Is Social Media Bullshit?
I get asked the same group of questions pretty frequently. Putting together an FAQ to answer questions like, “Is Social Media Bullshit?” won’t stop them, but I thought it’d help save a lot of time.
If you don’t know how to answer the question of “Is Social Media Bullshit?”, I’ve been given permission to include a sample chapter from Social Media Is Bullshit on my site. But since plain old book excerpts are boring, I decided to go an update mine with new stuff that’s happened since the book’s manuscript was submitted in early 2012.
I am hopeful that overtime, I’ll get permission to update and revise more chapters. Plus, maybe I’ll finally get St. Martin’s to lower the price of the e-book to the originally planned $4.99. Time will tell!
1. Where Can I Buy Social Media Is Bullshit?
Social Media Is Bullshit was published by St. Martin’s Press on September 4th, 2012, and is in stores in the UK, Canada, and the U.S. It’s also available in English in select countries from St. Martin’s Press such as New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa.
Social Media Is Bullshit is also currently available in Spanish from Urano and can be found across Latin America and Spain. The book is also being translated into Polish and Russian.
The Spanish Language version of Social Media Is Bullshit sure has an … interesting cover, huh?
If you’re going to buy Social Media Is Bullshit online, buy it from Amazon so you can leave a review after. You can see a collection of Social Media Is Bullshit book reviews here. If you have a blog or work for a website where you’re able to post a review, send me an email at bj at bjmendelson dot com and I shall send you a review copy electronically.
As far as the Amazon reviews go, I have no evidence to suggest that honest, legitimate Amazon reviews and ratings help a book sell more copies after the first two weeks, but if you feel inclined to leave a review, I hope that you do.
Why? Because all the publishers tacitly endorse authors buying fake reviews, which I think make the real reviews count more.
And yes, since I brought it up, unlike pretty much every social media marketing and PR book: All 100+ of my reviews are real, and I did not bulk purchase my own book to trick The New York Times into listing me on their best seller list.
2. Isn’t It Ironic That You Use Social Media To Criticize Social Media?
“Social media” is not a thing. Just like “Web 2.0″. That wasn’t a thing either. Cosmetics and usability aside (and even then, that’s stretching it), The Internet and the Web really haven’t changed much since the ’90s.
In a lot of ways, the Internet and the Web are a lot like Burger King. Sure, some of the stores look different now, and the menu might get a few additions here and there, but you’re still more or less eating the same stuff they’ve served up since 1953.
The only difference is that the some unscrupulous social media experts, marketers, journalists, and PR professionals came along, dressed things up a bit, and gave some of the products different names so they can charge you gobs of money to learn about stuff you’re either already using or don’t even need. (They have even started peddling bad social media advice to parents, looking to cash in on the alarm they create.)
To be clear: The decision to use a platform or tool online should be determined by:
- Your customer data.
- Your budget.
- Your time and other resources.
- Your plan to use those platforms.
You should not use any of these tools because social media expert Gary Vaynerchuck, who has no credibility, told you to do so, or because the media keeps talking about how wonderful social media is, or because you see your friends are doing it.
The people who are consistently telling you how great and wonderful social media is, and why you should absolutely 100% be using it, make up what I like to call The Dishonest A.B.E., or more frequently, The Asshole Based Economy.
3. What is The Asshole Based Economy?
The Asshole Based Economy describes the process of an asshole (social media experts, marketers, journalists, PR professionals, analysts, Cyber Hipsters, the companies who own these tools, and other assorted bad actors) repackaging old stuff in a new way in order to further their own financial interests at your expense.
In Social Media Is Bullshit, I identify some members of The Asshole Based Economy by name and expose some of the scammy things they’ve done in the past to do just that.
What we really have to work with when those people say social media are tools. Mostly the same old tools that we’ve had in various forms since the early ’90s.
These tools may or may not be good for you to use. There are no “good” or “bad” tools, it all depends on how you use them, whether or not you want to use them in the first place (you really don’t have to), and whether your audience is using them.
