPRISE is published weekly. His Web site is www.mariotti.net.

74 Comments ▼

John Mariotti


John Mariotti John Mariotti is an internationally known executive and an award winning author. In The Chinese Conspiracy he merges a fictional thriller with factual reality of America’s risk from Cyber-Attacks. John does Keynote speeches, serves on corporate boards and is a consultant/advisor to many companies.

74 Reactions

  1. I agree with the time-wasting component and the “who are these people I am connecting with”, aspect. But great connections can be made and in the younger generations it is commonplace to have social networks be the center of communications. Also, using social networks costs zilch, the other solutions you suggest are expensive and don’t guarantee results. Since admittedly you don’t think social networks are where they need to be implies that they are going to be useful as they mature. I for one will put my money on pinging and being pinged over putting my money into a selling kit.

  2. And you will undoubtedly be busy as can be, communicating with people you don’t know, and you aren’t even certain they are who they say they are, or how it will lead to anything but “pen pals.”

    In the end, your activity level will be high and your results level will be low–or zero. If you don’t believe me, try it. You’ll love the contacts it seems you are building. but see how many of they lead to any business or profit. The most communicative will be the least productive.

    The early days of the Internet proved that you can accumulate a lot of clicks and no profits. Have fun, at least, but don’t give up your “day job.”

  3. Hi John,

    “4. Just when a lot of people learn to use one of the social networking sites/systems, someone will come up with a newer, better, cooler or more fashionable one.”

    LOL – how true! I want to learn something beneficial from a social networking sites or two, and voila! hundreds of sites popping out with the same/similar service that I can’t tell which is more beneficial and suitable for me than the other.

    Good one!

  4. Hey John,

    Nice counter to the social networking hype machine, but I believe the truth lies somewhere in between. The old “garbage in, garbage out” phrase applies here as well – it depends which networks are used for which purpose.

    Let’s take their use from a marketing perspective. You talk about “communicating with people you don’t know, and you aren’t even certain they are who they say they are, or how it will lead to anything but “pen pals.” First, that assumes people are using social networks to build tenuous relationships with people they don’t know. I’m not convinced that’s true. But let’s talk about an example where that exact approach is being used successfully – music artists on MySpace. The platform supports word of mouth marketing that leads to demand generation in a way that was simply not cost effective prior. Add the near-zero marginal cost of distribution for those kind of products, and the platform is a phenomenal tool.

    Now granted, most small business owners aren’t musicians. But what about those of us in the professional services field who’ve been successfully using LinkedIn for a few years now? I can tell you that my firm received more inbound sales from LinkedIn than any marketing lever apart from word of mouth. Part of the reason this works is that we only use the social network to strengthen or rebuild existing or prior relationships.

    I have yet to find a practical business application for Facebook or Twitter, but that may be a function of the business I’m in. I can image why Twitter appeals to bloggers – is it not basically a real-time CRM tool to help drive traffic, which translates into revenue for those entrepreneurs?

    I guess my main point is that I’d like to see more discussion of specific examples, with real business results, rather than broad, general statements. I won’t speak for all entrepreneurs, but I learn much more from those conversations.

    In the spirit of sharing – here are some examples of things that have and haven’t worked for our firm, Esomnie Software:

    Worked:
    – Building out a robust profile and network on Linked in; I can recall 4 clients who found us when searching for Ruby on Rails expertise and relied on the second degree of separation to a trusted associate
    – Customer research via LinkedIn Q&A; just a much more convenient method to request feedback on a product we were developing at the time; we had 8 people provide in-depth concept feedback within 24 hours.

    Did not work:
    – Creating a company page on FaceBook, when people could “fan” us. Our professional clients tend not to use Facebook for their business relationships and since we’re B2B, that makes it hard.

    Ok, that’s enough opinion from me. Would love to hear some more real world examples.

  5. Good measured response. For every generality, there are exceptions that prove it wrong. I’m certain there are people like you who’ve had good experiences…but note in your case, they were mostly to rebuild or reinforce prior relationships. That could also have been done via email alone, or chat, etc.

    Those who work and live on the leading edge of any creative/technology field will make something useful out of each new concept. That’s how they are founded and grow. My context was the “small buisness” and “practical business” application…where only the minority get any benefits. I have a few friends who swear by the Social Networking sites. … and many more who consider them, as I do, a major risk, and more often a waste of time than a productive use of time.

