Book Review: Exposing the Myths of Social Media

4 minute read
Marisa Peacock avatar

Do you think social media is bullshit? You’re not alone. Author Brandon Mendelsen agrees. In his book of the same name, he dissects the ways that those within social media industry have made social media marketing something more complicated than it needs to be. Mendelson seeks to expose the truth behind many social media myths created and upheld by large agencies and so-called social media experts.

Social Media, Exposed

Mendelson's book, Social Media is Bullshit is not based on marketing -- in fact, Mr. Mendelson is a reformed marketer -- which may be an excellent reason as to why this book is rather effective. There is no agenda to uphold. No man behind the curtain to hide. Mendelson simply wants to examine the origins of how social media marketing became so complicated. He writes:

But like a lot of get-rich-quick schemes, it becomes obvious that social media is bullshit once you start to take a close look at it. However, it’s worth pointing out that while a lot of us know it’s bullshit, many of us don’t. And so it’s important for us who know “social media” is bullshit to step up and keep the others from being taken advantage of. So, what makes up the myth of “social media,” and how can we identify it in order to warn the others."

In a way, this book is a call to action for those of us who see through the guru advice to stop perpetuating the myths of social media.

The Myth of Social Media

According to Mendelson, the myth of social media started with web 2.0 and picked up steam from there. Along the way, it picked up a myriad of buzzwords from user-generated content to crowdsourcing to wikis. Everything quickly became tangled together and a new social history was written -- one that hyped platforms and the companies who made them, and delivered an unrealistic dream about what one million followers could bring. Mendelson writes:

Learning Opportunities

In theory, the Web and these platforms should allow you to reach a mass audience just by publishing something on it. But it doesn’t. The truth is that it’s almost impossible for you to reach an audience of any significance using them unless you have a strong network, millions to spend on advertising and publicity, or if the media likes you."

At times, Mendelson sounds a little angry, but he’s just a little intense, perhaps even a little peeved that he has to tell us all of this in the first place. He doesn’t contest that social media is cool and that it is useful to businesses and brands. Rather, he’s dismayed that so many have lost sight of the basic tenets of good marketing:

  1. Making a good product.
  2. Making your product easy to open, easy to understand, easy to use and easy to share.
  3. Making people get behind your product by giving them a story to invest in, by using the traditional media. (That’s radio, television, and yes, even the newspaper.)
  4. Making adjustments to improve your product based on customer feedback without sacrificing its identity.

And isn't this exactly why so many of us within the enterprise are compelled to talk the C-suite down from doing the “next big thing”? There is no next big thing. There is only your organizational culture, your company values and the customer experience you provide. If these do not align, the next big thing, be it social media, digital media or even traditional media, will not save you.

Social Media Isn't Magic

I imagine there will be people who read Social Media is Bullshit and get angry. And that might be the point. This book either preaches to the choir or it makes you very uncomfortable. It seeks to call out all the charlatans who have promised us, and others, smaller, weaker and less informed than us, that they know the secret to unlocking social media’s success or can tell you how to increase your ROI in just three easy steps (while pocketing a lot of money).

Social media marketing is not magic. It takes time, cultivation and a dedication to upholding the tenets of good marketing. It won’t happen overnight and anyone who tells you that it will, is misrepresenting the truth. Though it may be comforting to think that social media is too complicated or believe that the proliferation of tools has made it that more difficult to attract an audience, by buying into the cult of social media, you’re just failing to acknowledge the inevitable -- that it’s all bullshit.