Social-Media Experts: Snake-Oil Salesmen?

For his final story at Businessweek, Stephen Baker probed the world of social-media snake-oil salesmen.

The self-proclaimed experts range from legions of wannabes, many of them refugees from the real estate bust, to industry superstars…They produce best-selling books and dole out advice or lead workshops at companies for thousands of dollars a day. The consultants evangelize the transformative power of social media and often cast themselves as triumphant case studies of successful networking and self-branding.

I grow more skeptical of the social-media consulting business each day. Self-proclaimed expertise is running rampant. I especially question consultants whose reputations are built more on their ability to socialize and promote themselves versus exhibit a clear history of brand accomplishments and client referrals.

I’m even skeptical of more legitimate and accomplished social-media practitioners. While they may have some experience and success, they are not necessarily experts. Consider Frank Eliason, Comcast’s celebrity customer-service maven, who transformed the company’s culture and reputation by integrating Twitter into customer service. He wisely pointed out during the recent WOMMA conference that despite the thousands of social-media books out there, not a single one is built on experience. The book is still being written.

The fact is: The game is early. We’re all students.

(Photo: David Reeves)

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Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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  1. Jason is a good guy, though I'm still skeptical of the social media consultant bandwagon. I believe social media will become subtext of core business functions, similar to the telephone.

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