For example, I use most of the “Big Six” (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, and
FourSquare Pinterest) because I know my target audience, college juniors and seniors majoring in advertising, public relations, and marketing, use these platforms actively. So for me, it makes sense to be there. But that might not be true for you.
Yet here we are with dozens and dozens of assholes including social media experts like Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, Brian Solis, Scott Monty, Guy Kawasaki, Mari Smith, Amy Jo Martin, Dave Kerpen, and many others, telling us that’s not the case, and by doing so, they make a comfortable living in the process.
We live in a world where it’s far easier to make money telling people how to get rich using the Internet than it is to actually get rich using it.
(*Note: Not all marketers, social media experts, analysts, companies, and journalists are bad. Just the ones who are deliberately fueling the hype for their own financial gain. There are some social media experts, such as Jason Falls, whom I respect and find credible in most of the information they provides people.)
4. What Is A Cyber-Hipster? Are You One?
Cyber-Hipsters are not Cyber-Utopians. Cyber-Utopians is a term often used by Evgeny Morozov in his books, such as The Net Delusion.
Cyber-Utopians are people who think technology is going to change everything, has changed everything, and can solve all of life’s problems. If that’s what someone wants to believe? More power to them. I think Cyber-Utopians are annoying, on par with most Atheists, but they’re also not hurting anyone.
A Cyber-Hipster though is someone of little discernable talent in the field they’re discussing, who hops on the latest technological craze, and then talks about how it’s going to “change everything”, without any (or suspect) evidence, in order to further their financial agenda through speaking engagements, book deals, and generating page views to please their (or their employer’s) advertisers.
I am not a Cyber-Hipster. I have successfully used almost every online platform that has debuted since 1999, with one notable failure which inspired Social Media Is Bullshit. But here’s the difference: The failures I have had all occurred when I tried to use the social media marketing tactics promoted by The Asshole Based Economy. All of them. The successes? They came when I used the stuff I knew worked.
Marketing and PR is something I am very good at, as my track record would verify:
- Since 2001, I have operated a successful small business. For many years, that small business operated in my dorm room at Alfred State College (C3D3 Mackenzie North) and at the State University of New York at Potsdam (423 Lehman South, then in 608 Lehman South. Both on the West side of the building.)
- While running that business, I booked 55 sold out shows up and down the East Coast using only the Internet to promote them. (There are two exceptions: I did a show in Newburgh, New York, at the Golden Rail, and at The Chance in Poughkeepsie, New York, both in 2002, and advertisements for both shows ran on 92.7fm WRRV.)
- In 2006 I created a successful viral campaign called National Zombie Day to help spread the game of Humans Vs. Zombies to college campuses across America. This initiative was picked up by Fark, College Humor, GorillaMask, and select media outlets.
- In 2007, not only did I successfully get my cat, Molly, involved in the presidential election coverage that was going on, I also conducted a viral marketing campaign for The Edge With Jake Sasseville, which successfully got the show on to ABC affiliates and into 40 million homes each week when it aired.
- In 2009, I conducted the breast cancer tour that’s discussed in Social Media Is Bullshit’s last chapter. What’s not mentioned in the book is that I did the same exact tour a year later, in 2010, this time for Wounded Warriors Family Support, and the tour went on to become a major success that they continue to operate to this very day. The difference between the two tours discussed in Social Media Is Bullshit and the High Five Tour? I took out the emphasis on social media marketing, which is what the breast cancer tour was so dependent on.
- And finally, with Social Media Is Bullshit in 2012, on zero dollars spent on my part, we sold over seven thousand copies, received over 100+ REAL reviews on Amazon (the majority of which are positive), and the book continues to sell long after publication purely through word of mouth.
