The Geography of Social Media Pretension

At a recent meeting of industry people I saw a self-styled social media guru – they’re everywhere these days – talk about the how to use social media to make potential customers like your product. In the middle of his talk he gave an uncomfortable example of how he used social media for personal gain.

He was checking in to an upscale hotel and the bagboy left his bag on the floor behind him and walked off. Now I’d personally be thrilled in such a case – no bagboy hanging around looking for a tip - but this social media guru went one better and used this supposed gaffe to blackmail the hotel. He took a photo of his lonely bag by itself and told the clerk he was going to upload the photo to the internet and Twitter the incident. The hotel clerk sheepishly gave him a free upgrade on his room as an act of apology, and presumably to avoid negative word-of-mouth from a social media guru. He was proud of his wily dealings, but the story struck me as embarrassing. I was embarrassed on behalf of the internet marketing industry and on behalf of decent people who don’t go around looking for ways to blackmail vendors for freebies. Is this what social media is for?

I’m still looking for social media to deliver the goods to internet marketers even a fraction as well as SEO and PPC advertising have shown they can. In the meantime, while we’re waiting, we seem to be graced by an awful lot of folks calling themselves experts at social media. Maybe some put out of work by the recession are re-inventing themselves in new careers – and what’s hotter than social media. “Hey, I’ll call myself a social media expert!”

Wondering about the geographic distribution of these experts, I did a quick check using LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the businessperson’s social media platform and any expert must be on there. I picked a few cities around the country and with LinkedIn’s Advanced Search function found how many profiles included the words: social media expert. I chose a 50 mile radius around the zip code corresponding to the city’s chamber of commerce. Then I used the Census Bureau’s 2008 population estimates of metropolitan areas to come up with a rough estimate of how many people live in that area. This method is not scientifically precise as metropolitan areas differ in physical size, but it gives a rough “Social Media Pretension Index”. The Social Media Pretension Index (SMPI) is the number of social media ezperts (self defined) per 100,000 population.

Let’s look at how the cities I measured stacked up:

Chicago – 7.99 million people – 406 social media experts – SMPI = 5.08
Cleveland – 2.09 million – 62 social media experts – SMPI = 2.97
Dallas – 4.23 million people – 197 social media experts – SMPI = 4.66
Seattle – 2.56 million people – 312 social media experts – SMPI = 12.19
Denver – 2.51 million people – 204 social media experts – SMPI = 8.13
Detroit – 1.95 million people – 137 social media experts – SMPI = 7.03
New York – 11.70 million people – 1169 social media experts – SMPI = 9.99
San Diego – 3.00 million people – 164 social media experts – SMPI = 5.47
San Jose – 1.82 million people – 985 social media experts – SMPI = 54.12
Kansas City – 2.00 million people – 67 social media experts – SMPI = 3.35
Austin – 1.65 million people – 171 social media experts – SMPI = 10.36
Boise – 0.60 million people – 15 social media experts – SMPI = 2.50
Dayton – 0.84 million people – 57 social media experts – SMPI = 6.79
Indianapolis – 1.32 million people – 35 social media experts – SMPI = 2.03
Miami – 2.40 million people – 140 social media experts – SMPI = 5.83
Los Angeles – 9.86 million people – 835 social media experts – SMPI = 8.47
Memphis – 1.29 million people – 17 social media experts – SMPI = 1.32
Houston – 5.72 million people – 92 social media experts – SMPI = 1.61

I repeat: this is not totally accurate in that the 50-mile radius on LinkedIn and the Census Bureau numbers do not necessarily cover the same area.

But I still think it’s interesting. The highest SMPI of any place I looked at: San Jose, by far. Second is Seattle and third is Austin, where I live. The lowest SMPI is in Memphis, Does this mean social media experts should move to Memphis, where they face lower competition? I don’t know, because I still don’t know what social media experts do.

Audio Recording on Tuesday night by boneporosis


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