Using Social Media Efficiently

This Onion talk shows how much the state of what is cool (as in what investors will pay the most for) in technology has changed since the dot-com era. One of the hallmarks of a dot com was you had lots of young people working really hard and not sleeping and going to meetings spouting impenetrable jargon. I recall I gasped out loud when I read Jeff Bezos saying he slept 8 hours a night. Bad enough that he did that…but admitting to doing that? Amazon had gone public by then, so he could afford a luxury like shut-eye.

I’ve spent more of my life doing meetings through translation than I care to admit, plus I’ve worked with firms that had bleeding edge, large scale IT implementations, so I’ve also had more exposure to geeks than most finance types. After a few dot-com meetings, I realized they bore absolutely no resemblance to other cutting edge tech presentations I’d been party to. In those, content was clearly being conveyed, even though I might not understand it all. It clearly could be translated, and the more technical stuff unpacked. With the dot coms, I realized almost no content was being conveyed in these discussions. It was all atmospherics and noise, or what is more generally described as smoke and mirrors, except the kids hadn’t seen anything else, and really thought this was what it took to build businesses.

This talk shows how this mode of operation has been taken to its logical conclusion. Hat tip Lambert:

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    1. Paul Tioxon

      I think YOU stole my idea to say that THEY stole the idea from investment bankers. I have 2 bills, I want 10% of your billing and please be as so kind to tell me where to send my bill as a thought broker.

      1. Glen

        I will see you in court, sir, as I have procured thousands of IP patents which cover all of human thought and invention!

        My attorneys, the Honorable Stickit, Tothem and Laff will will be in touch with you!

        1. Paul Tioxon

          Oh, so it’s gonna be like that huh. Maybe you don’t know where my IP address is out of? It’s Philadelphia. Maybe you don’t know what kind of lawyers we have here. And I don’t mean Denzel Washington ambulance chasing types from the Tom Hanks movie. My attorney’s from Dewey,Cheetham and Howe will eat your attorneys for breakfast and have time left over for a game at the Racquet Club and then onto the Union League for lunch.

          1. Glen

            HA, I will see you at the club tonight and we can discuss how many of the little people we can crush during happy hour.

  1. David Lentini


    You think you had it rough! I was a patent attorney in Silicon Valley back then. Working with these intellectual Potemkin Villages, knowing they generally believed there own b.s., and still having to watch them get rich just the same, was really depressing. I still can’t get over how long it took investors to realize they were getting fleeced. I’d say that experience was the finishing touch to my distrust (and disgust) for “free-market” capitalism.

    Dilbert was all too real then. I still recall a great series in which Wally decided to open his own Web business, selling tuna fish sandwiches over the Internet. In one strip, after explaining his business model to Dilbert, Dilbert says something like, “Oh, they order the sandwiches and you deliver them”, to which Wally replies, “No! They have to come to my house.” Needless to say, the plan doesn’t work well. But when the investors question Wally, he simply replies: “E-commerce”, whereupon the investors start drooling and rolling their eyes while handing him a large sack of money.

    Yup! Gotta love that Efficient Market Hypothesis and the Wisdom of Crowds.

    And just think! We’re pushing all of this social media crap on to our schools and children under the vision of “21st Century Learning”. The new Grand Plan for education is to enshrine this junk as some sort of “evolutionary” stange in human development. And just like the dot-com days, it’s all about form (and format) over substance.

  2. LAS

    Oh, ouch. This certainly captures the “very busy doing nothing” some of us fear to be. On the other hand, does it matter if you actually earn money for your firm?

    Truth be told, many of us don’t understand the value in our efforts (really) until some time after the effort has been made. The first time I saw a client seriously apply some of my work was hugely surprising. The impulse to warn the users that no one else takes me seriously nearly emitted from my mouth.

    Sometimes it is better to withhold making a judgment.

  3. Inverness (@Inverness)

    I often find the emperor has no clothes. Education tech consultants in the private sector are making big money these days in the New York City public schools, with companies like Aussie, and not to mention online programs like Plato, which replace the teacher, so kids can pass previously failed coursework by following some online program, then they just move to the next grade.

    As a teacher, I’m even more worried about the push for online learning. Private companies get public money so kids, as young as elementary age, can learn without a physical teacher. They just have their laptop.
    It’s quite lucrative for investors, but a bad deal for students:

  4. Michael M Thomas

    All across this great land of ours, and in other foreign countries, I suspect, middle-aged men who have been told that their businesses need “a Web presence” and have spent real money to establish one are scratching their heads and wondering whether it’s doing any good for them. I’m a man of some years, who’s been using the Internet for, say, fifteen years, and when I started to use it, I thought its convenience and communicative utility argued 100% in its favor. Amazon was a blessing. Today, when I consider its power to distract, its enabling of solitude and inversion, the way it has affected genuine (as opposed to artificial) personal relating and its apparently infinite power as a breeding ground for for fraud, the needle is edging markedly in the other direction. I still wouldn’t be without it, but there are times…

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      This kind of thing happened with the Obama/Hillary race. After Obama won, every story was about social media, but Obama’s margins of victory were where he had field organizers with support. Where he didn’t, Hillary cleaned house despite a great social media campaign.

