Social Guilt

As I sat with Stanford Smith of Pushing Social two weeks ago during Social Slam my mind was piqued as he made one very simple yet profound statement:

“We’ve got to stop with all this social guilt.”

I had never heard the phrase “social guilt” before, but boy did it make sense and perfectly encapsulate a HUGE problem happening all over the globe today—the “need” businesses have to be all things social media to everyone.

And when I say “all things social media,” what I’m referring to are those businesses and persons that are practically killing themselves to be active on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus, blogging, video, commenting, etc.

Now granted, I’m the first one that will say it’s nice for a business to try and embrace the potential of social media. But the reality is this quest of social media perfection is an impossible task, so much so that those that attempt it are often left defeated, deflated, and underwhelmed with the experience in general.

As a business changes, so do priorities

Early on with this blog I practically killed myself attempting to answer every comment, every tweet, and every email I received—along with finding the time to comment on other blogs and even talk to the occasional client (there weren’t many back then).

But today my habits have changed. Frankly, I don’t spend tons of time commenting on other blogs anymore. Is this because I don’t find value in the things others say? No, of course not, it just means I’m now in a different phase of business.

These days, I spend a lot more time worrying about my clients—you know, those wonderful people that pay my bills and allow me to be “social” in the first place.

Again, I want to stress here that there is importance to social media (and all things lead generation), but there are two points that I think every person and business must understand:

1. Profits always trump social ( In other words, if you need to choose between doing actual client work and getting paid, or jumping on twitter and doing at “chat,” you might want to consider the “getting paid” option.)

2. Priority always trumps social


So let’s talk about priorities for a second. Here is the deal—No person or business on earth is capable of being “the best” at all things social. You can’t be the greatest at Twitter, and Facebook, and blogging, and LinkedIn. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is, and if you can show me a company that’s “the greatest” with all of these, I’ll happily eat my words.

I was once chatting with Jay Baer and we were talking about blog comments. Jay said something that I really appreciated—“Getting blog comments is not a focus of my business model.”

Does this mean Jay doesn’t like blog comments? Does this mean he doesn’t appreciate blog comments? The answer, of course, is no. Notwithstanding, getting comments just aren’t a major part of his focus. And how can they be? With a consulting, speaking, and writing schedule like he has, I’m amazed he’s able to answer any comments at all.

Simply put, there is no reason why someone who is extremely busy and successful should feel any “social guilt” simply because he or she is unable to respond to every blog comment (or @ tweet, or FB comment, email, etc.)

I bring up this example because as an individual or business builds their online brand, priorities inevitably change. Time allotments change. And focus changes too.

And do you know what? This is a good thing. This means you’re finding your shtick, understanding what works, and getting closer to running the ideal business that best suits you, and not a business that fits the ideals of another.

So enough of the social guilt. Do your best and if you are, let go of the things you can’t be great at or that which doesn’t fit your priorities. Have a focus, an individual vision, and don’t allow the latest trends, platforms, and “best practices” to dictate that which you know to work best for YOU.

Your Turn:

I’ve got one simple question here that I’d love to know your answer on—What part of social media/blogging/etc. do you experience the most “social guilt” over? Why?

This is an interesting subject that I think we can ALL relate to, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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56 thoughts on “The Problem that is Social Guilt

  1. The ultimate guilt comes from not properly assessing and planning social outreach and how it fits into an overall integrated marketing plan. Sure, that plan is going to look different for every company. In some instances, social won’t be part of it at all.

    BTW, rockin’ presentation at Counselors Academy on Monday, Marcus.

    • Agreed Bob, that’s a BIG problem.

      As for Counselors, thanks man, that group of friends you have there are amazing. What fun!

      Have an awesome weekend!


  2. Marcus,

    Great post. I must say that I was guilty of this. I tried to do everything perfectly and as a result I got nothing even mediocre. I am slowly changing that and trying to accept that perfection doesn’t always cut it. Although it took me some time to realize this, I am glad that I found it out the hard way.

    Important business lesson learned!