But. I do not consider myself to be an expert because that would imply I’ve stopped learning all there is to know about my field and that is not the case. I am still learning. I make mistakes, and I am not always right. I actually cringe when people refer to me as a “guru” or “expert” and, when it can be done without hurting feelings or making people look bad, I correct them.
5. What Is Social Media Is Bullshit About?
Social Media Is Bullshit is a guided tour through the bullshit factory that is the social media marketing industry. You’ll see how their primary product, bullshit, is made, who is selling it, and how they’ve been getting away with selling bullshit since 2007.
In some ways, the social media marketing industry is a lot like Wall Street, repackaging and selling crap in the hope that you don’t notice, all the while making themselves rich in the process. (See: “Confidence Men” by Ron Suskind for more details on that.)
Using big companies like Ford is a tactic social media experts employ despite all the evidence showing that not only does what work for corporations like Ford not work for you, but there are many instances where it doesn’t work for them either. You can see social media expert Chris Brogan do this in his book, Trust Agents, with General Motors.
(You’ll also notice that, depending on who at Ford you talk to, the answer changes. If you ask Ford’s social media expert, Scott Monty, he’ll tell you how wonderful social media has been for Ford. If you ask someone else at the company, they might point to the failure of the Ford Fiesta Movement, Ford’s big social media endeavor that was pushed by Scott Monty, and say otherwise.)
That’s not to say talking about what Ford is doing has no merit, but it’s the presentation of “If Ford is doing this, so should you” where we should be drawing the line. Unfortunately, some social media experts don’t do that.
In Social Media Is Bullshit, I also share some things I’ve learned from publishing and marketing content on the Web successfully since 2002.
6. What Have Critics Said About Social Media Is Bullshit?
As you might have guessed …
- Social media marketers hated it. Here’s a fun game you can play: Look for negative reviews of Social Media Is Bullshit, there aren’t many, and look at the people who left those reviews. You’ll see more often than not that they sell social media services of some kind.
- Members of the national media refused to talk about Social Media Is Bullshit for a variety of reasons. The thing I most often heard is: “Love you, love the book, can’t cover it because it’ll make us look bad / make people look bad whom we need access too.”
- Everyone else? Loved it.
- By no means is Social Media Is Bullshit a perfect book, and that’s not to say there are people out there who aren’t social media experts who hated it. I’m sure there are. However, I have received a lot of phone calls and fan mail, which have indicated that the majority of people who have read the book enjoyed it despite its flaws (one of which I talk about below in question #9.)
The primary thing I saw played out from The Asshole Based Economy is what I predicted would happen in Social Media Is Bullshit. They used “Attack & Distract”:
- You can see an example of that here involving arguably the tech community’s most disliked journalist, “Sour Grapes” Dave Copeland
- And another example here featuring Ann Friedman. It’s worth nothing that Chris Hughes, who is the editor-in-chief and publisher of The New Republic, is one of the co-founders of Facebook. Take that for what it’s worth.
All you have to do is write something knocking “social media”, and you’ll see “Attack & Distract” play out for yourself.
“Attack & Distract” has been the go to strategy every time I or anyone criticizes social media or whatever it is that the members of The Asshole Based Economy are hyping. It’s always personal attacks, no facts, and bad logic. Every. Single. Time.
My personal favorites so far?
- “Mendelson failed as a marketer, so he wrote a book about it”. Question #4 rebuts that shit pretty thoroughly, huh?
- “Mendelson is telling you social media is bad, but actively uses these platforms himself”. I haven’t yet counted the number of times I said it in the book, but I tend to repeat myself quite a bit. If you read this FAQ page and read the book, you’ll see me say over and over again: “What works for you might not work for me. Everyone is different. Research is needed on your part to figure out where to be and what to do online and off.” So the “Mendelson says you should do X but doesn’t do X himself thing” is something being trotted out by illiterate (willfully or otherwise) people. ;-)
I’m not a cynic or a curmudgeon. I’m actually pretty optimistic about what the Internet and the Web can do for people. But. I don’t think people can take advantage of the things the Web and Internet can do for them until we clear up this bullshit that distracts them and wastes their money.
