We All Have to Work to Stop the Snake Oil Salesmen

Warning: I am taking the gloves off and calling out a company for making the social media and web development industry look bad. It is companies and practices like the ones described below that make the entire industry look like we are trying to sell snake oil by making promises that are deceiving and can not be delivered on in the way they are being advertised.

I know this practice is nothing new.  It has been going on since the dawn of time, continues today and will continue in the future.  But until we in the industry stand up and call out the people and companies who promote and sell this BS, all of us in the industry will continue to be looked at, especially by small businesses, as snake oil salesmen.

I do not call this company, or any others, out lightly.  As someone who helps companies build their brand and reputations, going after someone else’s is not something I like to see and even less what I like to do. It was only after I tweeted them (see the Twitter conversation below), hoping that they would open a dialogue and show me how how I was wrong about them, that I felt the need to go further.  Follow the story and see how it ended up as this blog post on not only false advertising about social, but a case study in how not to handle criticism on social.

 

Last night, I was hanging out with my Dad watching Shark Tank reruns on CNBC.  We both love the show and hold a running commentary on what we think about the pitches and the deals that are made.  My viewing fun last night was ruined by a TV commercial from a company promising to help small businesses make money by setting them up a “professional Facebook page”.  They made a ton of promises about the businesses growing their brand awareness and getting new customers just by having a professionally created Facebook page.  They will even create the content for you!

My Dad sat by listening amusedly as I ranted and raved about the fact that it is impossible for Web.com, given Facebook’s algorithms and terms of service, to deliver on the promises they made in that commercial.  The commercial was at minimum misleading and at most, blatant false advertising.  It infuriated me because they are targeting small businesses and small business owners who have little time, money, knowledge or experience in this particular area.

Having been the owner of multiple small businesses, I know what a God-send it can seem like to have someone offer you an easier way to do something, especially grow your business.  You are not only going to help me grow my business but you were going to do my marketing for me by creating the content (whether you know anything about my business or industry or not?!)?  People are going to come flocking to my business because they saw me on Facebook?  I don’t have to spend time marketing because you are creating my content for me?  And all for this for a “reasonable” price? Oh and once you have me signed as a client, you’ll build me a website and take care of all my digital marketing needs too?  Sign me up!

If only it worked that way!

Those of us in social media and digital marketing know that the promise of Facebook reach and an immediate growth in your business is hooey, especially now.   Maybe, if you have a big budget and can do a large Facebook ad spend you might see some quick results – Maybe! But this commercial made it sound like it was the easiest thing in the world.  Just let us build you a professional looking Facebook page and you will instantly grow your business!

Excuse my language but BULLSHIT!

It nagged at me all night and all morning.  I went to the company’s website and checked out their other offerings.  Website design and development, social media marketing… the list goes on and on – if it is digital related, they do it.  Maybe they it do it well, but based on the commercial I saw last night, I had my doubts.

So after pondering it and tweeting about it without mentioning their name, I decided to call them out.  As you can see from the following thread, it went downhill from there.  They replied with obviously SOP canned messages.  They offered to assist me.  With what? Did they not bother to look at my profile and see that I am a social media professional? Apparently not.   No opening to discuss my complaint.  No interest in hearing what I had to say.   They then stopped responding at all.   If there was ever a textbook case on how NOT to handle criticism or complaints on social, this is it.  From a company who sells digital and social services to small businesses – Shameful!

My first tweet and their response

My first tweet and their response

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Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 12.11.51 PM

And the canned responses just keep getting worse

And the canned responses just keep getting worse

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And there was no response to either of my last two tweets

And there was no response to either of my last two tweets

11 Comments

  1. Thank you! I’ve been ranting about them, Yellow Pages & AT&T in private conversations for a few years now – because too many micro businesses are getting sucked in by the money vacuum and not getting results.

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    • Charlene, I know what you mean. My step-nephew owns a small plumbing company and got sucked in by Yellow Pages for digital work. Big monthly retainer that he really can not afford, a long term contract that he can’t reasonably get out of and lots of promises of big results that are just not happening. I read his Yellow Pages sales rep the riot act and am holding their feet to the fire to make them deliver more then what they promised.

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  2. I think I’ve seen those ads. You’re right, they are trying to sell to an audience that doesn’t fully understand what it is (and is not) buying. Props for trying to give them a chance to explain themselves first, but the canned replies really aren’t surprising.

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  3. Ads from these guys and the other “free” or “cheap” website/social media shysters make my head explode!

    Not only are their promises false and and their claims deceiving, suckering in the most uninformed, there is another group that know they need someone to help them. But when they contact people like me and companies like mine for that help the barrage of these ads have them convinced that that help will be inexpensive. They get conditioned to buy professional strategic and tactical digital marketing services as a commodity. And because they’re buying it on price, it makes it harder for those of us who sell using an ROI value proposition to convince them otherwise.

    The company you mention is particularly frustrating because as part of one of the oldest domain registrars and SSL providers, there are agencies like ours who have been partners with them long enough to have registered thousands of domain names, only to have them turn around and use OUR customer information to send mass emails and telemarketing calls to devalue what we do and misinform and steal our customers.

    Gloria: Thanks for saying what we’ve all been thinking!

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  4. Pingback: Snake oil…Part 2 – It Just Keeps Getting Worse | Gloria K. Bell

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