    Also, I see that you have started to spend less time on comments. I was wondering where you got to answer all those comments in the first place. Still you seem to be doing a wonderful job of balancing work and social. Hope you will write a post about that soon :)

    Adarsh Thampy

    • Hey buddy, I think you’re in a boat that so many of us are on or at least have been on.

      The great thing about you though Adarsh is that you’re constantly experimenting, learning, and getting this figured out…which is all you can do.

      As for the comments, yeah, sometimes I just don’t have the time to get to everyone or comment on some of the blog articles I’d like to…and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me sometimes, but it’s just a natural result of where I am in business, and who’s to say where I’ll be in another 12 months.

      Thanks for stopping by buddy and hope you have a great weekend,


  3. One of the main things I have learned from you is the value of responding to comments. My first comment here got a very thoughtful response, and that hooked me as a reader.

    I do feel guilty when it takes more than 24 hours to respond. I am still in the phase where social actions are necessary to bring eyeballs, and am worried of how long it could take to move to that next phase.

    Not that I don’t enjoy the social interaction, just that it can be very labor intensive.

  4. My man!
    Can’t believe I let you beat me to this post! Anyways, way to nail it. I’m glad you mentioned that profit trumps social. I’ve run into some social snobs lately who don’t understand the importance of putting customers and practicality first. Social works if you make it work for you and your clients – not according to some idealistic view of utopia. Thanks for turning my rant into something usable :)

    • Hahaha, yeah, beat you to it my man, even if it was yours. ;-)

      Love the way you think about blogging and content Stanford, to me you’re one of the true leaders in this field.

      Continued success,


  5. I definitely believe that social media works, but a huge part of that is being consistent, and there is a limit to what you can do consistently. So figuring out what works for YOU and doing that consistently is far better than trying to do everything and being very sporadic. There are certain things I just ignore because I’ve learned that I just can’t do one more thing.

  6. I think where the guilt hits me is in the fact that I, like you and others in this community, teach online marketing. I think the guilt comes up first because so many tactics within social media can and should be interrelated. Second, I think it’s because potential clients think you should know about it all, because they just hear about how great this or that is from the outside and we don’t want to disappoint. Don’t get me wrong, I will absolutely advise someone on an overall strategy, it’s just tricky to deal with the expectations/reality sometimes. Another great conversation starter :-)

    • How right you are Cheryl :-) Yep, there is added pressure on us Social Media peeps to know it all…but personally, I’m getting more and more used to saying, “Sorry, but I’m just not going to be able to help you with that.” And I tell you, it works pretty well. ;-)

      Keep pushing my friend,


  7. Hey Marcus,
    Great job here, man. A popular topic for me lately. Sorry it’s been awhile but I have been . . . . uh . . . . Prioritizing. Ha. Our friend Jk Allen wrote a great piece on this topic as well a while back and he and I have discussed this on the phone and I was talking to Craig McBreen about this exact thing yesterday.

    I will be forever grateful for social media. I have met some incredible people on line (you, Jk, Craig and many more) and have been fortunate enough to speak and skype with some, as well as meet a few in person, but I just don’t have time to read and comment on everyones blog anymore. I will continue to engage on line and comment when I can, but my priorities have changed and like you said . . . . .

    “This is a good thing. This means you’re finding your shtick, understanding what works, and getting closer to running the ideal business that best suits you, and not a business that fits the ideals of another.” and to sum it up . . . . .

    “as an individual or business builds their online brand, priorities inevitably change. Time allotments change. And focus changes too”

    So true, my friend.

    Its not about being rude or forgetting who my friends are, and I am definitely getting over the “feeling guilty” thing. Because one; Guilt and worry are the biggest waste of time and two; It’s time to make this business profitable and that means changing priorities & focus.

    Thanks Marcus, as always I appreciate you and your words of wisdom. I know you CARE.


    • Hi Al,

      And that was a great conversation. You and I are at about the same point. We each have a blueprint (and an end goal) and we are working on it every single day. And there is only so much time in the day. I do try to comment often, but some days it is next to impossible. I try to fit it in when I can (like now), but work and paying clients are what I need to focus on, so now I’m off to tend to them ;)

      • Sounds like you’ve got your priorities clearly in line Craig.

