Home Featured Post B.J. Mendelson: The Myth of Disruption, Social Media Gurus, and Crooked Publishers

B.J. Mendelson: The Myth of Disruption, Social Media Gurus, and Crooked Publishers

Since the release of his book “Social Media Is Bullshit,” author B.J. Mendelson has been looked upon as the voice of reasoning and the Dr. Kevorkian of social media. Which side are you on? B.J. is social media marketing firm’s worst nightmare, and a guiding conscious for small business owners looking to make some sense of what social media really means. Lean more about the Mark Twain of social media in this brief four question interview.

The last time we spoke you were promoting your book “Social Media is Bullshit.” What is the name of your new book and what can we expect?

There are two books I’m working on. The first doesn’t have a title at the moment, but it’ll be out in January of 2014. I travel a lot, and since the book came out, I have delivered presentations at the Word of Mouth Marketing Summit, The Do Lectures, South by SouthWest Interactive, The United Nations, Columbia University, and Social Media Week, among others.

The thing is, some of those conferences are kind of pricey to get into, and if I’m not in your city, you’re not able to come see me. So what I decided to do was take my full presentation from Social Media Week, create a transcript, clean it up, add some reference links, and put that out for $2.99. It also comes with the transcripts from my appearances on the CBC, CNN, CNBC, two different NPR affiliates, and TechCrunch. So it’s sort of unique and kind of fun because I think the e-book format is the only format where you could package content like that in such a way.

Right now the untitled e-book is floating at 30,000 words, so it’s only 10,000 words less than Social Media Is Bullshit. But the way I see it, when I put up a slideshare presentation to go along with this e-book, it’s a way to get the experience of my “Is Social Media Bullshit?” presentation without having to actually come see me. Which is great, because I’m not really interested in making this into a career. I’m only doing this right now to help support my family.

The other book is a sequel to Social Media Is Bullshit, or as close as I can get to a sequel anyway. It’s called Stop Following Me: Social Media Marketing Advice Without The Bull, and that’ll be out later next year. It was supposed to be out sooner, but I felt weird just straight up repackaging blog posts and putting that out as a book. So everything in Stop Following Me is totally new, and the reason this book exists is because a lot of people loved Social Media Is Bullshit, but they all kept saying, “Ok. Now that I know this stuff is bullshit. What can I do?” Stop Following Me will try to answer that question.



Are there any new trends in social media that you see occurring in 2014?

I think there’s something in the air about a lot of the social media marketing advice right now. I’m not saying my book had anything to do with this because I’m not arrogant enough to suggest that, but there’s a healthier dose of skepticism out there right now than from what existed back when I first started writing and researching Social Media Is Bullshit. That was back between 2009 and 2012.

Now people are more “aware” of the bullshit, and the bullshitters like Gary Vaynerchuk, Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, Amy Jo Martin, Mari Smith, and I can go on and on and on. But generally what I’ve encountered is that people are starting to roll their eyes at the folks I just mentioned, and that’s awesome. Because it means we’re waking up to all of the myths they’ve been spewing so freely since 2006.

We’re also now aware of how easily gamed everything is on the Internet. “Yeah, you had something go viral, but you paid $2,000,000 for ten million YouTube views. Yeah, you had something spread on social media, but that was only after YouTube featured your company’s video on their front page, exposing it to a few million people. Yeah, I know you claim you grew your business through Tumblr, but what you didn’t tell people is that you wrote a script that auto-followed EVERY Tumblr user in order to get them to follow you. Yeah, we know your service took off in its first six months, but what you didn’t tell people was that you gave shares to Justin Bieber, and he promoted your services to his fans, which is why you’re so popular.”

Like, we’re starting to see THAT side of things, and that’s forcing everyone to take a step back and go, “Whoa. Wait a minute. This stuff doesn’t work the way we thought it does. That doesn’t mean that these social media platforms don’t work, but it does mean we really have to stop and think about why we’re doing what we’re doing, and the kind of people we’re getting our advice from. People are realizing that Gary Vaynerchuk was telling them to use Tumblr because he owns shares in it and made a nice profit when Yahoo! brought the company. Not because Tumblr was right for their business. Or that Guy Kawasaki was praising Google+ because he was angling for a job at Google, which he got, since he’s now an advisor there. Not because you should be using Google+.

The issue is that the press hasn’t come around on this. I don’t know if they will or not. I hope they do, but my experience suggests we still have a long way to go on that front, and that’s the last part of the equation. Because once the press starts saying, “Hey wait a minute …” then everything changes and we can get EVERYBODY back to basics and talking about what does, and doesn’t work.
Disruption logo
In a recent blog post you stated that “disruption” is mostly a myth? Can you expound on that? Also, do you think it’s possible to be disruptive without connections or a budget?

So, what I meant by that is that “disruption” has sort of become this useless buzzword we throw around to explain away things we don’t want to answer. “Viral” is the same way. Blendtec doesn’t want to tell you they got featured on the front page of YouTube back when that mattered, they want to tell you that “Will It Blend?” was a “viral” success story. In the case you’re referring to, I was talking about how the Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, didn’t want to address legitimate concerns the publishing industry about Amazon.

Instead of saying, “Well, we absorb the cost of a lot of merchandise we sell, including books, because that’s how we build customer loyalty. And once we’ve defeated our competition in a particular space, we will then raise our prices and there’s nothing you can do about it because we’ve indoctrinated you into using our service”. He said, “oh well publishing is being disrupted by the Internet”. Well, no. It’s being “disrupted” by a well financed corporation who’s doing something that’s simultaneously really smart, but also really crappy, and that’s pissed off a lot of people. The Internet isn’t disrupting publishing. Amazon is.

So that’s generally how “disruption” is being used now, particularly by tech people. They just sort of use it as a default response without looking at, and explaining, what’s actually a really complex thing that’s going on. And that goes back to what I was saying with the press where they’re really bad at questioning stuff when it comes to the Internet, and so when Bezos said “disruption” on 60 Minutes, for example, the interviewer didn’t push him on it and just went on to the next thing. So they know if they say something filled with buzzwords, few journalists these days are going to stop and question them on it.

Can someone be disruptive without a budget or connections? Anything is possible, but it’s not very likely.
Social Media Is Bullshit
What advice you would give a new author releases his first book?

This would take a really, really long answer. So, if you’re a first time author who wants advice, you can call me at 518-832-9844 or email me at bjm@boun.cr.

Let me just leave you with this: I didn’t want to believe people when they told me that my publisher would do nothing to promote my book. So I sort of slacked on press until I figured out that they weren’t doing anything and didn’t even send the book out for blurbs, or to people who asked for a review copy. There are almost twenty five people the book was supposed to go to for review, and all of them said to me, “I never got it”.

About three weeks into the book’s launch, I took action and started to call everybody and anybody, including the talent booker for Conan on TBS. We had a good conversation, and I asked if I could send a book. That person said sure. So I turned around and emailed my publicist at St. Martin’s and I was really happy. I said, “Can we send a copy of the book to Conan? They sound like they’re interested in the book!” Instead of saying, “OK! Great!” My publicist at the publisher said nothing. Then my agent calls. He says to me something like, “The publisher is really upset. This is one of those red flag meetings where they decide if they don’t want to work with an author or not.” So we get on the call with my editor and publicist and they’re furious. “How dare you do this, and we do the publicity, and this is our job and you should let us do our job” and meanwhile, they were doing nothing. So I apologized because I was scared they wouldn’t want to work with me again, and they proceeded to do nothing.

So, not only did I not get on Conan, which is something I really hoped for, but now the publisher was mad at me and they proceeded to do nothing, which really hurt sales for the book.