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Pardon My Bitchfest: Marketers who don’t get social media should just stay away

by Marian Schembari on May 5, 2010

I was recently hired to do some social media work for an author who is already set up on Facebook and Twitter. Before agreeing to take on the project I took a look at her profiles and saw almost 2,000 Twitter followers and 400 Facebook fans (sounds better than “likers”). My job would be to maintain and grow the fan base as well as engage the already established community.

However, once I logged onto her homepage I was bombarded with spam, which was when I realized whoever she had originally hired to take care of her marketing had completely screwed her over.

How is following spam useful AT ALL? Really. Answer me! I honestly don’t understand.

First of all, the author was following 2,000 people, all of whom promise their followers they’d “get rich quick,” “lose

Ugh. *Shudder*

20lbs overnight!” or “meet a special lady tonight.” Honestly, people.

Apparently, the other company she had hired were late jumping on the social media bandwagon. They assumed the most important thing was numbers, completely disregarding that those numbers would never buy her book because they’re too busy shouting over one another. Didn’t matter that those numbers consisted of spammers and porn. Add to that the fact that many authors don’t know the first thing about Twitter, this asshole company banked on her never knowing about their little spam attack. Unfortunately for them, I took over. Muahahahahahaaa!

Seriously though, I know there are sites out there that can get you thousands of followers for a “modest sum”, but I didn’t know that legit marketing companies use these services and then charge their clients an arm and a leg.

It’s more than just annoying though. What if someone checked out this author’s followers only to find porn? Not only does that not help her marketing plan but could actually ruin her reputation. It’s disgusting and I’m angry and going to write a very angry letter to this company on behalf of (now) my author.

Then there are my issues with auto-following…

As long as I’ve been on Twitter I’ve been under the impression that it’s just good manners to follow anyone who follows you back. But that’s how spam gets in your feed and spam is (obviously – see above) one of my biggest pet peeves.

Guy Kawasaki has this to say about it: “Ignore people who tell you that it’s the quality of your followers not the quantity.” In another article he writes this charming piece of logic:

Follow everyone who follows you. When I first started on Twitter, Robert Scoble told me to follow everyone who followed me. “But why, Robert, would I follow everyone like that?” The answer is that it’s courteous to do so and because when you do, some people will respond to you and everyone who follows them will see this—which is more exposure for you.”

Sorry Pumpkin, but I disrespectfully disagree. Mostly because your tweets are crap. You tweet way too often and I honestly can’t be bothered to weed through your crap when I’m trying to find out what significantly more interesting (and yes, seriously “less important”) people are saying.

That being said, when I taught my mom how to use the ol’ Twitter, she whined for ages saying, “What!? I have to see what other people have to say every day? Can’t I just skip over the home page?”

As rockin’ as my mommy is, she had a slow time of learning the social part of social media. I get it though; she’s a busy lady and isn’t used to this newfangled promoting-yourself-by-connecting-with-people thing…

I’m really curious what you guys think though. Does my author deserve to get her money back? Should companies that use these methods be called out on their complete and utter lack of social media know-how? What about auto-following?

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  • Marian Schembari

    {latest post} Pardon My Bitchfest: Marketers who don't get social media should just stay away

  • Melissa Breau

    Hi Marian,

    I don't think it's likely the author will get his/her money back, since despite the minimal effort exerted to create her social media platforms, there was SOME effort exerted. However, I don't think it would be out-of-line to request half or more back – with a note that she's since found a new social media marketing company (ie. YOU) and will discuss the outcome (either way it goes) on those social media channels. If nothing else, that should get a response.
    Also, I think we should each be careful who we follow. First of all, it's publicly viewable who you follow. If there is someone you want to follow and don't want the world to know about it, create a private list. But what value is there to following spammers? For that matter, I don't even follow real people who follow me if they aren't talking about anything I'm interested in. I don't really want to know about random stranger's intimate lives–especially if I'm not really sure why I should be connecting with them to begin with. It's like the business card ninja idea in your previous post – you can either create real connections OR create a lot of connections. And real connections are more likely to help you go further.

  • Jess Webb

    RT @marianschembari: {latest post} Pardon My Bitchfest: Marketers who don't get social media should just stay away

  • Jess Webb


    I completely and totally agree with you on the whole auto-follow thing. I recently heard someone talking about how to set up with some Twitter service (can't remember now which one) and have it automatically follow those who follow you – and automatically unfollow those who unfollow you. That just doesn't make sense to me!

