Does Gary Vaynerchuk think you’re a Clown?!

Social Media has become one of those buzz words that, like SEO, means different things to different people.  Recently Gary Vaynerchuck went on a TechCrunchTV spot and was quoted as saying that “99.5% of Social Media experts are clowns.”  Popular because of his Wine Library TV videos and writings about Social Media, Vaynerchuk went on to defend his comments on his blog.

I don’t feel that what Gary said needs defending.  Social Media is not a magic one size fits all super fix for your business, it can be a new marketing channel, but it could just as easily be a detriment to your business if you follow the wrong advice.

Gary’s comments arose because of the increase in overnight Social Media “experts”, folks who read a book, watch a couple of online videos, get their first Twitter follower and then boom decide they’re qualified to label themselves a Social Media Consultant.

Small businesses, especially coming out of a recession, are desperate for new inbound marketing tactics to gain new customers.  This is a song and dance as old as commerce itself.  Snake oil salesmen assure those seeking a marketing solution that their services will “explode growth” when in reality they’ve no success to speak of.

One of Gary’s readers, StephenK commented: “I actually spoke with a gentleman that is selling his services on Facebook – he admittedly has never owned his own business, he’s never actually successfully worked with a company and improved their ROI, he simply teaches Twitter and Facebook to companies and says that it will “explode their growth”.”

Stephen’s story is all too common, folks out of work or otherwise without direction see others succeeding using Social Media and they want a piece of the action.  Unfortunately, the claims of these buzzword-carrying members of the community only go on to damage the reputation of honest consultants pushing best practices.

Stephen continued: “When I spoke to him I asked him how he knew that it would “explode their growth”.  He said it’s the nature of social media. He admitted he had never actually put it into practice himself except for this venture of touting himself as a professional.”

Gary Vaynerchuk isn’t famous because he is really good at Social Media, he is famous because he had something to say, and he had something worth sharing.  He’s also famous because he worked his ass off to share what he’d created.  Gary is the poster child for good old-fashioned hustle.

Too often the focus is on the tools or the channels and we ignore the purpose, the goal.  This is my “each page of your website needs a goal” rant all over again tuned to the deceptive trumpet of Social Media’s promise of a better future.

If you have something worth sharing, if you’re worth listening to, if you can provide support or advice or be available to answer questions, then yes, Social Media is a great tool that could and should be added to your arsenal.

That said, if you’re not very interesting, if you’re just going to create a profile and abandon it, if you’re going to create an expectation with an audience and then not live up to it, following these Social Media Pied Pipers could actually hurt your business more than help.

We have provided SEO consulting to companies who have partnered with so called “Social Media Experts” and I’ll tell you I very rarely see a paid Social Media campaign that makes good on the investment.  Six months later the profile is dead, the page can now be found via Google but it hasn’t been updated in four months and there are questions posted that never got an answer.  All the while the “expert” blames the client for “not getting it”.

I can’t say I believe that 99.5% of Social Media consultants are clowns, but I wouldn’t feel bad saying that 95% of them are.  The same can be said for Search Engine Optimizers or any other trendy buzzword filled industry.  Regardless of any tested ROI to speak of, these folks are still going to get up, retread the same old crap at any conference that will let them speak and run on and on about how they can grow your business if you’ll just sign on the dotted line.

Don’t believe everything you read in a blog or hear at a conference.  If it sounds too good to be true, there’s probably a reason for that.  Do some research, do some brainstorming, hell do some soul searching too.  Just don’t buy into the hype.

I have had the pleasure of working with social media minds like Holly Hoffman from Neovia Solutions in Corpus Christi, Colleen Pence here in San Antonio, and Sarah Vela from Austin. These are the folks who I would readily label as “experts” but they would never be caught dead using the term to describe themselves.

There are certainly amazing examples of social media strategists out there, and stories where Social Media helped to grow their business, but unfortunately the inverse is also true.  The overnight “expert” is all too common and it’s up to you to protect yourself from bad advice of inexperienced copycats.

Social Media might be a viable channel for your business, or maybe just social review sites, or maybe a blog, or maybe everything but a blog.  Sometimes SEO is wrong for a business too, by no means is my own industry immune to the above. There is no magic bullet.

Despite what Tyler Durden says your business is in fact a beautifully unique snowflake, and what worked for Dell, or what worked for Gary Vaynerchuk, or hell, what worked for us at Image Freedom, might not work for you.

I’m sorry Charlotte, but one size does not fit all when it comes to your business.

Matthew Egan is the Founder of San Antonio SEO consulting firm Image Freedom. When not dancing to the blues, Matthew helps web pages like yours get more traffic through content driven Search Engine Optimization.