How not to use social media – exhibit a.

stopsignI went to an event recently, rather than exhibiting I went to network, make contacts and catch up with some folk. I gained 2 valuable leads too which was great.

While I was there I took the opportunity to listen to a couple of seminars about subjects that I already knew but I always think it’s good to listen to others talking about your subject as you can pick up things and it can teach you to keep things fresh as well as general presentation skills & techniques.

Left in despair

The usual social media for beginners seminar made an appearance. I settled in with the aim of picking up the odd gem but far from that I left the talk in despair at what I’d just heard.

Here’s a quick run down on a few things I heard (yes I made notes, I’m very thorough when I sense the potential for a good blog post, I should be a hack ;-) )

  • Stats stats stats, all I saw was mountains of stats. Useful in moderation but info overload for beginners and not a lot of substance. They were blocks of text type stats too.
  • The presenter positively recommended lining up tweets for a whole week using a pretweet service! A WHOLE WEEK!?!
  • “It ranks you higher”
  • There was some weird connection with SEO & Google which I couldn’t follow at all (ok I have a pea brain I know). And the presentation before hand had covered Google & SEO anyway.
  • “It’s cheap”. Cheap? Well it can cost you your business if you cock it up or get bad advice of course but yeah other than that it’s cheap! Good job the audience were getting 1st class advice!
  • “Facebook – Ask customers to join as friends” I swear that was word for word quote. Possibly they meant ‘like your page’ but the word page wasn’t mentioned and come on these are newbies get the terminology right they are going to go out feeling empowered and make huge mistakes!

Related posts:

  1. Social media is dead, long live social media.
  2. Why you’re not a social media guru / expert / architect whatever
  3. Engaging with your audience
  4. What does it mean to be passionate?
  5. Once upon a time… The power of your story.


  1. These Social media “experts” are driving me mad, but there are people who will pay sometimes ridiculous sums of money in the hope that somehow paying for this information will put them ahead of the game.

    As you’ve said in a previous post this is the latest “Bandwagon” and there are a lot of people hopping on board.

  2. Oh dear. It seems that some people think social media is like bulk mailing. They seem to totally forget the SOCIAL bit of it. I’m noticing more push messages. Its hard when you are starting a new Twitter account of Facebook page to get people to engage as quickly as you might like but you have to keep at it and join in the conversations not act like you are talking at people.
    And to say its free, well there might be little cost in hard cash but like any networking it takes time so it has a hidden cost.
    Shame they missed an opportunity to get people to understand social media properly. Mind you I have run training sessions where explained its really important to engage that the social bit is key and I can see people I know where there doing the exact opposite. Maybe some people don’t want to have to engage?

  3. Good post. I think this sort of guidance exacerbates the problem of firms focusing on tactics over strategy. You can use whatever umbrella term you want – engagement, exposure etc – but you must have a sense of what you are aiming for. Otherwise you are just footling around ‘doing stuff’ without knowing why. And social media is the busywork timewaster par excellence.

    Twitter is cheap. On the face of it, an incontestable statement. But it’s only good value if you are getting something out of it. Buying something that’s no use, or that you don’t understand, on the cheap is not good business.

    Also, time is not cheap. Social media takes a big wodge out of my day, but I’ve got a clear sense of why I’m doing it – including where business ends and fun begins. Businesses need to assign their time and management resources where they’ll do most good. If you’re just going through the motions on Twitter or Facebook, your time might be better spent in some other marketing channel that you can get more benefit out of. That could be online, offline, or in person.

  4. Great post Gary. It seems that this kind of thing is becoming more commonplace – words like bandwagon and jump come to mind as everyone thinks they are some kind of social media expert just because they’ve tweeted once. When I was first approached to run social media workshops for Norfolk tourism businesses back in 2009 I was quite reluctant as I certainly didn’t consider myself some kind of expert. We are all learning and I agree with Gary that one of the most important lessons to learn about social media is engagement, rather than knowing the ins and outs of the functions of the 300-odd social networks out there.

    In the same way as marketing is a way of thinking throughout an organisation where the customer is central, not just a couple of smart adverts, successful social media activity is about engaging with the audience and facilitating the discussion. Broadcasting messages once a week is not the answer – one of the Norfolk companies that insisted on broadcasting sales messages daily was Bennetts Electrical and everyone knows what happened to them… My top advice for those getting started in social media are:
    Listen, watch, learn
    Help others
    Share expertise
    In other words… engage!

  5. So,ok,I’m a real beginner and have only just been introduced to social media (as I was told it could help enlighten people about my unusual business)but I’m really enjoying the contact with new people that I would probably never have got the chance to meet otherwise. I have tried these so called networking meetings but found them all a bit forced with everyone just concentrating on finding people that may be useful to their business.So the contacts I’m making online may not necessarily be interested in my business, but I enjoy conversing with such a varied and interesting bunch of new people – have I got it all wrong?

    • Hi Gill, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It sounds to me like you’ve got exactly the right idea!

  6. Gary, this is why I started running SoMe workshops for beginners, often free of charge, because there is so much crap out there.

    In any form of communication we have to start by understanding our audience, then craft messages that speak directly to them in order to engage them.

    To use SoMe as an alternative to direct mail is just nuts and wont’get anyone anywhere. Just this week I had two examples of people who changed their Twitter ID from brand to personal and got more followers and in one case, two big orders as a result.

    The folks at Twitter recognise that automated services ruin the experience for a lot of folk and have slapped or suspended some of the APIs like SocialOomph but there will always be those who exploit the naive for their own gain.

    keep up the fight buddy. We’ll save the unicorns yet!

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