You can’t sleep through your own social media efforts


…no effort, no real gain

I will admit right off the bat, this is a bit of a rant, which you know I don’t do very often.

I was on the phone with a prospect (an organization who is just contemplating how/if they should begin to participate in social media) and I was talking about the process we’ve developed to help clients create a social media strategy that actually defines why they’d invest resources into the effort and then measures against those goals.

Just like any marketing strategy — we identify audiences, key messages, the right channels etc.

We end up creating a very robust strategy with our clients and then we teach them how to implement it.  For the next several months, we walk along side them as they get their sea legs.   We help them test drive different tools and schedules until they really feel confident that they can generate, conduct, find and participate in the kinds of conversations where they can add value and get value in return.

After that, we help them tweak the strategy and we might help with some content editing or repurposing some existing content for a blog or e-newsletter — but for the most part, they’re doing it on their own.  Because it is their conversation to have.

At this point in the phone call the prospect stopped the conversation and said “wait a second, are you saying that you don’t believe you should do it all for us?  I’ve talked to four other firms/consultants and no one’s ever suggested that we would do some of it ourselves.  They said it would be much easier on us if we just paid them a monthly fee and they took care of it all.”

What???  Are you freaking kidding me?

I’m not going to get into the “social media expert” discussion because it’s been done to death.  But, it infuriates me when people hold themselves out as any sort of expert and then purposefully give their clients bad advice because it puts more money into their own pocket.  It’s not only a crappy way to do business and dishonest — but it has the potential to do some serious damage to the client’s business.

Of course hiring someone else to do it all for you would be easier.  But that doesn’t make it better or even right.  It would be easier if you sat on the couch rather than going to the gym — but you don’t actually build any muscles that way.

Now don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing wrong with hiring someone to help you.  People hire MMG all the time for that very purpose.

But you have to do some of the driving yourself.  Think about it.

Can a paid consultant respond to a customer complaint on a Facebook page wall or add to a conversation about your area of expertise in your blog’s comment section?  They can probably fake it.  But it certainly is a lost opportunity if you let them “handle” it rather than you digging in and really either starting or enhancing a relationship — all in front of hundreds (or thousands) of potential buyers.

Don’t let any social media agency, company or consultant own your social media activity any more than you’d let a stranger answer your customer service line.

If you do, it may be the most expensive buying decision you ever make.


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21 comments on “You can’t sleep through your own social media efforts

  1. I always believe that a client should be a partner. That means every marketing campaign should be thoroughly discussed, and both parties understand why certain steps should be undertaken–or not. For one, clients wouldn’t be able to appreciate the tools and strategies if they’re simply left in the sidelines. Second, the success of their business still lies on them, the unique brand they want to build for themselves.

    1. Amelia,

      No argument on the partner distinction. But in this specific case, it goes deeper than that. An agency’s role in terms of social media is not only to do but to teach. And eventually, the baby bird (client) will be get it and be able to fly on their own. That’s the real success long term.


  2. Karin H says:

    Every business expert I’ve ever encountered is now running my business 😉

    Now the Social Media experts are fighting them for control of the daily running.

    Me? I just walk every day whistling to the bank.

    (As if!)

    Karin H (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

    1. Karin,

      Why do you think that is? They wouldn’t be out there selling it if people weren’t buying it. Why do you think business owners are so ready and willing to abdicate the running of their own business?


      1. Karin H says:

        Great question!

        I think they see it as the easiest way out. No hard work, just listening to advisers/experts (of any kind) and if it then does not work out – without having implemented or just half-hearted the advise – you can easily blame the “expert”. And move on to the next.

        Why take responsibility and do the hard work when it is much easier to throw some more money at the “experts”?

        Does not only happen in small businesses, big companies – top management – have a “reputation” of getting experts in to play the blame game.

        Karin H

        1. Karin,

          You could well be right. And no argument on the big companies too comment. I just think the risks are so much greater to a smaller sized organization. They don’t have as much wiggle room to make those kinds of mistakes.


  3. Drew: these are excellent points. You’ve hit the nail right on the head here. Businesses struggle with the answer to this dilemma – although they aren’t social media experts, they know they need to use social media, but don’t know how. It is very tempting to hire someone to do the whole thing for them just as one would hire a plumber to fix the whole problem. The difference is that that we don’t use social media to fix an equipment malfunction like a leaky toilet. Social media is a conversation in a different form, not a problem to be fixed.

    1. Elise,

      Oh, I get the allure. It’s new, it’s scary and it’s time consuming. Who wouldn’t want to hire out a task with that sort of description. And if a company KNOWINGLY chooses to do that….then I say, that’s their choice. What triggered my rant was that I think a lot of companies don’t know any better and they’re being taken advantage of, all in the name of a bigger monthly fee.