    Remember, I said I was an early adopter in technology. I am also a pragmatist. As in all things, finding the right balance for you, is the key. Thanks for an insightful comment and useful input.

  6. I have a small business (consists of me and an occasional contractor), and I think social sites could be well suited to someone in my position, if their target market is active online.

    I have no local clients because I live in a small city and my market simply doesn’t exist here. All my clients come from the web, and I’m very busy these days. My most successful marketing tool by far is my blog, but I’ve also seen results from some social sites.

    Good results:

    A Ning-based professional network for people in my niche: I’m finishing a project tomorrow for a client that I got by posting a slideshow on that site. I’ve also gotten new blog readers even though I do almost nothing but post an occasional slideshow. Most importantly, I’ve learned a huge amount about my market by reading their discussions and profiles. Definitely worth the small amount of time it takes.

    Slideshare (a site where you post slideshows): Several new blog readers came from Slideshare, and it has been helpful in spreading my ideas and blog URL beyond my usual haunts on the web. Other people can embed my slideshows in their own blogs or download them for distribution in their business, which is my goal (every slideshow points people to my business and blog). There are many people in my niche on Slideshare, so it’s a free way to reach thousands of prospects using a highly persuasive medium.

    Facebook: I was recently dragged against my will into Facebook. Several people in my niche were using it to organize events I’m part of and I finally joined so they wouldn’t have to email me separately. Two hours after I made my profile public, I was contacted by a potential client. He knew me from my blog, but the impetus to contact me was my appearance on Facebook. My profile on Facebook is a 100% professional page about me; it includes my blog feed and my Slideshare slideshows. I think of it as a tiny satellite of my blog and spend little time there except to check out professional events I’m invited to. So far the potential payoff is greater than the small amount of time I put into it.

    Not good results:

    Twitter: Drove me nuts. Way too much noise came in, and I found I had little to say.

    Stumbleupon: I didn’t give it much of a chance because it seemed like it would be too much work for too little return.

    It’s likely that I’m able to market myself online because businesses in my niche are also very online. We’re all early adopters, and some businesses are entirely virtual.

    Finally, I’d like to point out that a social network doesn’t have to violate your privacy any more than your own website does. I put no more information in my social profiles than is available through my site and blog. Most people who friend me say they’re fans of my blog; they’re all people in my niche.

  7. John, you raise some good points as does the other post.

    However whether you use social media or any other media as a marketing tool or not to me comes down to your target market, their needs and desires and whether this form of media versus other tools is going to support your marketing strategy to achieve your marketing objectives. Just being involved in social media because everyone else is I believe a waste of time. As they say time is money.

    For some business especially if they provide services or have younger consumers as the target market it is worth exploring. I know of a recruitment company that uses Facebook to ensure they keep in touch with potential candidates and understand their needs better. It works for them. I have yet to see though any evidence that this type of media is worthwhile at the moment for a B2B company selling products.

  8. He is right.

    those who are important and well known enough that we most like to network with do not need to be in the social network.

  9. I’m not sure it was mentioned — it may have been and I missed it — but LinkedIn falls under this category and, from what I’ve seen, many, many of the “real” business people have embraced it. At first they wanted to have a non-job site place to store their resume and have an online Rolodex, but now LinkedIn is getting big enough that they’re developing a Groups setting that will promise to connect individuals in even more and dynamic ways. Two or three weeks ago, they were on the cusp of greatly expanding their Groups feature, but before then I have one contact on there that is using it to drive traffic and new signups to her website. In a recent conference call she told me she gets upwards of 200/week, and she only started her group 4 months ago. She will no doubt need to collect more information about all those new people she’s acquired through surveys and contests and the like, so she can target her audience, but I’d say that’s outstanding ROI for “email and a few clicks of the mouse.”

    But, as with many things in business, I recognize that it is certainly not an end-all, be-all solution. The contact I mentioned uses not only many social networking sites to get her name and business out there and recruit people, but she participates in numerous conference calls, webinars and in-person meetings.

  10. John, I agree that if your business is to sell products or services, social media probably won’t bring great results. I think the value in NOT using social media is that your image will remain professional. I would have a hard time taking a larger company serious if I found them on Facebook trolling for customers.

