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Million Dollar Consultant Alan Weiss Says Social Media Is a Waste of Time for Consultants

One of the most animated discussions about social media I've seen is going on over at Alan Weiss's Contrarian Consulting blog.

His blog post titled Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Chance has sparked, as of this writing, 60 comments, many of them refuting Weiss's contention that social media (including blogs and Twitter) are a waste of time for consultants promoting professional services to corporate clients.

He also contends that "Blogs are only effective if you already have a brand... a blog follows a brand, not the other way around." Hmmm... not according to Robert Scoble.

Weiss is best known as the author of Million Dollar Consulting* as well as a host of other books and is a consultant (according to his About page) to dozens of Fortune 500 companies. He has a distinctive - some might call it abrasive - personality that seems to go over well with his C-suite clients. His over-the-top style is amusing in person (I've heard him speak) but I find his derogatory tone on his blog - specifically, in response to comments - off-putting.

First up to refute Weiss's low opinion of the business value of social media is Seth Godin.

Seth's feedback is followed by push-back comments from Yvonne DiVita of Lipsticking.com (hey nice re-design, Yvonne!), Tim Walker of Hoover's Biz, Paula Thornton of FASTForward, Mack Collier of The Viral Garden and many others whose blogs I was previously not familiar with. (Some are supportive of Weiss's position, noting that one shouldn't spend too much time on blogging, etc.)

It may be that Weiss is deliberately stirring the pot with phrases like "the Web is a good place to do research... but it's a lousy place to find and meet clients" and "I have no idea who Hugh McLeod is or Robert Scoble." The latter is the perfect bait, of course, for those of us who congregate in the social media space. But a good reminder that we are, to a certain extent, in our own bubble.

As he wrote in a companion post responding directly to Seth: "I seem to have struck a nerve, which is why blogging with a brand behind you is really quite effective." 

What do you think?

Which comes first, generally speaking: a brand or a blog? And, the central question, is social media effective at reaching a corporate audience if that's who your intended clients are??

Both the original post and his follow-up, along with the dozens of comments, are worth a read. I left a comment here.

Aside: oh and I heard about Weiss's post through a Tweet from Yvonne DiVita. Love that viral thing...

*Update and full disclosure: While I may sound critical of Weiss in this entry, his Million Dollar Consulting is one of the most useful books I've read about how to sell your services as a consultant. Focus on the value you're delivering. Never count hours or charge by the hour. Make a business case for what you can deliver. Once you've got your client on board, present your "fee" as an afterthought. The client will almost always bite, he contends.

 

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Posted by Debbie Weil on June 25, 2008 in Corporate Blogging , Social media | Permalink

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Comments

John Cass

Life is what you make of it. If Robert Scoble had not joined Microsoft would he be as famous today as he is. I don't know. But I do remember in those early days of corporate blogging, we all followed the leaders in large companies. If you have a strong brand, and a strong personal brand, then there's a multiplier effect.

I just joined Forrester, and within one month I've added 400 new twitter followers. I am not kidding myself, I think it is because of the Forrester brand. But it is what I do next that will decide whether people will stay and listen.

I do think that blogging can be very effective and you can build a great brand if you work hard at it. Look at Adrants, there's a professional blog, that's the leader in ad related blogging. Adfreaks is still trying to catch up from adweek.

But again, Seth Godin had a strong brand, and his blog has only strengthen his position. I don't think he would have the same position if he did not do all the work before though. for one Seth does not allow comments. A no-no in North American blogging marketing culture. Though okay in Japan I understand.

Chris Baggott

Uggh! Every time I hear the term "Brand" I cringe...

If social media is telling us anything, it's telling us that people are tired of 'brands', we are tired of institutions, we are tired of being treated like a mass of consumers instead of individuals, We are DONE with reach & frequency advertising.

What we want is to deal with people...real human beings that like what they are doing, like the customer, believe in their products & services and think that they have something of value to offer.

The way we find these real humans is through search.

The job of the marketer is no longer to shout and interrupt...fighting to create a brand message. The job of the marketer is now to listen. The prospect will tell us when they have a need (by typing that need into a search engine) Marketers need to listen...stand up respectfully, raise their hand and say...."hey, we can help you".

This is the real power of corporate blogging. Empower the humans involved in your business..your employees to create content, offer that content and get found when people search. The searcher lands on content that reflects their search intent, written by a real person who honestly deserves consideration....

This is how social media like blogging successfully fits into the modern marketing mix.