      That’s what really gets my goat because it’s not only bad business but it’s stealing in a way.


  4. A little bit of this is caveat emptor. I know companies eyes glaze over around social media as though it were a foreign language with a foreign alphabet, but–seriously, any business person who thinks they can hand over wholesale any aspect of their business just isn’t thinking it through.

    That said, this snake oil sales stuff makes me crazy too. Of course, it also gives us a lot of room for competitive differentiation, so many we shouldn’t complain so much.

    By the way, I’m sorely disappointed (and my muscles to0) that I can’t hire someone to do my ab workout for me.

    1. Daria,

      I agree, but as Karin said — there seems to be a consultant out there willing to take over any aspect of your business you’re willing to abdicate. I’ll ask you the same thing I asked her — what has happened/changed that would make that sort of thinking palatable and even appealing to a business owner today?


      1. The phrase “sucker born every minute” came from somewhere, right? Sadly, I don’t think this is a new phenomenon. It’s just that social media is a new-ish area ripe for picking.

        1. Daria,

          Perhaps. But I wonder if part of the disconnect is that for many/most business owners, the link between social media activities and actual sales is still pretty fuzzy, so it’s not enough of a priority for them to do it themselves? But somehow they feel like they need to do something?


  5. Claire,

    I like the way you created the distinction. You’re right — one is “doing” something on a task list that can then be crossed off. The other is a way of being. And as we both know, one works and the other doesn’t. It’s really that simple.


  6. Anna,

    Exactly — everyone needs to understand that they have a role to play and why it matters that they do it rather than passing it off to someone else.


  7. I had the same experience with a healthcare prospect this week. I had to explain that while I know marketing, promotion and social media engagement very well, I am not a medical expert and therefore I should not be the person tweeting and engaging online.

    But, the thing that always amazes me the most is how community management like that burns through budget that could be much better used in more creative and strategic promotions that create news and content for social media channels!

    1. Jennifer,

      That’s part of what distresses me too. The wasted money and the disillusioned client who is no longer willing to give social media the go it deserves.


  8. Chris,

    Exactly! (I know you preach this same message all the time!)

    When someone from the outside operates all of your social media, it’s a little like being the ventriloquist’s dummy. No matter how hard you try, the voice of the human with their hand up your back ends up coming through.


  9. Luke says:

    This post is spot on.

    There is some sort of myth circulating about IM and Social Media marketing.

    Offline business owners, and heck even online seem to think about this form marketing as some non serious fast quick way to gain extra cash.

    But not only them. Even starting IM’ers are convinced that acting “BlackHat” which means using unethical methods and cutting corners is the way to go.

    This isn’t even “BlackHat”. I would rather call it “LazyHat” .

    For me using most effective forms of persuasion to achieve a sale – that is “BlackHat”

    Works pays off – always. Conversation thru social media is excellent but effort is required.

    Time especially.

    All in all my advice would be to really putt an effort in social media. Results will come.

    1. Luke,

      I agree — many people mistakenly believe that social media and internet marketing are both instantaneous and free/cheap. The reality is — they’re neither. Like all good marketing — it’s seed planting. Some of the seeds root right off the bat and others germinate for a much longer time.

      It’s just a new channel but all the old rules apply, in terms of time and effort.


  10. Drew:

    There is no shortage of people willing to part with money on the idea that you will take their problems away.

    The most money seems to go to those who promise that you won’t have to do anything.

    To elaborate on your ‘working out’ analogy, there are people who hire trainers but never get to the point where they can do the work themselves. Hence, those are the same people who make no progress.

    It seems the majority of the so called ‘Social Media Experts’ that enter the arena these days have no measurable experience. They took a quick on line course and a week later they had business cards.

    To use the gym analogy again… You can take an on line course that can be completed in less than a week and get a certification as a personal trainer. So, one day a 19 year old kid is working at a sporting goods store for minimum wage, and a few days later he is billed out as a 50-60 dollar an hour personal trainer.

    Is he worth the money? Of course not!

    But there will be no shortage of people willing to part with cash on the assumption he can make their lives better.

    The less effort he tells them will be required on their part, the more willing they are to hire him.

    P.T Barnum was wrong… A sucker is not born every minute. It’s every 30 seconds.

    1. Patrick,

      I think you’ve just described half of the infomercials on television today! We are a society who wants an instant fix and we’ll gladly pay for it. And perhaps the scariest sentence in your comment was this: The less effort he tells them will be required on their part, the more willing they are to hire him.

      Sadly — you are right on the money. A fool and his money are soon parted.


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