    I only want to follow people that I genuinely want to know what's going on with them, or that I get value from what they post. I'm not interested in following EVERYONE who follows me, and particularly those who follow just trying to get you to follow back to grow their own followers! I want to pick and choose who I follow, so that I can actually really FOLLOW them! ;)

    As for the companies using these methods – yes, they should absolutely be called out!!! I hate seeing people getting screwed over on that stuff, when there are those of us who do get it and can really help them get actual quality RESULTS from social media, not just spammy sleazy numbers!

    Ahahaha, I could easily jump up on a soap box on this topic and others like it… ;) I shall restrain myself to just this little rant… :P

  • Hal Brown

    RT @marianschembari: {latest post} Pardon My Bitchfest: Marketers who don't get social media should just stay away

  • babetteross

    Quality not quantity. Why should that be different in social media than other areas of your life. The people who are following you AND paying attention to what your author says or better yet ENGAGING with your author are the only people who are going to buy her book. The numbers game infuriates me too.

  • Hal Brown

    I think you know how I feel about this. Sometimes I look at TweetDeck and feel like I'm standing in a room with 1000 people all talking at the same time. Fortunately, lists make it tolerable. What really makes me want to gargle with lye is when I get spammed by someone in a Mention, someone I'm not even following. These are the people I block and report.

    Totally agree with babetteross – “Why should that be different in social media than other areas of your life.”

    I too doubt the author will get any money back. She is lucky to have found you to take the account over.

  • David S


    You're right on target about auto-following, and Guy is way off. If I followed every person following me, I would be following (among others) a golf club retailer, a children's music group, an auto body shop in Chicago's West Loop, etc. I don't play golf, don't have kids, and rarely make it to the West Loop (but not by car). If those people choose to follow me, great. I'm sure they will glean very little from my tweets, and me following them would be equally ridiculous, so I don't.

    Twitter is just like a giant networking event. In both circumstances you're going to come across individuals who are not beneficial to you. You shouldn't feel obligated to maintain a relationship with those individuals, and they shouldn't take it personally when you choose not to.

    P.S. Thanks for the follow. :-)
    — @dbsalk

  • Sian

    I don't actually think that the author should get their money back. I'm never sure how I feel about companies completely handing over stuff like this to a third party (although I understand that you get a lot of your business that way, stick with me!)

    When you decide that you want to 'use social media' no matter how busy you are, you need to take it as seriously as anything else you do. Any other promotion and any other PR. The author didn't do that and no matter how busy she is, that's her fault. That's not to say that the company didn't do the wrong thing, but if she wanted followers and fans, she got them. They might not have been the right ones, but they're there. Your job is to 'maintain and grow the fanbase'. Her job is to make sure she explains what she means by that. And that is her job.

    Sure, she was ripped off. But I think there's a danger in that when you remove yourself from such a social part of your business. I don't even understand why you'd do that. I don't understand why you'd remove yourself from the chance to get to know your readers, or at least learn what was going on.

    I get so mad when people think it's as easy as handing over the reigns to someones else and seeing results. If she didn't put anything else in herself, it's not really a shock she didn't get anything back. The company are complete shits, but she could have found that out in a week.

  • Marian Schembari

    I'm sorry Sian, but not everyone has the time to fully devote themselves to social media, and for a 70-year-old author, learning how to use Facebook and Twitter is a HUGE undertaking, one she might of ignored had she not asked for help. Not only is there aspect of having to learn these applications from scratch, but then carefully generating a fan base, figuring out how and what to tweet, following the right people, getting relevant followers, etc can be a time suck when all she wants to do is sit down and write. Unfortunately, that's just not how publishing works anymore. Social media is now a major player in how books are marketed. My author was smart enough to go out there to find someone to take over so she could spend her energy on other things.

    Your idea of “handing over the reigns” is called “outsourcing” and companies/people/authors/whoever need to acknowledge and take action when they realize they can't handle an extra responsibility. Is it better she not be on FB and Twitter at all? Better to hope that it's “just a fad” and not taking advantage of this medium won't affect her in the long run?

    Yeah, she could have found that out in a week… IF she knew the first thing about social media. But she didn't, and thought the company was approaching it the right way. She hired them thinking they knew what they were doing because she sure didn't. It was the company's responsibility to take care of that. The fact that they didn't is in no way her fault.

