Deconstructing Silicon Valley Social Media Dogma

Silicon Valley Social Media

If you are an entrepreneur or business person intent on taking your company into the digital age via social networking and media, you may have stumbled upon the right article to set you on course. With 500 books, and as many so called “social media gurus” out there gasping for your attention, the road to Internet engagement can certainly be fraught with mis-information. The simple truth of what many people term “the conversation” (digital social interaction) is, “no pitch will be successful in the end unless it is the truth.”

If you are reading this, then you have already experienced the “lie” I am on my soap box about this time. Marketing this, selling that, pitching human beings as if they are sheep headed to the slaughter, at least in the way today’s “experts” profess you should proceed, is a dog and pony show – a one trick pony. Let me explain.

There are two prevalent book authors on the market who demonstrate the utter bullshit trusted authorities out there profess will guide you and your vision into world dominance. One of these, a compilation of blog posts of some intrinsic merit, I will come right out and call BS on. The other, a new book by an old associate in the Web 2.0 wars, I will simply give examples from out of respect for that author. Let’s look at what Seth Godin, one of the Web’s most acclaimed authors has offered the “would be” web champion first, then we will address some points by the other author who shall remain in anonymity.

Small Is The New Big and Other Fairy Tales

Seth Godin is accepted as maybe THE expert on business via digital marketing. Taking nothing away from Godin’s skill in marketing at least himself, the latest typed rendering on my night table reveals maybe the most important part of the fallacy of digital shaman-ism – resting upon shaky laurels. Godin’s proliferation of the marketing guru genre, at least for “Small Is The Next Big” is a cheap carnival trick to get in the pocket books of interested entrepreneurs. Why? It is a loosely compiled set of Godin’s blog posts and Web anecdotes – a regurgitation of common sense pundits, which offers no more insight into utilizing the Web than anyone could squeeze out of a decent Google search session. You got it straight, I did not find favor with this rip off. But, not because my wife forked over some change, because Godin cheapened himself and his readers. Look at the quote from Forbes below.

“In his book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, Seth Godin says that the key to success is to find a way to stand out–to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins.”

Now there is a down home recipe for success if I ever heard one, but is it anything new? Differentiation, as in the case of Godin, is about “selling” the perception rather than the actual fact. Godin, who is truly a genius who understands the herd mentality, capitalizes on the naiveness of “wanna be” entrepreneurs. An age old “Barnum and Bailey” approach to marketing anything – there is a sucker born every minute. Without doing a dissertation on Godin, suffice it to say the methodology is as follows:

  1. Work hard to learn your market well
  2. Establish a presence through blood sweat, tears, and acumen
  3. Replicate success at least once
  4. Optimize the regurgitation of this success over and over
  5. Rest on the laurels of any success by promulgating any value, over and over, as many times and through as many monetized channels as humanly possible
  6. Retire happy, when and only when, the money train runs out.

Not a bad strategy if you can pull it off, to be sure. The problem is, the truth of these “rainbow” tactics and gems of industriousness is often obscured by the overall bullshit. Simply put, Godin, nor any of his contemporaries really does more than tell their readers what they already know. Secondly, though hints as to the difficulty of “getting there” may be present, the overall salesmanship of big ideas overshadows any real methodology. These expert advices basically teach stupid people to be more positive about their stupidity. In essence, they offer hope just like the MAKE MILLIONS SELLING ICE CUBES TO ESKIMOS marketing ploys. Brilliant! But I challenge anyone reading this to emulate Godin or the others after reading their dribble.

Self Promotion, The 8th Deadly Sin

Let’s jump off of old Seth for a moment, and onto some more social dogma which accentuates “Godin Style” digital monotheism. I am going to just jump right off an paraphrase (so I don’t have to link to) another PR and social guru professing the sames things Godin does, from another angle.

With (my handy book) as your bible, you can effectively compete in the Genesis of new digital media while endearing the supporters and online social heroes. Social and interactive media contribute significantly to the success of every modern company, and with my handy dandy book you will learn how to:

  • Create an Island in the online ecosphere that exemplifies your business and engenders your customer’s loyalty and undying trust.
  • Take part in the unique culture of every available social media platform in order to engage your clients.
  • Formulate an organizational structure which constantly targets the next new media trends and innovations.
  • Attract champions of online networking and innovative change gurus who will unveil social networks you need, along with other superstars who can help build your reputation in the online world.
  • Adapt your company to market needs and trends via your super duper connections forged by using my techniques.

Okay, I took some journalistic license with a few terms there, but you get the idea. Nowhere in all that pitch is there an inkling of reality. I will get 100 bad emails over this I know, but anyone who wants to use social media or networking to their benefit actually needs to know a lot less about theoretically “endearing customers” and a lot more about how the social sphere actually works. This is unless your business just needs a boost in traffic or some short term sales. I do not of course mean to imply that even short term gains via social networking can be achieved without significant resources.

The reader may ask the question; “Why is this writer jumping on the backs of such notable experts?” The answer is, they sully the reputations of some many others who really can and would help people. To be blunt, bullshit artists make it tough for people who really give a damn. What you are looking at in most instances on the Web (or off of it) is a group of fairly ingenious (or lucky or both) people who have one successful product which is never improved upon, only reissued over and over again. They prognosticate common sense sound bits the average person is enthralled by, suggesting there is some super secret Minos maze which only they have successfully navigated. Much of the time, these gurus do not even know how they got where they are.

The Secret of Digital Success

In case you read too many of these expert analyses, the true secret to success online is exactly the same as it is offline. Big surprise huh? The channels may be different, and companies do need to fully understand two way communication, but marketing a sucky product online is no more advisable than it is at a flea market. Sooner or later (probably much sooner given the speed of interaction here) consumers will spot and effectively shun terrible wares. All we are talking about is interactive advertising. Godin would have you believe he is the only one who can tell you how to be a purple cow in a herd of Angus cattle. Right. Such Earth shaking premonitions powered 5,000 beta startups which are now red marks on the books of venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. I leave you with another accolade Godin received which paves the path across the top of the rainbow for emerging digital monopolies.

“Godin and his colleagues are working to persuade some of the most powerful companies in the world to reinvent how they relate to their customers. His argument is as stark as it is radical: Advertising just doesn’t work as well as it used to-in part because there’s so much of it, in part because people have learned to ignore it, in part because the rise of the Net means that companies can go beyond it.”

People just now learned to ignore ads, a moment ago ads permeated our lives, and companies out there are actually past advertising! Which ones? Everything marketing types do in the digital world (so far at least) is just an old world advertising ploy. Traffic conversions – this is all most understand, and something few can achieve. So, if you want to Twitter your way to untold billions, just snatch up a guru or his/her book, and you are on your way.

Not quite. But, that is a lesson for another article or rant. Please just take people like Godin and the others on face value. Regardless of their genius, some bean counter is urging them to squeeze more lemon juice out of the same lemon. Make a great product, get some good advice, show it to people – this is the secret to success.


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