A quick scan for social media gurus in the job postings will tell you all you need to know about the confusion in the world of online marketing. They all mention the position creating “relevant content” in a very meaningful way, as if the words themselves will have magical powers to transform crappy marketing into something worthy of attention. Here’s a sample of the conversation I would have with these companies:

“Relevant to who, though,” I ask.

“To our customer,” they say.

“But I can guarantee your customer doesn’t care about your business’s ‘content’,” I say.

“That’s what we want YOU for,” they say.

And this is where things break down, because there is only so much I can do and even less most companies are willing to allow.

Every brand wants an Old Spice moment in social media now. They want a viral video that will catapult sales and bring in gobs of new customers. It’s a nice thought but it won’t happen. Very few companies can have an Old Spice style campaign because very few companies can stomach that much insanity. In other words, most companies want the incredible results without the intense courage it takes to put content that different out there.

But if you don’t risk you don’t win.

More importantly though, the Old Spice campaign, throughout every iteration, had a core story to tell. The company used the social media to creatively tell that story but the story itself never changed. The story was, “Real Men Wear Old Spice” then they backed that up with creative and amusing storytelling. It’s a good campaign and saved the brand from extinction. But it took a massive set of brass balls to put that out into the digital sphere.

Most businesses that say they want social media as part of their strategy, don’t have the stomach for what it takes to actually be successful.

Case in point, I recently consulted with an agency on their client’s advertising copy. The Agency  wanted my take on tag lines and other copywriting wizardry, which I gladly provided. When we came to strategy though, it was clear things were not going in an altogether healthy direction.

The client has a website, branded in his name, and wanted some extra web presence on these “social media sites”. Since his name gives no clue to his industry (auto sales), he wanted the marketing to mention that small, but rather crucial fact. The agency was baffled, so I suggested something rather bold that would ultimately fulfill all his wishes and get him some killer name recognition across the region. I figured it was worth a shot.

My plan was to create a series of videos and bill boards based on a distinguishing feature of his, namely his Tom Selleck like mustache. Multiple billboards and commercials all with the slogan, “Trust the Mustache” hinting that the mustache has secret powers to find you the right car. Videos, hosted and shared on Youtube, showing his employees putting on the mustache and achieving great feats of customer service. This of course would be an underlying theme, that his auto dealers were trustworthy. No, people would not believe the mustache had magical powers, but they would at least pay attention long enough to hear the message. This idea would have made the brand recognizable and noteworthy, but was met with polite silence as the client chose to go with a simple slogan, “Finding your next perfect car!” and call it good.

And we wonder why we can’t have nice things.

If you advertise for a social media position, and you want someone to have a conversation with your customers, don’t be all wishy washy about it. Let whoever you hire go all in on the strategy, especially if it doesn’t cost anything. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.