    However, an internet based blog or company may benefit far more by using social media. It is a quick and cheap way to get you exposure and possible contacts.

  11. I don’t know John. I think you’ve confused online dating sites with social networking sites. I also think your view is a tad bit antiquated. Now if you are a small business that has a traditional office and you “go to work” each day, and you aren’t a primary caretaker of children, your ideal world of off-line networking functions, organizations and classes might be practical.

    But the “real world” of small business is changing. I’ve spent the last decade working with small business owners…teaching them how to utilize technology and the Internet to market their businesses. I see people all over the country running virtual offices with anywhere from 2, to a few dozen employees. These companies bill anywhere from half a million a year to several million a year. I’d argue that makes them “real” companies.

    The ones who have taken the time to learn about and to carefully select the social networks they wish to spend time on pull incredible reward from them. Remember that “vouching for someone” works online and offline. I travel once a month to shows around the world. Thanks to social networks, I can keep in touch with the people I meet at these shows and I can then network with the people they know and can vouch for.

    I’ve watched small business owners create a community via Twitter that allows them to bounce ideas off each other, get quick access to info, offer support and close deals. I’ve seen the same happen via LinkedIn and even Facebook.

    I joined Twitter as a skeptic last fall so I could write an article about how I gave it a fair shake and it’s useless. Instead, I churned out a five article series explaining exactly how to leverage Twitter for your small business: http://searchengineguide.com/jennifer-laycock/part-one-from-twits-to-tweeple-why-i-emb.php

    I’m co-owner of a virtual company that does very good business online. Three of us work from virtual offices full time. We also have two part time employees and more than a dozen contractors that work with us. I work from home full time and have two small children. Heading off to breakfast meetings and being involved in the rotary and half a dozen professional organizations simply isn’t feasible for me at this point in my life.

    But thank to my involvement in social networks, I have thousands of contacts around the world, hundreds of which I have now met personally. On top of that, my contacts are not limited by geography which gives me true access to the best of the best.

    I understand the new technology can seem overwhelming and finding the diamonds in the rough can be difficult…but I always thought the thing that really made small business owners stand out was their ability to adapt with the times and to find creative ways to use new technologies. If you find these types of networking options to lack value, it may simply be that you don’t know how to properly use them.

    Or, it may be that they don’t work for you. Either way, I’d hate to see any small business owner pass up the chance to create strong and lasting business relationships via these tools because you convinced them it wasn’t worthwhile. As one of your commenters noted above, the truth is often somewhere in between.

    Social networking is not THE solution to small business life…but hiding in an anti-social networking box isn’t the solution either.

  12. In early 2007 I wrote on my blog that: “I just do not get what the big deal is about Twitter.”

    Today I spend HOURS on the site daily, and have expanded my personal and professional network significantly, and routinely get consulting work and speaking engagements due to the contacts I have made on Twitter. Many coming from people I have never met.

    The mistake I made in early 2007 is the same mistake that some people are apparently making here; I was trying to judge the value of a social site that I didn’t use, and didn’t understand.

  13. John – I hope this doesn’t come across as snarky, but have you spent any time on social networking sites? Your article sounds like it’s a rejection without an investment in understanding what the media can offer.

    There’s no question that a lot of hype has been gassed into this social media/networking bubble, but it’s also a mistake to reject it out of hand. This article sounds a bit like the person who says I hate eggplant without … ever having eaten eggplant.

    Not all social media will work for everyone but there is value in it, especially cementing and expanding connections that due to time or distance can’t be invested in in-person as easily.

  14. It’s wonderful that there are businesspeople like John Mariotti in the world because that leaves more business opportunities for the rest of us who embrace the new business reality that is social networking.

  15. I seem to remember the ‘old-school’ saying having a website was waste of time at too.

  16. The best thing about taking a “polarized position” on a topic is that it stimulates this level of responses with pros & cons. In that way all of us learn what has worked (for some) and what does not.

    As with anything, be focused, be careful and base your future actions on what you learned from the past. The other important point is that if your kind of contacts frequent a site, then it may have merit for you–but not for everyone. Too many social networking sites and contact points creates wasteful complexity in your life–and your business. Focused use of new tools, new sites, and new networks may be effective. Just be careful what you post out there, because unlike a web site you control, you can’t take it back or erase it….it’s out there …ad infinitum.

  17. “Focused use of new tools, new sites, and new networks may be effective.”

