How NOT to Start a Career in Social Media

There are not a lot of topics on which I feel that I am truly an expert, but building a career in Starting Your Career as a Social Media Managersocial media happens to be one of those topics.  You see, in addition to working in online since 1997 (when Mark Zuckerberg was 13 years old), I sort of literally wrote the book on it in 2012: “Starting Your Career as a Social Media Manager” (and if you are one of the ten people who bought the book, thank you).  Interestingly enough, one of my kids found the Goodreads reviews of the book (I had never seen them), and they didn’t suck!

Eleanor Pierce’s post in Spin Sucks this morning, “Are You a Certified Social Media Professional?” got me thinking – and worrying – about the future of my craft.  In her post, she pointed out that someone found, and alerted her to, a GROUPON deal for a certificate that one can gain as a CERTIFIED social media professional – for the low, low price of $99.  That’s probably if you order before midnight tonight.  And they’ll throw in a free Flowbee too (extra credit points for ANYONE who knows what a Flowbee was – tell me in the comments).

There is so much wrong with this topic that I don’t know where to start, so without echoing what’s in Eleanor’s informative post, I’ll just add:

  • You get what you pay for.  I have taught social media at the graduate school level at two universities where my students paid THOUSANDS of dollars for a top-notch education, and many have gone on to be successful in their respective careers – many of which have involved social media.  It’s not something that you can get on the cheap, and potential employers will see right through it if you do.  Those people with degrees from Georgetown are your competition.
  • You can’t just have a lot of followers on Facebook and think that you can walk into a business setting and be successful.  Sure, it’s great if you have 1,000 friends, but that does not guarantee that you can give sage counsel to internal nor external clients on how to build a brand, respond to a crisis, or even gather a following for a business.  Nope, nope, nope.
  • Your professional path can take you many places, but most will have you working with two types of clients: internal and external.  A lot of what I talk about in the book and taught in the classroom was not only how to make external clients happy, but how to manage internal clients.  You see, there will be inevitable turf wars:  IT will want to “own” social media, as will communications, public relations, public affairs, legal, and others.  To be an effective social media practitioner, you need to develop a skill set to manage the internal turf battles of who “owns” social media in your workplace.
  • You need to have a firm foundation in communications FIRST.  Of the dozens of people whom I interviewed for my book, not one of them began his or her career in social media.  Their backgrounds were varied (broadcasting, speechwriting, politics, marketing, public relations), but all had one thing in common:  they first learned how to craft a message and deliver it to a targeted audience.  That’s a fundamental skill set in social media.  The magic in NOT in the bright, shiny social media tool, it is in your ability to use that tool to accomplish a communications objective (oh, and measure it as well to prove that you were successful).

I could go on and on (and do in the book – another shameless plug), but please, please beware of snake oil salesmen when it comes to making one of the most important choices of your life – which direction your career will take.  People increasingly spend more and more time at work, so it’s more important than ever to make the right choice – and NOT to drink the snake oil that people try to sell you in the form of a “certified social media professional” certificate.



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The Power of the Online Review, Union Street Guest House

Angry Person

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last several days, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the absolutely inexplicable policy (or “mistake,” as the property’s manager puts it) of the Union Street Guest House in Hudson, New York.  According to several sources, the New York Post among them, the hotel was fining couples who book weddings at the venue $500 for every bad review posted online by their guests.

Yep, that’s right.  The hotel’s stated policy, which has since been taken down from their web site was, according to Time Online:

If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event. If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500 fine for each negative review.


Many others have written about this, including my super-smart friend, Gini Dietrich, so I don’t have a lot to add to the debate, especially since the hotel’s manager has backtracked from the posted policy, calling it a “mistake”:

Including the fine for negative reviews as part of our policy was a mistake. That’s not the type of business that we run. It was a case of a joke gone very, very bad.

These people got taken to the social media woodshed in a major way.  Many of the online criticism lobbed at the Guest House came from the consumer review platform Yelp.  The good folks at Yelp have been busily dealing with the thousands of negative comments posted on the hotel’s review page, including deleting “3,738 Reviews Removed for Violating our Content Guidelines or Terms of Service.”  People were, rightfully so, piling on the hotel via negative comments, but unfortunately not leaving legitimate reviews of the hotel, which were likely in violation of Yelp’s aforementioned Content Guidelines.  What it DID demonstrate, however, is that the story went viral, people got angry, and they went online in an attempt to steer business away from the hotel using the most popular consumer review site.  Welcome to the online boycott, without leaving your couch.

For me, the lesson here is not “don’t be an idiot” when it comes to your online review policy.  It’s more “beware of the power of review sites,” because I bet you that it will be some time before the Union Street Guest House recovers from this and begins to get positive reviews once again.  In a post from February of thus year (and boy, I bet the Union Street folks wish that they had read this), A-List staff succinctly explains the power of online reviews:

In a recent study, BrightLocal found that 79% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. One of the main reasons for this is because reviews are not promotional messages or paid advertisement, but are opinions that come from “real people” like themselves. People trust their peers more readily than they do advertisers and companies. What they read in a review could determine whether or not the place deserves their business.”

