Calling Bullshit on Social Media

  1. There are tools. There are people who use the tools. And then there are people who are tools. Know the difference.
  2. Ass-kissing will get you anywhere, but where is that, exactly? Where do you actually want to go from there? Think long-term.
  3. Speaking of long-term, “asshole” is not a long-term strategy. Neither is “edgy” or “off-putting.” What do you really want to achieve? And for how long? Build a strategy on that.
  4. The vast majority of what happens in social media happens where you can’t see it. Don’t be fooled by what you think you see — it’s only a shadow of what’s really there. Pay attention to what, and who, is missing from the conversations.
  5. Also, remember that what you think is private isn’t guaranteed to be. As Hugh Prather once said, “Live as if everything you do will eventually be known.” (Because it likely will be, and soon.)
  6. For all the stories and panels and lovefests about how social media is, well, a lovefest, I suspect that just as many relationships (personal and professional) have been broken by social media as made. Would you be comfortable with that DM being public? If not, don’t write it. There are other forms of communication, you know (but only marginally more secure). And if you’re not comfortable with what you’re doing being made public? Yeah, don’t do it.
  7. Everyone is in this for themselves at some level. Some people do that by taking others down. Some people do it by building people up. Some people act like they’re building people up, when really, they’re just assigning you a debt you’re not aware of, and expect you to repay. Understand intent – yours and theirs.
  8. A lot of this is just a game. The rules aren’t very hard to learn. But there is more than one set of rules. Do you know which set you follow? Do you know which set they do?
  9. Your rules aren’t my rules. They’re different. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Back off. There are multiple lanes on this road.
  10. Saying one thing and doing another? Also not a long-term strategy. Much better to walk your talk. Easier, too.
  11. To quote a very good friend, “The Internet will not fix whatever happened in high school.” So move on. If there’s something about you, or about the way people interact with you, that you don’t like, change it. Complaint is tantamount to complacency. DO something.
  12. All those people who say it’s quick and fast? They’ve got a short-term focus. If that’s yours, too — great. If not, run the other way. If you want long-term results, pay attention to those who speak in the long-term. Being human takes time.
  13. And? Time reveals all, to those paying attention. So: pay attention.
  14. Expertise is self-evident, not self-appointed. Beware of hyperbolic descriptors – yours or otherwise. You don’t get to say, really, what you are. We do. Are you listening?
  15. Entitlement has no place here. The time people spend reading what you put out there? It’s a gift they’re giving you. What are you giving in return? Have you made it worth their while? The minute you start to feel you owe them more than they owe you? That’s probably when you’ve got the balance right.
  16. Call it what you will — reposting, featuring, scraping — plagiarizing is a dick move. Do you your own damn work. Write your own damn stuff. You’ll be more passionate about it anyway. (And won’t be exposing yourself as a charlatan.)
  17. Bandwagons get full quickly. Start your own.
  18. To quote another very good friend, “The plural of anecdote is not data.” Which is why case studies are pretty much useless. As are generalized prescriptions of what works. Following others’ maps guarantees you’ll be part of the herd. Stop taking direction. Set yours. Draw your own map, monsters be damned
  19. You can’t fake human. Nor can you humanize fake. Trust that what you are, and what you do, has value somewhere, to someone. Your job is to articulate that value, and find your audience. Yes, it’s hard. Get over it.
  20. If you haven’t done it? Please stop talking about it. You’re annoying those of us who have. Talk about what you know, not what you think you know.
  21. Happy feelings are not ROI. ROI means RETURN ON INVESTMENT. That’s it. Stop mucking it up to cover your unwillingness to actually measure things. Yes the types of return that are valuable change depending on what results you’re looking for. But if you’re not willing to be accountable, in this space or any other, get out of the game.
  22. Social media is not a new way to sell. There’s only the old way. You just have new tools. (And, um, please refer back to #1:) Use them wisely.
  23. Being human, and interacting like one, is hard. Automation makes some parts easier, but you still have to do the hard work. Accept it, plan for it, hire for it.
  24. Personal and professional cross here. As Amber says, if you can’t handle that, get offline. If you don’t have a choice, then find a way to make it work for you and whoever’s writing your checks (which, if you’re lucky [i.e., you do the hard work], is also you).
  25. Yes, there is a culture of complaint. But squeaky wheels squeak for a reason. Figure out why. They may not speak for everyone, but they speak for some, and potentially enough to bring you, or your brand, down. Find the cause, and fix it.
  26. The rules are not different for you. If you don’t like to be spoken to, sold to, marketed to, or interacted with in a certain way DON’T DO IT TO OTHER PEOPLE. I mean, seriously. Your doing it doesn’t make it better. Or acceptable. Don’t be a user. Be of use.
  27. Oh, and if you want success in this space? Accept what comes with it. Yes that means a loss of privacy. And yes that means people will ask ridiculous things of you. Yes that means people will try to use you. Why is that a surprise? People are people. Social media just added microphones. And cameras. And speakers. Human behavior remains unchanged.
  28. You choose what you put out there. Don’t be surprised that people know it.
  29. Cliques exist. You’re in one (or many) whether you admit it or not. See them. Move between them. Use them for good. But please don’t pretend they’re not there. Disingenuous isn’t sexy. Also: not a long-term strategy, either.
  30. And what’s with all the judging? Are you truly so free of fault? I know I’m not. Remind me to list sometime all the reasons I’m a bitch / hypoctrical /a lame-ass, whatever. My list of why I suck will always be longer than yours. I’ll worry the day it isn’t.
  31. Authenticity is a state. Integrity is a mindset. Please learn the difference. You can only be what you are — even assholes are authentically so. You can only have integrity if you own whatever you are… and own up to it.
  32. Takedowns for takedowns’ sake aren’t helpful. Neither is blind worship. You have a brain, use it. If you disagree, say so, and back it up. Question everything, but move the conversation forward.

