Why Social Media Folks Need To Get Out Of Their Comfort Zone
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone, Or Else
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone, Or Else

Everyone lives in a bubble to a certain degree. Maybe you call it a comfort zone. Perhaps you don’t call it anything but stay locked in, blinders on, to your industry, company or job.

The social media world is very much a bubble. And too much of one in my opinion. Consultants, practitioners, bloggers and enthusiastic agency types sit around in a big circle jerk telling each other how much they love each other’s blogs and hash-tagging the crap out of useless drivel on Twitter all day.

Confused man - Shutterstock - Hart PhotographyFor every one practitioner who actually offers up useful insight that shows they live in reality, not righteousness, there are 25 more who expose their inexperience like a streaker in church. I feel bad for them, though I don’t condemn them. Good ideas have been known to come from people not wearing pants.

(For the record, there are still others who don’t have the interest or the capacity to work with clients and carry on a hyperactive social media front, so they choose to be good professionals rather than show offs. Then there are a couple of us who are expedient and efficient enough to do both.)

Two encounters last week continued to solidify my opinion that the social media echo chamber is so far detached from the real world that it may very well be headed for a bubble-busting. At last week’s Louisville Free Public Library Author Series event with Facebook Effect author David Kirkpatrick, the question-answer period featured these (paraphrased) ditties:

  • “Isn’t social search a violation of your privacy?”
  • “Can’t someone provide some sort of protection for age-appropriate material on Facebook?”
  • “You say Facebook is a conduit for all this good. Isn’t it also a conduit for baseless hatred?”

After the presentation, an older gentleman (library author event crowds typically bring out a demographic more advanced in years) approached me and said he didn’t want to be on Facebook because he didn’t care what the guy down the street was doing. When I explained to him that A) He didn’t have to be that guy’s friend on Facebook and wouldn’t see he was doing or that B) He could friend him but filter out his activity to ignore what he was doing, the man almost declared he’d go sign up for an account right then.

The other encounter was one that really floored me. I had my aunt, an admitted computer and Internet novice, review a new website I’ve launched for people just like her. She spent several hours on the site and called me with feedback. She then spent 40 minutes giving me all the things that confused or bothered her, not about the site, but about the home page.

It is my belief that there’s the social media and even Internet marketing echo chamber and then there’s the other 95 percent of the world (or more). And unfortunately, ne’er the two shall meet these days. Social media enthusiasts are too busy polishing each other’s knobs to teach anymore. Try to find some good, 101-level social media content on the web these days — fresh content — and let me know how long it takes you to get frustrated.

There’s a whole world of people out there that need our help, gang. Some of them want to embrace the tools and technology and get smarter. Others don’t even know there’s smarter to be had. And then there’s the cybernazi-fearing gentleman from the library event who wouldn’t piss on social media if it was on fire.

Get outside your comfort zone. Leave the bubble. Hold out a hand and say, “let me show you a trick that will make that easier,” to someone who could use it.

If we don’t bring more people into the fold, we’re all going to be out of work soon.

What are you going to do today to teach someone something? The comments are yours.

IMAGE: From Shutterstock by Hart Photography.

About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
  • Mike Jones

    We’re being told to get outside our comfort zone by someone who’s never learned Esperanto???

  • Pingback: zensenergy()

  • Pingback: you can try this out()

  • Pingback: More Info At Wikipedia()

  • Is the Old Spice campaign really a true “social media campaign” (if a thing as such really exist…) or is it a (slik and shiny) traditional campaign BROADCASTED within social media networks? Is the fact that users can spread it virally and engage with it enough to make it so much different than a traditional campaign? How is it different from the Wassap campaign with the gazillion reactions it invoked in the most cutting edge forms of it's time?
    For the record, I do think that it's a great campaign. My late Grandpa would be thrilled to know that he smelled like a crazy hot guy… I still don't want to smell like my grandpa though ;)

  • Like a streaker in church… I like that. Reminds me of another analogy you could just as easily apply to some of the self-congratulatory speak we (yes, I'm admitting guilt here, too) fall into… the emperor has no clothes.

