I came across this book via the author, B.J. Mendelson, who asked me this on Twitter:
@theta1138 Got a shitty, self-serving question for ya. Can I send you an email?
— B.J. Mendelson (@BJMendelson) September 25, 2012
I laughed, so I said yes. Turns out, B.J. Mendelson wrote a book that he wanted me to read, and he’d send me a free copy. Based on the title, I was expecting a funny and angry book.
Turns out, I was right, but I also got what is an oddly self-aware book about marketing. You can guess the basic thesis of the book from the title, but Mendelson gets into much more detail about the hype of social media versus the brutal reality of selling yourself.
The book is, underneath the humor, essentially a series of marketing case studies about alleged social media phenomenons and what really went into making them a success. Mendelson repeatedly points out that while Twitter and Facebook are useful as marketing tools, the idea that they’re marketing magic is largely, well… you can guess. Everything from Napster to Justin Bieber gets the microscope, and Mendelson is actually more fair-minded than his title would suggest. He’s less annoyed at the idea social media can create phenomenons and more annoyed at the idea that being on Facebook and Twitter is being sold as all everybody from indie musicians to multinational corporations need to do to succeed.
Mendelson alternates between amusement and rage as he roots out marketing hype and why it exists. The opening of the book, in fact, is largely confessional as he discusses his time working in marketing, sprinkled with biting observations about the marketing industry and self-deprecating jabs at himself. For example, when he discusses books about marketing, he always offers a specific page count those books have to hit… which is the exact page count of the book you’re reading.
In the end, Social Media Is Bulls*** is common sense applied to hype, often in a very funny way. It’s aimed a bit more at marketing professionals than general audiences, but if you enjoy watching bulls*** being taken apart, it’s a great read.