If nothing else, the author of the iconoclastic Social Media is Bullshit writes great teaser copy.

In fact, B.J. Mendelson, marketing veteran (former), humor writer and stand-up comic (current) has not only come up with an attention-grabbing title, he’s written a valuable and iconoclastic guide to understanding the landmine-filled terrain called ‘social media’. It’s well worth reading.

Here at the Agitator we touch a lot on the use of social media (see Tom’s post of yesterday or search our category, social networking), so I decided to include Mendelson’s insights as part the Agitator Acquisition series. It’s important differentiate the use of social media for acquisition from its ongoing and reinforcing use in dealing with already-acquired donors and supporters.

I fear that all too many nonprofit CEOs, Boards and fundraisers continue to believe there’s a magic bullet for cheaply and rapidly building, then milking, a herd of new donors somewhere in Social Media Land.

Too many folks in search of an easy route to acquisition fall for the myth that all you need to do is use the key social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr) and all your problems will be solved. What many don’t understand is that much of this wrong-headed belief is created by the tech companies and self-styled marketing experts who push the social media myth and monetize it through speeches, consulting and by selling the information on these platforms to others.

The author compares what he calls “The Social Media Marketing Scam” to the California Gold Rush of 1849. The miners digging up the gold didn’t make the money; the folks selling the shovels and jeans made the real bucks. [Which suggests the book might have been more appropriately titled Social Media MARKETING is Bullshit … but why spoil a great title!]

In his lively, insightful guide, Mendelson skillfully debunks the myths of social media. He illustrates how the notion of ‘social media’ first came to prominence, why it has become such a powerful presence in the marketing world, and who stands to benefit from each time it’s touted in the press.

Most importantly, Mendelson shows why all the Facebook Friends and Twitter Followers in the world mean almost nothing, while puncturing the myths of some popular social media ‘successes’.

The author, who, ironically, as of today has 763,818 Twitter Followers, shares an epiphany experienced during a cross-country tour to raise money for a small nonprofit he was working for. His mission? To raise $5 million by getting his nearly 1 million Twitter followers to donate $5 each or do some volunteer work for the worthy cause.

The result? The total contributions from all those Twitter followers was $1. Only 3 people showed up to meet him and learn more about the charity he and his wife’s cross-country charity fundraising tour was supporting. His tour and Twitter account was even shown in a segment on the ABC Evening News, but still only produced $1 in gross revenue.

When it comes to social media numbers the author laments,  “The only people who seem fascinated by the number of followers, fans, likes, views, and the number of times something has been downloaded are the media.”

As any reader of Tom’s frequent posts knows, social media is not BS. At least not where communication and involvement of already-acquired donors (off-line and online — e-mail and the Web) are concerned.

The point is that when it comes to Acquisition, social media is just not deserving of the hype it so often receives. It’s simply not the Second Coming, nor is it even revolutionary when it comes to attracting new supporters.

Sometimes the Emperor has no clothes — and that’s something you can Tweet about.


P.S. For $10 Social Media is Bullshit will save you from buying $500 worth of other books that won’t help you a lick.

P.P.S. Check out the interview between B.J. Mendelson and Jian Ghomeshi on the great CBC radio program, “Q”.

This article was posted in: Communications, Donor acquisition, Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, Online fundraising and marketing, Social media.
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