November 19, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Bottom Line: Ron Shevlin’s “Snarketing 2.0”

by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC + Fellow Snarketer

Ron Shevlin's "Snarketing Two Dot Oh"

Uncommon sense that's 2.Overdue

Seriously thinking about social media? Then think about it humorously first.

Ron Shevlin has written the definitive primer for anyone considering a social marketing campaign: “Snarketing Two Dot Oh: A Humorous Look At The World Of Marketing In The Age Of Social Media” — a must-read before diving in.

What’s so different and definitive about it?

“Amazon carries more than 150,000 books on social media, nearly 2,400 of them on social media marketing…” writes Ron. “There’s way too much bad advice about marketing and management being thrown around out there, often relying on shoddy research and analysis. I want to help you see why it’s bad advice. And — hopefully — do it in a humorous way…”

The Snark Goes Hunting

There’s no “hopefully” about it: Ron succeeds in deliciously skewering the Kool-Aid quaffers and snake oil merchants who have glommed onto social media. While reading the book, I actually LOL’d — not a term I use often. (Based on all the social media posts and comments I’ve read, everyone on the Internet is constantly laughing out loud; we must be the happiest generation in the history of the planet.) His weapon of choice: snark.

You won’t find the colloquial definition of “snark” in most dictionaries, which refer to Lewis Carroll’s imaginary creature in “The Hunting of the Snark.”  Rather, you have to turn to the Urban Dictionary, which defines it as “sarcasm” or (the favorite) “snide remark.”

Now, snark is not to everyone’s tastes. Some consider it too mean, and also a significant contributor to the decline of American civility. To which I say, get over it. Snark constitutes the perfect antidote to the nonsense being bandied about by self-proclaimed social media “gurus” and “thought leaders” — nonsense that could waste the time and money of all the innocent people that these charlatans sucker, I mean, consult, I mean, sucker.

Speaking of “thought leaders,” Shevlin quotes the Harvard Business Review‘s six steps toward becoming a thought leader, from creating a robust online presence to appearing on TV. “By that criteria,” he mordantly concludes, “Snooki is a thought leader.” In a similar vein, Shevlin states that anyone who cares about their Klout score must be named Lou. “I’m just not sure if your last name is Nee or Zer.”

Shevlin doesn’t spare himself, particularly when it comes to his relationships with the women in his life. I enjoyed his conversation with his mother about social media (Mom: “Am I on Twitter? No. What is it? Some kind of drug?”) and his proposed new social network DOODS (Dads Of Only Daughters – “Our minds are controlled by a force 1000 times greater than the forces of gravity and nature”).

Smarts Amidst The Snark

As we fans of Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” know, sometimes the greatest truths are revealed in humor. Plus, it beats having to read another dreary, bloated textbook.

“Snarketing 2.0” isn’t just ranting and ridicule; it also contains solid advice drawn from Shevlin’s 25+ years as a marketing consultant and executive (he currently serves as a Senior Analyst at financial services consultancy Aite Group). His discernments about marketing, leavened with an acerbic wit, are the reason I regularly read his blog.

Shevlin’s lists of fictitious afflictions — “Financial Diseases,” “Marketing Maladies” and “Social Media Syndromes” — actually contain more useful insights than I’ve seen in HBR’s blogs. His “Net Promoter Syndrome” mocks the overrated Net Promoter Score, accurately noting that “having customers who are somewhat or even very likely to refer a company to their friends and family is completely worthless unless those customers actually make a referral.”

Elsewhere in the book, Shevlin provides savvy tips on Twitter follower count, customer service hysteria, the three types of metrics, and management religion versus management science. Overall, the book contains 52 articles, one for each week of the year, but given the value of the insights — and how tasty they are to read — odds are you’ll finish all 52 in the space of a cross-country flight. And at $5.95, “Snarketing 2.0” will deliver a higher ROI than most social media investments (see pages 9-22). And I’m not joking.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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