3 Things They’ll Never Tell You About Social Media (plus tips for the haters)

By Andy Crestodina

I’ve been on social media for about a decade. Now it’s time to reflect…

We all know the wonderful benefits of social media marketing. We’ve read the how-to posts and the tools roundups. We’ve scanned some of the 492 million “social media tips” in Google and the 602,759 social media books on Amazon.

So let’s look at the other side for a minute. This post is about social media marketing’s darker side.

Note: This isn’t about problems for us as social users. This post isn’t about how…

  • Social media makes you depressed

  • Social is a haven for trolls and bullies

  • Social media appeals to some of our worst qualities


This post is about marketing, written for marketers, including all of you social media ninjas and divas out there. You know who you are. It’s right there in your Twitter bios!


So here are three dark truths about social media. Specifically, Twitter.

Dark Truth #1: People Share Without Reading

Maybe it was obvious. What people read and what people share aren’t the same thing. This was discovered by Chart Beat. In the words of Tony Haile, Chart Beat CEO.

We’ve found effective no correlation between social shares and people actually reading.

That won’t surprise the cynics. Here’s the data. They use attention minutes vs. content length as a proxy for reading.

  • Visitors who read half an article are less likely to share than visitors who read nothing.

  • An article may be read a hundred times and never shared, or shared a hundred times and never read!

sharing-social 1

Tips from the dark side:

How to adapt to a world where people share without reading

  • Focus on the headlines: Articles don’t get shared. Only headlines get shared!

  • Format for skim readers: Lots of images, subhead, bullet lists, bolding and internal links

  • Don’t get caught up in sharing metrics. They don’t correlate to traffic.

Dark Truth #2: A lot of Social Media is Automated

Who has time to build up a big following? It’s a lot of work! Most marketers know that there are big shortcuts.

The main way to pump up a social following is to follow others. The tiny bit of visibility that happens when you follow someone may lead to them following you back. If they don’t follow back in a day or two, just unfollow them and keep going.

But that’s a lot of clicking if you want 50k followers. That’s where software comes in. They automatically follow people that meet the criteria you set. Then unfollow if they don’t follow back.

When you see an account that has a very close following / follower ratio, they’re probably using this trick. They’ve gone over to the dark side.

auto-follow 1

I do not recommend this, but here’s how you can get yourself a big fake following too!

Tips from the dark side:

How to grow a giant fake following

  • Auto Follow Everyone (I’m not going to mention the software that does this. Go find it yourself!)

  • Or manually follow all of the users of another account, using a service like Tweepi.

  • Unfollow the ones that don’t follow back! The same services will help you do this.

  • Put “I follow back” into your Twitter bio

  • Put #followback into your tweets

Now sit back and watch your account grow. No actual social interaction required!

Want more? Read How to Get More Followers (the semi-legit way).

Dark Secret #3: Social Media is Completely Optional

Despite all the guilt and expectation that comes with social, here’s a little secret you’ll almost never hear: you don’t need to do it at all. Social media can be effective, but it is not mandatory.

It’s true.

So you don’t have to be active, but you do need a presence. So if this post has completely turned you off to social media marketing, here’s the proper way to slowly step way.

Tips from the dark side:

How to not use Twitter properly

  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and up-to-date (this is not optional)

  • Create a Twitter bio that describes what you do in a basic way. Nothing fancy. Use the same profile picture you use in LinkedIn. Add a link to your website.

  • Call forwarding! Write one tweet, notifying people that you’re not active here, and sending them to LinkedIn. It might look like this…

DM 1

If you don’t use LinkedIn either, just link to your website.

  • Repeat for every social network where you are not active.

Social media profiles often rank high in search engines. So claiming a presence in each social network is a way to dominate the first page of Google when people search for your name. This is the key to personal SEO.


Go Into the Light!

I’m glad you made it through that little tour of the dark corners of social media marketing. Now you may want to read the dark side of SEO.

If you’re an optimistic, ethical marketer and you reject every tactic and tip from this post, good for you. Don’t judge the haters.

If you know of other shadows in the social marketing world, feel free to share them below. Your fellow readers appreciate both cranky rants and practical tips…

There is more where this came from…

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