In the ’90s there was a Saturday Night Live sketch starring the late, great Phil Hartman as an avant garde acting teacher. Throughout his instruction he would weave in attention-getting broad generalizations such as “I don’t like women. They don’t belong in the business.” Go to any college campus and one can encounter this among provocative professors who want to get attention by any means necessary. You can also see it in the world of business as well. 

More often than not, you can find broad generalizations making dramatic statements on both sides of the same issue. However, as Oscar Wilde once said, “the truth is rarely pure and never simple.” A topic as widely discussed as social media is especially rife for tall tales and generalizations.

Examples of recent black-and-white statements from various experts on social media include the following:

  • Social media ‘engagement’ doesn’t mean a thing
  • Automating social media takes the ‘social’ part out of it
  • Email marketing is dead (a personal favorite of mine to debunk)

Don’t get me wrong, as a consultant, speaker, and (soon-to-be) college instructor, I understand that it’s hard to get attention. As a writer you often have to make your headline purposefully attention-getting to draw the reader in. However, a good writer then breaks the issue down further and telegraphs that it may not be as simple as the headline implies.

To hop to another metaphor, it’s easy to light a fuse on a bomb and run. It’s much harder to be the sweaty dude with the powdery hands defusing the explosive. The former is mischievous and attention-seeking. The latter takes an exceptional amount of skill and, if successful, provides a tremendous amount of value to the community (the value you provide through your content may be a bit more understated than … er, not blowing up but you get the idea).

Why do ‘explosive statements’ matter to you? First, as a student of social media marketing beware the siren song of the easy sound-byte. Remember what Wilde said about the complexity of the truth. If nothing else, keep this in mind when reading or attending any lively discussion on a dicey subject such as social media ROI.

Finally, as content creators for your own brand, remember to use contrarian statements sparingly (unless being a contrarian is your brand’s thing). If you light a fuse in your headline, provide real, complex value in your piece by defusing the bomb. Explosive statements are great for getting attention. However, make sure you have something more to add besides just blowing subjects up. Valuable content solves problems.

What do you think? Where’s the fine line between appropriately provocative and attention getting and blowing things up just to cause a stir and keep the focus on you? How do you walk this line with your content?