Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Beware of the Social Media Snake Oil Salesman

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In the days of the Wild West Snake Oil Salesman would roll into a town of trusting people, sell a product that had absolutely no value, and make a fast getaway before anyone realized they were had!

Recently I've been feeling the new Wild West is Social Media and there are plenty of Snake Oil Salesman lurking around every turn. You know how to spot most of them...they like to use titles like Social Media Guru, Twitter Expert, or Facebook Master just to name a few.

I know I should not care what these Snake Oil Salesman do to turn a quick buck BUT I do because...

1) It takes money from honest business owners who are looking for guidance from trustworthy people.

2) It taints these business owners for future Individuals/Companies who can truly help them grow their business.

If you are a business owner thinking about implementing a Social Media Program please consider the following:

Just because someone uses Twitter and has 100,000 followers does not qualify them to solve your business needs! Look beyond those silly numbers and demand to know why you should work with them.

I suggest working with individuals who have a Marketing/Communication background since the good ones are trained to ask questions to better understand how your business works... how you make money, understand your customers, understand your competition, understand your competitive advantage, and the market perception of your company to name a few. The business information gathered will enable the trained individual to formulate a comprehensive strategy utilizing Social Media and any other Communication Medium which is determined to be a good fit for your individual business. Not all Communication Mediums are right for all businesses.

The Snake Oil Saleman Smell test...Can the individual develop a plan to grow your business Revenue, Customer Relationships, or Brand? If they cannot or don't understand the question then they are Snake Oil Salesman...RUN!!!



  1. I agree. It doesn't take much to set up a Facebook or Twitter account. But the real value is how to use is strategically to grow your business. And that value comes from working with someone who has the background and knowledge of how to effectively develop, implement and manage a communications program that takes into account not only social media but other communications strategies as well. Whether that come from an in-house person or working with an outside marketing communications agency, a successful social media program starts with the right people developing it.

  2. Well said! I couldn't agree more. Huge follower counts can be bought/manipulated. It by no means makes anyone a Social Media expert.

    But also beware anyone on Twitter with less than 1,000 - 2,000 followers who claims to be a Social Media expert.

    You need PROFESSIONALS who have experience with Communications programs/Branding -- who know how to leverage the power of Social Media as part of a total program.

    Do your homework. Who have they worked with in the past? What results achieved? What do clients say about them? LinkedIn is a great place to start.

    Also, resist the temptation for a "Do It Yourself" approach. Good people are out there who can and will help you... and find ways to make ti work with the budget you have. Some of them are right here.

  3. Good stuff, Jeff. When I look back at who I was following when i started on Twitter versus who I follow now, it is night and day. I have since unfollowed many of those from early on because of exactly what you mention in your post. I also agree with your last point about doing it yourself. I work for a large company and we are about to implement a Social Media strategy, but the folks involved (including me) looked outside, in many areas, for sound and valid expertise in the field. And we found it. No snake oil for us.

    Hey, but if you're interested, I have some pills for sale that will help you lose weight, look younger, gain wealth, predict sporting events, sleep less, do more, add strength, love longer, hear better, give you x-ray vision, AND, as an added bonus, for an extra $9.99, get you more Twitter followers...you interested?

  4. Quanity over quality. Results over hype. So simple. There are good people out there. Just Google them.

  5. Jeff, I know you know I love this one! You and I have the same philosophy about how to help clients with their entire marketing and growth plan, whether that be social media, no social media, traditional marketing, non-traditional marketing, whatever...it all MUST tie back to what the company's goals are, what their message is, to whom do they want to speak, etc. Then, and only then, can a wise marketing plan of action be developed, which will probably include social media. You hit the nail on the head with this one my friend! Love it!

  6. Thank you all for the great comments!! I am tired of all the fakes running around polluting our Industry.