Why I Don’t Blog About Social Tools

John Wall's Sweet J Filtered
I re-edited this John Wall jumper photo with Snapseed, one of my favorite social tools for photo sharing.

People frequently ask my opinion about social networks and applications. While I oblige requests individually, generally I don’t proactively seek to give advice or blog about tools unless the discussion revolves around a macro trend or impacts strategy.

It comes down to positioning, long term viability and personal interest.

When social media broke, I made the mistake of over-commenting on every little wrinkle and development. As a result, I was often labelled as a social media expert.

Let’s side step the whole expert thing (cough), and focus on cause and effect. When someone talks about tools all the time, people assume that individual has professional/personal expertise. In this case, consistently discussing social tools gives someone the appearance of subject specific knowledge.

That became an issue for my business as time progressed.

While I offer strategy services that extended well beyond social, most of my opportunities became social media specific. In 2009, I intentionally shifted content and stopped focusing on social specific topics.

Another shot, re-edited with Instagram.

The outcome worked. Today, perhaps 25-30% of my actual consulting work focuses on social media marketing with a larger portion on marketing, public relations and business development strategies.

Long term, I think this makes better sense, too. Specializing in social limits ones career path. There is little differentiation to be had in this segment, in my opinion. Social media blogs are a dime a dozen these days. And jobs are expected to dwindle as adoption wanes.

In addition to the actual work, blogging about social media became tiresome. How many times can you blog about Facebook or Twitter over the years?

So I stopped. When I resumed to write Welcome to the Fifth Estate in 2010, I soon tired again.

Social stopped serving as a creative muse. It was time to move on…

My exceptions to this rule are when a macro trend is present (such as IFTTT and automation), or I am helping a friend out with their book or the like (and it’s quality information). These add value to my editorial strategy, and contribute to the larger community.

What’s your take on social media blogging?

  • sohini

    I’m almost afraid to put this out there…..They’re all just tools.

    Past a certain point it doesn’t matter what you put out there if what you have to say isn’t useful, no? I hate to say this, but I wonder what happens to a lot of experts when a platform suddenly becomes passe. Do they reinvent themselves to tell people how to best use the next big thing? It’s exhausting to think about.

    I’m not saying the tools don’t matter. But I don’t want to be anyone’s facebook person. I can’t think of a faster way to go grey.

    • geofflivingston

      I agree, and I also think it’s a great way to pigeon hole yourself into the middle of the bus. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard tactical experts complain about strategy that can’t counter with an effective approach of their own. They just play the same tactic over and over again.

  • I think the most valuable asset a consultant can provide is strategy; tools and tactics change, but sound strategies cope with those changes. I’m with you.

    • geofflivingston

      Remember how hot the fax machine was (don’t answer that)? Same thing.

      • Kat Krieger

        I’m with you Amy. The tool becomes the tactic. Tactics change all the time. But the higher level strategies and objectives are where you can put a stake.

      • I’m a telex fan myself!

  • I tend to focus on the broader experience. Unconsciously I avoided tool specific posts, apparently. And now that I’ve read your post.., it does make sense.
    I like to think more about the process and tactics that I, or others, can apply.., regardless of the tool.
    In the end, any strategy should be tool independent.

    Good point.., as ever…

    • geofflivingston

      I totally agree. Without the tools the word doesn’t get delivered, but there are so many paths today. One tool is not the end or the beginning anymore. Never really was.

  • I had something similar happen a few years ago. People were asking me about social; I answered questions – poof! social media expert. I hated it because I’m no expert, and I hated the pressure of writing about a topic that didn’t interest me all that much – it’s hard to bring a creative angle to a how-to post about Facebook or Twitter. I like learning about social media, especially if it’s applied to niches I enjoy, but I don’t like to be the source of information. My focus is on writing and communications. Social media is just one part of that.

    • geofflivingston

      Be what you want to be. I love your writing focus, and it makes your blog special. I look to you as a critical source in that sense.

  • Like many on this comment thread, I also haven’t written about the tools which are really just tactics and a means to an end. The bigger picture strategic stuff is what is infinitely more important and where my creative interests lie.

    As we used to say in many of the creative groups I have worked, the computer is a tool but what you do with the tools is what separates the best from the rest. As fun as special effects and the “gee-wizardry” of the latest new software, tool or app, true creativity will always reside with the creator, not the computer; with how the paint is put on the canvas, not the brush.

    However, I do rely on others who write about the tools and feel they offer an important value as these new tools keep changing every day. It’s just not what I do.

    • geofflivingston

      I definitely agree with you. Some people do provide great insights on the tools. I look forward to their take.

    • Focus is a magical thing Paul and has always served me well. I started writing about “web tools” almost 6 years ago and have been doing it ever since. Tools are a magical driver for any purpose if used correctly. They are always changing and that is what keeps my plate full with over 40 beta tools in the writing queue currently.

      Think of Google+ as an example, written off early by many, and ever changing but it is a growing presence and I will continue to try to introduce not only the newest, coolest tools, but also ways that they can be used to generate desired results.

      Tools have become a hot topic, especially social tools. I watch with a smile as yesterday’s inbound marketing guru, or sales guru’s etc,, are now touting tools as their focus. They will do so until the next shiny object comes along, and then they will change their focus to that.

      Began online as “the Web Tools Guy” and will continue on that path. Send those with questions my way!

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  • I think people just appreciate the advice, although it’s true that what works for one won’t necessary work well for another. I like knowing what’s working well for others. Students ask me for advice about tools a lot. The important thing, in my opinion, is to tell them that what you’re using/doing might now work for them.

  • I think writing about categories and macro trends is much more useful right now. It’s more on topic and connected to your consulting value too. I think it also helps to grow a category too.

    ie sticking the the why and now the hows/whats.

    Tools are complex, diverse and never ending – it’s a specialization. There are many (too many) tools. Picking the winners is hard to call, although picking some losers can be easy. It’s a full time gig staying on top of the tool space.

    I’m deeply entrenched in tools as the co-founder of a content curation platform (aka tool). I follow the social media/content tools closely and I know it’s hard to fully comprehend. I empathize with consumers and businesses trying to choosing where to invest your time and therefore money. The fact some tools may be free is a deception.

    I believe people make terrible decisions in the tools they pick.

    That’s a blog post I’ve been meaning to write.

    Reading this might just nudge me to write it.


  • Geoff – I agree with the overall point of what you’re saying: strategy and business plan need to come first. But I would add that there are a lot of very interesting developments happening in social media tools right now — especially in categories such as analytics or content curation — and that it makes sense for all of us to be paying attention to these developments and thinking about how to best leverage those new technologies to innovate further…