20 signs you don’t want that social media project

15 December 2008

As some of you know, I now work in social media PR advising clients on how to best practice relations with bloggers and other aspects of social media. Most of my clients are fab and get it. Some clients (or potential clients) are less so. Inspired by Jeffrey Zeldman’s 20 signs you don?t want that web design project, here’s 20 signs you don’t want that social media project. Some of these are from personal experience, others from war stories heard from others in the trade, and one or two I’ve just made up for comedic effect (but are utterly plausible):

  1. Client calls it an “internet blog”.
  2. Client has a “hilarious” viral they want you to “seed”, which turns out to be their latest TV ad on YouTube.
  3. Bonus points if the above is a ripoff of a famous existing meme.
  4. Client demands that the viral use Mr T, David Hasselhoff, or both.
  5. Client wants something edgy “like that suicide bomber viral” – but first subject to clearance by their legal department.
  6. “I don’t see why we need to pay you so much when we could just email all these bloggers a press release.”
  7. “This Tom Coates guy, can we get him on board? I heard he’s really popular.”
  8. Client admits to anonymously posting links to their site on a range of forums.
  9. Client insists that you anonymously post links to their site on a range of forums.
  10. Client panics over a random blogger’s negative post about them and orders you to get it taken down. Won’t take “sorry, it’s impossible” for an answer.
  11. Client says their new site is “really Web 2.0″ but it’s made entirely in Flash with no permalinks.
  12. Client enthuses about their new blog presence. Will there be comments? No.
  13. Client asks you to invite bloggers to an event, but to keep it quiet as “we don’t want any nutters turning up”.
  14. “I want this top of the charts on Digg”. Client makes fashion accessories for teenage girls.
  15. Client demands you delete all the negative criticism from the Wikipedia article about them.
  16. Every Tweet you post to client’s official Twitter stream has to be OK’ed by the brand manager first.
  17. Client says they’re sure the photoblog you’ve built for them is nice, but their corporate firewall has blocked Flickr.com and they can’t see it.
  18. Client refuses to budget for site moderation on their new UGC site, then is angrily surprised once B3ta discover it and submit lots of pictures of crudely drawn cocks.
  19. Client has spent a six-figure sum on a presence in Second Life.
  20. “We want our site to be as popular as, you know, Facebook.”

Any more horror stories (with names removed to protect the guilty, natch) are welcome in the comments…

Update: Thanks for all your suggestions! Of course, agencies are not totally innocent and can be as bad or even worse than clients in some ways. Tom has put together 21 signs I don?t want your online marketing pitch.

43 Responses

Superb stuff, been there, done that. These are far too familiar

“What’s Twitter?”

“Ok, we want this running on Web 3.0!”

Good post that sounds so true! Social Media are so hype at the moment that everyone wants to be in without any strategy or goal.

[…] just nearly burst my appendix laughing at Chris Applegate’s 20 signs you don?t want that social media project. I am thus inspired to write my own list of tips that, perhaps, one doesn’t really want that […]

Client says “So how long will it take to make it viral then?” or “Can you make it sound a bit more like INSERT NAME OF POPULAR BLOGGER”

[…] Putting your face online , T’interweb Tags: Chris Applegate, engagement, social media, Web 2.0 Chris Applegate posts a list of 20 familiar signs that a company really doesn’t want to get engaged in social media. It’s brilliantly […]

?I don?t see why we need to pay you so much when we could just email all these bloggers a press release.?


Fortunately (surprisingly) most of the stuff I’ve been pitched for my main blog has been done in a way which at least hints that the PR knows pitching bloggers is a bit different.

That’s a start.

Great list, very amusing.

At your first training session with the principle client, you discover that the laptops provided by IT block all web upload of images. IT is under the control of a rival part of the organisation and won’t help.

The principle editor for the sites is completely unable to remember his password. He rings you to ask you how to reset it when a) you’re on holiday and b) he’s not at a computer. Months later, you’re still resetting it manually every few weeks, despite an easy click link for him to use.

Those are so true, it’s scary! Great list! :)

Marvellous stuff. The one about not allowing omments on the shiny new corporate blog just about sums it up for me.

Client shudders when he hears the word ‘blog’ and asks you mean a girls online diary?

Great list.

“What is a blog?”

“We’ll publish our weekly press releases and daily products announcements in the blog. That’s has already been decided upon.”

“We understand that we need to get involved, but we won’t write more than 2 blog posts per month.”

“We’ve hired our CEO’s teenage cousin to help you.” (In any kind of projects)

“We want to get results in a month (for a new website).”

[…] want to do that By Martin Ross A splendid post from Chris Applegate entitled “20 signs you don?t want that social media project” including such gems as: 5. Client wants something edgy ?like that suicide bomber viral? […]

wow! this is spot on, and has me rethinking my proposal strategies! :)


this is ordinary in china.

