I don't care how you slice it, the entire social media marketing infrastructure is so similar to the structure of a Ponzi scheme that it's maddening no one has pointed it out before. Instead, every time I bring it up to my brethren of self-appointed social marketing leaders, I am greeted with immediate and vehement rejection of the idea. Which really does nothing for their case, because I've seen enough Dateline episodes where they confront pyramid scheme guys to know this is exactly what pyramid scheme guys do — they deny everything vehemently.
Look, I'm not suggesting this is about stealing money. No one is sitting at the top of a pyramid in the social space asking people to send in their life savings and recruit their friends. No, social media experts just sit at the top of a pyramid asking people to send in $19.95 for their latest book and ask folks to tell their friends to buy the book. They are very different models, as you can obviously see. So I understand the resistance to the concept.
Certainly this can't possibly be a pyramid scheme when millions of dollars aren't being exchanged, right? In fact, we don't hardly trade in money at all except for the consulting fees we charge to people outside of the pyramid, so that no one inside the pyramid has to foot the bill.
So, how does our pyramid work? Well let me tell you, it's ingenious! We have invented our very own imaginery monetary system called, "social currency." So you see, everything is on the up and up. We aren't stealing money. We're just trading imaginery and relatively valueless currency in order to get Internet-famous. Awesome!
It's really simple. The top tier makes all the big bucks with speaking fees, book sales and consulting gigs because they have the biggest audience. Some of them even know what they are talking about, which is good because if they didn't, I would have to go shoot myself.
Then there's the next tier (that's me!) who speak for free and have a relatively big audience, but who mainly feed the top tier by interviewing them on our blogs and podcasts and Twitter chats and webinars. But we get all the books from the top tier for free so we can write blog posts about them. So there's that.
Finally there is the bottom tier. They usually have like 60 followers and buy all the books that the upper two tiers are hawking. Someone has to fund this crap!
And the best part is the pitch! This is great. We tell everyone that good social media is listening and interacting with your customer. The customer has the power and building relationships with your customer is the most important thing. And we tell people all about this by pushing out impersonal messages to our 200,000 followers whom we don't interact with unless a follower has a high enough Klout score to warrant our time.
No, this isn't the structure of a pyramid scheme at all! What was I thinking?
Now you might imagine that my sarcasm (yes, literalnet, this post is dripping in it) might mean that I am bitter about the great social media marketing pyramid scheme. But really I'm not. I find it hysterically funny. I'm more bothered by the fact that other folks in the social media juggernaut are not willing to admit it with me. I mean really, what's the harm. So it's a pyramid scheme. So what? No one is getting hurt and the value we get out of being pseudo-famous in our own little ecosystem is kind of pathetic anyway. So why not be blunt?
Maybe I should write a book about this. Because that's what the social media world needs — another book.