Thursday, July 24, 2008
It's right in the middle of the official Dog Days of Summer. As a result, people in the search marketing and social media promotion business have found the time to attack each other personally. Barry Schwartz posted that in general, the attack culture was "sad," but didn't really take sides. That's a side in itself, though, and worth noting. We have to remember to treat people with respect - it's OK to disagree.
Still though, what about taking a side?
I was gobsmacked to find Marty Weintraub prefacing his disagreement with Li Evans on social media tactics by (playfully?) calling her a "candy ass social media goody 2 shoes." (Another blogger called it "Slagbait," and I guess it works, since I just linked to SEOmoz and not the guy from Cornwall who called it Slagbait.) I guess that now becomes a badge of honor for Li (I'm not sure if "candy ass social media goody 2 shoes" will fit as a title on a business card -- might need to shorten it to "candyass social media goody2shoes") -- as much as in an unrelated kerfuffle this week, one Edward Lewis can now boast of being "terminated" from a social media brothel called Sphinn, by an evilgreenmonkey. Yeesh!!!
To be clear, I felt privileged to meet Marty recently and found him to be an engaging and accomplished marketer. We sell different things, I think, and we don't agree on marketing tactics and evidently, on how to argue with people.
Professionally speaking, I am with Li on this issue. I try to connect with businesses and help them to acquire new customers online in a measurable way. When they ask "what else can we do?," it's usually in a fairly practical sense. The managers at these companies are professionals - they aren't necessarily greedy (they're paid a salary) or ego-driven or thinking about short term expediency. For every customer you gain through sneaky tactics, you have to think about how many you'll subtract if your reputation is harmed in the process.
To put this another way. Marty reported that Matt Cutts, attempting a euphemism, assessed phony social media profiles as a kind of "social engineering." Marty played wounded, saying that Matt associated the tactic with something the Nazis would do. Marty, what do you think "propaganda tactics" are? They are wartime tactics and most of what we know about propaganda up to at least 1950 came straight from warmongering. So out of the gate, as "brand ambassadors," we're probably not going to be winning any Nobel Peace Prizes (or other moral pats on the back at the end of the day) anytime soon. As the overtired animal butlers on The Flintstones would say: "It's a living."
Unfortunately for the spectacle aspect of it, the nuances here start to come out in debate - Stephan Spencer clarifies that his MySpace friend-building tactics are only a small part of his universe - so we may not be able to go away all hating one another. My biggest takeaway of course is that as usual real debates came out in a session at an SES conference. In that regard, attendees didn't just get a warmed-over list of best practices -- they got something they were unlikely to forget soon.
Marty speaks of respect for communities, so probably, the philosophical gulf isn't as wide as he lets on. We all like to have fun, and the personas available to us as individuals or marketers have been making the Internet all the fun we can handle, way before "social media" got invented. But as a "for hire" marketer, I rely on clients' appetite for risk as a guide to the desired "envelope pushing power." And past Category Three Envelope Hurricane level, I won't push it, and will be happy to tell the client they'll need to find another guerrilla.
So no doubt, if I were partnering with or hiring a social media expert, I'd be looking for someone similar to Li Evans. Among other things, in her public presence she has shown courage, because we all know in this business that taking a stand on ethics will often get you branded as tactically naive. Untrue, and sad.
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