You’re Doing It Wrong! 17

You're doing it wrong!

The "doing it wrong" slogan has become a joke in popular culture and many social media "gurus" still don't get it.

Sounds quite snarky, doesn’t it? It kind of makes you want to punch the “guru” right in the face, right? After all, how can anyone be so naive as to assume that they know every situation in which it would be “wrong” to do it this way or that? Only a complete simpleton would be so naive, right? In truth, perhaps the phrase “You’re doing it wrong” applies mainly to the social media “gurus” who like to make this into a general catch-phrase, even while countless people are making fun of how vapid and lazy it makes the consultant actually sound. Where is there room for one-on-one analysis in such posted statements?

“That’s not the way I would do it.”

This is what I prefer to say to people directly (either people who asked, or speaking to cases in particular) who are flubbing up on something that’s good to do in social media in their own unique circumstances, but that this person is doing, perhaps, unskillfully. That way, for one thing, no one can make a mindless all-purpose slogan to plaster all over the place that quickly becomes an obvious cliche.

An example of someone doing it unskillfully? Oh, maybe like the people who like to create little content scraping sites that use my book (or any other) and the existing reviews posted on Amazon to just rip off someone else’s content and “make affiliate cash”–in order to sell my books (again, or any other) as an affiliate. Problem is, they’re not going to sell ANY book like that because the page won’t get any page rank or rankings or social traffic. Simple scraping of big sites like is about as useful as throwing pennies into a wishing well and hoping for a cool grand to jump out at you. There’s no original text / content there for search engines to rank, or for people to pass on. Now, there might be cases in which this is what someone meant to do. But in most cases, it’s just a product of ignorance about how to achieve a particular goal (i.e., affiliate revenue).

Why am I tinkering with a staple of know-it-all social media gurus everywhere? Well, besides the fact that it’s already a trend to make fun of it–which I’ve been doing for about a year now)–because nobody can actually do it wrong in the sense that there are lots of ways to successfully do all kinds of interesting or profitable or worthy things with the tools of social media. Social media is just too young to dictate the rules on. It just is. There’s too much left to explore, test, try.

So, then: Dear social media “experts”, stop saying that people “are doing it wrong” if they do it like X or Y or Z. People cannot possibly be as stupid as you paint them, and even if they were, why would someone pay the jerk to teach them? They’re not doing it wrong just because they’re emphasizing strengths that you don’t have and thus wouldn’t dare to? And they’re not doing it wrong because they do it with a different style to a different purpose? And another thing, using your profile to primarily run your new posts up the flagpole is perfectly fine for any article-posting site’s profile. We all know that the site profile is going to have less personality than, say, that of its founder or of an author who posts on the site. Duh! But guess what? Even on a Twitter profile where the site mainly just posts article posts, conversation does occur.

Okay, I’m having a bit of fun here imitating the snarky guru, but only to prove a point. Not everyone has to be a jerk to use social media, or even to teach others about it. There is nothing much helpful about inhibiting the very people you’re supposed to be “helping” by telling them they’re “doing it wrong”. I’ve got news for you social media gurus out there. Everyone who does something new is “doing it wrong”. So, in order to emphasize this, I’m going to start saying that people are “doing it unusually” or maybe even “that’s a new way to do X/Y/Z”. It may not be as catchy, but at least then I know that the reason I’m saying it is only because I think I know HOW they’re trying to do it in the first place, and not assuming and condemning in one stroke–something which the social media jerks generally do not bother to consider before shooting in the wind at possible “wrong people” out there, somewhere, you know…”doing it wrong”.

Photo Credit

Mark BrimmMark Brimm is Founder and Editor-in-Chief at and is author of AdWords University: The Complete Guide to AdWords and other previous related books on search marketing. He is currently working on a forthcoming book on social media strategy.

Mark consults on SEO & SEM, general web marketing and social media strategy at Interface Communications Group where he is Partner and Director of Digital Marketing. Some of his specialties include SEO (search engine optimization), social media optimization (SMO), as well as PR campaign concepts, marketing plans and general web marketing related project management. Mark is married and currently resides in Houston, TX.

About Mark Brimm

Mark Brimm is President of, the Founder of, and runs a personal blog on social media, marketing and entrepreneurship at He also runs a blog on SEO & SEM at

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  • Great points Mark. There has been a rise in the “don't do that” mentality. First of all, the entire idea of doing Social Media wrong is quite interesting because it is a communication tool. It would be like saying, “your are doing telephone wrong”. All we have in marketing is idea generation, testing and analysis. Either something works or it doesn't. To presume every business can use the same strategy is a little ignorant.

