Is Social Media Really B.S.?

In the book”Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Divides, Diminishes, and Disorients Us“, author and talk show host Andrew Keen explores the dark side of social media. (Click here for my review of the book in USA Today)

So, it was pretty interesting to watch him interview B.J. Mendelson on    TechCrunch.com, about Mendelson’s new book; “Social Media Is Bullshit“.

You’d figure since both authors share a distrust for social media, as well as the same publisher, (St. Martin’s Press); they might see things the same way.

But they don’t.

While Keen is concerned about issues like cell phone tracking and privacy, Mendelson’s gripe, it seems, is all about the Benjamins. He complains that even with 770,000 Twitter followers, he hasn’t made enough money.

“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,” he says. “All the hype” about the effectiveness of social media marketing is BS even if you have a lot of followers; he contends, unless you’re already famous.

That reminded me of a story Kenny Loggins told when he played a private concert for us at DMX Music in Seattle, back in 2003.

Loggins, who achieved worldwide fame with hits like “House at Pooh Corner” and “Celebrate Me Home”, observed that independent musicians don’t have it made just because they can sell direct to their fans over the internet. In fact, he said, it was only musicians like himself who already had a global fan base who could make decent money selling their own music online.

That’s because their former record labels had already spent millions to market their music through all kinds of different channels; such as newspapers, billboards, radio, TV, concert venues, and record stores. In addition, the artists themselves had established an enduring connection with their fans through their recorded music and live performances.

It’s hard for a anyone to make decent money selling ads on their own social network. 770,000 Twitter followers may sound like a lot, but based on my experience selling digital advertising; I can tell you it’s not that much. If he had 7 million followers, or 770 million followers, and he was doing something that was engaging enough for them to want to continually interact with him; now we’re talking revenue opportunity.

Also, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have unless they choose to interact with you long enough and often enough to see or hear the ads you want to serve them. And, they’re not going to do that, unless they have some compelling reason to do so.

Mendelson admits that he got the vast majority of his Twitter followers simply because he had been involved with a breast cancer charity, and that he was somehow able add all of their followers to his own (I’m a little hazy on how he was able to do that; but he did).

So, if they really weren’t his followers to begin with; why would they have any incentive to interact with him on Twitter now?

He needs to find new followers who have a personal reason to want to connect and interact with him. Writing a book is a step in the right direction.

It not only gives him the opportunity to sell something more than just advertising impressions on his social network; it also gives him the opportunity to build a fan base of readers.

If that fan base also includes people who meet him in person at book signings, speaking engagements, and other events, they’re way more likely to want to interact with him on social media.

So, is social media BS?

No. Having unrealistic expectations about what it can do for you–that’s BS.

Click on the links below for more information.

Andrew Keen’s Book:

Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Divides, Diminishes, and Disorients Us

My review in USA Today: “Digital Vertigo” a Hitchcockian Tale of Web Angst

Tech Crunch Interview: Keen On…B.J. Mendelson, Social Media is Bullshit

Social Media is Bullshit

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