Social Media Marketing Is A Loss Leader For Brands, And A Waste of Resources For Everyone Else

B.J. Mendelson cares. He cares that high profile marketers are making shit up and that small businesses, independent artists and others are being hurt in the process.

In his new book, Social Media Is Bullshit, the author makes his anti-case and he names names, pointing to Web luminaries like Seth Godin, Jeff Jarvis, Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk and others as peddlers of a bill of goods.

Social Media Is Bullshit_ A Detailed Look At The Myth And Hype Of Social Media

The Internet intellectuals (or Cyber Hipsters), marketers, analysts, and their friends have succeeded. The existence of the myth of “social media” is proof of that. And it’s important that we start cleaning up the mess they’ve created. What’s needed now is for us to take a more active approach in standing up to their misinformation, calling them out on it, and making sure the media outlets, among others, who feature these parties are holding them accountable and to the highest ethical standard.

Mendelson makes the case that social media success stories are not what they seem. He rightly points to the use of TV by big brands, and the role of the mainstream press and celebrity endorsements in bringing a mass audience to a video, for instance. His point is content goes viral with the help of celebrities, the press and TV advertising. When those three line up, guess what, a lot of people may start to talk about and share the stuff in online networks.

It’s not exactly a feel good message for the holidays or any other season. Mendelson points out that his argument is not currently en vogue, but that many people likely “feel” that something’s wrong, just like he did when he carefully implemented all the sage advise from SM gurus and got nothing to show for it in return. In another passage in the book, Mendelson talks about being able to make it to the minors, but that making it the majors is now and will always be reserved for a select, fortunate and well-connected few.

While I do provide social media marketing to clients, I definitely find value in Mendelson’s POV. Just the fact that he’s challenging conventional wisdom is a benefit, because I think many of us could stand to check ourselves. I have had to pull back from the digital abyss, to get my balance back. And I have had to ask some tough questions, like what am I really getting in return for my efforts here on AdPulp, and across the Web?

Mendelson makes one key point many times over — focus on your own Website, and evaluate all the other digital channels carefully before investing time or money there. He also suggests networking the old-fashioned way, in person. In short, Social Media Is Bullshit is a practical, common sense book that may help shake out some cobWebs and help SMBs reevaluate their marketing mix in 2013 and beyond.

Note: Sadly, the book from St. Martin’s Press is riddled with misspellings, which detracts from the reading experience and impacts the credibility of both the author and publishing house. One or two mistakes is one thing, dozens is another matter entirely. Mendelson claims the galleys were clean, so how these errors made it to press is hard to say.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.