The Wicked Lies that Social Media Gurus Weave

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This is a rant. Lies, lies, lies. I’m so very tired of hearing all of the crap that social media ‘gurus’ tell clients. Last night I did a Twitter Explained training with Linda Fitzgerald and her group, Affiliated Women International. The group is made up of experienced, empowered business women. In their words:

Our vision is to “empower women worldwide”. The mission is to enrich, encourage, and equip women in a manner that leads to empowerment.

For the first half of the meeting, I had to dispel some of the lies that the group had been told. This isn’t the first time. It requires me to take everyone back a step and really calm them down. Social media can be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be.

Social media sites don’t come with instruction manuals.

The reason is that each person measures the benefits, purpose, likes and dislikes differently. Social media empowers the user… you can read or not read, follow or unfollow, subscribe or unsubscribe, join or leave… it’s up to you. It’s not up to some guy that talks himself up as an industry expert but hasn’t ever executed a long-term branding and marketing strategy in his life.

  • Don’t tell me I shouldn’t use auto direct messages on Twitter. I’ve added over 500 subscribers to my blog’s RSS feed. I have over 30,000 followers on Twitter. People aren’t unfollowing because of the auto DM. I don’t care if you don’t like it. You don’t have to follow me. Or simply opt out of them!
  • Don’t tell me I can’t sell on my blog. I can and do sell on my blog. Of course I modify my wording and get the best results when I soft sell and prove my authority and expertise first. I know what I’m doing. At my company, my blog has the most conversions of any of the employees.
  • Don’t tell me I must be publishing videos on Youtube. I do videos to provide some personal insight into my personality and so that people get to know me visually, not just in text. I think it’s important, but it’s not the key to my success. I’d rather a client who’s uncomfortable with video avoid it than doing a poor job of it.
  • Don’t tell me not to advertise… everywhere. I have a successful blog with thousands of visitors a day, thousands of subscribers, thousands of followers, and I get speaking engagements (one at an International Conference coming up in Las Vegas… more on that soon), consulting gigs, programming opportunities, and I’m on the board of 2 startups. The little double-lines on my posts don’t appear to be holding me back. I’m not going to apologize for making a few hundred bucks a month for the hundred+ hours I put in on the average week.
  • Don’t tell me I need to participate in the conversation on Facebook. I don’t care if you get business on Facebook. I tried it. I didn’t. So if I automate feeds from my blog and Twitter there and login once a month, that’s good enough for me. Facebook is AOL version 20… or MySpace 3.0… sure it’s got the numbers and the growth… but there will be something better that comes along. That’s why I love the web. I’m not going to gamble all my traffic, network and relationships on a social network… I’ll keep that on my blog that I own/run/direct/backup/monitor thank you very much.
  • Don’t tell me I can’t send an email with one big image and no text in my email marketing campaign. I did it and got the highest response rate of any of our campaigns. Get over it.
  • Don’t tell me not to cuss. I avoid cursing online as much as possible because I feel as though it’s disrespectful to my audience. But it you want to cuss, curse away! I don’t have to read it (although I read quite a few successful sites that do). I simply choose not to.

If you want to run your Make Money Quick schemes on Twitter. Go for it! If you profit from it, good for you. (I won’t be following you or giving you any attention.) If you want to find your next hook-up on Facebook, go for it. If you want to use Twitter as a Search Engine, go for it! I use it like a news ticker… I love randomly clicking a link, joining the conversation, helping someone out, or just trying to drive traffic to my blog with it. Leave me alone! I can use it however I want!

When you attend a presentation, read a blog, observe a webinar and some guru starts talking about twetiquette, and what you should or shouldn’t do… your ratio of followers to people you follow, etc, run to the door… don’t walk. These gurus have no idea what your business is, what your industry is, what your competition is, your style of selling, how you position your product or what your personality is. How can they possibly tell you how to use social media?!

