FTW Media

Thoughts about New/Social Media

Social media douchebags

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“Don’t call me a social media guru,” said one social media consultant at a small gathering last Monday. If there’s one I hate most over recent times, it’s the term “Social Media guru/expert/enthusiast” on one’s Twitter profile page–it’s an annoying self-styled term that can be summed up in one word: Douchebag.

Let’s take a short history lesson in Internet douchebaggery. The douchebag term in the mid-2000s was “Web 2.0”, and it didn’t help that Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point came up during that time. Soon, you had people all over the web putting 2 and 2 together and calling themselves “Web 2.0 Mavens” .

Smart readers like you realise that “Web 2.0” is a hollow term: it meant many things, and nothing at all. It was a vague rah-rah… marketing catch phrase. A glance at its Wikipedia entry admits as such: “‘Web 2.0’ refers to a perceived second generation of web development and design, that facilitates communication, secure information sharing, interoperability, and collaboration on the World Wide Web” (emphasis mine)

John C Dvorak sums it up well in his PC Mag column “Web 2.0 Baloney”:

During the late 1990s, the golden ring slipped just past the grip of a lot of wannabes, who are convinced that they can do it right this time around—if only there is another dot-com surge. Web 2.0 is a rallying point. Maybe cheerleading will make it happen! But what they are cheerleading for, a slew of vague and meaningless concepts, shows that they have no clue about what they are doing.

Fast-forward to 2009: “Web 2.0” is confined to the dustbin of overused catchphrases, and now in its place is “Social Media”, which, when you think hard enough, gives us no new insight. Wasn’t the Internet established as a social medium in the first place, where one computer-user would communicate with another? It’s like saying television is a visual media, or radio is a sound-based medium.  (Note: I realise the irony in saying this, given that our blog is about “Social Media” — more on that below)

The point is, there’s nothing new about Social Media, just as there was nothing new about “Web 2.0” compared to “Web 1.0”. It’s all about repackaging  and selling it to consumers who don’t know any better. Now, add “guru” or “enthusiast” to Social Media, and what do you get? That’s right. Nothing more than someone proclaiming that he/she likes to do lots of Twittering and Seesmicking in his/her underwear — though it’s more likely a him — while shouting “Twitter! Blog! Innovate! Engage!” and other cheerleader statements to prospective clients.

However, the irritating thing is that “Social Media”, just like “Web 2.0”, is a concept that sticks. As vague as it is, the phrase makes it easier for a general population to understand the nuances and the nature of Facebook, Twitter, blip.fms and what have yous. As much as one hated the overuse of the term “Web 2.0” and its vapor-like connotations, one can’t deny its effectiveness in pitching to clients who are still rubbing their eyes at the amazement of “the Google” while parsing the interwebs on their IE 6 browser.

In other words, say “microblogging service, data portability, social graph” and they won’t get you. Say “It’s a social media marketing tool,” and they’ll sorta get you.

Having said that, there are those who do do real consultancy work in this nascent field. I feel sorry for them, especially whenever someone else calls them a “social media guru”–I can see them visibly cringe upon hearing that. Brand Dialogue and BL Ochman provide some clues on how to tell the real deal, but they generally say the same thing: cut through the chatter, get to the real proof of concepts, ask for measurable metrics and strategies,  and don’t believe it when they say the strategy costs nothing and results can be shown in a short time.

So the next time you see me calling myself a Social Media Guru/Expert/Enthusiast, just slap me in the face and call me an self-hyping Twitterer.

Written by John Lim

April 16, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Social Media

One Response

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  1. heh. was at MPH earlier, saw a book telling you how to sell via Twitter.


    April 16, 2009 at 9:36 pm

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