Sorry for the rant... :-)

Best,

Chris Baggott
CEO
Compendium Blogware
www.compendiumblogware.com

Yvonne DiVita

Hi Debbie, thanks for the shout out and for the compliment on my new redesign at Lip-sticking.

I respect Allan, and I think his point is that blogging, like everything else we do to build our businesses, is hard work. It's not a simple fix...

That said. I was and am totally turned-off by his continued dismisal of truly innovative thinkers, like Scoble (who commented on this thread), as if the only great thinkers for business purposes were born in the 1950s. While those great thinkers and doers still have a place, negating or neglecting to recognize the NEW minds of the 21st century, most of whom blog...is a big mistake.

You and I can cite numerous 'brands' that got their start in the blogosphere. But, Allan, isn't interested in truth... he's only interested in his point of view. IMHO

Chris Baggott

Yvonne, In reality...everything wrong with marketing started in the 1950's.

the post war years brought TV. TV was the 'killer ap' for reach & frequency and put the nail in the coffin of human to human interaction.

Television corrupted marketing. Peppers & Rogers wrote the 1to1 future in 1992. What they were talking about was getting back to how marketing used to be done...through reputation, word of mouth..and real relationships with other human beings.

The problem in 1992 was the technology to empower 1 to 1 was just getting started.

Today the tools are in place. Databases can give us insight into who our customers & prospects are, email gives us the ability to reach out to people as individuals and Blogging gives us an ability to expose ourselves as real people vs. faceless institutions.

Anyone that thinks tactics initiated in the 1950's will take us forward is nuts....we should look to tactics from the 1850's as a better roadmap to 2050 marketing success.

Tom Asacker

"Uggh! Every time I hear the term "Brand" I cringe..."

Don't cringe Chris. Just change your perspective. I'm sure that Alan cringes when he hears the words "Social media."

IMHO, Alan gets it wrong with his assertion that, "Blogs are only effective if you already have a brand... a blog follows a brand, not the other way around," because he doesn't appreciate the way attention is created and bartered in this small subset of the economy.

Or perhaps, he doesn't "like" how it works. Know what I mean?

Barry Hurd

Considering my own company blog starting April 1st... I think he is crazy. In two months I've had dozens of corporate contacts from decision makers looking into social media.

I think part of the error in his idea is it is too blogging centric. Social media is far more than blogging. It is about conversation on multiple points of contact (Mybloglog, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc) and knowing how they connect.

Depending on who you are reaching out to on a B2B effort, the search engine side of social media allows you to target specific people that are normally outside of reach using other methods.

Case in point, several of the articles on my site generated almost instant response (with a day) from people I mentioned in the article and reached out to. In a two week period, I received half a dozen personal invitations to strike up a conversation and was also invited to participate in two alpha testing groups.

Knowing how to engage an audience at a specific level is not an easy thing to do, but there are hundreds of influential thought leaders who use social media to tap into the exact market they want on a daily basis.

Debbie Weil

Barry, you make the key point: it's a question of tapping into the "exact market" you're targeting. I bet all the contacts you made were from folks savvy enough to have created a Google News Alert on their name. That took them to your blog - bingo. What's fascinating about much of social media is how simple it is to use and reap benefits from.

Barry Hurd

In all but one case they had Google Alerts. The last one I actually took the step of doing public relations and sending an e-mail saying "You've been mentioned on our blog and our staff (and readers) would be happy to hear from you."

It may sound all too simple, but most business developers fail to send a simple FYI regarding positive press to a prospect.

John Whiteside

I think the point in the conversation on Alan's blog when his tech guy appeared to inform all the commenters that their blogs are amateurish crap and they are unworthy to criticize his client was quite stunning, and I'm surprised it didn't get more attention.

I do think that the entire thread of conversation is a great example of a problematic approach to blogging. The initial post was pretty bombastic in its criticism of blogging, and thus I thought intended to provoke strong response. But when that response came, thing went downhill fast. Don't throw firebombs if you're not ready for fires.

The point - often made - where I think Weiss is completely out to lunch is when he complains that most blogs (and most of what's on YouTube, etc.) are schlock. So is most of everything. So what?

Kathleen Gage

Although Alan tends to be right on a lot of topics, on this one I believe he missed the mark. The fact is, blogging is a viable part of companies (small and large) marketing strategy as are social networks and social media.

As a matter of fact, I recently blogged on the fact that many corporations are getting on the “social network” bandwagon. http://www.themarketingmindset.com/2008/06/social-networki.html

Kathleen Gage
aka The Street Smarts Marketer

web design company

I don't think its such a waste of time.I would suggest it would depend on the person handling it as to how he sees the situation.

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