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Don’t Believe the Social Media Hype: Author Calls B.S.

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Whether it's stories about Facebook hitting 1 billion users or Twitter's influence on the election, barely a day goes by without some report on the importance of social media.

B.J. Mendelson turns the conventional wisdom about social media in his new book, Social Media Is Bullshit.

While the title is clearly designed to be provocative, the book is actually a fairly sober and analytical look at social media, which Mendelson says is "a term coined by marketers to repackage and resell stuff to you."

Despite the endless hype, scant few individuals become famous on social networks and fewer still make money from it, he says. While Facebook and the like are good for reconnecting with old friends, they should be used for entertainment purposes only — if at all, he says.

"People hear 'think before you Tweet?' The real question is 'do I even need to be on Twitter in the first place?,'" Mendelson says. "Unless you're a big brand, big celebrity or big media outlet, you're not going to get the kind of results" promised by social evangelists like Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk and Scott Monty. (As an aside, Mendelson pulls no punches with these folks in the book; ironically, that's likely only of interest to the "Cyber Hipsters" Mendelson criticizes.)

Furthermore, analysis of five case studies of social marketing campaigns by Ford, Zappos, Jet Blue, Dell and Kia Motors suggest 'social' isn't so great at driving sales, either.

"The myth of social media is you have to be on these platform…to engage with your audience when no one even says what that means," Mendelson says.

Mendelson also examines the strategic relationships between big media companies and social networks, which he says helps explain the glowing coverage the industry has (mainly) gotten so far.

To be sure, this is an industry in its infancy and no one really knows how influential social media is or can be. Personally, I find social media (especially Twitter) a great tool for keep up with breaking news and will continue to use various platforms to try and engage with our audience (see below). I do find the back-and-forth incredibly valuable, even if I can't put a price on it.

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker and Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo! Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at altask@yahoo.com

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