I sat through a one hour, $5 social media class this afternoon. I attended because it was sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce and was just $5. Since the social media workshop that I teach is $60, I wanted to see what was being offered for so much less, and I hoped I could learn something new.
What I learned: you get what you pay for.
The company that sponsored the class mentioned several times that they weren’t there to do a sales pitch. I made a note of that on the company notepad I was handed, with the company pen, next to the company gum, while viewing the Powerpoint presentation with the company name plastered all over it, presented by the guy in the company shirt. After the fourth or fifth time he said he wasn’t doing a sales pitch to us, but mentioned again how his “university” offers classes to further explain the fast talking he just threw at the audience, I stopped believing him.
At the end of the hour, one of the two dozen ladies who listened to the presentation said that she didn’t learn what she thought she would, and how could she learn more? The presenter offered to answer all of her questions after he was through, and she was still there chatting with him when I left five minutes later.
Our local Chamber of Commerce in Pagosa Springs is offering monthly classes this quarter on the topic of social media. I thought about what I could teach in a one hour luncheon that wouldn’t be just a teaser to get people to attend more classes, and I am still having a hard time deciding that. There are many things I have learned about social media, and one of them is that there is a lot more to learn about social media. Even the so-called “experts” in social media are called “experts” in quotes because there really are no experts. The people that I refer to for cutting edge information work for companies that have thousands of clients and use them as models and experiments for what works, and what doesn’t work.
One example of such a company is Hubspot. Hubspot offers website Content Management Systems (CMS), as well as great social media tracking tools, all for a pretty price tag. Where does that leave those small businesses that are seeking social media help but don’t have a big budget to pay for it? It leaves them seeking education from people that are indeed learning the ins and outs of what social media is, what it isn’t, how it works, why it works, and what options will work best for their individual circumstances.
I am having a hard time finding those people, except for a handful of bloggers who offer valid and current information based on case studies, as well as great online webinars from representatives of Hubspot who are also pitching their services.
But those Hubspot educators really do know their stuff, and it is their content that is the most cutting edge and relevant to the changes that are happening so fast in the world of online social media. I use many examples and references to the Hubspot founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah when I talk about social media because their work with clients is helping all of us to understand more about how this phenomenon is changing the face of the world wide web.
What I do not do in my social media talks, however, is pitch myself as an expert. I am available to offer help and advice based on what I have studied and done myself and with my clients, but my main role is as an educator to share the information I have learned and teach other businesses how wonderful free social media tools are when they are used correctly.
In one of my early posts, Social Media Snake Oil, I caution against paying money to a ‘social media consultant’ who offers to sign you up for many free online tools but neglects to spend several hours discussing your goals, a plan, and a strategy for implementation. The more I listen to presentations that talk about the tools but don’t offer real strategies for how to use them, the more I see the need for businesses to educate themselves on what social media really is.
But when there is so much information floating around, and so many classes being offered that really offer nothing, a person is pretty much left to their own devices. As you are searching the web for articles about social media, see if the site you come across is offering information to help you, or is just one big sales pitch to get you to hire them to do your social media for you. I’ve found that the best social media advice comes not from ‘social media consultants’, but from other business owners who have used social media successfully and are taking the time to write about it and share their experience with you. Leslie McLellan in Lake Arrowhead is a good example. Leslie blogs about how she has successfully used social media for tourism in her town. She’s not selling anything, just sharing her information.
I’d better stop now, before I end up sounding like one long commercial myself. Thanks for listening, and please feel free to comment.