Sales and Sales Management Blog

September 3, 2008

Are You Skeptical?

I’m sure you’ve heard of social media. I’m sure you’ve heard what social media can do for your business. I’m sure you’ve heard that social media is going to change your life. I’m sure you’ve heard that if you’re not involved-if you haven’t embraced social media unquestioningly and with checkbook open, you’ll be left in the trash heap of business history. I’m sure you’ve noticed that all of these dire warnings about the hell you’ll be relegated to if you fail to give your life over to the empowering wonders of social media are coming from product developers, trainers, and consultants of-social media-that is, those with a very vested interest in its sweeping success.

Sorry, but I’m highly skeptical. Not of its value. Certainly I see value in some of it. Yet I see a lot of hype and useless techno gizmo flash in a great deal of it. In the end, I see value, not salvation. I see uses, not a revolution in how people connect and communicate. I see humans still being human-including that minority who find it safer connecting with a piece of technology than a real human, cloistered in their office or bedroom playing like they’re building a network of close associates when all they’re doing is avoiding that most frightening of all human activities-interacting with real, live, in-person humans.

As I said, I certainly see value. I see value in the ability to communicate instantaneously. Well, we had the ability to do that already, but social media allows us to mimic face to face interaction to some extent. I see the ability to find and create relationships with men and women we would not have had the opportunity to do so without the technology. I have friends and associates now that I would never had in the past. Some of these men and women live literally half way around the world from me. Some I’ve gotten to know very well. But the reality is that no matter how much time we spend communicating via email, on Skype, or through any other technological means, the relationship lacks the depth and dimensions that my one-on-one, physically in-person relationships have.

I have clients and prospects that are in countries that I know I’ll never visit. We interact, we communicate, we make real progress in changing their business. But these relationships lack the depth and dimension of those clients I deal with face-to-face.

Sure, social media gives us the opportunity to prospect in some new ways. It gives us the opportunity to find and meet people we’d never meet otherwise. It gives prospects, vendors, and the curious new ways to find us. It gives clients, competitors, and others new ways to praise us, recommend us, attack us. But it cannot give us a substitution for the experience of connecting with a human in a human way. It isn’t a substitute for living in the real world, with real world business and social relationships, with old fashioned marketing and prospecting, with a plane ticket in one hand and phone in the other. We’ll still have to have the soles of our shoes replaced, our hair combed, our suitcase packed, our car ready to go.

Few of the product developers, trainers, or consultants overtly claim that social media will replace these things. Most, if asked, will acknowledge they won’t. But when you listen to many of them, their message is something very different. I read one who claimed that if you’re not spending at least four hours a day working social media you’re doomed to fail in the coming business environment-and by the way, he’ll teach you how to do it for just a small fee of $3,500 a month.

I encourage my clients to engage social media but to reject the hype.

Some of the developers, consultants, and trainers of social media that I know think I’m doing a great disservice to my clients. Some have told me that I shouldn’t be allowed to misguide my clients in this way. I’ve been told by one that if I had any integrity I’d get out of the training industry since I don’t understand that the world has left me behind.

This in my opinion is nothing but the same hype, the same wishful thinking, the same hope that they’ve found the MECCA of business that preceded it with the telegraph, the telephone, the fax, the mobile phone, and every other advancement in technology. All of these changed business, it didn’t revolutionize it.

It’s the Jetson’s mentality where we’re all going to be flying instead of driving, pushing a button instead of vacuuming the floor ourselves, sitting behind a computer instead of engaging humans in human relationships.

Yes, I’m skeptical and I continue to encourage my clients to do the same. Engage the technology; reject the dreams. Use the technology; forget the message of business salvation. Find the technology that is really useful to you and don’t worry about each new toy, each new tweak, each new incarnation of the business messiah. Don’t worry about rushing to be the first to embrace a new twist-if it’s really that important, it will be there later-but if you get so caught up in the hype that you invest your life in it, will your business be there later?



  1. As a web developer, you might expect me to disagree with you, but in fact I wholeheartedly agree. The hype that goes with anything internet/computer related whether it be CRM systems or web sites leads a great deal of people to over expect – and together with a social tendency to regard with awe the design and functionality of the ‘book cover’, this leads to disappointment down the road when they discover that beneath the surface their inflated expectations aren’t fulfilled.

    Social media is a positive and beneficial tool that many can use to discourse with people all over the world and generate new business relationships, but I am wary of any such claim of it being the holy grail of new business practices. I firmly believe in the unique nature of individual businesses which means that there can be no ‘one rule’ that all can use, therefore some businesses will indeed be very successful using social media but others may not.

    Excellent article Paul.

    Comment by Nesh Thompson — September 3, 2008 @ 7:41 am | Reply

  2. […] Paul is a sales training guru and another best-selling author. I just saw Paul’s blog on “social media hype”. I think there is more to be said on this topic – including which industries/ business functions […]

    Pingback by Insightory » Blog Archive » Contrarians and sceptics — September 3, 2008 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

  3. Kudos Mr. McCord. I believe the same is applicable to internet marketing and those pushing it. I am so tired of the message that you absolutely must build lists, get people to sign up, have a long letter, etc.

    Comment by JpAnn Gibson — September 4, 2008 @ 2:04 pm | Reply

  4. JoAnn,

    I also agree with you on the Internet marketing. Important? Yes. Grossly overblown by those trying to make a buck off you? Absolutely. It’s interesting to see the number of men and women trying to into the Internet marketing game. Sad to say even my father-on-law was bilked by one of the internet ‘gurus.’ Not to say there aren’t great, ethical, honest companies out there to help design and build the infrastructure of a successful website. They just tend not to be the one engaged in all the hype and over the top hyperbole.

    Comment by Paul McCord — September 4, 2008 @ 2:23 pm | Reply

  5. […] Finally, a great post from the great man in Texas: “Skeptical?” […]

    Pingback by Jonathan Farrington’s Blog » Public Speaking: What Audiences Want & What They Most Definitely Do Not Want — September 5, 2008 @ 1:51 am | Reply

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