    John just curious, which social tools/sites have you personally found the most use from? Which ones did you feel weren’t worth your time, and for what reasons?

    Thanks.

  18. John – You are already involved in social networking – look above – you have 25 responses from people you don’t know. Blogging is a big part of the whole social thing. Social networking is open communication in many forms. The results of which can mean many things depending on your business and station in life.

    You say several times you don’t have time for social networking – but, your article is very long with several sets of bullets numbers etc. So you do have time you just choose when and where to spend it. Whether its blogging, writing a new book, speaking at The University of Akron etc. its up to you.

    Gone are the days when the CEO is some allusive far off guy in the corner office. Social networking is allowing us little people to connect directly with you. The only reason I can now address the CEO directly is because you chose to post to a blog and I chose to comment on it.

    Social networking is leveling the playing field and that may be very awkward for a 50 something successful exec unused to dealing with us little and younger folks.

    Don’t worry John you’re making great progress – blogging is just the first step. We hope to see you asking and answering questions on Linked In within a few months.

    Real business people may not understand social media but you are coming around. Social media gone viral can take an established brand name like Huffy and either build it or smash it in days.

    Best of luck.
    Mark

  19. Ok…now that I’ve started a brushfire…which blogging and social networking are really useful to do…I am going to remind all those who are enamored with each new idea that comes down the line of this. Remember just ten years ago. You know, ancient history–1998 Those were the days of insane stock valuations of Internet startups. If you weren’t somehow involved in them, you were “ancient,” a “Luddite” or some other names I won’t use here.

    Count the survivors (in anything like their original form) amazon, google, yahoo, aol, and a couple of handfuls of others. Make a list of the ones who are dead and gone, absorbed, liquidated, annihilated, and so forth. Start with Pets.com and it’s sock puppet dog. There are remnants of many others embedded in different businesses and owners. What this illustrates is that each new networking and business initiative that is rooted in technology has to go through the stages of euphoria, enthusiasm, acceptance, and then reality. Some are very valuable. Others are a waste of time. Social networking is far more valuable for the social part than the business part. It’s also very risky as the case of the young woman who hanged herself as a result of a MySpace “hoax.”

    For all those whose blood pressure was elevated because of my “polarized position,” I (somewhat) apologize–but it takes an attack, a challenge, etc. to get people to really think about what they believe, find useful or valuable and why. If I accomplished nothing else (other than learning about a lot of new sites I need to check out and evaluate) I got something useful done.

    My whole mission these days is to remind people–in business, and in life–that they are drowning in self-induced complexity. Whether these “social networking sites” (and Linked-In is right on the boundary of a social network site and a business network site) add value depends on your definition of value. What they do add is variety–which can rapidly change to complexity–which will consume your valuable time, energy, money and attention, when it should be directed elsewhere.

    The choice is yours. Choose wisely. Just don’t be blind to the pros and cons on either side of the choice.

  20. “Oknow that I’ve started a brushfirewhich blogging and social networking are really useful to doI am going to remind all those who are enamored with each new idea that comes down the line of this.”

    I think we’ve hit on the heart of the problem here. You are not only making broad assumptions about the social tools and sites, but the people that use them as well.

    And if you had actually taken the time to read the comments, you would have seen that some of us originally shared the same skepticism about these tools that you still do. But we decided to give them a fair shake anyway, and have been amazed at the results.

    You told me that you haven’t even tried Twitter, because it is ‘just too much chatter, not enough useful content’. Have no idea how you would know that without trying it, but…

    The funny thing is, I’ve seen this exact same post left about 20 times over the last couple of years. It starts out as a rant against all the ‘hype’ about social media, and about how it’s all worthless chatter and a fad. After some back and forth in the comments, the author finally admits that s/he has spent little/no time actually using these tools.

    Remember John, safe is the new risky. You think that sticking with what you know and are comfortable with, is safe and a sure bet. The unknown scares you and makes you nervous, so you write it off as worthless.

    That is risky, and I applaud you for being such a daredevil ;)

  21. I think this was a very interesting post, as I read Jennifer Laycock’s post first. Actually, I’m on the fence at this moment as it regards social networking in general. I’ve been on Ryze for many years, and I’ve done business with four people; I paid two, two paid me. I just joined Twitter about 3 weeks ago, and it seems to have coincided with an increase in visitors to both of my blogs.

