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Social Media and Snake Oil Salesmen

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time taking apart—and trying to put back together—all sorts of stuff around my house. It’s not that I’m terribly handy—I’m not. I simply wanted to know how stuff worked. I wanted to get inside the things around me, to truly understand them. Sure, sometimes I ended up with a couple of pieces left over that I couldn’t fit back in the case. But, most of the time, the device worked better than it had before and/or I used them in ways their creators never intended.

Now as a professional geek marketer, I try to do the same with my clients’ web presence: web sites, search marketing, social media, that sort of thing. And, one of the things I can say authoritatively is that social media is not a fashion. Social media exists because people consistently want to be social, to engage with friends and family and, yes, fellow followers of the latest fashions.

But some people persist in the belief that social media represents the latest snake oil and that their job is to point out the holes in the emperor’s wardrobe.


I’m not an ideologue. I thrive on finding out what works, why it works, and how to make it work better. Some clients need to improve their social media efforts, some their search marketing, some their websites, and some, all of the above. But none need to do anything that doesn’t help their business. And it’s of no value to my business to tell them otherwise.

Yes, there are snake oil salesmen out there. But do those folks need social media to practice their trade? Or, for that matter, paid search or SEO or…?

Of course not.

Instead, ask yourself: Are you getting everything you want from your online marketing activities? Do opportunities exist among Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Tumblr’s hundreds of millions of users? Is the way your customers communicate and connect changing?

And, most important, are you willing to open the hood, look inside, and put the pieces back together in a way that benefits your business and brand, even if some of the old pieces don’t fit back in the same way?

If so, drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.


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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. If they think that social media is just a hype, you can tell them to read “The Thank You Economy” by G. Vaynerchuck. Social media done right is quite the opposite of what those snake oil guys are trying to do.

  2. […] The big news this week is a Pew report that shows 65% of all adults use social networking sites. But what’s really interesting is that no demographic category is below 50% and, for the first time, more than 40% surveyed claimed to have used a social networking site “yesterday”. I’ve said it before. Social is here, it’s real, and the key now is how to make the most of your social marketing efforts. […]

  3. […] The mistake that Mike rightly points out in his post is that too many “social marketing agencies” try to fit every business into the same size-and-shape “social marketing plan,” with little regard for how well that “plan” works for an individual business or brand. Anyone who does that, though, isn’t a social media marketer. They’re snake-oil salesmen. […]

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