Hi there. I'm Matt. Don't hate the player. Hate the game.1

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Jul 26, 2009 | Comments

My marketing department once hired a social media consultant.

We read his blog, even heard him speak. We were sold. After initial phone conversations, we agreed on $20,000 for a 2-3 month engagement.

He came into the office for a kick-off meeting with myself, my boss, and another co-worker. Two hours later, he left $20,000 poorer. After the meeting, my group agreed that we should cut ties, pay him for the day, and find another place for our money.

Yes, he was fired after one meeting. What happened?

  1. He stated that we needed to do something.
    • While discussing Twitter, he claimed that we must respond to tweets–a legal difficulty for the company. But the tone was so aggressive–that we must use this strategy. Such narrow-minded thinking caused an instant wtf moment for the boss. As any consultant should know, corporations are difficult to break. New ideas take time to absorb, and it accomplishes little to preach a supposed immutable law of social media.
  2. He was wrong–about social media.

    • When discussing ShareThis, a point came up regarding whether the app supported FriendFeed. He was 100% certain that it was not. Luckily I had my laptop for sweet pwnage. Epic fail.
  3. He interrupted us.
    • I understood his frustration–the boss maintained that we could not execute on Twitter for a number of legal reasons (I know, heresy for one devoted to social media). The guru interjected repeatedly with his logic and justification. You’d think that in a kick-off meeting, the client would be the one doing the talking.
  4. He argued.
    • This guy had an unassailable love for FriendFeed. We didn’t, nor had we ever heard of it. Food for thought: if you’re ever in a meeting and an argument arises, I recommend abating it quickly. Few people can be convinced of something in back and forth chatter.
  5. He made us (no kidding) feel stupid.
    • There were moments when our lack of social media knowledge was very clear. He made sure to stress our ignorance to support his points of what we should do and how we should do it.

These may all seem very obvious. But this guy was a seasoned veteran, top Adage blogger, in his 40′s, etc. We couldn’t believe it.

I suppose that the lesson is: even though you may be an expert, humble yourself. Don’t be a douche bag. Follow the gospel of how to deal with people.

And there are few things in the world that require one tactical solution. From the only guru I trust:

“The only way your organization is going to make an impact is to market in the way only you can. Not by following some expert’s rules or following the herd, but by doing it in the way that works. For you.”

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  1. The whole notion of there being legal difficulties or SEC guidelines or clients that only like to do things a certain way are common place in reality and rare of tech blogs. This is the reason that most of what they say is completely meaningless and masturbatory. This is just starting to become obvious.

  2. I wish I could take this, particularly the first point and laminate it to the forehead of some ‘social media consultants.’ I liken it to a batting coach tweaking your swing. He’s experienced, he’s seen thousands of swings, and knows what typically works. Then he has to adapt what typically works to what works with the hitter’s approach.

    The best say, based on what I’m looking at here’s a handful of things I think we could tweak/experiment with. Let me know what works and what doesn’t and we’ll adjust accordingly. It has to a be a process that evolves based on the consultants vast knowledge/experiences, and also the client’s culture and what goals they’re trying to accomplish.


  3. @Ryan Holiday: You’re touching a great point: many of the bloggers, especially those with zero real-world experience, live in a delusional fairyland where anything is possible and execution is a flick of a switch. These social media gurus definitely have experience–just not in the field. As corporations begin to hire social media consultants, I imagine that this will change over the next few years.

    @Ryan Stephens: Yea, it’s all about adjusting to what works for your company. Few ideas exist in the world of marketing that can be broadcast out uniformly.

    But the problem is that few consultants have any professional experience in social media. Everyone seems to be bullshitting their way into gigs. This is fine, but it will be a couple years before anyone can epitomize your batting coach analogy.

  4. Thanks for this post! Such eye opening clarity and much of it are assumptions I had about most “social media gurus” or any “guru” for that matter. I hope more folks step up and talk about their experience with these “experts” so more of our clients don’t keep falling for the same BS.

  5. Joseph

    I think this could have happened with any consultant or expert– not just someone from Social Media.

    Try meeting a bad financial planner.

  6. Thanks for that, Matt. That made my day.

  7. Thanks for the excellent example of how these “gurus” operate.

    We are considering social media experts to collaborate with, and a lot of them are charlatans, plain and simple. Some are legitimately talented, with key insights and sage advice.

    I recently posted about my encounter with one of the former types: http://mmcwatters.com/blog/?p=845

  8. Twitter Geek

    Love it, so tired of hearing the arrogance of twitter people about others “not getting it”. I recommended someone for a big, easy job and my firm declined because of the arrogent twitter content and personal facebook page. Maybe there is a lesson learned here. Hope so.

  9. @Joseph: Thanks for comment! Agreed–arrogance is something that possesses anyone that is given the power to consult on someone else’s business. I’m guessing that you had a bad experience with a financial planner? Yikes.

    @Michael: Interesting stuff. Social media is so new that any “experts” must be charlatans. But give it a few years, and the ones with legit experience will bubble to the top.

  10. If you’re searching social media to find social media expertise, you’ll rather find a guru than a consultant.

  11. HI Matt,

    That post made me laugh. I have been in similar meetings where the consultant has not understand the “reality” that their client operates in.

    And it has lead to the most absurd conversations about “engagement” and “particiaptory communications”.

    To put a stop to it, we invited them to a bullshit bingo presentation. The laughs alone made life easier.


  12. Great post! Has given me some food for thought in my next social media pitch…Think I will be subscribing!

  13. An excellent cautionary tale for all who consult–no matter what the topic!

  14. Nice post. It seems so obvious, but I have heard similar complaints before. So. . . 2 years later, how have you guys been doing with Social Media?

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