        To continued growth my friend,


    • Awesome, awesome comment Al. Love how you’re finding your way my friend. You really make me smile. :-)

      Have a great week,


  8. I have a neglected LinkedIn and G+ account but I rarely even think about them. But my social guilt is in my FB Fan page. I often forget and post my conversation getters to my personal page rather than the fan page.

    • I’m with you Erica, I make that mistake as well!

      Thanks so much for dropping by!


  9. Marcus –

    Great post and thank you for bringing this topic to the surface.

    I believe that people forget, do not want to acknowledge and/or learn their analytics. The analytics will point you in the right direction and help you ask the right questions provided you take the time to learn the analytics.

    I will admit, math was never a favorite subject of mine. But I can balance my financials enough to realize where my money is originating from and thus prime that pump. If people would learn their analytics, study their analytics and then make changes based upon their own analytics, the guilt were lessen.

    We all want to be superman (or superwoman), but superman knew he was defenseless to kryptonite and stayed away from it or adjusted his suit to fight Lex Luther when the kryptonite was around.

    Let’s do the same thing.

    • Look at you Andy, pulling out the Superman reference like that, well done bud! ;-)

      LOVE your focus on analytics here though. To add to that, if we truly used analytics we could quickly thin slice what brought returns, and what was wasting our time— thus dropping the time wasters much, much easier.

      Keep spreading the good word my man ;-)


  10. Too funny Marcus. I couldn’t agree more that Stan’s concept of “Stopping the Social Guilt” was profound and one of my key takeaways from Social Slam. I absolutely LOVE the concept and have shared it with my clients and students already. It kind of reminds of the old “Stop the Insanity” by Susan Powter from back in the day ;-). I actually wrote a post about social guilt too

    What I love about your take is your focus re: profitability … if your you’re letting being social trump you’re being profitable, you’re missing the point (and you won’t be in business long). Being social is meant to grow your business and your impact and your profitability. It’s not to be social, just for social sake.

    On this note, I like to talk to clients about a 3 stage approach when it comes to being successful with social. The approach is meant to limit social guilt and squirrel syndrome. While it’s sometimes a challenge initially to get clients to buy into the approach, once they start seeing results, they invariably say the process works.

    The approach is simple and comes from Scott Stratten:

    STEP 1: get traction. Choose 1 platform, start mastering how it works, integrate it into your organizational workflow, start connecting with key accounts. You start to build a tribe and following. Most unsuccessful businesses skip this step and jump right to step 2 (which is why they get burned out)

    STEP 2: Build Momentum: now that you have traction, grow your reach with the platform. You maintain the traction you’ve created and deepen the value you provide with a platform.

    STEP 3. Expand now that you have a tool mastered and helping drive profits, you strategically expand to another high value platform or tool.

    I often tell my clients I sell crock-pots not microwaves. Yes, the process is a bit slower, but in the long-run it works and will help you be profitable and be guilt-free ;-)

    Thanks for the awesome content as always amigo!

    • Love it, love it, love it Don. Your approach here is quite the model of success my friend.

      Appreciate so much you stop by bud!


  11. Hi Marcus – This applies to outsourcing and affects business profits as well. A lot of coaches and consultants outsource their social interaction. As competition for clients increases, the natural reaction is to increase the number of sites to interact on. Trying to maintain authentic dialog on more than a few sites is either costly (if being outsourced) or a time drain (if you’re doing it yourself).

    A better approach is to choose a few sites where you can maintain ongoing personal dialog. This leads to increased community, rather than just bigger numbers on a list.

    • Agreed 100% Michael. The idea that we can build solid communities and easily “keep up” with every social platform out there is ridiculous, and an unachievable goal.

      Good stuff man and I hope you’ll stop by again sometime Micheal.


  12. Ahhh, social media. I had to change my mind on that, forcefully. After Google has killed my website reducing my traffic to almost nothing I had to begin reconsidering my approach on being social. At the end it’s the only way to have some traffic if the web emperor decides that you have to be nuked. Well, luckily I haven’t been a blogger for a long time and I just threw one year of work into the bin. Actually, they did it.

