Anti-Social Media

Ian Lurie

Note! This post has caused a kerfuffle! Read it at your own risk!

I’m getting ready for tomorrow’s Northwest Entrepreneur Network meeting. I have to give some opening remarks, and as always I find it a little easier if I write down my thoughts.
The panel is about ‘Social Media’ and ‘Social Networking’.
Love the concept. Hate the terms.
Before we all get swept up in the hype around social this and media that, it pays to step back, take a deep breath, and get some perspective:
First, the phrase is ridiculous. Have you ever heard of ‘anti-social media’?
Second, social media is not something new. It’s been around since one of our apish ancestors hooted to the rest of the tribe about a sabertooth tiger.
Third, you are not Barack Obama. If you’re expecting to reach millions of people overnight, it ain’t gonna happen.

What social media/networking is

Social networking happens any time you connect with others to get the word out. If you need to pass the message that all purple things are intelligent, you could stand on a street corner and yell “Purple things are intelligent!!!!”. If another crazy person is passing by, they’ll pick up the story and pass it along.
Online, social networking happens when you reach out to existing connections through one of the hundreds (thousands?) of tools out there like Twitter, Facebook or MySpace. Post your message, and everyone who follows you (on Twitter) or is your friend (on Facebook) sees that message. If they like it, they pass it along to their friends, who may also like it, and so on.
It’s like a sneaky chain letter, without the vague threats of horrific consequences.

What social media isn’t

Social media is not some phenomenon that’s unique to the online world.
It is not a revolution in marketing.
It is not the Way To Instant Millions In Your Inbox. It takes time.
It is not a substitute for other marketing tactics. Tell me that and I’ll punch you, or at least bat at you feebly (I’m kind of a wuss).

It’s about expectations

Lots of people claim they’re ‘social media experts’. There are no social media experts. Unless you’ve gone your entire life without humiliating moment of ass-clenching foot-in-mouth syndrome, you are not a social media expert.
There are some marketers who claim to be social media experts but don’t have a clue. Then there are a few who know a lot about the sites and the tools and can use them to support an internet marketing campaign. Neither is an expert. The latter is a great asset. The former is a danger to himself and others.
Set your expectations. Any form of social media or networking requires that you have an audience of interested listeners, first. If you think you’re going to get that in a week, think again.

Social media takes time

Yes, you can jump on Twitter, follow 7,000 people and then spam the 500 poor souls who follow you back. yes, you can do the same on Facebook. But that won’t build you a network that’s an asset. It’ll build a network of people who want to see you buried face-down in an anthill.
Instead, take the time to build a network. Find the people who’ll really benefit from what you have to tell them (or sell them). Then start reaching out.

Stop and think

I’m not actually saying we should replace the terms ‘social media’ or ‘social networking’. I am saying we need to stop and think before we hop on the bandwagon. Treat social media as part of a smart marketing campaign, not the risen savior of marketing.

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Ian Lurie
CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at

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  1. Ian,
    The most salient point of your article is “Social Media Takes Time.” I agree that having a large number of followers on a social network does not equal “social networking.” As in real life friendships and networking, social media and networking take time and significant effort to develop.

  2. Ian,
    Wait! You mean there’s more to a Marketing Campaign than “Just sign up for Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Reddit, Digg, blah, blah blah?”
    As usual, you hit the nail on the head. Social Media Marketing/Networking is another channel to brand your business and something most organizations should entertain adding to their OVERALL strategy.
    I agree there are no experts contrary to the gajillions claiming to be. Truth be told, those are the people who hopped on before everyone else and want some recognition ($$) for it.
    Thanks for keeping everyone clued in…

  3. Funny article full of common sense about what social media are. As written by Ron, your point is that it takes time and it does not mean anything to have thousands of followers if you have no influence/real communication with them. Look forward to reading your summary of this event.

  4. To follow Ron comment wich I think the same, the analogy to real life is often forgotten by so called “social media expert”.
    The only problem I can see with all that is the difficulty to sell it to client when your business is based on big numbers and short term strategy… maybe a few marketing ppz need to rethink their strategy 😉
    Great post Ian.

  5. Hi Ian,
    A long time ago, in a very distant land, way back before web 2.0 (or blogging even) was even a whisper in someone’s ear) so called “social media” was nothing more than getting known in the forums and having people spread good posts, useful information, or whatever around.
    …if more people mentioned it, you would get more popular….
    Personally, I don’t think much has really changed. The only difference is that if you understand how some of these platforms work, you can manipulate them to in the very least give your story/site a chance to go viral…..
    You are right…social media is just a new buzzword for something that we all have been doing for years…the word just makes it feel *new*

  6. What I don’t get is all the marketing / brand people (who make a whole lot more than I do, not that I’m jealous or anything) who think that, if you peddle your products on Facebook, all the people who are there to schmooze, share family photos, or get a boyfriend are going to drop everything and say, “Wow, even though I’m here to connect with other people, I think I’ll buy this product instead.”
    grumble, grumble….

  7. @Diane isn’t it obvious that everyone is walking around with piles of cash just DYING to buy products from people who spam them mercilessly?…

  8. LOL!!!
    By the way, ian, I’ve given up blogs for Lent, except this one. There are limits to that self-denial stuff….

  9. For my part the Social Networking is really a nice place for a Public for Catharsis. People like to speak on, write and explain such topics which they want and feel comfortable to.

  10. Hi Ian, just noticed this post. I really enjoyed the NWEN forum and thought I’d say hi. I love your message: it takes time and efforts (like everything else).
    The thing I’d add, though, is that on the flip-side, it’s not hard to get started, on a low budget. I would encourage any small business to experiment with these tools now; you can always adjust, or discard, them as you go along…

  11. Hi Ian, I don’t understand what the kerfuffle is all about 🙂 Its great to see people getting interested in new stuff but we don’t have to defend it as if it were a real living, breathing person. I just feel we’re just hung up on labels, thats all.

  12. Big agencies still can’t even build usable web sites. Somehow I think they’ll turn social media into a swirling cesspool.

  13. Ian – great stuff as always… I think even “social networking” is a bit redundant. Isn’t all networking social in nature? How does one network without being social?

  14. The term “Anti-Social Media” might not actually be used, but anti-social use of media exists.
    What about “publicity” campaigns of terrorist and extremist groups? To me that is pretty anti-social.
    And any kind of media that is one way. That isn’t 100% social, seeing as social is about interaction.
    To be honest though I can’t actually think of a good example of a one-way medium.

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