    On the other hand, there are some areas where rules should probably be followed, but they are the same rules that apply to the offline world. Things such as honesty, decency, listening etc. Is it acceptable for someone to suggest that telling lies on Social Media sites is the wrong way to do it?

  • I love this post. It seems that the more I know about social media the more that I find that I am doing it wrong. A couple of months ago I even wrote a two-part blog series on the 10 ways I was messing up my social media effort. And yet, within my circle, I am considered the social media guru. This area is evolving and I figured out that if you show up you are ahead of the guy who is not active in any way. Again, great post.

  • Thanks Steve. You are so right. Activity in social media is how we grow. Failing often is how we grow in anything, and consequently learn a great deal more than the “safe” experts ever can.

  • I don't think anyone does well by verbally abusing prospects, which is what this kind of strategy entails.

    What it does is create this kind of loop

    Potential client feels bad, starts attacking themselves (why am I so dumb, why am I doing it wrong?)
    Consultant poses as the solution. “I have better self-esteem than you. You're doomed without me.”
    Potential client gloms onto the consultant.

    I guess this works for a certain segment of the market (Zeus forbid that I say that they're “doing it wrong!”), but it doesn't work for the clients that are most worth chasing.

  • Good hypothetical question you've raised there, Jay.

    Good will goes along way in PR and in building brand loyalty. In the end, people want to do business with those they feel are trustworthy. At some point along the way, you have to build that trust with people to get momentum. Most of us will have to continue to prove ourselves to our clients and staying within the ethical lines is a pretty easy way to do trust building with those who've come into contact with us already. So while I would impartially advise any client to avoid posting things that they can't prove, I also would be quick to show them the ease in which it could go wrong to do so. I really also think that there is something just anchoring about intending to do the right thing that becomes obvious to people and that they are drawn to, don't you? Some of my own company's longest-running clients have been those who knew that we/I could be trusted with sensitive materials and information, or to get a job done right on principle of the matter. As a web services company consultant, I'm sure you can appreciate the need for trust, as well.

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  • Interesting that you bring up the esteem equation. I think I have always been eager to let a prospect or client know what they were doing badly without being abrupt or insulting about it, and normally they of course love it because they want to know what they're doing wrong without getting bruised up and having new interpersonal obstacles form in their minds. One of the most frustrating experiences for me is trying to buy a service from someone with poor interpersonal skills. Having to turn away from the person I know COULD do the job if only they would listen to me is one of the worst I know of–utter futility. So while I am quick to let someone know why they're social media presence is not fully optimized for social media, or why their site is not well optimized for search results, or why their PPC campaign is not optimized for best performance, etc…I always try to present in a way that demonstrates rather than inhibits. I want them to feel that they can understand this stuff, that's it's not magic, it's just experience talking, something that they could learn something about and validate for themselves over time.

    A lot of public speakers make their name on brash energy, and of course I get that is their one trick and their appeal, but they typically do not do much consulting and are typically better at gathering and processing new information than they are at experimenting first hand. I think that's ultimately where the hubris hails from: a lack of consulting experience, the need to energize an audience. I think that's ultimately the reason that Chris Brogan is so far above the crowd as a public speaker, and it's why he can charge so much for consulting fees and public speaking fees–he's not just a performer spouting commandments from the mountain, he obviously has consulting chops. He embodies the trust that he advocates. That's something.

  • “He embodies the trust that he advocates. That's something.”

    That's very important… people can smell hypocrisy.

    There's a way to bring up errors in a polite way. It's the best way that I've heard of to do cold calls/cold e-mails. i.e. “I noticed that your sales page is buried behind three different links. If you put it on the main page, you'll increase your sales.”

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  • Reminds me of my favorite joke: Guy walks into the doctor's office with a banana up his nose, a melon on his head and a piece of broccoli in his year. “What's wrong with me, Doc?” he says. The doctors says, “You're not eating properly.”


    Seriously, I think this is an awesome post. Innovators constantly exploit people who follow any kind of “rule” or “system,” so even when we do have best practices for social media, this will still be true. I saw a post today on one of the new influencer-rating systems and, as the post noted, no one has yet figured out how to incorporate human behavior into any of these.

    Great as always, Mark–keep up the good fight!

  • Thanks for the comment, Will.

    It seems to work for some gurus out there (largely those who don't really consult much) to establish reputation on the backs of a hypothetical / imagined populace of morons. I guess it's up to those of us who are committed to resolving real and specific issues to provide some sort of standard of reality as best we can, probably sans the applause and kudos in most cases. I just keep seeing all these rules about social media from people who really don't do more than blog now and then and it makes me chuckle all by itself that some really big egos out there are able to float that and call it gold. 🙂