    As a casualty/survivor (a little of both) of the early 2000s internet bubble burst, I'm wary of anything that paints itself as the next big, sure-fire thing and puts technology or “coolness” above tangible results or real-world applications.

    Back in the day, if you were making money online, that was almost considered a bad thing. People would talk about how Amazon was losing money on every sale as if that was the most ingenious thing ever, and investors were only too eager to plunk down money on a web-based project, as long as it had plenty of sizzle (an enticing-sounding URL and “hip” looking front men), regardless of whether there was any meat on the bone.

    I'm seeing some worrisome parallels today with social media. The Fast Company Influencer Project jumps immediately to mind… as does, to a lesser extent, the Old Spice campaign, based on some of the early figures we're hearing on its impact on sales. “Influence” seems to be the cause du jour, and results take a backseat, as long as something's generating enough buzz with the “in” crowd.

    Don't get me wrong. There are many credible, highly respectable voices in the social media space, including yours, Jason. And the potential for social media remains sky-high. I just worry that we might be falling into some of the same traps that tripped us up a decade ago.

    • Good thoughts, Carl. Thank you for those.

    • Is the Old Spice campaign really a true “social media campaign” (if a thing as such really exist…) or is it a (slik and shiny) traditional campaign BROADCASTED within social media networks? Is the fact that users can spread it virally and engage with it enough to make it so much different than a traditional campaign? How is it different from the Wassap campaign with the gazillion reactions it invoked in the most cutting edge forms of it's time?
      For the record, I do think that it's a great campaign. My late Grandpa would be thrilled to know that he smelled like a crazy hot guy… I still don't want to smell like my grandpa though ;)

  • Maybe the best help we can give them is to let them stay away? :)

  • You're absolutely right! I think certain platforms should be created for the betterment otherwise it won't take long when things are going to demolish and get even worse!

    I really feel the dedication and hard work you fill-in and come up with such great posts!

    Excellent post Jason! Kudos!

  • Pingback: Going Somewhere with This. Really. « Left Lane Ends()

  • Pingback: Helpful and Interesting Links Around the Blogosphere – July 16, 2010 | Passwater Media()

  • Social media has always been around – and those that know how best to make use of it don't need a 101 course. A better use of time would be an explanation of how to better use the computer and software as a tool in social media.

  • You have an uncanny way of reading my thoughts, Jason, and expressing them before I do. I find a lot of value in Twitter, but I have to wonder how some people I encounter there find time to serve clients.

    Most small business owners I talk with recognize the names of bigger sites, such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook but have no idea how they work or how to best use them. They ask me how much time I invest each day on social media, all the while explaining they have no time for it.

    I find it helps to build a bridge to something they already know and work with, such as direct mail or pay per click advertising, then explain how social media compares for driving traffic. Case studies work well. Too many communicators become enamored of the tools and forget what they are for.

    Jim Bowman

  • kellybriefworld

    Lots of corporate IT departments are asking themselves whether or not to block social media (aka Enterprise 2.0) applications like Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc. What they often don’t realize is that they can safely enable these applications through the use of smart policies. That way employees can take advantage of the benefits of these powerful platforms, while risky or counterproductive features can be selectively blocked! Palo Alto Networks has put together a great whitepaper to help you understand how this new firewall technology works. It’s called “To Block or Not. Is That the Question?” and you can find it here: http://bit.ly/d2NZRp. Let me know what you think…kelly@briefworld.com

  • Love this post, Jason. Before I had a “real” job I was a volleyball player and something I heard somewhere when I was still playing was that coaching helps you become a better player. Teaching others makes you think on a different level about what you do and causes you to address topics you may have never thought of before or that you need to strengthen in your own practice.

    Something else that you touched upon that I'm always thinking about is getting outside of the social media bubble. Living in Los Angeles, there are tons of digital marketing meetups and events happening all the time. However, I've learned that most of them really don't do much for me because it ends up being a glorified happy hour with a bunch of panelists sitting at the front of the room patting each other on the back about how cool social media is and how good they are at it. What are we getting from that? Where's the discourse? I learn much more from helping others with their social media problems.

