According to B.J. Mendelson, “Social Media Is Bullshit” is a “guided tour through the bullshit factory that is the social media industry.”
He begins by letting the readers know that social media is bullshit. With that said, he leaves the readers and me, most likely just me, in shambles. I had to take a deep breath, cry into a tub of ice cream and have a “Bridget Jones” moment where I angrily questioned my life choices (Communications major) by myself, before I ventured on.
Mendelson divides his book into four sections: “Social media is bullshit,” “Meet the people behind the bullshit,” “How to sell bullshit without really trying,” and “How to really make it on the web.”
The “Social media is bullshit” comes with fine print: if you are a plebeian.
Social media is bullshit because of the myth that has been created around it. Social media has been around as long as the Internet has, it’s just matured and given itself a new nickname to keep things exciting–it is just a marketing term, not a new technology that will revolutionize you or your business.
Mendelson explains that social media “has all the hallmarks of a get-rich-quick scheme,” which is what the American people needed at the time of the economic collapse (427 of 3490). The other appeal of social media is that there is almost no entry barrier, as Mendelson states, “being on the Web truly is equal opportunity,” but, “access is where the equality ends” (1773 of 3490).
Social media works, if you already have the money or the fame–that gives you two options of either being a celebrity or a large corporation. Alice Marwick agrees in “I’m a Lot More Interesting than a Friendster Profile,” in which she finds issue with social networking services where the “user is portrayed not as a citizen, but as a consumer” (9). If you are a big company, like Kia (a case study Mendelson mentions), you might go “like” them on Facebook. However, this only supports Mendelson’s case that social media only works if you have the money to burn and the megaphone that comes automatically attached once you achieve fame. Even then, the tactics on social media are ones that have been done a thousand times before on different platforms. Which also brings up the other issue of the ephemeral state of social media platforms. (Remember this?)
In the author’s own words: “The reason the generic stuff works is because it has all been done, proven and tested since Jesus rode around on a Brontasaurus.” He gives the readers what does work in terms of marketing (137 of 3490):
- Making a good product.
- Making your product easy to open, easy to use, and easy to share.
- Making people get behind your product by giving them a story to invest in, by traditional media.
- Making adjustments to improve your product based on customer feedback without sacrificing its identity.
Other than the basics, marketers will just tell you, the client in need of marketing, what what other marketers have been saying. Mendelson explains an old psychological trick where “if you cite what someone else is saying, someone they might have heard of, that lends the idea more credibility” (102 of 3490). And why is that? Donath and boyd explain, “Knowing that someone is connected to people one already knows and trusts is one of the most basic ways of establishing trust with a new relationship” (2).
Mendelson takes a technological determinist view when it comes to social media. He acknowledges that social media may be useful in connecting with people, “for friends and family? Sure” (1839 of 3490). Mendelson states that LinkedIn, foursquare, and Facebook are “useless for trying to advance yourself and spread the bullshit you’ve just created.” Donath would disagree, as she states communication technologies “are often developed with the context of engineering and business, domains that prize efficiency and utility” (2). Mendelson does not believe that anybody should be on social media unless they understand what they are trying to achieve through the medium. He prefers to reject social media as a whole, stating, “I’ve found offline connections to be the most meaningful, beneficial, and long-lasting” (1072 of 3490). These rags to riches story through social media (I’m looking at you, Bieber) is a part of a myth that is nearly impossible to achieve but impossible to ignore for those that use social media as a marketing tool.
This book is aimed at those that have tried the social media marketing method and failed, miserably. This does not offer a numbered guide towards success, but instead aims to educate the reader on the way social media works so that the reader may decide for himself what he needs to do to achieve his goals.