The Meme to End All Memes

Guanicos in the Chilean Patagonia Mountains

by Beth Harte and Geoff Livingston

The anti-social media guru meme received a death wish from Shel Holtz last week. As early co-authors of two top 25 posts that put some early flames to that fire, we couldn’t help but take notice. And we thought to ourselves why just stop with the anti-social media guru meme, there are so many rehashed tired conversations that could stand for a shorter shelf life.

With that, this is the meme to end all memes! Or at least these 10. This is written with a bit of east coast humor so take it tongue in cheek, please.

10) Social Media Gurus. We’re going to give Shel (and Jason Falls, who started it last year) the social media gurus meme. At this point in the game, it’s ridiculous. Not because people are or aren’t, but because so many companies are using social now that there are thousands of competent social communicators now. How about we give it a rest? It’s like debating about being an expert e-mail marketer. Zip A Dee Doo Dah!

9) Defriending, Friending, Following, whatever. OK, so you got unfollowed. Going to schedule a therapist appointment? Don’t like someone one else’s follower policy? Then unfollow them and move on. It’s been years since social networking began, live and let live.

8) Everyone Is an Author. OK, this is more of a back channel nasty one. And really, it’s so untrue. Even amongst the top tier marketing bloggers not even half have written books. Think it’s easy to write a book? Go ahead, make our day. It’s much harder than you think. In any year there are only 175,000 titles published in the U.S. by a smaller number of authors. Once you publish a book, you’ll see why it’s such an achievement.

7) Requests for My Time Suck. Really, stop whining. If you’re a successful blogger, people will pitch you for all sorts of things, from blog posts to free evaluations of their business plans. The lousy ones — including several from supposed expert 2.0 agencies (see above) — will pitch you crap, including press releases. This is a by-product of success, and really separating the good opportunities from the bad ones is an entrepreneur’s dream problem. If it’s that bad for you, then stop blogging. Otherwise, learn how to press delete more frequently.

6) The Social Media Clique. Have you been to high school? The world hasn’t changed much since then. So why is it social media seems to propel us back to high school behavior? (See above.) There will always be cliques that won’t let you in (but will take your ideas as their own) in and nerds that will embrace you… and everything in between. Stop looking at numbers and clout, because they are typically meaningless. Gee, even the big boys are ignored from time-to-time. Get over it and do something smart and meaningful with your time.

5) Vote for My Contest. We’re tired of it in our feeds. It’s time for the popularity-based charity craze to evolve into a much more productive form of crowdsourcing that can better benefit society sans social network spam. If you are running a contest, whether it’s for a charity or not, consider the traditional marketing aspect of targeting people in your market (novel, right?). Just because people are social, doesn’t always mean they will support every contest, even if for a good cause.

4) Personal branding posts. Anyone who reads either of us could count on this one coming. No one cares about your personal brand except you. And the people that care the least are the ones you are trying to impress; potential employers and contractors. There are so many more valuable things to invest mental energy in.

And trust us when we say, you don’t have enough time to truly understand and implement intelligent branding. Often it’s suggested to brands by experts (see above) that they “change” when their customers are unhappy and voice discontent—will you be willing to do the same? Change your personality? Didn’t think so. And that’s only one reason why personal branding is so disparate from real branding. We won’t even go into brand parity, but let’s just say everyone in the social space sounds the same. If you thought personal branding would be your unique qualifier, you’d be wrong.

3) “Social” CRM Posts. Particularly from PR and marketing bloggers who have never spent one week in a customer service position. It’s like watching an IT professional give a lawyer legal advice. Granted, social has opened new strains on the CRM sector and now creates more visible reputation issues, but this seems to be a business issue beyond the talking heads.

The biggest challenge here is that most CRM systems that PR and marketing folks have access to are set up for lead generation, not real relationship management. Adding a social element would require a few new positions in those departments like analytics, sociologist and ethnographer. Social CRM not be about only adding your customers Twitter handles and blog URLs. It should be about collecting data that helps you to get an outside-in view of how your customers see and interact with your company.

2) Social Media ROI. How many blog posts do we need to read on ROI? Seriously, if corporate executives and management can’t recall how to calculate ROI from grad school (or heck, undergrad for that matter), there are much bigger issues to deal with—how about focusing on those?

There’s a simple answer here that no one wants to hear. It’s this: Write a plan that includes a goal, measurable objectives, solid strategy, and tactics that include metrics (this is where you calculate ROI). Really, let’s move on. The ROI discussion isn’t a game changer but the discussion on how to change the corporate mindset to planning before wasting money on untargeted campaigns is. Can we focus on that?

1) The Influence Conversation. Bloggers (and the second tier business magazines fueling the conversation) turned sociologists analyzing their own influence, pros and cons, have created an even more vapid meme than the social media gurus or personal branding memes. We need more studies based on scientific evidence and less conjecture for this to move beyond a fight about whose Schwartz is bigger. And really the current posts aren’t as entertaining as Mel Brooks. Give it a rest.


  • *STANDING OVATION* Bravo! Very well-said and a Huge Thank You for saying it!

  • Wish this could end all of the white noise we have to sift through each day to find substance. Kudos for putting this out there and taking a stand, as always. Also, I dig that you found a way to incorporate Pretty in Pink clip.

  • This is me, holding up a lighter in the classic 80’s movie salute to a moment of sheer excellence.

    (If you prefer, I could start a “slow clap” instead.)