  • Jason

    Growing problem that I think will take some time to filter out the good ones from the bad ones. It is very easy to learn something new and go and and spew it to anyone who will listen. However they are not listening. You went over their head in the first 30 seconds and they are smiling nicely thinking “I have no idea what you are talking about – but you seem to”. This is not the way that we should be doing business.

    Working with small businesses, I take baby steps with them. Teach them so that they have a full understanding of what each platform has to offer to their business. This is not to say that every one will be on Twitter or Facebook. Finding the right fit for their business as well as for them is what is important.

    Sooner or later we will be able to get to a point where the folks who talk at are out of business and the ones who talk to will remain.

    As always great insight here Jason.


  • Pingback: 4 Reasons Why Generation Y Job Hops | Ryan Stephens Marketing()

  • My frustration lies with all these doggone social monitoring tools that don't do what I need them to do for myself and my clients. I have been a demo'ing fool for the last month or so…and when I ask for what I need, the friggin' crickets start chirping. This is not one-size fits all and I wish we'd stop acting like it is. Don't begin to think you know what I need Mr. and Mrs. Monitoring service, and stop telling me you “can't do this” or “can't do that.” Some of the pricing is all wrong, and these assumptions that we all monitor for Ford or some other huge enterprise are wrong as well. And maybe, just maybe I don't need the same keywords every month. Have you thought about the fact that there may be one-time projects, or projects that I'm working onto generate more business that would likely bring you more business? Sorry Jason, I know this isn't the topic, but it's on my mind and reading this post made me want to express it. I am really annoyed today.

    • You can be annoyed in my comments all you want, Angela. I've always found
      that 90% of what you really need with monitoring, you can get using free
      tools. The paid solutions always seem to be meant for bigger budgets and
      people who are susceptible to charts and graphs.

      • Thanks for validating my annoyance today. Have a great afternoon.

      • Jean Marie Bonthous

        Are you sure this 90% figure is not too high? Look at this, published yesterday. Can you do useful analyses like this this with free tools? http://blog.ecairn.com/2010/07/13/buzz-monitori
        I dont see how. I guess it depends who the clients are. Maybe for a very small business, your 90% formula applies. But as soon as you get above $10M, more sophisticated analyses (and analysts) really help. Anyway I agree that free tools are unerused.

  • Another reason we need to do this is the social media arena is getting jam packed. What will we do when we drive down the street and see “social media expert” on an office building? I love the book “Riches in Niches” by Susan Friedmann. Great advice on how to find your niche (even if it is within the social media realm).

  • You seem to have painted with a very broad brush here. There are some social media consultants out there who actually aim to add value to their clients' brand or business by opening up a channel of communication between them and the consumer and creating engaging interactive applications that drive traffic or boost sales. However, you are correct, they are few and far in between. It is mostly because the social media consultants get away with spewing all sorts of gibberish and cash in on the clients' lack of knowledge about the subject matter. Hopefully with time, as more and more people get educated on the subject matter we may (hopefully) see a shift in this trend.

  • you're right about here.

    nice post!

    let's leave on and face new challenges. ;)

    Keep it up,

  • Anonymous


    Bravo. I spent my morning doing just that. And four hours over the weekend setting up Delicious, Gravatar, Twitter, Gmail, Posterous and other accounts for a friend that I’m helping venture into this world of new media.

    I find that 90% of my friends, family AND clients (and prospective clients) have no idea even what an RSS feed is, so teaching is a big part of my day-to-day existence. Thankfully, I love teaching – and I love this world of new media, so it works well. Plus, I believe that you get what you give. And I’d way rather invest in helping people figure all this shit out than (a) polishing my own knob (as attractive as that may sound) or (b) reading someone else’s stuff, telling them how smart they are, going to conferences and hanging out with one another because we are all too kool for school, and reveling in how awesome we all are because, collectively, we get this medium. THAT doesn’t do anyone but our own egos any good and, I don’t know about you, but I bet on myself a long time ago. I don’t need to remind myself how great I am, nor am I looking for that from anyone else.