    So, social media. First we must separate facts from legends and see if really there is a positive ROI on social media or if it’s just the actual goldmine. You know, the one that appears every year. One year is Linkedin, then Twitter, FB, Pinterest….. Jump on the wagon! Use this service! Buy this course! Make money with Adsense/Twitter/FB/Pinterest… And so on.

    There are things which are useful and others that are pushed because the wheel of money must be always in motion. So every year there need to be something new where you can spend your money. I mean many businesses get their money from the social media thing, whether it’s true or not. And it really doesn’t matter if many believe it and spend their money.

    As you say it’s impossible to be great in every social networks also because there are so many who appear and disappear or are bought every year. You might be spending hours in the hope of a ROI on a network than in a couple of years could meet the fate of MySpace or G+. And this is simply not worth it also because in theory you need time to write interesting stuff and there are only 24 hours in a day. I mean for those who want a real life you can’t be online all day.

    If you would have asked me before April my take on social guilt I would have answered “Nothing, I’m pretty cool about it.” but now even if the answer is still more or less the same I have to say that social media are needed to protect your site from search engines just in case to push their paid services they decide to nuke you.

    One has just to decide which is the best social media and work on it hoping it remains long enough in business. But until the search engines love you I would focus on content. :)

    So my opinion is that first if something isn’t useful for real and not in theory forget about it and guilt but if something really can have a positive impact on your business use a service which can help to reduce the time needed on social media to a minimum so you can still focus on content. And on real life, you know, family, friends, etc. Services like JugnooMe and are the first two that come to my mind. :)

  13. Marcus,

    Great post and points you raise. I could tell you I’ve got it all nailed and it’s perfect, but I’ll share a little more than just that. My biggest areas of social guilt relate to “keeping the plates spinning”. If I disappear from social media for a week, will my growing LinkedIn group lose momentum? Will my Facebook page turn into a ghost town? Will I have forgotten to thank the generous sharers of my content? Those kinds of things are probably my biggest areas of social guilt. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

    • Tom, dude, you’re far from alone. It’s the big, hairy elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. This is exactly why most can’t make it in this industry– it requires relentless effort, focus, and growth.

      Then again, what I’m talking about here is the personal branding side of it. If someone is getting leads as a business, and turning a solid profit, all of that social stuff really shouldn’t be the end-all.

      Anyway, it’s a great conversation to have my man, and I hope your success only continues as you get all this stuff worked out.



  14. Hi Marcus

    I don’t feel any social guilt at all. I have always made it crystal clear on my blog and else where. Why I don’t like Facebook. I have not jumped on the Pinterest Band Wagon. I have only just started to get into Twitter, Linkedin, and Google+ And I do not make it a priority to answer every comment that I receive on my blog.

    • Paul, good for you man. Most don’t have your discipline. And hopefully you’ll just keep it up as your growth continues!



  15. Great post, my man, not surprising given the inspiration.

    I deleted my G+ account because it was just a potential time suck, and I have more important things to do.

    For example, and I only come online late at night, because my priorities during the day are with my job, and in the evening with my family. Once they’re taken care of, social can come into the mix.

    And I don’t feel at all guilty about that. :)

    • You know Danny, it impressed the heck out of me when you deleted your G+ account. With as many followers as you have, most folks would have at least kept it up for vain purposes, but not you. I literally thought to myself, “Dang, that DB is truly putting his money where his mouth is…” ( or maybe I should have said where his “family” is :-)

      GREAT stuff sir,


  16. Marcus,
    I ahve been following along for some time and actually feel I can make a comment here. BTW, your content is stellar and i just sent the post about US Waterproofing to a few people in my industry Architecture & Design). The industry is radically different but the methodology for growth is no different and the industry suffers greatly from lack of knowledge sharing (can you see my niche sreaming out of the gate?).

    Anyway, i wonder as a “new” blogger (a year) if social guilt is much more prevalent than one who is much more established? Hell, I feel like if i don’t make the rounds, tweet, FB and G+ no one knows who i am. like Danny said it is a huge time suck and it can get the better of you. As i move forward, gain some confidence and find the right ways to influence my niche (beyond just putting killer content out there-ha, ha) I am starting to see that value in keeping it honed in and working the tools that make sense.