    With your line of thinking, how do you explain publicists? They reach out to the media to get coverage for their clients. If the client did their own PR, they would sure know their niche best of all. They know what magazines might write about them because they read those magazines too. They can explain their product/book best because it's THEIRS. It doesn't mean they can do it as well as the PR company though. It doesn't mean they have to time to take on a completely new responsibility.

    The way to take care of social media for someone else is to have open communication. I talk to my authors every day and stay on the ball with their events, who they talk to, where they're covered so I can represent them 100% in the social media world. But I'm really good at my job and this company obviously didn't know the first thing about how to use social media. My argument is that they shouldn't advertise they do.

    In fact, the company did a great job reaching out to bloggers and getting her book out there. They should stick to that, but instead they took advantage. So maybe she shouldn't get all her money back, but a portion of what she paid was wasted. And however you feel about “ghost tweeting” or asking for help when you don't understand something, is unimportant. What IS important is that the people and companies out there who do that kind of stuff for a living should do it right. Whether or not you agree with this line of business is irrelevant. Some people need help, and their inexperience regarding a specific industry (i.e. social media) doesn't excuse those companies that exploit that.

  • Marian Schembari

    Babette, you are SO spot on – thanks for contributing!

  • Marian Schembari

    Ugh, getting spammed in a mention is the WORST. I'm a compulsive “mark as spam” kind of girl. And no, my author probably wont get her money back but I want to at least try – show this company they can't take advantage of those who don't know enough about social media. Don't get me started again… this stuff drives me insane!

  • SianySianySiany

    Commenting on this post – – anyone else think that outsourcing shouldn't just mean 'passing the buck'?

  • Sian

    Even with outsourcing (I do know what it's called), you still need to know what's going on. Yeah, that would have meant more effort and understanding on her part, and I understand that you're defending your client, but with more input from her, this might not have happened. I don't believe outsourcing, in the way that term is used so widely, is always a good thing. It shouldn't mean handing over a part of your business and basically ignoring it. I'm not suggesting that she full devotes herself to it – but if she's not willing to understand what she's doing, then that's her issue. And her age is really unimportant.

    All writers want to do it write. That's a given. I'd love to only have to write each day. There's always parts of your job that you don't enjoy doing. And yes, outsourcing can help with those, but if you don't at least have an understanding of what's going on, you're going to get burned. By all means ask for help, but accept that you're going to have to do some of the legwork as well. At least understand what you're asking of someone, because without that, they also don't know what your expectations are. If a company says “we'll get you 1000 followers in a day”, it helps if someone knows what that means. If she has no notion of social media, the company should have explained that to her. And she should have asked.

    I'm not against asking for help, and I don't by any means think my opinion is irrelevant just because it disagrees with this piece. I've seen companies (and indeed, writers) fuck up their social media first hand, and I've seen them outsource and fix it. But they learnt and kept a very tight reign on it after that. I'm not suggesting that the company isn't to blame, and that they didn't rip her off. There will always be companies out there that do that. But I honestly do think that she should have been move involved. Just wanting to write isn't an excuse when it comes to running part of your business. I just want to write, I still make sure my business is being run properly.

    If you were a shop owner and needed renovations, you wouldn't get a builder in, then leave them to it for weeks. You'd have input, you'd talk to them. You'd check on what they were doing. Why is this kind of outsourcing any different?

  • Marian Schembari

    I'm defending my client, yes, but more than that I'm defending how I make my living.

  • Sian

    I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with how you make your living, I never would. I like you too much too do that for a start. But anyone outsourcing their work should stay involved in it. It's their choice if they don't, but they should accept the risk that comes with that.

  • Marian Schembari

    Lovers quarrel RT @SianySianySiany Commenting on: any1 else think outsourcing shouldn't mean 'passing the buck'?

  • Isao

    Being a Twitterwhore, or Followhore, I will probably auto-follow until I hit the magic number 1,000 and then start filtering out. Lame, yes. But I decided to experiment the motto that until you hit a certain point, anything counts. Well, at least in Twitter. I won't be so generous in my blog. We'll see.

  • Concertbuzz

    RT @SianySianySiany: Commenting on this post – – anyone else think that outsourcing shouldn't just mean 'passing the buck'?

  • Marian Schembari

    Yeah, I unfortunately agree with you that my author won't get her money back. The company did set up her Twitter profile (with a lame background, however and NO mention of her book) and FB page (no bio or information on the author). However, they did do a halfway decent job getting bloggers to review the book. They did do their job in one way, but you're right, I think requesting at least a portion back would be fair. I wrote a draft letter for her explaining how social media is supposed to work and how what they did was inappropriate. We'll see how it works.