    Yet, MySpace irritates me because it looks cheap, Facebook in general is only fun because of the Scrabulous game, LinkedIn isn’t really all that easy to develop professional relationships, and things like Friendster,… just throw that stuff away.

    So, you can see why I’m stuck in the middle. If I could have the opportunity to actually talk to more people in some of these social networks, I think I’d be getting more out of them. But I just might be slightly over break even; I’m just not sure.

  22. If I have learned nothing else from all of these replies, it is that there is a wide range of knowledge and success in using social networking sites productively. I guess that means we are all still at different locations on the learning curve. Time to learn more.

  23. I think getting into social media now is a really smart decision for smaller companies. With this growing trend it’s better to familiarize yourself with it now than to pretend it doesn’t exist.

  24. I totally agree, a lot of business people are wasting time on social media, just because it is a hype and they are scared of not being there when it starts rocking..
    Real>/b> businessmen don’t have time for this kind of networking, the members don’t offen respond to your targeting audience neither..

  25. You definitely have to be mindful of the thin line between social networking and “notworking”. But if you go into it with a game plan, and realistic expectations, I think using social media can be a cost-effective way to build meaningful business-based relationships.

  26. I disagree with the point of view that constant change within a certain sphere is a reason not to get involved. If you obeyed that rule, you would have to stop online marketing as well!

  27. Most social networking sites are an utter waste of time. However, some can prove to be helpful in creating business relationships. The one that specifically comes to mind is Linkedin.

  28. Interesting take on social media. Definitely some notable points. Perhaps what I find best summarizes your view is your summary of “Other, More Profitable Mainstream Marketing Options”. It may be no coincidence that two of the strategies listed are almost entirely focused on telling, rather than listening. You’ve covered ‘telling’ with blog posts & interaction at trade shows, but why limit the opportunity to have a dialogue with your network or consumers? The social media trend will undoubtedly be far less about how many friends one can sign up or the niche communities that are created. In the long run this trend only emphasizes our urge to connect with others and have a voice. I am sure that one could argue that the posting of your article, with the ability for readers to respond, may constitute social media on a basic level. If this conversation was happening on MSN, Ning or LinkedIn would it be less valuable?

    *quick note – I’m not a member of or affiliated to any of those social networking sites.

  29. OK – I have not weighed in on this because I’ve written the “pro” article. I wish I could have written the “con” article — as well as John did because he makes some excellent points:

    1. Focus on what matters in your marketing strategy.
    2. Technology is a tool to be used to further your marketing strategy and not complicate your system.
    3. Don’t forget about people and face-to-face interaction. These are irreplaceable.

    Over all – I don’t want all of us to miss the point of this “point-counterpoint” series. These articles were purposely written to show extremed so that we can question ourselves and make sure that we are on track and focused on what matters – and not led astray by cool shiny widgets that don’t achieve our goals.

    Thanks John for putting yourself out there and giving interactive marketers – and small businesses more to chew on and a way to question ourselves as to which strategies are best for us.

  30. John –

    You have created quite a ruckus with this post. Thanks!

    How do you think the Internet has changed the way we interact with our clients? My personal perspective is that many of the old rules have changed. For example, doing business on the web is now much more about competency than referring relationships (No longer “Its not what you know, its who you know”).

    Per many of the responses above, I think people need to adopt an experimental attitude around social media marketing. If you wait too long, you’ll miss the opportunity to participate in the early, more influential conversations.

    BTW – isn’t the exchange we are engaging in right now a form of social media marketing?

    Thanks for the excellent conversation John – and everyone.

    – Skip

  31. The Internet has changed everything–and nothing. The fundamentals remain the same as always, but the Internet has put unprecedented information power and communications speed at our fingertips, wherever we might be.

    Of course we are using a form of social networking. Part of the point of taking an extreme position (like I did) is to challenge everyone to think, and help balance and educate each other. I think a lot of that has resulted. I’ve sure learned a lot. I have many “friends” I’ve never met face to face. I’m not sure I like that sometimes, but it is what it is. (70% of communication is non-verbal–so email, chat, text, postings, etc. omits a lot of our message).

    I wish there were someplace to find a “rating of what sites are best for what purposes” but that sort of thing is seldom available or up to date when a technology is rapidly emerging. Just as there were “Webs” long before the Internet, there were also “networks.” Our challenge is to sort, try, choose and use–but to avoid drowning in self-induced complexity.