You? What do you see? And how do we fix it?

About Tamsen McMahon

Tamsen McMahon helps people get from where they are to where they're going. She's also the Vice President of Digital Strategy at Allen & Gerritsen, and a Weight Watchers leader. She writes on individual change at

  • Pingback: Can We Stop Fighting about Social Media? | Adam Jackson

  • Sam

    This certainly counts as a successful post, resulting from your direct and authentic thoughts about social media and what someone should expect. I have thought about it for days; it feeling like someone was “driving a screw through the side of my nose” OUCH! – clever, on target, insightful, and my emotional self just churned. I hope someone who is new to this activity and feeling as vulnerable as I have on many an occasion doesn’t either intellectualize it and turn it into another distorted and contrived version of their “twitter self” or get so intimidated that they walk away from the entire experience. I am not able to accomplish a good portion of what you write about, but I am willing to trip along the way, eat humble pie and learn from it. So.. just to add a little of my humanity to your thoughts – I appreciate your perspective, have learned from the thoughts and my heart wants to run for the hills… :D

  • Steve Richards

    Bravo! Brutal honesty regarding social media. How refreshing and surprising.

  • Pingback: Sunday Link Party!

  • Amber Harloff (IlluminateThis)

    I absolutely love this post. It is refreshing to hear your direct approach to spotting FAKE. !!!

  • goodselfme

    Well done and fully acknowledged for myself too.

  • Cristian Gonzales

    Errr, a bit on the angry side, but I do agree w/ some of these points.

  • Deb Ng


    “Speaking of long-term, “asshole” is not a long-term strategy. Neither is “edgy” or “off-putting.” What do you really want to achieve? And for how long? Build a strategy on that.”

    Is beautiful.

    That is all…

    • Tamsen McMahon (@tamadear)

      Thanks, Deb! It’s amazing, isn’t it, how many people seem to think it’s a good persona to build. Ah, people. We’re endlessly fascinating!

    • Tamsen McMahon (@tamadear)

      Thanks, Deb! It’s amazing, isn’t it, how many people seem to think it’s a good persona to build. Ah, people. We’re endlessly fascinating!

  • The JackB

    Well said. Too many people forget that there are real people sitting behind the keyboards.

  • Fresyes

    That was the best thing I have read this year… who am I kidding, ever! So many life lessons… seriously Tamsen you had me at #1 and kept me through #32. Every point is spot on. As someone said in a comment – printed, laminated and going on my wall.

  • Anonymous

    bravo! thank God i didn’t read this before i went into this am meeting…they would have kicked me out.

  • Andy Craven

    Great rant! Do you feel better?