[…] 20 Signs you don’t want that social media project […]

“So we can upload all our MS Office files in that wiki then….”
“We use SharePoint out of the box, we’re all set….”
“I don’t think the RSS thing is that important, we just want a blog…”
“We want you to write our blog, our employees just don’t have the time…”

Great – probably ever expanding – list !

1. Does not understand why they have to pay to have a “free open source” forum implemented/skinned/hosted. Refuses to sign off and say “we are looking for an agency that does not rip us off”, only to return chastened.
2. Wants “Facebook like” intranet for $25k.
3. Wants a company blog, but insists we “call it something else… but NOT a blog.”
4. Two words: Twitter Spam.
5. Put a blog up for three weeks as part of a campaign, then delete it and the comments when the campaign is over.

I take issue with #4 — A-Team, HAA!

More seriously, it’s pretty simple: I won’t work with any org on social-web projects unless they’re ready to commit to developing the internal competencies to make it work. Maybe you can outsource the web development, high-gloss video production, etc., but you can’t outsource the participation.

Or when the client talks small campaign doesnt ‘get’ the fact you need ongoing conversations for majority of social media marketing.


With regards to moderation …. not sure you are on the money here, am quit sure that there are companies out there that would be happy with clear best efforts and not spend 30 UK $ on this per month for human moderaration
Chekc out akismet [dot] com, or better see con-trust.com, just out of beta, but looks pretty interesting !!!

“We want a working prototype in 2 weeks for our Board meeting.”

“We’re creating a viral video.”

“We want to be able to control who visits the blog.”

“Where would we put the case studies section on our blog?”

Congrat’s!! The post is perfect! :)

Micro and small business have a huge advance at the moment to use web 2.0 to promote their business. Big companies will have to fight hard, with lot of internal bureaucracy, to use blogging, twitter or whatever.

[…] signs you don?t want that web design project. That inspired Chris to put together his hilarious 20 signs you don?t want that social media project, which, in turn, inspired Suw’s 20 signs you don?t want that internal social media project. […]

perfection. cap, doffed

[…] Everyone wants to get in on the social media open bar. But to get past the bouncers, it’s not enough to have a blog or a facebook group, or just ask for public input. Sometimes a production team will make all the ‘right’ social media moves even if they don’t really understand what social media is all about. […]

Zephyr Undercurrent

“You mean we have to let customers decide what’s important? Oh no, we can’t have that. Strike that from your budget right now.”

“We can just tack this on to our branding efforts for Product X. It’ll be great, right?”

“Why do you need to talk to the development team?”

[…] on YouTube or on the internet in general and then wondering why people aren’t watching them. Chris and Tom will tesitfy to that in their respective […]

1. Hey, can you get kids to stop posting negative comments on our youtube movies? I am tired of deleting “Diz sux!”

[…] 20 signs you don?t want that social media project | qwghlm.co.uk Chris Applegate brings us an early Christmas gift with this brilliant post. I wish I had found it 2 years ago… (tags: socialmedia) […]

[…] 20 signs you don?t want that social media project | qwghlm.co.uk “Client says their new site is ?really Web 2.0? but it?s made entirely in Flash with no permalinks.” […]

“I don’t think we could sanction anything we couldn’t control”

[…] 20 signs you don’t want that social media project | qwghlm.co.uk: Chris Applegate’s amusing-because-it’s-true list. […]


I laughed out loud reading your post, fantastic :D

Wow. Times have changed, haven’t they? I wrote a 5-things list a couple of years ago that looks really outdated now:


“We’d like this campaign distributed widely across the internet, but only to brand-safe environments.”

“External links are too risky.”

[…] there’s Chris, with his 20 signs that you don’t want that Social Media Project 2. Client has a ?hilarious? viral they want you to ?seed?, which turns out to be their […]

Sounds more like twenty reasons for needing a new geek social media expert who isn’t as snotty as this one here.

You’ve simply snarked your way out of a job.

Write when you get work, i.e. can prove that your client putting up a dumb YouTube that gets gadzillion stupid and obscene comment son it, or puts up a Twitter that gets ignored or gets spammed by other PR gurus, will lead to actual *sales* of their widgets — or even yours.

Googled Prokofy Neva.

Found it ironic that a Second Lifer would offer anyone advice. Then realised – what with the Linden tied to the US dollar – that Prokofy may, in fact, be somewhat ahead of the game. Furthermore, when our real life economy turns out to be a consensual shared hallucination, maybe we SHOULD start listening to the furries and the guys in the nude suits.

[…] in the UK with LOL Griffin and this satirical YouTube mash-up, has dispensed well received new business advice and, with his jaunty fedora, is a well known member of London?s social media […]