Don’t Let Expired Social Media Advice Spoil Your Marketing

You know how a couple of tablespoons of spoiled milk can turn your whole fridge into a sour cavern? Well, the same thing can happen with your social media plan. If you don’t stay up to date, one annoying practice can undermine all the other good stuff you’re doing.

Credit: Billy V, 2006

The problem is knowing what’s spoiled and what isn’t. Now, it’s not every day that social media “gurus” are willing to admit they were wrong. That’s why I was pretty quick to download David Spark’s free new book, Hazardous to Your Social Media Health: 50 Previously Condoned Behaviors We No Longer Recommend (February 2014: Spark Media Solutions).

One of the first items to catch my attention was how right up front, before you even get into the good stuff, Spark sets out to help you avoid the all-too-common speed-reading phenomenon:

“Don’t just skim the section headlines and fool yourself and others into believing you read this e-book,” Spark demands. He jokes about adding in “facial recognition and eye-tracking technology” to make sure readers obey. Now, there are some books I read and others I skim. When an author asks me to take the time to read all 55 pages of a short book, I am generally willing to comply. After reading through it, I was actively working on this review when I got an e-mail from the author.

“Thanks so much for downloading a copy of ‘Hazardous to Your Social Media Health.’ Did you get a chance to read it two times? Just once? OK, that’s cool,” Spark wrote. “Do you agree with the ‘how not to do’ tips? Disagree? Thought I left something out? Am I brilliant? Am I full of it? A little of both?”

At this point, I looked over my shoulder to make sure Spark wasn’t watching me type my response.

“Wow, are you psychic?” I responded. “Did you really install that ‘facial recognition and eye-tracking technology’ you warned about in the intro? Because I was just setting out to write up my review.” I then proceeded to get tied up with a million other little things, but here finally I am with my review. And without further ado…

The e-book itself is broken into these 50 distinct tips that I found to be pretty insightful overall. Spark talks to social media experts and actually gets them to identify the advice they’ve given before that has since expired. Still, I felt like some of the tips could have been easier to implement if they were organized into higher-level mini-chapters. Here are a few of the overall trends I saw:

There’s been a sea change particular to how large corporations should and should not use social media. This trend relates to the following tips: 3, 4, 6, 7, 11, and 19. Basically the idea is that it was once perfectly acceptable to use social media as a listening platform, rather than an interactive one. But today, just listening has turned into lurking. You can’t just occupy space in social anymore, you have to own it. In practical terms, this means you may want to toss your bots, social media interns, and dashboards, and dive right in yourself.

Stop using social media the way that one girl used pool party invitations back in the fifth grade. This notion applies to tips 1, 2, 8, 13, 14, 15, 23, and 24. Auto-following, asking people to share your content, tagging people without reason, excessive hashtagging, blindly pitching your content to anyone with a pulse, running toward the latest shiny object, endorsing people on LinkedIn with the hopes that they’ll return the favor… all these things are making you look desperate. Stop it. Especially that whole “blindly pitching your content thing. Spark actually has some great follow-up info on how to pitch content more productively, and as a person who gets a lot of useless pitches, I endorse this wholeheartedly.

Did you know that posting controversial questions is bad form? This applies particularly to tips 9, 10, and 12. Sure, you’ll get some temporary payoff in terms of traffic by making people angry or posting questions that everyone feels the need to chime in on. But if it’s not tied to something real, it’s just cheap thrills when you could have had a meaningful conversation with people who already like you. Just don’t refer to them as your community. After all, it’s not like they’re not on your softball team or something. They’re people who like your business page.

There are a bunch more tips in this e-book that I’m not referencing here, because I think you should probably just take Spark’s advice and read the thing. I will say that the most helpful thing for me, as a person who spends far more time working on social media than selling homes, was the insider baseball info on how social media sites are changing the way they treat your content. This helps explain exactly why the old tricks that social experts used to recommend don’t work anymore. For example, Spark explains how Facebook’s “traffic throttling” makes it pointless to create an app on the social network. Similarly, he shows how EdgeRank has changed in such a way to penalize sharing Facebook posts directly from other pages.

Of course, he then notes that “It’s possible Facebook will revise the algorithm again and all of this advice will change after this e-book publishes.” Truly, the one downfall of this sort of publication is its own rapidly-approaching expiration date. Good thing it’s an e-book at least. Still, I’ll download the next one when it comes out. And I’ll probably actually read the whole thing, if only the one time.

Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]

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  1. Tonya Davis

    Looking forward to reading this book. Thank you!

  2. Christie Baker

    Please let me know when the book is available. It sounds like something I need to read.

  3. Cynthia

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your intro…thanks, will download the book now.