    Never before have we been able to reach so many, so quickly, in so many places (and still not know with any certainty exactly who it is we have reached–that’s the disconcerting part). Now the challenge is to learn, search, find and then apply the right new technologies to complement the old fundamentals with new capabilities. It’s an exciting time.

    I recall an ad from a 10 year old TV ad for MCI’s Network. It featured a much younger Anna Pacquin frolicking on a beach and saying somthing like (I’ll paraphrase because I don’t recall the exact words): “There is no ‘there,’ any more; there is only ‘here,’ and we are all ‘here,” with the network.”

  32. Very interesting read. I’m still on the fence. Social Media will probably evolve into something else, but the next think may also evolve, so when is the best time to jump in and follow the trend. I have been meeting more and more people on the internet, building virtual relationships are also valuable .. and you can built more of them.

  33. John-

    Interesting post. However, your arguments do not seem to be very well founded. You speak as if you’ve used social media, and found it lacking. But it sounds as if you’ve never used it at all. I question your authority to post on this topic.

    I own a CPA firm and I’ve used social media tools (such as LinkedIn) to obtain real clients (yes, real business clients see value in social media – trumping your point # 7).

    I use the tools of social media to obtain relationships without abandoning the use of clubs and other face-to-face networking events (which you list as “better alternatives” to social media).

    Social media tools are NOT to be used exclusively, abondoning other viable methods of developing business contacts. I don’t think anyone suggests that.

    And just because things change is no reason not to use them at all (you don’t turn in your new car just because it changes into an older car, do you? – trumping your point # 3).

    I could keep mentioning other points, but I think you knew these comments would be the result of your post. Thanks for stimulating thought. I think you challenged us (those in the social media camp) very well.

    Peace.

    Thanks, Jason M. Blumer

  34. You’ve “broken the code,” and are right in several respects. I have not used it a lot because of issues I discovered in my first few encounters with LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace.

    Some of my points are firm beliefs and others are designed to stimulate responses. I have learned a lot more as a result of posting–including some social networking sites I didn’t even know about.

    Like every new tool or technology we encounter–it is not all bad, nor all good, and there exists a huge variety. Many aspects of social networking are more attractive to small businesses (very low “barrier to entry,” and wide “reach,” for example).

    The best news is that everyone who responded and others who read these posts are now thinking about the relative pros and cons–and we are all better off when we do that.

    My one overarching caution is about social networking’s security–both personal and information–once that genie is out of the bottle, there is no putting it back in.

  35. Thanks for so much for the interaction. Your post did a good job at making everyone think (it made me think and have to defend my position – always a good posture to take!).

    Thanks, Jason M. Blumer

  36. While some of the early social networks were time wasters, I wouldn’t write them all off. We have one in Indy http://www.smallerindiana.com that is a wonderful site, because it combines the on and off line experiences. People who connect on line because of common interests in art and culture, politics or business, extend their meetings off line building the connection.

    The site creates a platform for events and ideas to generate, but the F2F is what makes it truly valuable.

    I think you are missing a huge opportunity by assuming that none of the sites have value.

  37. I thank the author for his comments. Whether you agree with his viewpoint or not, honest opinions need to be expressed in this ‘Free Market’ economy we are participating in. Only then will the evolutionary process yield the hoped for results for those who invest their time and efforts on social marketing.

    In my own humble opinion, social marketing is nothing new. It is new, however, in the way it brands you or your business. Businesses have been branding themselves for as long as mass advertising has been in existence. Why else would businesses spend the astronomical dollars it spends to advertise during the Superbowl?

    “Anything’s easy when you know how!” That’s what a former baseball coach would reply when some players expressed the ‘complexity’ and ‘hassles’ of executing bunts. You see, learning how to bunt is not difficult… unless you really don’t see the value of bunting. I’m sure those players who didn’t see the value in bunting could list at least 10 reasons why they would not employ the bunt in baseball.

    So then, social marketing is easy when you know how. Better yet, social marketing is easy when you know why. Knowing why to do it is as important as knowing how.

    Why Social Marketing?

    Branding! Especially personal branding. Just like those big corporations, the many individuals who aspire to make a decent living marketing on the internet need to brand themselves within their respective markets.