So when people read something online or see something on TV (I happened to catch this segment on the “Today” show), they have concrete venues on which to seek revenge on the offending parties.  Then it becomes Yelp’s problem as to whether or not they allow the reviews/comments to stand.

Learning #1:  Don’t put your insanely idiotic policies on your web site, then lamely backtrack from them, saying that it was “a joke.”

Learning #2: Beware of the power of the online review.  People believe people. (Side note:  Yelp is currently being sued by a group of shareholders over allowing potentially fraudulent reviews.  So take even peer-to-peer comments with a grain of salt).


Image: Johnny_Automatic

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Sobrr Will Make You Wish You Stayed at Home – Sober


There are bad ideas, there is stupid personal behavior, but when you have an app that encourages a mix of both and records them, it’s a bad idea.  A stupider idea is actually using that app.

Courtesy of my friend, Tonia Reis, I found out about Sobrr, which seems to me to be the grown-up version of Snapchat, but one that encourages recording um, more “adult” behavior.

Sobrr’s perspective is the following (I am quoting): “If you only had 24 hours to live your life to the fullest — with no baggage from the past and no future to worry about — what would you choose to do?”  Thanks to Sobrr  — a new location-based mobile app where everyone you friend and everything you post expires in 24 hours — that life-changing moment is NOW.”

Their video is below, which is the centerpiece of their web site, but their message to me is:

  • Use our location-based app to find other people who want to “seize the moment”
  • Do something that you would not normally do.  Think bars, think alcohol, think opposite sex (watch the ad carefully – it pairs men and women)
  • And, at the invitation of Sobrr, “BE EPIC: Do the things you’ve always dreamed of doing and document it on Sobrr with updates, photos, and chat messages. Others can swipe once to cheer you on.”
  • Again, at the invitation of Sobrr, “MOVE ON.”

According to Sobrr, “everything you’ve shared and all the friends you’ve made automatically ‘expires’ in 24 hours.” Relationships?  Gonzo.  Pictures?  Nuked.  Chat records?  In the trash can.  Supposedly.  But in the era of screen shots, or drunken people forgetting to use the app to shoot video and pictures, breaking established habits, what happens then if something is still recorded?  Are you still EPIC?  Or BUSTED?

I am not here to judge others on how they spend their free time and what that entails (I gotta admit though, that this SCREAMS one night stand in my mind), but like I said, this is the adult version of Snapchat on steroids – with adult actions and consequences.  One of their suggested activities is “An epic Vegas bachelor party that you can’t quite remember — nor forget.”  Right.  I have done plenty of stupid things in my life, didn’t need an app to encourage me to do them, but also did not do these things in the era of social media, where everything you do can be public.

Have a look at their ad below and let me know what you think.  I think rather than being EPIC tonight, I’ll stay home and be LAME.

Image: The Wild Party, Rosie Kay Dance Company, via Flickr Commons

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I’m back

I'm back

I’m back. It’s been 2 years, 5 months, and two days since my last post on this blog. Since that time, I’ve published a book, taken and left a job in Hong Kong, traveled more than 200,000 air miles, just to find myself back where I started.

Home. Where I belong.

I am back working in the world of social media (more on that later) and will have quite a bit to say. And I’ll be saying it all here soon. I probably won’t post as frequently as I used to, but you never know.

Anyway, I’m back.


Image source: Rakka, via Flickr Commons.

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St. Baldricks and Why You Should Give

donateI am raising money for pediatric cancer research and am asking you for money.  I am honoring Lauren G., whom I have sponsored since 2008.

Lauren is now 12.  On March 4, 2005, seven years ago today, was diagnosed with Langerhan’s CellHistiocytosis/Ensophillic granuloma.  It is every parent’s worst nightmare to have a sick child, but when you hear scary words like “chemotherapy” and “survival rates” as a parent, it is beyond one’s ability to process. Moreover, on December 13, 2007, Heather’s husband – and Danielle and Lauren’s daddy – George – was killed in an automobile accident. Imagine police knocking on the door. Having to tell two little girls that their daddy has gone to heaven – right before Christmas.

As I mentioned in a prior post, I am both participating in the annual St. Baldrick’s head shaving ceremony, but also running a half marathon in the hopes that I will attract more donors.  That, plus the fact that it’s important to me to do more than just show up and have my head shaved.

Children are supposed to run, laugh and play.  So I am running – longer than I have ever run in my life – because of the children who can’t.  Or the parents whose own grief and angst does not allow them the psychological freedom to do something for themselves.

Please give whatever you can to St. Baldrick’s.   Small donations add up.



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