For FIR 507, December 7, 2009
This is ”˜Professor’ Goetsch reporting from the Spectacular San Francisco Bay Area offices of the Podcast Asylum.
I’m sure everyone who listens to FIR gets e-mail advertising social media webinars, trainings, and other services. Ragan Communications is hardly alone in sending invitations to these events, though I think they may be the most prolific.
But a few days before Thanksgiving, I received a message that provoked more than the usual “Oh, look! Someone wants to charge me money to tell me what I already know.” In fact, it disturbed me so much that I felt I had to share it here, even though the person who sent it is someone I know”¦and used to respect.
Back when he was producing his “Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy” podcasts, Tee Morris used to call these “Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot Moments.” It was kind of like the Bad Pitch Blog for authors who did Really Stupid Things.
In this case, it’s more a matter of consultants behaving badly. You’ll see what I mean when I read the message. I had to spell out the problem to the person who came up with this gem, but no one who’s heard Shel and Neville—or anyone else in this space—talk about transparency is going to need me to tell them what’s wrong with this.
The only thing I’m leaving out is the name of the company and people involved. I’m not sure they deserve my protection, but I am sure that the lesson here is bigger than one misguided “thought leadership” firm.
Subject: New Cheap & Easy Social Media Management
Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Clients:
For too many years I have been preaching, imploring, begging and coaching my clients and prospective clients to master the ways of marketing by blogging, and to start maintaining a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the other major centers of current web marketing.
A few of you have become expert and have benefited. Most of you are too busy to do it all yourself and don’t want the hassle of fussing with the technology. Some of you have thrown up your hands in despair.
So here’s the good news: We’re going to do it for you, and it’s not expensive. For a limited time, you can start for as little as $500 a month. Our new business will review and set up all the components of your social media infrastructure. We’ll even extract and write your blogs, or edit your original blog posts. We’ll Twitter for you and maintain your connections. Without breaking a sweat, you’ll be a master of the new social media.
And there’s no start-up fees!
All we want is your success.
Call us now and let us start building your public profile.
The part that really got me was the bit about maintaining connections. You’re going to have my relationships for me? Will you sleep with my boyfriend and take my mother out to dinner? Don’t you think they might have something to say about that?
I bet Lee Hopkins has a sound clip of someone beating their head against the wall. I’m not sure it’s my head that needs contramural therapy, however.
When I objected to this person that Twitter is like a cocktail party and individuals do not send other people to attend cocktail parties on their behalf, he seemed completely oblivious to the five years of controversy surrounding ghost blogging, never mind the criticism Guy Kawasaki came in for when he hired people to tweet on his behalf and got caught at it. My colleague seemed to have entirely overlooked the social aspect of social media, and to be pursuing a numbers game whereby he could build an instant “platform” for his clients, who are mostly business-book authors.
It’s true that Twitter can work fine as a broadcast channel—if you’re the Dell Outlet sending notices of your latest deals. And there are lots of social media services a consultancy can provide its clients in good conscience. You can help them write a great LinkedIn profile or develop a good Facebook Fan Page. You can help with media monitoring. You can provide all kinds of training.
But if you can’t make people’s friends for them in person, what makes you think you can do it online? And why, just when the big companies are finding that they have the most social media success by acting more like real people, should real people start acting more like big companies used to?
Literary agent and one-time blogger Miss Snark used to keep a Clue Gun for situations like this.
And the frightening thing is that like the social media certification mentioned on FIR 506, there are people who will fall for it. According to the person who sent the e-mail, there have been several takers already. He even asked if I’d be interested in participating in the project—since I’m a ghostwriter, you know.
You must be joking. I’d have to be certifiable.
Professor Goetsch, signing off.
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