      Of course, the promise of social media is success without hard work, so its seductive. Despite the headlines, Obama beat Hillary where he was able to field face to face contacts between organizers/volunteers and voters. Canvassing is hard, unsexy work, but people are more impressed by a person at the door than a person calling from out of state or a slick ad.Part of the problem is you can’t touch that. One can touch a website.

  5. brazza

    I was on the ideas side during the dotcom wild ‘n woolly nineties and much was simply visionary, ahed of the market, but genuinely rode on the accurate perception that the internet would change society. Then there were the smoke and mirror cowboys…. I still think Bill Hicks said it best

    By the way if anyone here is in advertising or marketing … kill yourself.

    No, no, no it’s just a little thought. I’m just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day, they’ll take root – I don’t know. You try, you do what you can.
    Kill yourself.

    Seriously though, if you are, do.

    Aaah, no really, there’s no rationalization for what you do and you are Satan’s little helpers.
    Okay – kill yourself – seriously.
    You are the ruiner of all things good, seriously.
    No this is not a joke, you’re going, “there’s going to be a joke coming,” there’s no fucking joke coming.
    You are Satan’s spawn filling the world with bile and garbage.
    You are fucked and you are fucking us.
    Kill yourself.
    It’s the only way to save your fucking soul, kill yourself.

    Planting seeds.
    I know all the marketing people are going, “he’s doing a joke…” there’s no joke here whatsoever.
    Suck a tail-pipe, fucking hang yourself, borrow a gun from a Yank friend – I don’t care how you do it.
    Rid the world of your evil fucking machinations. Machi… Whatever, you know what I mean.

    I know what all the marketing people are thinking right now too, “Oh, you know what Bill’s doing, he’s going for that anti-marketing dollar. That’s a good market, he’s very smart.”

    Oh man, I am not doing that. You fucking evil scumbags!

    “Ooh, you know what Bill’s doing now, he’s going for the righteous indignation dollar. That’s a big dollar. A lot of people are feeling that indignation. We’ve done research – huge market. He’s doing a good thing.”

    Goddammit, I’m not doing that, you scum-bags!
    Quit putting a goddamn dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet!

    “Ooh, the anger dollar. Huge. Huge in times of recession. Giant market, Bill’s very bright to do that.”

    God, I’m just caught in a fucking web.

    “Ooh the trapped dollar, big dollar, huge dollar. Good market – look at our research. We see that many people feel trapped. If we play to that and then separate them into the trapped dollar…”

    How do you live like that? And I bet you sleep like fucking babies at night, don’t you?

    1. rob

      Now, that is a message.
      Maybe you can get a professional to help get your message out.Maybe a marketing expert or something…..

      Although, I agree.

  6. Bridget

    E commerce, I get. Especially with the price of gas and the value I place on my time, the ability to buy pretty much anything I want from Amazon, having it appear at my door 2 days later, with no shipping costs, that rocks.

    Social media, I get as a way to keep up with friends and family. As a marketing tool, completely mystifying. Never got that. Glad to see the folks at Onion don’t either.

    1. Garrett Pace

      You’re falling in a trap about shipping cost. Shipping expenses still get passed on to the consumer (us). They’ve just very thoughtfully collapsed the shipping costs into the sale price.

      There’s a pendulum that swings back and forth on this. Shipping is listed separately so long as the consumer equates the cost of the item with just the price, without factoring in additional costs. (This is why people will make and extra trip, spending $1.20 in gas to drive across town and return a library book, to avoid a $0.25 late fee.)

      If that changes and consumers begin to fit shipping costs into their conceptual framework, retailers will put shipping back in the sale price, touting “hey free shipping!” Because now that $0.00 on the invoice matters too.

      And back and forth we go.

      1. Bridget

        That is sometimes true, but it’s usually pretty easy to double check the total cost against other websites that charge separately for shipping to see what kind of deal you’re getting. Smaller, pricier, objects with low shipping costs are going to be a different cost/benefit than larger and less expensive objects. But the time savings is huge. And people in some states can avoid sales taxes as well.

  7. steelhead23

    “In the new financialization economy, you don’t have to do real work, you just need to look like you’re doing real work… God’s work” L. Blankfein.

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