    A quick synopsis:

    1. Treat others as you would like to be treated
    2. Keep it Real
    3. If you don’t lie you don’t need a good memory
    4. Shit happens, deal with it.
    5. Social Media is a tool. Use it like one, don’t be one!
    6. Get over yourself! (not you Tamsen but those to whom you rant!)
    7. You live your way, I’ll live mine
    8. “Asshole” is not a long term strategy! (so good needed repeating.

    Thanks for brightening my Thursday in a snowy but sunny England.

    Andy Craven

  • Possiblymaybeprobablynot

    Paradoxical! Thumbs up.

  • Pingback: Top Five: November 27 – Jessica Malnik

  • Pingback: Social Media and Rules | Dan Culberson Creates Stuff

  • SteveAverill

    Just ran across this thanks to Outspoken Media and there are so many gems I stopped counting. Great post, smart smart post.

  • Anonymous

    I loved the article… I also loved the personality you put in this blog… many of us internet marketers are scared to put a few choice words in our blogs… I see that you aren’t and I am sure it only endears you to your followers.

    • Tamsen McMahon (@tamadear)

      Well, Amber and I have structured this blog with a lot of freedom. For
      neither of us is it the main outlet for what we do, so we have the luxury
      (if that’s the right word for it) of writing for ourselves, and our readers.
      I know that if I’d sanitized the language it may have been more shareable,
      but honestly, it never occurred to me to write it any other way, because any
      other way would have not adequately conveyed my feelings on the matter.
      Thanks for reading, and for your comment — we so appreciate how interested
      and involved our readers are.

  • Erroin Martin

    Love and agree with most of what is written here. I like what you and Amber have done with this blog. I would add point 33 – Don’t let the fear of a response to your post prevent you for having a voice in the conversation!

  • Pingback: Ten Irregular predictions for 2011 | ZDNet

  • Pingback: Ten Irregular predictions for 2011 | Constellation Research

  • Scott Hepburn

    As always, I’m late to the party — great post!

    It must say something about the human condition that we need posts like this as often as we do. Or maybe learning these lessons just takes time, and each generation (person?) needs to discover them all over again, and at their own pace.

    A good thwack upside the head never goes out of style. Thanks for thwacking.

  • Manny Cortez

    “Bandwagons get full quickly. Start your own.” —-Tamsen, I love you! To show my love, I’m going to steal your quote and spread it like wildfire ;)

    • Tamsen McMahon (@tamadear)

      Spread away! Glad you liked it.

  • ACS

    Very interesting post and lots to digest.

    The majority of the world don’t give a rat’s ass about social media. Get off the computer, disconnect from time to time and go outside to feel the sunshine, rain, snow, whatever.

  • Anonymous

    Have to say that I really like what you said about “happy feelings” not being ROI. I think all of us trying to provide a value-add to social media have been saying this more than we’ve been measuring the results. I think the client wants to hear something a bit more meaty than that ;)

    Thanks for the reminder!

  • Cynthiness

    you gotta love someone who takes the polite bs out of it and tells you like it is. Thanks Tamsen!

  • Cynthiness

    you gotta love someone who takes the polite bs out of it and tells you like it is. Thanks Tamsen!

  • Kevin ashcroft

    Loved the post, loved all the points. My favourite would be no.22.

    Great work.


  • Pingback: Analyst technology predictions 2011 « The Naked Pheasant

  • Pingback: Analyst technology predictions 2011 « The IIAR Blog

  • David Choi

    That was great!

  • Triny D

    Whoa did I learn a ton here

  • JimG-BOS

    One of the best “guides” I’ve actually read (vs. skimmed). I suggest the title is a little jumbled “Social Media Is Another Form of Bullshit”.

    Makes me wonder what universe some folks are from…

  • Kevin Nalts

    You had me at bullshit and I need Weight Watchers.

  • Silverfz1

    Hamster and wheel – squeak!

  • Kerry :)

    Love it.. Thank you!

  • Ron Morrison

    “The Be Real Manifesto” – Invaluable post for people who wish to communicate in any medium. I’m printing a copy and hanging it on my office wall above some of my favorite book collections. 
    What shines here in this post is more your willingness to be honest with us then any criticizing plea that we be honest with you. Without a doubt a very confident, self-assured, and experience-driven post. Er, uh, more of a gift to us. Thank you for your graciousness!

  • Pingback: Analyst technology predictions 2011 « Technobabble 2.0

  • Pingback: Jamrockstar | Don’t abuse teh internetz