We thought medicine wagons and snake oil salesmen were only historical things, a quaint memory of less sophisticated times… certainly not the stuff of nightmares. But it seems some social media expert experts are seeing snake oil salesmen hiding under the bed and lurking in the closet.

And they want to warn the world.

That’s right. A quick search of “social media expert” will bring you up all manner of alarming – and sometimes downright nasty – bits of wisdom opinion on the subject. Many of these social media expert experts want to ensure you don’t fall prey to the dreaded modern day Snake Oil Salesmen, now masquerading as “Social Media Experts” (who are, presumably, lurking under your bed as well).

Where to start?

Well, to be blunt, we’d like to start by offering free use of our thesaurus to anyone contemplating an article about so-called social media experts. There must be some way you can express your thoughts in an original manner… (hint: You guys all use “Snake Oil Salesman”. All of you. A lot. Seriously.)

And we’d like to note that as long as we come across these social media expert experts sounding the alarms and setting up strawmen, we’re going to keep posting about it and knocking them down. So, first up:

The Mad Scientist

Dan Zarella, the self-proclaimed Social Media Scientist, mocks the notion of customer engagement and the human touch.

I like to call this kind of stuff “unicorns and rainbows.” Sure, it sounds good and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, but it’s not actually based on anything other than “truthiness” and guesswork.

It’s the modern day equivalent of the witchdoctor or snake oil salesman.

But this is a Social Media Scientist, right? Surely he’s got some knowledge to share… some deep insights into a logical, unicorn-free strategy for success. Right? What else does he have to say?

Businesses exist to make money, not friends. It can be easier to get our friends to become paying customers, but it’s the customer part that’s the real goal, not the friendship…

Measuring stuff like “engagement” or “reach” is great, and I recommend advanced social media users do it. But you must understand that those numbers are merely proxy metrics for what really matters: the bottom line.

Uhhh… no.

That “stuff like engagement” – those followers, those likes – are people, not proxy metrics.  P.E.O.P.L.E.  Your customers and prospective customers… and their friends… and their families… and everyone they “know” online…

You’re not going to get anywhere in business (really, in this world) by treating people as proxy metrics. We still don’t claim to be social media experts, but we’re practically experts on human nature, having been human as long as we can remember. People do not respond well to being treated like numbers. Period.

You wouldn’t treat your customer like a proxy metric face-to-face. And you can not do it on social media.

The new reality is this:  Those people are on social media, and they are engaged in all that unicorn and rainbows stuff this self-labeled scientist is passing off as puffery. That should be the focus of your social media presence – the human interaction. It’s called “social” media for a reason.

We stand by our advice, and it’s also the way we do business.

Come out from around your New Media network counters and meet, greet and assist your online customers with the same zeal and enthusiasm as your Grandmother did. Answer their questions, make them smile and they’ll remember to tell their friends about you when it comes time to make their decisions about purchasing a product.

We don’t see people as proxy metrics. We don’t think that’s the way to treat your customers or your social media connections. And while we’ve still never claimed to be experts, apparently (under the new, very, very widely used definition), focusing on people is “Snake Oil”, and we guess that makes us Snake Oil Salesmen.

So be it.

We believe in customer engagement (make ’em think, make ’em laugh), the human touch (respond to them, answer questions, ask questions), and all that unicorny-rainbow jazz that really makes the connection a connection.

In other words… we believe the Snake Oil works.

(Though we admit to being glad the whole “medicine wagon” part of the gig got phased out…we’re allergic to horses. Thanks, Al Gore, for inventing that whole internet thing!)

Give us a call.