    Social media is about PEOPLE. And how people can use it. For themselves, for their businesses, for their lives. And the sooner we start helping PEOPLE figure all this out, the more employable we all will be.

    Muchas gracias for a good read.


  • Social Media is like a foreign language to most people. Many are curious about it but there is a ton of uncertainty and fear behind actually visiting the land. By providing a translation and teaching them a few key terms and tricks of the trade you would be surprised at the worlds you will be opening up for them.

  • When would you think is the right time to engage newbies into social media? What could be the benefit you think one will get by teaching to them? When businesses sole motive is to promote their product on social media what is the use in teaching to those whom you had specified? Please just don't consider me as a person who uses social networks completely for business. I do know that social networks are basically for social networking!

  • Today I started a Blogging 101 series for a client. I'm writing it in bite-size installments, at a VERY basic level, and posting it to their Yammer site. (Teaching them about collaboration in addition to blogging.)

    I'm also listening. A lot. Because I can't help them integrate social media if I don't understand their business.

  • Star Aasved

    From my perspective, the majority of social media experts seem to talk about one thing: self, and what an expert he/she is. Many of those experts, who tout their “best practices,” “best advice,” or other “bests” seem to be a member of the echo chamber gang.

    Indeed, as the author comments, we who consider ourselves social media evangelists/gurus need to focus more on understanding the people we're talking to and their needs. We have to have a clear understanding of the goals – whether they be individual or brand goals – and how those goals can be best attained through the use of social media. A tactic for one may not work for another: Twitter might not be the best place for YZBrand to enact customer service, Facebook might not be the best place to tout the WXBrand of products.

    We have to get ahead of the curve and staying in the bubble won't help us get there.

  • Great post. I've stopped going to the myriad social media seminars and meetings in the real world, as they often seem to involve a bunch of social media people talking about social media. It seems to me that anyone can use social media, the important thing is what you use it for (beyond promoting other social media people and platforms).

    As for making connections outside social media streams, I wanted to share a relevant quote I recently heard by Poet Benjamin Saenz on PBS Newshour:

    “If you want to be a writer, you don't want to live in a comfortable place.”

  • LynnH/ColorJoy

    I teach retirees how to use computers. The folks who sign up for classes they don't have to take, are incredible human beings. We're going out for dinner as a group tonight, because they suggested it.

    You are right. A little help goes such a long way. My students can be so grateful for me showing them basics, that they buy me gifts and write thank you letters.

    So many people “help” others by doing it for them, in front of them. Must let go of the mouse and keyboard and tell them what to punch, no matter how much it slows the veteran down.

    Spent time w/ a student yesterday on personal time, having tea and showing her things that might help her get a new job (she's a scientist). she's over 60 and her job just went away, the whole department is dissolved. Set her up with a Twitter acct to hopefully connect with folks in her industry who she sees at conferences. Might help get that job.

    Will need to ponder this further, thanks for starting a thought process.

    • Good for you for helping the retirees. Glad there's some other folks out there helping!

  • Annie Noll

    This is something I need more patience with. It seems I have encounters on a weekly basis like you did with the old man. I have totally lost tolerance with them and their “fear.” They all worry about the same thing and I just want to scream because they have no perspective. No, a serial killer probably isn't going to follow you to TCBY and strangle you in the parking lot because you announced on your FB page that that's where you were going. I understand anything is possible, just don't be friends with a serial killer. Problem solved.

    Like I said, I need more patience with this.

    • Tell 'em what I tell 'em. Social media doesn't stalk you. Social media won't rob you. Social media won't kill, rape or pillage you. People will. And they will whether you encounter them on Facebook or not. If someone wants to rob my house, my checking in or out on Foursquare won't start or stop them.