    How?

    Now, there’s a loaded question. Suffice it to say that if your ‘why’ is big enough the how will eventually surrender to your will. If you see the value in something you will do what ever it takes to secure your future.

    But here is a tip for those who are looking for where to place that first step. The appropriate mind-set must be cultivated first and foremost. If you approach social marketing with the mass-advertisers’ mind-set you definitely will not see any value in social marketing. This is not direct marketing. If you are looking for immediate tangible results, I’m talking sales resulting from your marketing within hours or days, forget it! You are definitely not in the correct mind-set.

    Next, you must tailor your marketing for your niche within your market. Sounds simple enough but this fact escapes the notice of those too eager to promote their product or service thinking that the sheer numbers of potential customers will make up for their hasty marketing efforts.

    One last word of advice for those who consider themselves students of online marketing: Target your niche market with tremendous value free of charge without any strings attached. Give them what they seek and what they need by providing information, tips and advice. Just don’t try to promote your product too soon. Develop a reputation as someone who cares about your customers.

    What you get out of ‘Social Marketing’ will be in direct proportion to the value you put out there. At the same time, you will forge new relationships, widen your network and establish a brand for yourself as an expert in your market.

  38. ‘Real business people realize that this social networking trend is superficial’

    Business is about relationships be it monetary or barter thankfully to social media sites I have been able to form many a relationship. I’ve also learned tips and tricks that make my job a little bit easier every day.

    I completely disagree with almost everything in this post. The examples given for a better, safer alternatives are hilarious. Exactly what the old guard would say. Clearly the author does not have his finger on the pulse of the future. This is a turning point in intelligence, either you get it or you don’t and unfortunately most older people don’t get it

    Social media sites are what you make of it. If you look at it as strictly a business tool you will never get it. If you look at it as a social experiment where you can connect with old friends and new you’ll have a better go round. Social site to me are sources of information – inane or not. When I am well informed I can make a better decision on anything in front of me.

    Social media sites are mostly entertainment for me but they are also a learning experience in understanding the varying markets there are out there. As a marketer I need to know what my audience wants and what tools I can use to reach that audience and if sites like Facebook will let me market to whatever audience I want then that is enticing.

    Please keep waving this flag as us younger people are gunning for your job and stating things like this make it easier and easier to usher you out the door:

    9. When I want to expand my network, I want to choose who will be involved and know that their involvement is willing and enthusiastic — not the result of an email and a few clicks of the mouse.

    You’ve obviously not spent much time on social media sites, privacy is always in your control

  39. Great thread!

    I think there are two main issues:

    1. You have to consider your target market – which social media networks are they likely to engage in? What will they expect to find there? How can you connect with them in a meaningful way, and in a way that will stand apart from the masses? And so on. Always address the needs, wants and mindset of your audience.

    2. A small business or sole trader can’t afford to have a presence on ALL social media sites — time is money and time – LOTS of time – is required to set up, orchestrate and maintain social-networking space.

    Not only does each social page require careful planning and plenty of thoughtful, compelling content, it needs someone to watch over it, interacting with your audience and posting new material as and when required.

    The thing is, most solopreneur-owned businesses are set up on billable hours: When I’m not using my time wisely or working on a client, that billable time is lost. Which can be an expensive practice.

    I personally believe you can do a lot better with your time budget by testing and optimising any one marketing campaign at a time – whether online or offline.

    Ultimately, think of social media as you would any other marketing channel; if it is not part of a larger multi-media strategy, then it’s likely to fail. Social networking is not a cause . . . it is the effect of an overall approach.

  40. Tracey’s points are very well taken. The explosion of social networking sites cannot be ignored, but must be kept in perspective.

    But, the name tells it all, these are “Social” networking sites. As in non-electronic networking, social contacts can be a very valuable tool, but they can also be a dangerous diversion and a waste of time if not managed well.

    Lots of good points on this discussion thread. Food for thought for everyone–me included.

  41. The problem here is that it’s hard to keep up with all of the different social media sites. I can imagen it can be a great tool but it’s so time consuming that I prefer the traditional SEO stuff for our e-commerce shops. Video sharing sites are a good tool for us but all of the rest doesn’t bring us any good ROI ….On the other hand, here in Europe, social media isn’t a big thing (yet?)

    dave

  42. Nice post John… I think your point are perfectly valid… no need to give second thought…

  43. One of the biggest problems with social media is fragmentation, too time consuming to manage, update, connect on all of them, even with the aggregation tools.

