Social Media is…Bullshit?

“Social media” is an ineffective marketing scheme sold to people who don’t know any better in order for marketers to make a profit. Or at least, this is the point that B.J. Mendelson makes very clear in his book, Social Media is Bullshit.  His argument is extremely strong because he uses so many sound examples; I think it would be hard for any marketer to try to fight his claims because they simply make sense (he throws in numbers, studies, and personal interviews).  Basically, he argues that social media is an amazing tool to use in order to stay personally connected to friends and family but when it comes to businesses using Facebook and Twitter to market themselves, they might as well quit while they’re ahead.

To start off, he claims the term “social media” is simply a buzzword for what was previously “Web 2.0,” which was previously the “Web 1.0.”  Marketers make huge profits by writing books that make amateur businesses believe that through the power of social media, they can get rich quick.  That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions but these exceptions are very rare and often people forget about the outside influences acting on the situation. For example, if a YouTube video goes viral we often forget that it may have originally been posted by the Huffington Post or a celebrity because it’s almost impossible for it to organically gain viewership, the way people most often think; not everyone can just become a YouTube star. It seems as though Mendelson would agree with the points Judith Donath and danah boyd make in, “Public Displays of Connection,” in which they argue that, “a public display of connections is an implicit verification of identity” (Donath & boyd 72). He would definitely agree that if a product or service was endorsed by someone with credibility (a celebrity on Twitter perhaps), others consumers would be more apt to consume that particular product.  He would also agree that making connections with credible people will increase your “social capital” and therefore help your social media presence for a business (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe).  Otherwise, there’s not much that would make you stand out.

In our reading, “The complex problem of monetizing virtual electronic social networks,” E.K. Clemons argues that social networks are meant for socializing rather than selling products. This is the exact same point Mendelson makes over and over in his book.  He demonizes social media as a marketing tool but has no problem with it as a purely social device. Clemons goes further to discuss consumer distrust of paid advertisements and how social network users pretty much disregard any advertisements as annoyances.  Advertising on social networking sites is outside of the “social norms” (Clemons).  Again, reinforcing the idea that social networking sites should not be used for marketing purposes.

Mendelson makes it clear that businesses just need to know who their audience is and have a good product because in the end, this is what will bring them success. Don’t spend thousands of dollars on social media because chances are you’re not going to make much of a profit. All a business needs is a central website, a really solid, legitimate-looking website; a Twitter and Facebook won’t hurt, but they won’t really help either.  Because Mendelson was so strong in his argument against social media in terms of marketing, perhaps he fell short on looking at how social media may be beneficial in allowing consumers to speak to one another.  If it is how he says it is and a good product will sell, won’t social media help spread the word about this good product?  W. Glynn Mangold and David Faulds discuss the company-consumer relationship in “Social media: The new hybrid element of the promotion mix.”  They argue that social media is a trustworthy space for consumers to go to see reviews as well as interact with other consumers and the companies themselves.  They also advise companies to be “outrageous and exclusive.” Athough Mendelson would most likely argue that this is more bullsh*t and isn’t going to significantly drive a company’s profit up, it is an area that he neglects to touch upon in his book. Perhaps social media can be effective in regards to company-consumer interactions.

Mendelson is truly convicted to the arguments he makes.  While he owns up to being somewhat of a hypocrite (since he technically is profiting from his book), he has solid evidence as to why amateurs and small businesses should stay away from investing any money into their social media.  Though I would have liked to hear his opinions on consumer-company relationships, he made a believer out of me because I sure won’t ever rely on social media to make any of my “dreams come true”.  I would recommend this book as a warning to any business that is about to put any amount of money into their social media because it simply may not be worth it.


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