    • Morgan

      Maybe the serial killer is just upset that someone thinks the world cares about whether they're going to TCBY. Most of the people in my life, including my 12-year-old daughter and 78-year-old mom, are on Facebook and understand it just fine. Then again, my best friend isn't on FB — he can't afford Internet service because of the crappy job he's had to settle for in this miserable economy. 15 million people out of work, yet iPhones are flying off the shelves. A bubble? I'll say.

  • Jmbonthous

    Great post. I started consulting in the C suite in Fortune 1000 companies, in business strategy, in 1976, when most people who now consult in social media were not born. I'm still in the C suite, now integrating traditional business strategy with social media marketing.

    I just came back from one more social media marketing conference. While some of the speakers had an impressive blend of traditional and social media expertise, a large number were great social media experts, but obviously lacked basic understanding of business and organization fundamentals-not a problem in itself– but they did not know it.

    It often felt like they believed they believed they were inventing marketing and management. Nowhere was the gap greater than in the lack of understanding of organizational politics and resistance to change, where they visibly had no first hand experience. As a consequence, they would likely not be perceived as credible by people who are running day after day a multi-billion dollar company.

    I personally choose to focus on what social media wizes know rather than on what they don't. But if the intent is to establish credibility, its important to know what one does not know and to factor it in. Underlying the thousands of large organizations out there is a huge body of traditional expertise, which requires talent and many years to master. While I applaud social media evangelism, there is something at the heart of any too narrowly focused evangelism that says: “Ive got something you dont, I already know what I need to know.”

    Any evangelist–including social media ones– would gain by disconnecting for a while and say: “as much as I have my own certainties, I need to learn what I dont know, including what I dont know that I dont know.”

    A little bit more of this would go a long ways towards building the credibility and aceptance of social media at all levels in organizations.

    So, to go back to your last line : “What are you going to do today to teach someone something?” I would add: “And what are you going to do today to learn what they know and you dont, so that the gap gets smaller?”

    • Well said. I often chuckle at the “righteous” bloggers who openly expose their lack of direct client or business experience in their posts by ignoring the reality of the business world. Glad you have the perspective to validate someone else sense it, too.

  • This is something I have been working on with my own clients for a while. I think if more social media managers, community managers, internet marketers or whatever you want to call them thought this way, perhaps social media would not be such the enigma to some as it currently is. Excellent post and I totally agree!

  • Good thinking. All of us social media peeps get it but often get frustrated when others don't. That should be our jobs….helping others understand how to leverage it. It's easy to stay in our little bubbles and give ourselves pats on the back but we aren't doing much to change things outside of it. The opportunities lie outside the bubble.

  • digitalvision

    Great post and these thoughts are what has influenced where I spend my time for awhile.

    You asked what one is doing – I'm so honored to work on some projects where we're enabling citizen journalism in urban areas, telling stories the mainstream media misses – or chooses not to cover – and that is using what whatever digital tools available (and at time providing them) to reinforce and strengthen their community ties. It's not “glamorous” work, but I don't care. When we get a few extra bucks raised for a cause, or help neighbors meet neighbors to make safer neighborhoods, that's real change, in my opinion.

    There must be something in the water, because I read this this morning as well on http://www.thatdamnredhead.net about how there's too much “me” in social media. Whether we're serving neighborhoods, brands, or our communities, we need to remember it's not about us.

  • Thanks for this post. This has been my rant for quite some time. I've been busy living in “the real world” for these very reasons you state. I wrote something recently along the same lines. Something must be in the water.


  • Whitney Breaux

    For one, the bubble that seems to surround the “in-the-know crowd” has to burst. From what I've heard from our newcomers to @BRSocMe, they feel unwelcomed into the fold because of their lack of knowledge. We host monthly tweetups to encourage new users to learn more from others in a fun (adult beverage) atmosphere. It's exciting to see new folks dive right in and keep the movement going.