I share with my audiences strategies that I’ve tried, how to measure the results and what worked/what didn’t. I explain the functionality and features of the tools at their disposal. I encourage my clients and audiences to experiment. I encourage to measure. I encourage them to put in enough effort that you are assured of whether or not it’s a good medium for you. What works for me may not work for you… and vice versa.

Social media doesn’t have a rule book.

Make your rules up as you go… just be sure to measure as you go. You can spend a lot of time chasing shiny objects with no return on investment.


  1. 1

    I like the bigger message that your post touches on here, which is that there are no rules. Or, if there are “rules” that sometimes breaking them can be more successful than following them.

    I applaud the message to forge new paths, not be sheep marketers.

  2. 2

    Q: What’s the difference between a rule and a good idea?

    A: A rule is just something people made up. A good idea is a benefit to many people, perhaps even everyone.

    Doug is absolutely right: there are no rules to social media. The world of rules is offline, but there are no laywers, cops or judges who patrol cyberspace.

    However, there are good ideas and tremendously bad ideas. An example of a tremendously bad idea is libel. Did you hear about the awful thing Doug Karr did last weekend? Good, because I just made it up. Spouting lies or defaming character online might have negative repercussions offline. In addition to moderating away this comment, Doug might send Vinny around to break my kneecaps or serve me with a lawsuit.

    Are Doug’s suggestions above all tremendously bad ideas? I don’t think so, but I am not convinced they are all great suggestions, either. Of course, you can send a email which consists solely of an image and impress most of your customers. Doing so will also alienate those who are visually impaired. For this reason, I personally try to follow Veen’s Law and avoid ever putting a word in a graphic. (But even I don’t think Flickr should be illegal. That’s over the top.)

    Likewise, Auto-DMs will only alienate a small percentage of new followers if you already have 1,000s of followers. I wouldn’t advise it if you are new to twitter as I predict it will stunt your growth.

    There are no rules to social media. But there are good ideas, and I’m looking for some. Know any?


  3. 3

    This is genius and very true. I hope that people listening/reading will pay attention. There are no rules when it comes to social media and social networking. What works in my field of education might not work for someone else in the technology world. Great stuff.

  4. 4

    I agree with your post by and large. The rules are constantly being re-written. In effect, there are no rules.

    There isn’t a one single way to market on the Internet.

    There are *best practices* to do certain things on the Internet. There are right ways and wrong ways to distribute an ad-supported video series (if you want to be successful, that is), for instance. There’s a right way to monetize a blog if it’s primarily a journalistic platform (those double-line ads can create appearance of impropriety).

    There *is* social media expertise, because some of us have been doing this for more than a decade, and have worked out best practices for common tasks and goals.

    On the other hand, I too very often spend a lot of my time following up bad advice with good because some “expert” laid down the law after having read three months of Mashable and Techcrunch and decided they needed to become a pro at the business.

    • 5

      Thanks Mark! Your comment is definitely the spirit in which I wrote this post. I simply want people to know that this technology should not be intimidating, it should be enabling!

  5. 6

    “The world of rules is off line, but there are no {lawyers}, cops or judges who patrol cyberspace.” Well, there are indeed lawyers, cops AND judges (the latter being more judgmentalists than those of the court!), and libel and DMCA are just a few (but most prominent) usuries in cyberspace.

    I disagree with the term “best practices” used as a milder or somehow different form of the term “rules”, as that is just a fancy new way of saying “rules”. Best practices are more applied to page coding perhaps, but not content (other than style & grammar & spelling, and in that case Best Practices FTW, but style grammar, and spelling do NOT make content – they just make content contextual and understandable, which should remain important).

    As you see – I have set rules here – but not rules of how to engage in social media design or approach, so I won’t.

  6. 7

    Well written, bold, honest blog post.

    Whether or not people agree with the sentiment of the post is up to them but…

    This is an important blog post for the wider community. Be sure to obey the important rules:

    Offer Value
    Connect & interact
    Be yourself

    above all: know your customer or target.

    Great post. Keep it up.