I’m not the first guy to call out the social media industry, and I won’t be the last, but that’s not the point of the book. The point is to clean up the bullshit so people can go back to doing what they’re good at: Making stuff.
7. Aren’t You Going To Get Rich Off Writing A Book Like This?
There’s nothing wrong with packaging and selling information. That is how many “knowledge workers” make their living. There is something wrong with packaging and selling harmful information to further your own interests at the expense of someone else. That’s what it means to participate in The Asshole Based Economy.
By packaging and selling honest information, and by clearly stating there are things I do not know and that much research is needed on the part of readers and listeners to make the best decision that’s right for them, I am not participating in The Asshole Based Economy.
In fact, I’m a practitioner of a modified form of Radical Honesty too. So, misleading and lying to people isn’t my thing. Life is too short to lie to people.
This is also not my chosen line of work. I rather be writing funny stuff like Dracula And Kittens and performing stand-up comedy, but I wrote Social Media Is Bullshit first because I thought it would do the most good for the most people.
Anyone who tells you writing a book will make you rich clearly has never written a book before. The truth is, you starve while writing it, you go broke promoting it, and you don’t see dime one until you make back your advance. Something most authors fail to do since most books don’t sell more than 300 copies a year, and more than 3,000 over their lifetime, according to Publishers Weekly.
We’ve sold roughly 7,500 copies as of June 1st, 2013, but I’m a little under 4,000 copies from seeing any money from the book.
8. Why Write Social Media Is Bullshit Instead Of Dracula And Kittens?
Social Media Is Bullshit exists because I thought the truth needed to be told, and I think it’s a moral imperative to do the right thing by standing up to bullies, like The Asshole Based Economy, and warning people of the bullshit they produce so efficiently when it comes to social media marketing.
I knew that, one way or another, I’d get to publish Dracula And Kittens, but that people were getting screwed over now and getting the truth out there couldn’t wait.
I will get to publish Dracula And Kittens, under its new name, hopefully in the not too distant future. Until then you can read the first chapter of Dracula And Kittens here! I’ve been working on that thing since 2008, so it’s one of those “it’ll get done when it gets done” kind of projects.
9. Did You Really Put Your Own Phone Number In Your Book?
It’s 518-832-9844. The first print run of the book has a typo, so the number is wrong. This has been fixed in the foreign language translations, and it will be fixed in any future english-language printings of Social Media Is Bullshit.
There’s also a small group of other typos in the first English print run. I now jokingly refer to this as “Typogate”. These typos were introduced by the copy-editors at St. Martin’s before the book went to press. I know this because both I and the editor checked our versions of the manuscript and those typos did not exist at the time that we checked, and also the phone number was correct in our edits. So, a copy-editor fucked up. It’s cool. This stuff happens, but that fuck up involved a pretty important piece of the book, my phone number, so I wanted to acknowledge this publicly.
So … although my number is actually listed in the book, due to the typo, it’s technically wrong. The correct number is here, and yes, you can call me any time.
But if I can make one request: Don’t call me after 3am with ominous messages.
10. Where Is The Internet Going / What Is The Future Of Social Media?
I keep getting asked this question by the media. I have no idea why. I don’t have an answer for you, and I think anyone who claims to have an answer to this question is an asshole.
11. Is It B.J. Mendelson Or Brandon Mendelson?
I’m stuck being known as B.J. Mendelson until I have the resources lined up for my next project. This is because B.J. Mendelson is the name Social Media Is Bullshit was published under. So, that’s how most people know me.
But … my name is actually Brandon Mendelson, not B.J. Mendelson. I prefer Brandon, but if you see anything come out online, it’s almost always B.J. for SEO purposes.
12. Wait! I have More Questions About Social Media IS Bullshit!
Ok! Call me: 518-832-9844. If I don’t answer, I’ll call you back. Or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.