Popular (but bad) social media advice

Did anyone ever tell you to “just be yourself” or “do what you love and the money will come”? Forget all that. It’s bogus.

The most popular currency in the world is not the dollar, euro or yen. It’s common advice.

Think about it: Everyone has it in mass, it’s prone to inflation and you can pick it up just about everywhere—even if you don’t want it.

I’ve received my share of advice throughout my digital career, especially in the beginning. I listened, and worse, implemented it all.

I thought that if experts said it, it must be true. If so many other people say the same thing, then it’s valid.

I realized much later that most of this advice turned out to be detrimental.

Without further ado, I want to show you the most common advice pitfalls that I fell into:

1. “Just be yourself.”

This sounds good, but is it really true?

When I asked a so-called expert about being successful online, he told me not to worry and just be myself.

What if you’re obnoxious, boring and have no redeeming qualities? What if you have no people skills and are a pain to work with? Should you still “just be yourself?”

Not necessarily.

At the beginning of my career, I lacked empathy and had trouble communicating with clients. A “mentor” told me that was just part of my personality, and I should find a career style that wouldn’t involve customer communication.

What a load of toad turd.

It wasn’t a personality trait; it turned out I just lacked experience and had to learn how to address my customers’ needs. A few psychology books and coaching sessions later, I improved drastically.

I wasn’t being myself, but I worked hard to become my best self.

If you’re young, learning, or not perfect, being yourself might lead to more pain than gain. That’s why you should work on becoming the best version of you, and get rid of traits you thought were part of your character.

2. “Follow your passion and the money will follow.”

Ah, the timeless classic. I want to get into a time machine, travel to the person who said this and smack both of his cheeks.

Why? Because it’s a deceptive, feel-good lie.

Take me as an example. My passions are eating Asian food, playing video games and drawing. Even though I did all of these things passionately, a money bag never dropped on my head. Instead, I had to use my most valuable passion—drawing—and package it in a way that made it valuable to potential customers.

This took compromise. I couldn’t do everything I wanted while working hard to meet customer needs. Even that took me ages to figure out, as I drew unsuccessfully for years until I realized you have to be marketable, not just passionate.

Your passion, no matter how strong, is useless as a monetization strategy if you can’t translate it into tangible value to your target audience.

3. “You should do (insert current trend).”

In the beginning of my career, online experts told me I should focus on using video as my content creation tool because it was popular at the time. Ugh.

I created videos, but hated it. I didn’t feel comfortable in front of a camera. I am an introvert, and recording myself on video felt as natural as jogging on nails.

After a couple of tries, I stopped doing it. I got sick of twisting myself.

Just because a certain tool or style of content creation is “in” doesn’t mean you should implement it—especially if it goes against your natural tendencies.

4. “Survey customers to learn about their needs.”

I learned from an expert’s online course that I should survey my customers before I sell them my products.

I sent a couple of questions to my email list:

  • Would you buy this eGuide?
  • Would you pay X amount for it?

Most often the answers would be an astounding “yes,” which made me jump into the air. But when I finally shipped the products, those eager people weren’t so eager any more.

It turns out that people say yes to all kinds of things without committing to their words. That’s why nowadays I only ask people after they make a purchase, and watch their actions instead. It is more reliable to gauge people by what they do, and not by what they say.

5. “You must behave like a ‘real’ business online.”

Ugh, more common advice for the blog graveyard.

I remember one guy telling me: “Your site looks like Disneyland. People in the marketing and social media realm will never take you seriously.”

I changed my design to make it look more serious and bland. Most people confuse professional with corporate. Professional means you take your business seriously and deliver what you promise. Your site can look as crazy, edgy or unique as you want as long as it corresponds to your target audience.


So-called common advice is often uninformed opinion regurgitated by sheep thinkers.

Most of the time that “advice” led me astray; the Web will always be too specific and fast-moving for all-purpose formulas.

What advice pitfalls have you fallen for?

Mars Dorian describes himself as a creative marketer with a moon-melting passion for human potential and technology. You can follow his adventures at www.marsdorian.com. A version of this article originally appeared on {grow}.


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