You Are What You Tweet

Twitter guy

Perhaps I’ll regret saying this, but, there’s no reason any business should ever pay anyone to manage their social media accounts unless they:

1)  Have absolutely no clue how to operate Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/Flickr/Squidoo/WordPress/etc. (in which case they’d be better paying someone to teach them how to use it – or learn for free through online tutorials.  Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to Tweet, and he’s annoying for life.)

or

2)  Simply have no time to learn and would rather pay someone to do it for them

In other words, either they’re too ignorant, too busy, or both.  In all other scenarios, if you’re in charge of your own business, or calling the shots in any way, I’m telling you to not pay someone to run your social media marketing.  This is coming from someone who makes a living running people’s social media sites.  That’s the equivalent of coffee salesmen telling you how great Red Bull is.

I do my best to tell it like it is.  This isn’t law, this isn’t accounting, this isn’t neurology.  Those fields require someone who has spent years in specified education acquiring licenses to qualify themselves as capable in their specific practice.  Social media marketing is much closer to personal training.  Sure, there is a vast proportion of the population who might not have the first clue as to how to go about achieving their health goals, but the process it takes to educate yourself can be measured in hours.  Read a couple of good books, get your Men’s Fitness subscription, watch an Arnold DVD, and you’re qualified to manage your own health and nutrition.  Beyond that, when you pay for a personal trainer, you’re buying motivation.  If you need someone to motivate you on why your business is marketable, you need more help than a social media specialist can offer.  You need to hire someone to overhaul your entire marketing program.

Ok,  if it’s so easy, how do I go about managing these sites?

Let me answer my own question presented from a 3rd party perspective by explaining the types of social media users I encounter on a daily basis.

The Rookie

This person has just recently discovered social media and has been convinced by at least one person half their age of its importance.  This combined with what is apparently too much free time equates to the most annoying of all social media users (aside from most businesses).  The result unfortunately is a steady stream of mundane updates mixed in with an endless barrage of Farmville, Mafia Wars, friend quizzes, their favorite charities (which they likely don’t contribute money to), and other updates from dangerously unimportant applications.  (By the way the only way to help these people is by ostracizing them.  Until you tell them how annoying they are, they hold the delusion that people find these bits of information important.)

The Drama Queen

This person thrives on social media because now they get to publicize their melodramatic qualities.  Often times this is merely a desperate cry for sympathy and attention.  A quick run through their updates will demonstrate that (at least in their eyes) nothing in their life is right.  My personal favorite variety of the drama queen is the “none of your business” variety.  This person will beg for attention, and when they receive it, will retract and act like nothing is wrong.  Their internal struggle is a spectacle for all to enjoy (or become nauseated by).

The Socialite

There are two very specific categories of The Socialite:

  1. The Business variety: The person in charge of this account makes every attempt to respond to every point of direct contact as a means of obtaining more business.  This is not necessarily a poor strategy, although it is very transparent.  They will often make direct references to each social interaction they can remember having with each member of their social network.  (“It was great to pass @billybob on the staircase”, “@LisaBibsby really knows how to buy diet coke at 7/11″).  To that person there is a momentary sense of importance.  To everyone else, you’ve taken time away from them that they will never get back.  NOTE: This has now gotten to the point where certain individuals will dedicate their lives to building their social network in this manner.  Eventually their endgoal is to essentially sell advertising (“hey guys, be sure to check out the Downtown Holiday Inn, it’s really great!”) to their “friends”. Sadly this works.
  2. The “look how popular I am” variety: This person derives their self worth by how “cool” other people perceive them as.  Perpetual picture sharing, shoutouts for every instance of communication, and a need to become “Facebook friends” at the slightest hint of interaction are symptoms of this disease.  If you’ve ever heard anyone brag about how many Facebook friends or followers they have, odds are they fall into this category.

The Jukebox

This person mostly uses song lyrics as their status updates.  This person sucks.

The Secondhand News Stand

I will go easier on this type, seeing as I most likely fall into this category (fair and balanced).  This person has the delusion that what they find important will also be deemed important by those in their social media circle.  They share what is funny, informative, important, educational, entertaining, despite how funny, informative, important, educational, or entertaining the source may actually be.  This is a sound approach for businesses to take to demonstrate their knowledge and timeliness within a particular niche.