    Like anything worth doing it takes some time and some serious focus.

    Thanks a bunch for this.

    • Ralph, man do I feel your pain. I’ve been at this 3 years and there is one word that comes to mind more than any other when I’m thinking about success with all this stuff, and that’s relentlessness.

      Frankly, most people can’t keep the break-neck pace in their industry to get on top. That’s also why the US Waterproofing strategy is such a good one, as it can make all the difference in the world. And I love the fact that you see that same strategy in the Architecture industry Ralph, as it just goes to show you’re a seriously forward thinking dude.

      May you keep up the greatness bud,


  17. Great post Marcus, and thanks for the mention. I agree. The problem with social media isn’t that it takes up so much time (although it does), it’s that we invariably use that time inefficiently. You gotta pick your spots, and be okay with being less than everywhere.

    • That’s what’s so interesting about social media Jay. It’s the checklist that never ceases. I believe this is why so many perfectionists stink at social media. Other than the fact that it’s difficult to fully “control”, they also are only able to focus on all the things they “should” be doing, instead of appreciating the fact they’re actually doing some things very well.

      Thanks for dropping in my man and keep picking your spots well :-)


  18. Marcus, I was sitting there when he said that to the room and it made me shutter at first. Then the more I thought about it the more I knew Stanford was on to something. I agree with Jay also. You got to pick your spots and work them to benefit you and your goals.

    Great stuff. Like always.

  19. Like others, I spent quite a bit of time years ago learning first LinkedIn, then Twitter and finally Facebook. Once I got to know them, I could see that my homeowners are on Facebook and that’s where I focus my time.

    • Tina, I think it’s great that you slowly added to each one, which is the opposite of what many people and businesses do, and that is jump in head first with all the platforms they possibly can.

      And well done in finding which platform works best for you!



  20. I enjoyed this post and though I guess you could say I am a relative newbie to blogging, and I don’t do it full time, this really hit home. I understand really wanting to market one’s blog but I admit that the whole social networking thing is a bit overwhelming with there being so many of communities out there. Just keeping up with a blog or two is really time intensive and requires a lot of work. I take my hat off to those who can juggle it all and still stay sane.
    I know you mentioned people who are well established but I think those just starting out can take a little pressure off themselves too in trying to do it all.
    Thank you for the post.

    • Hi Shelley! Welcome to the blog here and I’m so glad you’ve added your thoughts. No question, newbies need to hear this just as much as anyone else– or experienced bloggers for that matter. The thing is, this world of social media and blogging is a checklist without end–it’s impossible to complete. And because of that, one really needs to know when to say when.

      And just think, we’re only in the early stages of all of this!

      Good luck with your new blog Shelley!!


  21. I feel Social Guilt on LinkedIn…

    I have a decent number of connections and I’m listed in quite a few groups and I definitely do not interact enough. I post occasionally and my profile is set up but I’m not seeking out connections and getting involved in conversations.

    I LinkedIn isn’t big for Marketers but on the Small Business side there is a ton of potential so this is a Network I need to put more time into…

    Great thoughts…

    Ryan H.

    • Ryan, you’re more places than just about anyone I know man. Seriously. You’re prolific and kind of a freak in my estimation.

      So send of that my way, would ya?? ;-)

      Cheers bud,


  22. Yo Marcus – You’re right dude. I mean, social is a big deal, and it gets crazy, you see less results, and can often feel defeated simply because:

    1. It takes a lot of time to get results (6+ months)
    2. And even then so, if you’re not creatively approaching it (sick infographics, lots of chatter w/the right people, creating content that’s entertaining and markets to people indirectly at the same time), you won’t see results anyway ;(

    So it’s like – 1st of all, you have to be good at “social media,” or more specifically, the art of social content creation and distribution, and digital networking and communication, and secondly, you’re spot on with the balance.

    At the end of the day, I know my company needs to be working on repairing screens on iPhones and iPads because that’s how we get paid. I guess it’s just.. building an environment where it makes financial sense to both do the “in business” operations, and the “social brand building” operations at the same time. It’s possible! But hard as heck.

    Sweet post, as usual, Marcus sir.