  • I. Love. It. *claps wildly*

  • I love you guys.

    That is all.


  • AMEN! Repeat. AMEN!

  • Glad to see we’re not the only ones rolling our eyes when we see these. Beth and I are planning a second follow up post with more positive memes, just like we did with our gurus posts 21 months ago.

  • Fantastic! Made my day!

  • Well said. I especially like the requests for my time suck one. That’s one in particular that I’m sick of seeing. Get over it.

  • Agree whole-heartedly. Just one thing though…

    “Geoff Livingston…(was dubbed) a “local blogging guru” by the Washington Post”

    Just sayin’


  • @Ciaran Note the Washington Post called me one, not me. Just sayin :P

  • you two are crazy, what are you trying to do, put people out of work. It’s taken 5 years to convince companies the world is changing. Now you go and do this? I’m appalled. What’s a company supposed to believe now, that they should just dedicate time to people talking about them on line without measuring them, getting them to market to their friends, or being an unwitting MLM cog. After all it’s not as if they were customers at the counter, is it?

    And what about calculating whether all this talk is getting them profits? Don’t those people exist to drive other people to buy stuff? You’re naive I tell you naive.

    Throwing away a whole profession of personal brand builders, the nerve. Do you know how much book publishers have invested in this category? And how about Fast Company how the hell is a company supposed to know who to hire if they don’t have any Klout!

    Fine have it your way, but I say social media will stop being social and go back to being just a bunch of people talking about life. How unproductive, the humanity of it all. Geez

  • Actually, Bowker’s 2010 Book Industry Statistics Report ( projected more than 1 million total books published in the US in 2009: 288,355 traditionally published books and 764,448 non-traditional (POD, public-domain reprints, etc). Bowker counts ISBN numbers.

    So while not everyone is an author, there a lot more people out there waving their books around, even if that book might only have sold five copies.

  • @Sallie: Thank you for the statistical correction. Yes, more than 80% don’t sell 200 of the industry published books. My response though is not an agreement. How many of the 280K are republished old titles or repeat authors. It was easy for me to go back to my publisher based on the sales success of the first book. How many new authors get real book contracts every year? A shockingly small amount I tell you.

  • This should be required reading in all university-level social media guru classes.

  • Laughing – my schwartz is bigger than yours …

  • You left out the “I’m quitting X social media site because I can’t hear myself talk at you anymore over all the noise” rant!

  • I love you both. That is all.

  • And we have a new one today: “SEO is dead!” (Google Instant Search killed it, or so the word is on Twitter … within minutes of the launch, the prounouncements began.)

  • It may not fit exactly but I propose to add: Twitter Chats.

    Having your stream flooded with half thoughts, meaningless hashtags and topics galore that the people you follow generally won’t care about is annoying.

    Whenever I see a #myawesometwitterchat my eyes glaze over and I scroll harder and faster. One piece of advice: GET A ROOM! ;)

  • LOL, good one, Damien.

  • I am challenging myself to determine which of those points are TOPping the list.

    I think, number 3 is my choice for now. I cannot believe some people actually make money selling social CRM. Actually, wait, number … I am reading for the 2nd time. Might come back with another opinion.

  • At the recent #140conf in San Francisco, one of the speakers said that its time we stop using the word “expert” and “guru” and just start calling ourselves and the others that work in the field “professionals”. I’m not a marketing guru, I’m a marketing professional. I’m not a communications expert, I’m a communications professional.

  • @Sue Anne I don’t know about that. Who cares? It’s all pretty self involved, especially coming from the podium of a Twitter 140 conference like that. I used to be very against this, but there are so many people practicing SM now, who are any of us to say who is better than the others and who should be called what?

    Live and let live. I mean, at this point if you want to call yourself an expert, god bless you.And if the client buys it without checking your chops, god bless them. When you let others besides you do the dubbing, it seems more genuine, IMO. The rest takes care of itself. Like attracts like.

  • Yeah,

    Even though I’ve done Social Media ROI posts, and taught people how to do branding, I am not really doing that anymore.

    I think that I’m doing it for people at nonprofits who may not get it yet, and there are plenty of them. When you live in the poorhouse, you tend to care less about your whole “personal branding” and “ROI of Social Media” thing and do more of “Oh Crap how are we going to survive into next month?”

    Here’s my blog:

    I also think that SOMETIMES SOME of us live in echo chambers with other people who are as highly educated or spend as much time on the internet as we do. So it can sound like (if you’re pinging back and forth between the same blogs) everyone is talking about the same things, that everyone knows what you’re talking about.

    But step outside your comfort zone a bit. I’ve been running a nonprofit job club since May, 2010, and most of the people there are not savvy about personal branding, social media ROI, or any of the rest of it.

    When you get outside of tech circles, you’d be surprised at how most people aren’t really following this.


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  • Ahh what a way to cap the evening. What a perfectly tuned,slow-clapping,amen-calling, lighter-waving post of perfection. Period. Punto. Point final – well we know it won’t be. But just for saying it with such gusto Hallelujah! Mazeltov! You both are wonderful. Memes Away!

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  • Thanks for writing this post — and for the link on #5… which I find a little ironic, since my post was just a wrap-up of Pepsi Refresh projects related to APIA causes.

    I’m not hosting any of those particular contests, and never intended the post to be considered a meme, but appreciate being linked as such! :) In any event, I think your criticism of the Pepsi Refresh Project is fair — but on the other hand, non-profits can use the money no matter how they “earn” it!

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