    I agree with you even more about who we follow – that's why it made me so crazy to see she was following so much porn! In terms of value, I'm sorry, but if I'm not getting anything from you then I see no reason to follow you. I have a hard enough time as it is keeping up with all the people I follow. Adding randomness to that mix just makes it more complicated. Twitter doesn't require reciprocal relationships for a reason.

    Real connections are more beneficial for everyone. This is a great comment Melissa, thanks for contributing!

  • Marian Schembari

    LOL – so interesting to see who you would be following had you paid attention to Guy's method.

    I heard an interesting thing the other day… A blogger I regularly read approved of Guy's auto-following because we can now use things like HootSuite and TweetDeck to filter out the tweets we don't want and organize the tweets we pay attention to. I agree with the organizing bit. I don't just follow book people because that's my industry – I follow friends and writers and career experts and social media dudes. It's important to organize but if you're using applications to filter out the tweets you don't care about…. Why follow them in the first place? It honestly makes no sense to me.

    For those who argue that it's important to follow so they follow you back, I don't want people following me unless I'm helping them in some way. I try to provide good content, I try to publicize other people and be helpful and share interesting links. I recently had some people in publishing unfollow me and at first I was a little offended, but I don't actually tweet that much about publishing anymore, so why would they want to pay attention to me on Twitter?

    Anyway, ramble ramble. I appreciate you leaving a comment here though – I like new visitors!

  • Marian Schembari

    Hm. To each her own I guess. I'd just rather build up my followers slowly and make sure they're following me (and I them) for the right reason. It took me ages to get to 1,000 followers and I don't think that was the magic number. I started seeing serious results even at 100 followers because I interacted with them all. I think it's hard to do that unless you're following the number right for YOU.

  • Concertbuzz

    RT @SianySianySiany: Commenting on this post – – anyone else think that outsourcing shouldn't just mean 'pass …

  • Alexandra Gammelgard

    As with anything, quality over quantity –

  • Melissa Breau

    Make sure in the letter she ASKS for the money back – because they aren't going to offer it. . .

  • Stacy Boyd

    I totally agree with your stance on auto-following. My Twitter feed has become my new content portal. I follow those who share interesting comments and links, family and friends.

    As for following spam, your story brought to mind something I learned recently about online ad sales. For some websites, it is apparently common practice to buy internet traffic (i.e., spam visitors) so they can sell ad packages at a higher rate. This, as it did for your author, often stands in the way of creating content that could drive higher quality traffic (i.e., actual customers who want to buy products in said ads).

    Just because everyone's doing it doesn't make it right, but perhaps your author's previous company was working under the assumption that higher numbers equaled greater value in promotions outside Twitter and FB. Though I agree with you–quality is usually better than quantity–a big number still lights up the interest meter in press releases and for folks who are not as well-versed in using social media.

  • Melina Yakas

    RT @marianschembari: Pardon My Bitchfest: Marketers who don't get social media should just stay away

  • Melina Yakas

    RT @marianschembari: Pardon My Bitchfest: Marketers who don't get social media should just stay away

  • martinhiggins

    Early on in my work managing twitter accounts for professionals, a client had already paid for a twitter marketing plan that I was expected to follow. I was a cookie cutter and the plan was half baked. She had also paid a service to get 'quantity' followers. To be honest I kind of liked being over the 2000 hump early, even if the followers were 90% junky. Having targeted content, targeted conversations and making targeted follow decisions has gradually made it so she has a pretty decent twitter account. I DID turn off the autofollow after a month. You just can't autofollow without picking up loads of spammers.

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  • Marian Schembari

    @JorgenSundberg Here you go! Looking forward to an "interesting" response ;-)

  • Jorgen Sundberg

    Nobody wants to follow spammers but I never really look at my home feed so haven't been filtering who I (or my auto-follower) follow back. I guess it's somehow out of fear that people will unfollow me if I don't reciprocate. Then again, the auto-follower also auto-unfollows people that 'pump and dump' you.

  • Jorgen Sundberg

    Nobody wants to follow spammers but I never really look at my home feed so haven't been filtering who I (or my auto-follower) follow back. I guess it's somehow out of fear that people will unfollow me if I don't reciprocate. Then again, the auto-follower also auto-unfollows people that 'pump and dump' you.

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