    The DM debate is a good one and the post could have used more reasoning in your point because you are bang-on but ppl need to why the DM nazis are nutz

  7. 8


    Exactly. Some people like to position themselves as “thought leaders” by publishing lists of do’s and don’ts. The truth is we’re in the Wild West stage of social media and anything goes.

  8. 10

    On auto-DM’s:

    Sorry, the auto-DM feature is spam, plain and simple. Why would you want to automate communications in the first place? It shows a lack of respect for people who follow you, imo. You’re right – there are no rules, however I thought as marketers collectively we were past trying to spam others?

    On cussing:

    Careful encouraging people to cuss – remember, not everyone is in the position you are in. Lower level people can lose their job or potentially have their future disrupted when employers see they have been cussing in public previously. Using tact goes a long way there.

    • 11


      RE: Spam – The only way you can get an Auto-DM is if you follow someone… that’s an opt-in. Whether you appreciate the message or not doesn’t mean that you didn’t give the person permission to message you.

      I actually appreciate Auto DMs and don’t see them as SPAM. I’d like to know more about the person I’m following and getting an instant response like that is great. It’s not difficult to delete them.

      Re: Cussing – I wasn’t encouraging people to cuss. In fact, I’d encourage people not to. I’m only stating that it does work for some people and doesn’t seem to hurt their following. It’s just a ‘rule’ that doesn’t work for everyone (but it works for me).


  9. 12

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Not participating in the conversation means you’ve abandoned the conversation. If I come upon your blog, the one that you own/run/direct/backup/ and monitor, then I expect our conversation to progress then and there.

    If you set the agenda and then pull out, I’m not coming back. What I will do, if I respect your work, is to take your content elsewhere and discuss it with other people engaged in the idea of convivial analysis. What you’ve provided may be a fertile idea but what you’ve left us with, if you don’t participate further down the line, is just a fallow tract.

    • 13

      Hi Christopher,

      I’m ALWAYS participating in the conversation. Whether someone replies to me on Plaxo, LinkedIn, or Facebook – I always return the message. My point is that I don’t get ‘bang for the buck’ in spending a lot of time in those areas, so I bring the message TO my followers there. If they respond, I respond. I just don’t value them as MY primary means of networking.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation!

      With much respect.

  10. 14

    Sheesh, Doug. I think someone had your panties in the dryer for too long. Seriously, I think I agree with you (only read it once). Beware of all “experts.” Find helpers.

  11. 15

    Fantastic post Doug! People ask me every day, ‘What services should I use to grow my business? How should I be using them?’ I don’t KNOW!!! You have to look at so many things about your business first. There is absolutely NO one-stop-solution for social media strategy.

    The best thing you can do is to make a plan using some good guesses based on your existing information and experience, execute the plan, measure the results, and throw out what’s not working (while increasing what is working, of course).

  12. 16

    Good grief thanks for writing this. I agree 100%. If you want to shun or make fun of or blackball or whatever because I don’t “get in line”- have at it. I don’t have to follow any rules and am perfectly OK with the business I get doing it my way. I get annoyed though, particularly at certain web cliques/types who (to me anyway) behave like lemmings and whose every move hinges on what some talking head says.

    Bottom line, make educated choices, but… think for yourself.

  13. 17

    re: twitter auto follow – I don’t use it and am at roughly 2500 followers. As time goes on the speed at which I am gaining followers seems to increase and it is becoming increasingly difficult to address each and every follow with anything that resembles a personal “thank you”… any length of time away and the followers pile up, so I can see a use for auto following. Not to be impersonal but it can be a time consuming exercise. We’ll have our goes at one another on Twitter eventually. If I were to use auto follow, it would probably be just to say thanks and not “sell” anything… just a simple thank you. Personally the “check out my blog” auto DMs annoy me. A simple thanks would not.

