Social Media “Tin Men”

by Jay Deragon on 12/06/2010

Remember the movie “Tin Men”?  Ernest Tilley and Bill “BB” Babowsky are “tin men” — door-to-door aluminum siding salesmen in Baltimore in 1963.

Working for different companies, they are prepared to do almost anything — legal or illegal — to close a sale. BB buys a shiny Cadillac to maintain his image of success and almost immediately crashes into another Cadillac driven by Tilley (all “tin men” drive a Cadillac). The movies depicts the battle of each driver  to get revenge on the other (Danny Devito and Richard Dreyfuss)

The movie reflects an era in our history where a salesperson was very much depicted as someone who practiced deception to get a sale . Marketing and advertising practices followed similar games of deception. The public was gullible because it was an era of mass production and mass media as the new frontiers of commerce.  Tin Men didn’t need a heart or a brain because neither were required to make a sale.

40 Years Later Tin Men Still Exist

It seems that everywhere we turn social media consultants are pontificating about the wonders of social media marketing as the new frontier of commerce. These slick shake-and-bake “experts” promise to help you leverage the power of social technology by following their sage advise and of course you have to pay for their advise. Just like Tin Men of the past that drove Cadillacs,  Social Media Tin Men  uphold their images with ambiguous social terms,fancy blogs, brag about how many followers they have and drop other Tin Men names as references to their affiliation with social media gurus .

The claims of all the noise being made by Social Media Tin Men can be categorized into the following:

  1. Social media marketing can get you immediate results
  2. Social media Tin Men have “insider tips” that others don’t
  3. They can get you thousands of Twitter followers at the click of a mouse
  4. They proclaim they are social media strategist yet have no background or disciplines in strategic thinking or practices
  5. They site examples of  other companies who have successfully used social media yet they have no affiliation or knowledge of what those companies did to be successful
  6. Their background shows little experience in running any business nor have they ever been a “real consultant” with specific experience in any one business discipline
  7. They practice in sophomoric uses of social media which do not produce anything but instead suck their clients time and productivity  away from things that do produce results
  8. They post slick video’s and publish “how to” books and make money from a gullible audience starving for answers
  9. They lack original thought and instead propagate “copycat” thinking from other social media gurus
  10. Last but not least they tarnish the very innovation which social technology offers and in doing so clutter the marketplace of conversations with self promotion and noise  which confuses the marketplace

Social Media Tin Men make promises that lull the uninformed to believe they really intend on providing value when in fact the value they seek is a “quick buck” in their pocket.  And we wonder why the markets sentiment about social media has shifted to calling it a bunch of BS!

The Social Media Yellow Brick Road

You can hardly miss the markets promotion of social media Tin Men within traditional media channels and they are consuming the landscape of “social media channels”. This is indicative of a marketplace that has yet to “think through” the  systemic implications of social technology and instead many are simply following the yellow brick road to ask the Wizards of Oz to fulfill their wishes.

In the movie “The Wizard of Oz” the characters were following the yellow brick road to find fulfillment to their wishes. The Tin Man desired a heart and the Scarecrow desired a brain. The lion desired courage and Dorothy simply wanted to go home.

At the end of the yellow brick road the Wizard of Oz was hiding behind the curtains and “pulling strings” to create an image of power and knowledge. In the end it was all a dream and Dorothy awoke to the real world.

This is representative of today’s marketplace listening to Social Media Tin Men. Sooner or later people and organizations will awake and have enough courage to think on their own and guard their hearts from being lulled into believing false claims and promises that can’t be fulfilled by Social Media Tin Men.

{ 1 comment }

Jeff Pundyk December 6, 2010 at 8:00 am

right on, Jay. I particularly object to the idea that social is the answer to ALL problems and that it’s an all or nothing proposition — that social will replace all other media, etc. Obviously, there’s power in social, but it needs to be deployed thoughtfully and in conjunction with traditional marketing efforts. so the question would be how does a consumer of these services judge the potential consultant? one clue – there’s a direct relationship between the amount of jargon and obscure tech talk that the consultant uses to the amount of BS they are peddling.

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