    • Love your point Ryan, and I think it’s the “dirty secret” is social we don’t hear nearly enough about– this stuff ain’t easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. And you’ve got to fight, day in and day out, to find that sweet spot.

      Appreciate the perspective man, keep doing your thing bud and fixing those iPhones so you get paid ;-)


  23. Yezzzzir! The equation seems to be: Getting paid = Happy people. Wooo! :) Great response. This is a cool article. It reflects kind of.. where we all are in the social media space, in 2012.

  24. Hey Marcus,

    Here’s my Monday morning social guilt, and every day for that matter. My business, like most others, started in with Twitter, FB, LI, YouTube all at once. After 1+ years at this, I’ve come to the conclusion that Twitter is a waste in our industry. Heck, I’d even say the same for Facebook. Yes, Facebook. But what do you do with those? Keep putting the time in, or how do you appropriately close out those accounts to focus on those social channels that actually do produce business and profits for you?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on these and the thoughts of others here. I’m impressed with the comment above of the gentleman deleting G+. Any negative effects?

    Keep rocking it,


  25. What a timely post — and how refreshing to let go of the guilt! My company’s blog hasn’t reached a level yet that I can’t deal with, but I’m currently getting a taste of what it will be like when it does — an article of mine is featured on the Squidoo homepage this week, and my comments have been blowing up! I check back in every so often to connect when I can, but I have to realize that when this becomes a more regular thing with our blog, I’m just going to have to prioritize or my work is going to suffer horribly. I can’t write if I’m spending all my time running around thanking everyone for their comments and writing personal responses!

    At any rate, I’m glad for this taste of what is to come, and I’m especially glad for this article and its conclusions. Thanks!

  26. It’s definitely true that you can’t chase all of the shiny objects in social media, especially if your time is limited. We just wrote about this topic yesterday, using the concept of social media *discernment.*

    It goes back to your strategy: what are you using social media for and who are you trying to reach? This will guide you to the platforms that are right for you, whether it’s something old (MySpace, no really) or new (Pinterest).

    • I like that Heidi– Social Media Discernment….I think I might borrow that a few times for myself ;-)

      Thanks so much for stopping by!


      • It really is a great word, isn’t it? It implies not just making a choice, but making it thoughtfully. Maybe we should trademark it ;)

  27. I’m more convinced than ever that Balance is a bleeping fake, along with the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. LIES! :-)

    Like you said – relentless; see also ‘perfection.’ These ideals are something to strive for – but really, we’re not supposed to ever get there. And even if we do, it won’t last. Talking w/ Neal Schaffer the other day (via G+ no less) – the only constant is change, so even if we hit ‘balance’ we have to start again the next day. That’s why when I somehow manage to hit ‘Inbox Zero’ I celebrate – b/c tomorrow, it’ll be filled right back up.

    My guilt: having a life and letting that take priority. My life may be a pitiful hodgepodge of work, play, TV, travel, wine and naps – but it’s mine. I just don’t have that 24/7 entrepreneurial kick to devote every minute to my business. So I don’t blog, tweet, G+ as regularly as I ‘should’ and I neither have nor want a FB for my solo PR biz and I ‘miss’ way more than I catch. I STILL cannot figure out how to use tools like IFTTT (see Jay on efficiency) since I’m not comfortable w/ auto-pilot anything. Sheesh. Now to go answer some questions on LinkedIn, then schedule this RT. ;-) FWIW.

    • Easily one of the funnies comments I’ve read in a long time Davina. You truly make me smile, absolutely loved this lady ;-)



  28. Samuel

    It really depends on individual and how they tend to take the situation

  29. Same here Erica. I posted a funny picture once and didn’t realize I was using the fan page account. It went terrible!

  30. I do feel guilty when it takes more than 24 hours to respond. I am still in the phase where social actions are necessary to bring eyeballs, and am worried of how long it could take to move to that next phase.

    • I get where you’re coming from Sarah, I really do. But I think if you’re aware of it you’ll at least be in a better position.

      Good luck!!


  31. I don’t have social guilt at all since I am not using several social media. I am not spending a lot of time in engaging in different social media.

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