Social Media is Bullshit by B.J. Mendelson (*book review*)

January 11, 2013

9781250002952

With the advent and ubiquity of social media over the past 10 years, everyone seems to be a social media cheerleader, including myself. That’s when I came across a book with a completely different perspective titled Social Media is Bullshit by B.J. Mendelson. The basic premise of the book is that social media, particularly from a business standpoint, has been artificially hyped beyond actual results.

The book is separated into four parts: Social Media is Bullshit; Meet the People Behind the Bullshit; How to Sell Bullshit Without Really Trying; and How to Really Make It on the Web. Mendelson illustrates that alleged social media successes always come on heels of large corporations with big wallets, celebrity-backed promotions, and traditional media.

Mendelson states the following in his book: “Offline matters more than online. This will never change. Your location, your circumstances, your audience, that determines everything. Trying to make a niche platform on the Web is a bad idea. Not many people can do it, and most of those who do are either trying to sell you something, were in the right place at the right time, had the right connections, or get backing from the media in some form.” Mendelson’s biggest criticism is against those high-fee-charging marketing consultants and speakers who push the virtues of using social media, but cannot actually demonstrate success or ROI (return on investment) for small companies or the bootstrapping entrepreneur.

The book is 179 pages of actual content, and I was able to read it in one evening. I thought it would be a useful resource for higher education administrators and students alike, particularly those who are involved in social media marketing efforts on campus. Mendelson’s argument offers a different perspective that is rarely discussed on our campuses. To his credit, his argument holds true within the realm of higher education because hundreds of likes and retweets does not necessarily translate into higher admissions numbers, increased student engagement, and more fundraised dollars. While Social Media is Bullshit needs to be read with a grain of salt, particularly since our target market (i.e., college students) are the largest users of social media, the contents of this book would provide great content for staff development discussions and even department and institution strategic plan sessions.

Not only is the book informative, but it is entertaining as well as Mendelson writes in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. However, he is not afraid to hold punches against those he criticizes and offers many examples and case studies throughout the book. Social Media is Bullshit offers a cautionary tale for those who think that social media is a magic bullet upon which you can obtain immediate fame, money, and success.

The first 25 people who retweet or share this post on Facebook will be entered into a random raffle to win a free copy of Social Media is Bullshit courtesy of B.J. Mendelson and St. Martin’s Press.


How NOT to Present a Webinar

January 8, 2013

3d illustration of computer technologies. concept notebook

Recently I paid for and viewed a webinar from a nationally-recognized higher education publication and was thoroughly disappointed with the presentation.  There was a lot of presenter “chit chat” in the introduction, and it finally took 25 minutes to actually get to the content. At the conclusion of the webinar, I felt cheated as I spent $79.00 to have my skills set expanded, but already knew more than what was actually presented. Having viewed dozens of webinars, and presenting many myself receiving criticisms, here are some tips for how NOT to present a webinar.

A webinar is NOT “hang out” time with fellow presenters – I do not like to waste people’s time, and I do not like when people waste my time. This especially holds true with webinars. During various webinars that I have attended, the presenters would spend time going on about the process of working together on the webinar along with a lot of personal “backslapping” that was entirely unneeded. Cut to the chase and get to the content, particularly if people are paying for that content.

A webinar is NOT an autobiographical dump – One professional organization webinar I attended had six different presenters. Each presenter took nearly 3 to 5 minutes each to talk about themselves and their experience. By the time they were all done talking about themselves, the webinar was already a quarter of the way over. Presenter information can be easily listed in the webinar advertisement during participant registration. A webinar is not a job interview so participants do not want to hear you go on about who you are. If you feel compelled to present your background, keep it extremely brief (i.e., 30 seconds – 1 minute total for all presenters) and move on.

Do NOT push another product or service – Many presenters use webinars as disguised commercials. While this may be ok if the webinar is free and you are being up front the intent of your trying to sell a product or service, you should never do this if you are charging for the presentation.

Do NOT improvize – Create an outline, talking points, and copious examples. Do not “wing it” and treat the webinar like a conference roundtable. Registrants have put their faith in you that they are going to hear quality content not off-the-cuff conversation.

Add to the content, NOT the noise – Create the types of quality webinars that you yourself would like to attend. People pay for and attend webinars because they have a problem they want to solve and are looking to you to help solve that particular problem. There are literally hundreds of webinars out there related to higher education, some good…some not so good. I challenge you to create quality content to share among our student affairs colleagues.


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