I could go on.  I won’t.  The point is not to ridicule people for their social media uses (except maybe The Rookie and The Drama Queen).  The point of the preceding over-simplifaction is to demonstrate, that everything you do on social media says something about you.  More accurately, it says something about how you want people to perceive you.  This is not at all unlike any other form of communication.  Every action you take says something about you.  Social media is not some bizarre world populated with giant, blue creatures who ride pterodactyl like birds, who only practice monogamy, and are best viewed through cheap 3D glasses (I should make that into the best selling movie of all time).  Social media is society through the use of a keyboard, mouse, and/or touchscreen.  Hiring someone to tell you what to put as a Facebook update or Tweet means you don’t know what differentiates your business.  It means you don’t know your customers.  It means you don’t know how to position yourself between your competition.  It means you don’t understand business.

Sure there are some advanced social media tactics which can help condense, repetitive actions.  There are some tools which will help better locate potential customers.  But there are amazing resources out there that can help you figure these methods out without paying someone to do that for you.

However, if you do have the extra money to spend, don’t have the time, or the patience to learn the tricks of this trade, there are quality candidates out there who can master this for you (or educate you).  But, buyer be ware, there are snake oil salesmen, and there are people who know marketing.  Be careful to pick the latter.


  • http://www.laymanpsych.com/2009/06/the-psychology-of-twitter-facebook-and-other-social-networking-devices/ Tim Speciale

    To think, I was going to pay Zach Inc to tweet my bowl movements.

  • http://justinkownacki.com/ Justin Kownacki

    Technically speaking, we’re in the same boat: I make my living managing the social marketing efforts of other peoples’ companies. Invariably, situations arise in which the client would be better served by managing these efforts in-house, rather than relying on external expertise and a chain-of-command approval system.

    But.

    Although most companies would benefit in some way from managing their social media in-house, there are also downsides. The learning curve is one. The lack of external experience is another. The inability to include perspectives from beyond the corporate umbrella is a third.

    Plus, there’s the difference between using a tool because you can vs. using a tool as well as possible. I can frame my own photos, but a professional framer would do it better. I can (learn to) change my own oil, but Jiffy Lube does it faster. I can whittle my own dog toys, but… you get the idea.

    As in all things, companies and individuals must decide what’s worth doing on their own vs. what’s better executed by professionals with experience, insight and speed.

  • http://www.zackerycarr.com Zackery Reichenbach-Carr

    This is a very nice run through of just about every type of person in each one of my networks.
    I am relatively new to social media putting it off for a long time more due to my view of just the types of people listed in this post. Recently I have been using it to gather information more than anything else.
    Connecting with or following the right people is the key. The communication needs to be beneficial to both, and might be anything from trading recipes to getting help with purchasing a new pc.

    Thanks for the insight Zach

  • zachrd99

    First off, Justin, thanks for the thoughtful comment. For those who don’t know him, Justin has a really entertaining and inspirational website you should check out.

    Second, I guess the main point of this post, was that I don’t think the learning curve involved with social media is all that steep. There could be 3 potential reasons for this:

    1) It comes easier to me, or really anyone around my age, since I just so happened to be freshman in college the year Facebook came to be. I remember when wall posts, messages, and “pokes” were the sole capabilities of the site. Wasting time on social media was seen as problematic in college, now it’s my profession. Social media being a valuable business tool is akin to someone telling me, “you can be really rich if you’re good at Nintendo”, when I was 8.

    2) Perhaps I’m not using social media to it’s fullest extent. Maybe what I’ve been exposed to is only the tip of the iceberg. I choose to not believe this considering all the time I’ve spent listening to other “experts” talk about tactics which seem very elementary, but I’d love to be proven wrong.

    3) It is easy.

    The examples you give, including, “I can whittle my own dog toys, but..”, I would pay a dog whittler good money because, well quite frankly my guess is it takes several years of training to master the fine art of dog toy whittling. To my knowledge, social media is a relatively new invention. Even the most experienced social media’ers have only been using it for less than a decade. Self-proclaimed “social media experts” are often people who’ve gone to a conference, read a couple blogs, and opened a couple Twitter accounts. When they explain advanced tactics such as “re-tweets” and “twitter lists” to their clients, and it goes over their heads, they reaffirm to themselves their “expert” mentality.

    I think the most important aspect of effective social media marketing isn’t the social media aspect, but the marketing part. My declaration that “no business should ever pay anyone to manage their social media accounts”, is more of a warning not to shell out big bucks to one of these social media experts than anything else. Do I think there are smart people who also know how to leverage the intricacies of social media? Of course. And any business would be lucky to have them. But unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I think those types are few and far between. As a protection to wasting money on such an individual, I think they could learn the basics on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc., for themselves, and be better off for it.

    But, you do bring up good points, I should have done a better job explaining myself.

    Thanks for the comment. Check out Justin’s site!

    http://www.justinkownacki.com/