Worst examples of social media BS?

I’ve been looking for choice examples of inflated claims and promises among people working in social media, for my talk next Tuesday, Calling BS on social media gurus.

If you’re someone who believes in the value of twitter, social media or even web 2.0m who do you think is giving you a bad name? Or making bad arguments?

I’m hoping if you know of a link, blog post or video I should see, you’ll leave a comment.

Disclaimer: I’m just getting started – so far not all of these are bad or even misleading, but they are interesting examples as points of reference. I’m trying to find a wide range to look at and examine.

1. Among other videos and papers I’ve been watching, this popular one is a highly produced, and often fascinating combination of statistics (his blog does list references – kudos) – but I’ll be looking at how they’re used in misleading ways.

2. Joe McCarthy put together this simple collection of stat inflation, where he did some poking around into the papers referenced by articles proclaiming social media growth:

Social Media Adoption By U.S. Small Businesses Doubles Since 2009
Small Businesses Mainly Use Social Media to Identify and Attract New Customers

And in his analysis, it appears they included email as social media in their categorization.

3. Brian Solis’s Unveiling the new Influencers, is a dazzling piece of writing, but has more hyperbole per paragraph than I’ve seen in some time. He’s completely entitled to his opinion, but writing like this is so speculative despite its bold claims, that it deserves attention.

4. This is more in the web 2.0 category, but it was one of the first. Its quite interesting and well done, and stays clear of misleading stats or other rhetorical tricks. But it still does take several positions and assumptions worth questioning:

What I’m looking for:

This list so far is pretty tame. Do you have other favorites, both honest and manipulative, you want to make sure I study and include in the talk? Videos, papers, blog posts, anything goes. Thanks for the help.


13 Responses to “Worst examples of social media BS?”

  1. Dorian Taylor

    Heh, not without alienating anybody. ;)

    PS, Is it really fair to put Michael Wesch in the category of BS social media gurus? Hasn’t he done some actual bona fide substantive work to frame the discourse around this stuff? Or is that it? (I am actually not aware.)

    1. Scott Berkun

      Dorian: I should have been less flipant in that title. Too late now.

      I cleaned up the post to make clear these are reference examples . I’m looking for more, across the spectrum. Michael Wesch’s piece is certainly interesting – but it is intentionally provocative, and has its share of assumptions and claims worth exploring.

  2. Rayna

    Hubspot had a list that promised over 300 various social stats — might be of interest. Felt a bit over the top.
    I tend to like infographics and thought this posting by Econsultancy offered some good ones for social

    Good luck.

  3. Dan Zarrella

    They key point by which anyone can identify bad social media advice is the lack of data.
    Any advice that is based on unicorns-and-rainbows touchy-feel-good stuff and no hard data is bogus.
    There is also a significant difference between anecdotal evidence and empirical evidence.

  4. Joe McCarthy

    This is a little late for your SMC Seattle talk, and is an example of someone else calling BS rather than an example of BS, but I thought this article on Mashable by Chris Treadaway, CEO of Lasso (a hyper-local advertising company), was interesting and somewhat relevant to the topic of your post:

    “Are Location-Based Services All Hype?”

  5. Ash Alluri

    Hey Scott,

    You may have read this already, but just in case – http://tiny.cc/missing-piece – it’s not directly related, but it should be a fun read if nothing.

    Have fun preparing and delivering your talk!


  6. Elisabeth

    I am looking forward, very much, to your follow-up post on what you actually said at your May 25 event, mainly because I suspect I will very strongly disagree with you.
    I don’t think social media is crap. (Is this what you’re saying? That’s why I hope you will write a follow-up post…) I do think it is revolutionary. That first example you posted blew my head off when I first saw it a few weeks ago. I hope you are going to elaborate on how you think it is being used in “misleading ways”. (Yes, I know it is promoting a book, but the stats are still mind-blowing, no?)
    I sincerely believe that “social media” is the missing piece of the puzzle to push companies away from using a 160-year-old business model to structure people and communications: hierarchy. When I’m finished mapping out my thoughts, they’ll show up on my blog. But right now, I’m still percolating. Sadly, it’s a slow process.
    I do make a distinction between social media (the technology which is revolutionary) and social media experts or “gurus”, aka “social media douchebags” (which is crap.)
    Unfortunately, whenever a bright and shiny object shows up, you will always get those few trying to take advantage of it.
    Don’t blame the technology for the existence of douchebags.



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