  44. To stay competitive, companies need to utilize the latest social media tools to help them publicize and connect with their target audience. many companies now use twitter and facebook to connect with their target audience.

    MyPRGenie (www.myprgenie.com) does exactly this–help companies publicize and stay connected to media and their business stakeholders with social media.

  45. Hi John,

    I just found your article while doing some research to prepare for a speaking engagement on blogs and other social media. It is interesting to me to see the evolution over time of the posts on your blog entry.

    Ironically enough, I was at first a bit skeptical about how social media could benefit a business. I then started to implement social media into my offline marketing, and the growth of my network has been so unbelievably phenomenal.

    Not all social networking sites operate the way that an online dating site, or MySpace operates. Take for example http://www.LinkedIn.com or http://www.smallerindiana.com. These sites are geared toward business professionals, and not toward someone looking for the latest song, pictures of their friends’ at parties, etc… When used for business purposes, social networking sites are a professionals best friend.

    What do you do with the business cards that you get from events you attend? Hang onto them, enter them in your CRM, send them a follow up email, and if you don’t meet on a regular basis, that person and that business card just ends up in the archives and collecting dust.

    With social media, the chances of that happening, are not as prevelant. You are able to stay in contact with them, see what interests them, let them learn you and your business… and everything is on a more personal basis. It’s relationship marketing rather than cold hard sales attempts.

    If you haven’t tried it out, I invite you to check out my favorite online community, http://www.smallerindiana.com even if you may not be in Indiana. Participate in discussions, make some new relationships, and offer your expertise! It’s a very welcoming world out here on the web!

    One more thing to check out is Twitter. It is a very easy and time efficient way to notify your network of your latest special, blog post, etc… http://www.twitter.com/nickilaycoax if you’d like to follow me! :)

  46. Wow!

    I agree in some respects, but overall that article is so full of holes, I am amazed the words don’t fall off the page!

    Part of the reason behind an opinion like this is because MySpace ruined it for so many people. I was one of the last people to create a MySpace profile and was totally disgusted when I started getting private messages in my inbox from girls telling me how bored they were and would I come over to this website so she could perform on her webcam for me…

    But giving a sweeping generalization about the whole gamut of social networks is naive if not downright stupid. Twitter is the extreme in the opposite direction. I have found myself making real relationships with people that have translated into business partnerships. Sure there are chain pullers out there, in every network. Thing is, you make use of those that work for you and you relegate the rest to a place to hang your sign telling people who you are, even though you aren’t spending any time there.

    Your goal when networking should be to meetup face to face at some future date. I found it especially cool to have attended some events where people I knew from twitter came to see me and we were like old friends, none of this breaking the ice, because we had already broken the ice on twitter!

    So rather than taking a completely backwards stance on social networks, you should be testing and tweaking strategies to make something work for you. A combination of social and in person networking should be a part of anyone’s business, because you will be that much more effective if you can know a person’s personality before you ever meet them face to face.

    Thanks for a controversial post,

    Micheal Savoie
    http://twitter.com/michealsavoie

  47. About this:
    7. Real business people realize that this social networking trend is superficial. True relationships may originate in email or other similar venues, but must become personal and not electronic to be of meaningful value.

    I too went into Twitter (my first Social Media site) kicking and screaming. It’s been about 4 months and so far I’ve: set up collaborative projects with 3 other creative professionals; found 2 speakers for my live smARTist Telesummit 2009 event; been approached by 3 professionals way ahead of me in terms of national visibility (having been on Oprah, for example), have increased my visibility online by about 300%.

    Not bad for finding 140 characters’ worth of fun, wisdom, or wit up my sleeve a few times a day. Tweeting isn’t just good business; it’s also a darn lot of good fun!

  48. That was pretty interesting reading :)

  49. Old article & controversial, but interesting to read!

  50. Social media can be a waste of time and I guess potentially damaging, but so can most things in life. I believe that in this day and age the social media tools serve as good follow-up and reinforcement to your safer alternative methods to social media.

  51. John,
    I would be interested to see if your views on embracing social media and mobile media have changed in the few years since you wrote this article given the cultural and professional acceptance of these channels.
    Robert Urban

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