Social Media Marketing: Farce or No Farce? Two Books

Recently I have read two books on social media marketing — 500 Social Media Marketing Tips by Andrew Macarthy and Social Media is Bullshit by B.J. Mendelson. The titles are self-explanatory, yet utterly contradictory to one another. Who is right?

Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing Like

In the book 500 Social Media Marketing Tips we are informed about how the author believes social media can be used by small business for the promotion of their company, with the aim of increasing revenue and profits.

Here is the first paragraph of Macarthy’s book:

Social media marketing has become an indispensable tool in the armory of businesses, with an opportunity to build relationships, engage with customers, and increase sales like never before. And the stats back it up. … in addition, 77% of businesses have acquired new customers through Facebook (Marketing Charts, 2012) and social commerce is set to explode in the coming years. To top these figures all off, in an eMarketer poll in 2012, 97% of respondents agreed that effective social media marketing provided benefits and value to their business.

Quite convincing, I would argue. But then I read Mendelson’s book, of which the back of the book says the following:

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are just platforms. They’re not good or bad, useful or useless, However, we’ve allowed smug, greedy, well-fed white people to create a myth around them that says otherwise. A myth that says all you need to do is use social media for your business and all your dreams will come trea. All the while, these companies and the marketers pushing the myth are lining their pockets. 

So, who to believe? I don’t know, that’d be for you to judge. However, I can offer some comments on these two books.

500 Social Media Marketing Tips - J.B. Mendelson

500 Socia Media Marketing Tips is a simple and straightforward guide to the different social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram) on the net and basically shows you what these sites have to offer, when trying to use it for your business. I would argue that the gross of these things in this book, you would be able to figure out yourself by spending a couple of hours on those sites, though this little book will save you that small effort. And I am convinced that any person who has a degree in marketing, or has been working in marketing, is aware of these things. Nonetheless, it seems to have helped a bunch of people set up their own pages on these platforms — the average rating on Amazon is about a 4.3-4.4. I bought the book as a beginner in the field, or, better said, out of curiosity, and that purpose it served. My biggest point of critique is the fact that the book is littered with spelling mistakes, which tends to be quite annoying. (The rewriting of my master’s thesis for the purpose of publishing it took me a lot of time as well, and I still have some grammar mistakes in their. So I know the time it will take you to make it flawless without an editor).

Social Media is Bullshit - B.J. Mendelson

Social Media is Bullshit has a very different flavour. It tries to demystify the methods of social media marketeers to make a lot of money, while concealing the truth. The author explains that, until recently, he has been a big fan of social media marketing himself. However, his constant failure to use these platforms successfully had drawn him into trying to figure out what seems to be going so wrong.

Mendelson and wife organised a huge tour de campagne “to get college-aged students to check themselves more frequently to help catch and treat cancer early”. His aim was to raise 5 million dollars for a small non-profit, touring through some states, going to college campuses and raising awareness. The bottom-line is that they managed to get as many as 1 million fans on social media platforms, but didn’t gain one dollar from this, despite heavy promotion.

The author unfortunately makes one major mistake early in his book, when criticising the use of Twitter as a marketing tool. He said that according to Pew Research, about 13% of Americans were using Twitter in 2012. While that may be true, and it is — I checked. But Mendelson equated that to be 4 million Americans, while that obviously cannot be right with the US having a population of about 300 million. So he missed a zero, that can happen. But no — on the next page of his book, he repeated the same mistake. Such mistakes seriously damage the credibility of a book which is the book of books against all the other books. I almost stopped reading, but I didn’t in the end. For the better.

The remainder of the book turns out to be a credible and valuable pledge against the belief that, as a small business, one needs to be on all the social media platforms per se, and he turns to traditional methods of marketing, originating from a 1936 book entitled How to Win Friends and Influence People – Mendelson’s Marketing Bible. The bottom-line: “Offline matters more than online. This will never change. Your location, your circumstances, your audiences, that determines everything.”

Judgement

After having read these two books, I would argue that social media marketing is an tool of promotion which has be done highly effectively, or not at all. I wouldn’t disregard the whole idea of marketing your products through social media platforms, but Mendelson’s book has made my opinion regarding digital marketing much more cautious. A very good website and the tools of offline marketing seem to be more relevant than a presence on social media websites. Just from my own experiences this appears to be true. I am an avid user of the Internet and tend to buy products online as well, but I have never considering buying a product on the basis of its presence on social media sites.

Warning: this article is written by a person who has no in-depth knowledge of marketing — you will probably disagree.

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