  • Jason, about a year and a half ago I had this weird visualization in my mind. I was a guy standing in the middle of a busy street in NYC. Something like times square or something like that. I remember thinking to myself, “If I had to guess the number of people here on Twitter how many would it be?” In my minds eye a few people highlighted. So maybe 100 total people out of the thousands that were walking around. Then I asked “How many of them are on twitter frequently or give a crap about what it might do for their personal brand” My minds eye highlighted 1 person…… ME. Obviously this was not scientific but the point is that the world is a fast moving space and many people are spending their days trying to get noticed by the crowd when at the end of the day very few care. So when I started working with Chris, Justin, Colin and the other great folks at New Marketing Labs my goal was really simple. Create Meaningful Impact

    Two years ago people were mainly walking around with flip-phones. Today they are updating their Facebook pages from a smart-phone. Just yesterday I watched three people in a Cheesecake Factory check in on Foursquare while they were waiting for a table! So yes, you are right…. the mainstream public as a whole probably hasn't a clue how they would get a tweet from their phone to the service or even have any clue why they would; but that doesn't mean we can't still make meaningful impact. It's important however to put it all in perspective and understand that there is a world outside of the digital one.


    • Great story, Keith. Thanks for sharing.

  • You are so right about the insular world we can live in on social media. I've been thinking the same thing about reaching out to help those who are not even in the game. So many things we take for granted. Love that you asked your aunt's perspective… and that she gave you such detailed feedback.

    I always say when we're meant to hear something, we get it in stereo. Gini Dietrich just wrote a great post on getting out of the comfort zone — from a personal perspective. http://bit.ly/d8qGGp

  • Marissa

    As a recent graduate- someone who has just started off in the marketing/professional world, I grew up in the digital age. I am never without my cell phone and feel at a loss when I don't check my e-mail for one day.

    I am on twitter, facebook and use social sites like Pinyadda. However, as I have grown up and am now currently looking for a job, I find myself filtering more of what I post because of the chance of saying something inappropriate or having a friend post something that could sabotage a job opportunity. I know there is a difference between inappropriate and actually fresh, vibrant content but it has definitely caused me at this point in my life- to be less forward and argumentative online. It has caused me to filter a ton of content. It is a bit stifling.

    Once you post the wrong thing online- well you know the drill- it's not just on twitter, it ends up everywhere.

  • This leads me to ask myself, “How could I find clients through more traditional means?” Such as postcards sent through the actual U.S. Mail, sent directly to solo professionals and small business owners that I can't find on blogs & Twitter. You've got me thinking.

  • Crap. double post. ;)

  • Thanks for the great insight, Jason.

    One of my personal BHAG's this year is to spend a significant portion of my time outside of the new media and tech bubble. Diversifying the information I read and the events I attend has really helped grow my business acumen and made me a better counselor.

    Side note: I'll be at the Detroit Tweetup tomorrow. We'll have to chat for a few.


  • Great article, (not just spending time commenting on your ablity), I am always so astounded that about 50 % of small businesses I try to educate, still think that Social Nerworking /Media is irrelevent to their business….

  • It's been helpful for me to live in two bubbles, the world of Social Media where we are sharing, but mostly talking to one another and the jewelry world where we are “shouting” at our customers, but no one is helping them.

    Both can be a frustrating, but it does point to an opportunity between the two, a community based around education those who need the information most. It does seem like we are waking up to the fact that we are talking over most peoples heads and the average consumer seems to want to get over their fears and jump in… hey, once your new acquaintance understood what the tool can do he actually considered using it!

  • Those who work with clients on a daily basis to help them overcome their challenges know this is true. The key to helping is to stop with the hype and really listen, understand their business concerns, their internal culture and come up with tiny steps that help connect the dots to the goal they want to achieve. Tiny steps, not big leaps. That's what I'll be teaching today. ;-)

    Beth Harte
    Serengeti Communications

  • Funny article. Old people say the darndest things!

  • I had a very similar experience with my family this past weekend. I was in Buffalo, NY telling my stepfather who owns a restaurant (this guy: http://socialbutterflyguy.com/2010/06/20/small-…) about how he could use Twitter to help his business. After about 7 minutes, he stopped me and said, “So I've heard of Twitter, but I don't really know what it is or how to use it.”

    So. Yeah. Good call.

    DJ Waldow


Social Media Jobs

VIP Explorer’s Club