  14. 18

    Doug – Shhhh. You’re letting the cat out of the bag. If people find out, they will realize there’s not much need for a social media guru with less knowledge of their area of expertise than a high school senior. They might also figure out that most of these experts are about as useful as the haberdashers in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

    Oh, and to the guy saying the “rules change” this isn’t SEO where there are actually some vaporous rules that exist. In social media, there are no rules.

    • 19

      Hi Mike!

      Building a game plan and taking a strategic approach with a ‘good’ consultant can help a company to fully leverage each medium, accurately measure the outcome, and save them a lot of time doing it. I’m not advocating going it alone, I’m just against those experts that sell some magic formula… we all know there isn’t one!


  15. 20

    Any new social media in its infancy provides an escape from the formal bounds and controls. It can have wide appeal and allows freedoms to innovate by many users, needs, personalities.

    Inevitably, some of users will seek to ‘own’ the new media, to express mastery and expertise as a means to self-aggrandizement or profit. This seems to be the natural course in any human endeavor.

    Personally, I like the early anarchic phase when anything seems possible: It is like a blank canvas. Inevitably, however, humans revert to solace in structure and controls.

  16. 21

    I found freedom when i read what you’ve written. I was quite timid at first to explore and try new things in Twitter. I was observing. learning from others and just loving Twitter’s gift of being able to share and learn from others.
    Then one time i read i couldn’t post something personal going on in my life .Honestly i have found tweeting as one of the most effective tools we nurses implement on our interventions and that is being able to air out and express whatever you are undergoing inside of you. It simply helps to relieve and alleviate life’s pains and pressures.
    It’s nice to know that i can be what i am. I can express my views and my style just as it is. Thank you for that freedom, love it! Yeah!


  17. 22

    Refreshing to read information from a person who is doing the work. How do I know? Because I have the experience from doing the and know he is right.

    Key Point: Use social media however you want. If you want to build a business using the resources of social media. Go for it and use what works. For example, Facebook has worked for me. I continue to use it and it is part of our social media marketing strategy that we implement for clients.

    Thank you for this well articulated position.

  18. 23

    Of course, the danger in this rant Doug is that you skirt dangerously close to giving dos and don’t s yourself, just different dos and don’t s that those other guys.

    I think the real message, and in my mind you make this point, is that no matter what the tool is, the use should always be dictated by your market and your objectives. There’s no question that how some people tell you that you should be using social media is spot on from an effectiveness standpoint for some . . . and, the ways you are suggesting are spot on obviously for you, and for others too, but certainly not for all.

    The real danger is when people start professing right and wrong ways to do anything – the only right way, as you point out, is the one that works for your unique situation.

    social media is a tool, it’s not a religion!

    • 24

      Hi John,

      You make a great point – and I think you clarify mine even further. I don’t want to intimidate, I want to empower. Empowering people requires the social media consultant to be somewhat impartial, but knowledgeable.

      For instance, I’m a huge fan of StumbleUpon, but I recognize that it conforms more to my browsing habits and personality than does Digg. That doesn’t mean that my clients should abandon using Digg and jump on StumbleUpon, tho!

      Instead, I explain how each can be utilized, the unique features, how they’ve performed in the past, and encourage the person to test out each. We can then measure the impact of their efforts and see which one benefits them (or even whether both might!).


  19. 25

    I agree with everything you’ve written Doug, I’ve seen the same situation here in Australia.

    I think the rules that does apply are the rules of common courtesy and basic manners. It might be on the web but that doesn’t mean shouldn’t be polite and respectful


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    There are really no rules to any; channel, social, direct/catalog, email, web…you name it. aside from any rules that FTC has enforced. The results would vary heavily based on your audience, so you figure out what rules you need to follow for your business.

  22. 28

    There are really no rules to any; channel, social, direct/catalog, email, web…you name it. aside from any rules that FTC has enforced. The results would vary heavily based on your audience, so you figure out what rules you need to follow for your business.

  23. 29

    There are really no rules to any; channel, social, direct/catalog, email, web…you name it. aside from any rules that FTC has enforced. The results would vary heavily based on your audience, so you figure out what rules you need to follow for your business.

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