Social Media Business Bulls**t

The real booming business in web 2.0 and social media is the boom in people writing, speaking, blogging about web 2.0 and social media for business.
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Coincidence? Last night I wrote an email to a nice woman roughly my baby-boomer age answering her "Should I put my business on Facebook?" question with a polite "probably not." This morning I see Michael Gray's post Web 2.0 Weenies and Bulls**t Social Media Economics. I think it's more synchronicity than coincidence. (And a side note: give Michael the credit for that plain-talking title, and me the blame for putting asterisks into it.)

My email exchange was a response to a column I wrote about social media for business. I went to this woman's website, and liked it; a kind of quirky cotton-related store, a slightly-old fashioned look and feel to it, but it also told a story of how she'd come to get into selling cotton goods, and the whole thing worked pretty well. Here's what I told her:

Having a Facebook page isn't hard to do. That alone, however, won't make much difference at all. You have to use that to make people know, like, and trust you. And that takes a lot of time and effort, and not just by the Web developers, but by the personality at the core, namely, from what I read on your website, you. You have the makings of it. You clearly understand how to tell a story about your business, and to put yourself into it. But is this what you want to do every day, for several hours a day?

Michael's post (the Weenies and Bulls**t link above) gets to the point quicker. And he's straighter about it.

Social media is filled with false gods and idols, who try to sell you their own "secret sauce" in get rich quick schemes, and hundreds are duped in by the lure of easy money. The truth is if you approach social media with a cookie cutter plan from one of these guru's it wont work for you. I can't tell you the secret of making money, I can only tell you what works for me, and chances are since you don't think and approach problems the way I do, they won't work for you. The best I can do, is give a you some basic pointers and tell you where the cliffs are so you don't walk off. After that you'll have to get off your butt, work at it and fail more than once, if you want to make some money.

Sad but true; Michael's very cynical view is also spot on. And you see it over and over again. The real booming business in Web 2.0 and social media is the boom in people writing, speaking, blogging about Web 2.0 and social media for business.

It's sort of like signing up for a toll-free telephone number and discovering, soon after, that it doesn't ring. Nobody calls without the whole time and effort involved in making them call. Having a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or a blog can't do anything more than give you a forum. You have to have something to say, and more than just once, to make that matter. It takes time and effort.

So I am in fact blogging, tweeting, and struggling with Facebook and LinkedIn, and enjoying it thoroughly, but I'm not arguing about whether there's a business payoff. I do it because I like doing it. That's enough reason for me.

My final point here is another quote from Michael's post. He does take a stance on it:

Social media should make you more productive, more efficient, and more profitable, by allowing you to extend your reach and message to the people who are in your target market and are interested in what you have to say. Social media should not be used to waste time and money on awareness and branding exercises, broadcasting messages that are unremarkable to the uninterested masses.

And then, seemingly talking directly to me, he adds:

if you want to use social media tools on your own time to communicate and connect, that's fine, just don't do it on your boss's dime, and call it work.

Harummph. That's what I meant.

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