Are Most Social Media Experts Empty Suits?


I have always been an advertising person in its former and current evolutions.  I have worked for many of the top agencies in Canada and the U.S.

The advertising world can be a world of hype and personal promotion.  The stakes in the show are high.

No matter what agency, no matter what country, no matter what office you would run who made a lot of noise and took up a lot of sound space but in the end turned out to be an empty suit.  They had the great suit, the great jokes, and the great connections but in the end when it got down to work little original thought. They followed the herd and the herd initially followed them.  They were lemmings.

But it was very difficult to hide in those days.  While advertising is an art, it is also a science and fact and research based. When they were given a segmentation study to interpret and present recommendations the empty suits withered. You couldn’t do the analysis in 140 characters.

Once the initial layer of the onion was peeled the empty suits were quickly found out.

In social media it is a little harder to identify today’s empty suits.  My measuring stick is my past experience of clients who could take you apart with their knowledge.  Social media makes that assessment a little bit harder.  It is not their fault as social media is the epicenter of hype so many people in today’s get caught up in the frenzy.

I have always said that social media is akin to a fire hose. It gushes information and changes at the infinite speed of the internet.   I agree with Brian Solis, who I saw at a Linkedin event in OC recently, when he said that we can’t keep up with our social media evolution.

What amazes me about many futurists of today is how little they know of the past.  When I ask them if they have heard of Marshall McLuhan they draw a blank.  They don’t know a person who coined the terms the Medium is the Message or it is a Global Village.  Television is hot, print is cool.  They stand the test of time even though the test of time was the 60’s.  I don’t even bring up Alvin Toffler and his thoughts about too much change in too short a period of time, Buckminster Fuller or others.

I also remember a little more than a decade ago when we had the dotcom boom when companies with no revenues were capitalized as being worth more than General Motors. Then we quickly had the dotcom bust and lots of casualties on the street.  You can read about them in the biggest dotcom busts.  We had advocates and zealots then and we have them now.

Today’s Social Media Experts quote stats to support the growth of social media and the fact that it is ubiquitous.  Then I read that many of those mail boxes are empty.  Nobody is home.

In 2010 I read an article called Guess who doesn’t tweet.  Almost nobody.

A couple of weeks ago I read that many social media accounts are dormant.  Nothing has changed.

Many social media experts rarely touch Main Street and talk to clones of themselves.  They live in a homogenous community of like minded people.  They should travel more without their smart phones.  Tweet less.  Talk less. Listen more. Watch more.  Talk to people more.

I like to get my knowledge from people who have a broader perspective than just one channel and be guided into the future by people who know more than just one road.

A few months ago I saw a well respected Social media expert that has written many books.  They talked about the mechanics of their process.  They said that their content wasn’t original but came from a couple of sources; that they automated their tweets, didn’t respond to retweets, and had other people doing this for them.  Then they talked about how this built community.  What popped into my mind was the thought that I hoped they didn’t parent this way.

Although social media is vast and pervasive it is also unruly.  Most CEO’s I talk to consider it a necessary evil more than necessary.

There are no widely accepted ROI tools that are the standardized norm in the industry like you used to have Nielsen reports, Starch reports, or Nielson ratings or a myriad of quantitative research tools.  The world was often over analyzed.

Now we have hype and opinion from people who wouldn’t know a GRP from a SKU or an electronically optimized press release.

Maybe it’s time for them to fill their experiences with broader perspectives for true insight.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin.

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank


Watch some videos on

Here is one on Networking Tips for People Who Hate to Network.

Has Social Media Turned us Into Linchpins or Lemmings?


The recent passing of Steve Jobs probably made everybody take another look at Apple’s Famous 1984 spot directed by Ridley Scott. We all remember the rolls of marching minions.

Many say that the commercial was inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The movie takes place in a dystopian society where wealthy intellectuals rule from vast tower complexes, oppressing the workers who live in the depths below them. It was created during a time of industrial change not to the betterment of all.

Because I was a film freak in college I also remember Modern Times a 1936 comedy film by Charlie Chaplin that has his iconic Little Tramp character struggling to survive in the modern, industrialized world.  It was created during the last great depression.

Who was it that wrote that the more that things change, the more those things stay the same?

So what are we today?  Are we linchpins who are indispensible or are we lemmings who go along unquestioningly with popular opinion, mass culture and social media?  Just like the lemmings that follow others off cliffs or become the Mayor of their local Starbucks.

I think that Smart Phones are certainly a misnomer when placed in the hands of many people. I see lines of lemmings every morning standing six deep in the line at Starbucks looking at their crackberries like their next big gig is going to come in the form of a text or unexpected Facebook post.  They are oblivious to the people around them.  Their engagement comes from their phones rather than the people around them.  They have no clue if the Barista’s mother is the President of a bank and could help them get their next job.  She doesn’t look successful they assume.  Community isn’t in your phone; it is in your life moments.

Oh don’t get me wrong.  I love technology and social media but the cost of entry is so low to communicate that I wonder if it is becoming a necessary evil versus necessary.   While I get some interesting content on my Twitter stream, the majority of it is Twitter Litter. Like people honking their horns in traffic that isn’t moving.  Is it really building community?  Maybe I am naive but I always thought that the more connected and stronger the community the more enlightened the society.

People always cite that social media offers the democratization of information no matter if you are rich or poor.  So did libraries but maybe in a better way because their stacks were filled with books rich with useful knowledge. I don’t think that is a byproduct of social media communities in many instances when it is based on your tweet that you are enjoying your ice cream cone.

I think the worst thing that Linkedin did was to link with Twitter so now I get the same stuff on my Linkedin feed.  If that’s what people on Linkedin who supposedly make $80K on average think is thought leadership then they are terribly mistaken.  Noise is not knowledge.  People form opinions about you based on what you say in real life and in real time.  Your boss and potential future hiring manager may be reading it. Lightweight or heavyweight?

I believe to be a linchpin you have to be the most networked person in your circle of work and life because you will be the best resourced and have the most ability to fuel change and solve problems.  You can become as powerful as a magnet.

I believe to stop being a lemming most people need to focus on a simple question.  What is the purpose of my next communication? Does it offer useful information, make a small difference, not waste my time or others or is it just drivel?  If the latter is the answer then start marching.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin.

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank


Watch some videos on

Here is one on How to Rise Above the Crowd.  Enjoy.