Becoming a Social Media Pitchman


August 13, 2010

Are you an infomercial junkie?  I don’t know if I’d classify myself as one, but I’ve been know to be lured into buying infomercial “stuff” a time or two (or ten).  I was an early adopter of Oxy Clean, the One-Sweep broom, ShamWOW, Kiyoseki hairstyler, the Shark Mop, and more.  I even bought a set of Ginsu knives WAY back in the day.  Why?  Is it because the product was SO great and I knew it?  Not really.  It was because these products had a pitchman who was so credible, I wanted to believe him.  These pitchmen would show me that they could take a knife and cut through a phone book, then slice a tomato paper thin.  And Billy Mays, one of the most famous pitchmen, truly convinced me that Oxy Clean would take care of any stain my family could make.  Well, almost any.

This got me thinking about social media and all of us who pitch the idea.  How effective are we?  Do we have the characteristics and behaviors to really “sell” this idea to more people?  Here are a few things I find most important in convincing others that an idea is a good one to latch on to:

  • Know the product- You really have to know the product to be able to pitch it effectively.  People are smart and can easily see when someone does not know much about the product.  In the case of social media, this doesn’t mean that you have to know how to use EVERY site or platform.  What it does mean is that you regularly use several so that you can speak with authority on how social media really works.
  • Have genuine enthusiasm- If you can show other people your excitement for what you’re telling them about, it is infectious.  They will want to use it that much more.
  • Be able to demonstrate- This expands on the “know the product” point.  You are far more credible, especially in social media, if you can show your audience that you can really use it.  Give examples of how it works in your day-to-day life.  Just be able to use it “live” so that people understand how it really works.
  • Anticipate the questions- Know that people may be uncomfortable asking questions about something they are unsure how to use.  Anticipate their questions by thinking back to when you began using social media.  Share the answers to questions you found most pressing as you got started.
  • Make it appear simple- The reason infomercial pitchmen are successful is they make the product look simple to use.  When you tell people about social media, give them suggestions for easy ways to get started.  If they think it will take too much time, be too challenging to understand, or only hear strange terminology (like tweets, hashtags, etc.) they will shy away.  Make it easy for them.
  • Give a compelling case- Bottom line is you have to make it relevant to their life.  Show them how social media can save them time, help them with research, collaborate with others, whatever.

So, who was the person that convinced you to get involved in social media?  Who’s the pitchman or woman we can learn from?  Share it in the comments.


  • My two shoutouts go to China Gorman who got me started on Twitter when she spoke at the SHRM town hall meeting in April of 2009, and Laurie Ruettimann who gave me the impetus to start blogging (however infrequently I actually do it) after SHRM Annual in New Orleans

    • @ China, Matt, John, Dave, and Jeff…. I love that you can see the chain reaction via the comments here. Laurie Ruettimann influenced China. So China influenced Matt. Matt influenced John. John influenced Dave and Jeff. Instead of the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” we can have the “X Degrees of Laurie Ruettimann”. In all seriousness, it’s great to see people passing on what they learn to others and ultimately, being really positive resources and support for each other. I love it!

  • Ironic that the person who got me addicted to Twitter is the first poster here, Thank You Matt Stollak @akaBruno. My interest in SM was further fueled by the aforementioned China Gorman and Laurie Ruettimann (along with Lance Haun and Jessica Lee) at a panel presentation at the SHRM Annual 2009 in New Orleans. My appreciation to all those for opening a whole new world to me and to all those who I have met since who have added to my passion (including the writer of this blog).

  • Ironic that the person who got me addicted to Twitter is the second poster here, John Jorgensen @jkjhr. (Ok I will write my own comment from here.) I started getting more active with Twitter in the first part of this year, and then saw how things bleed over from FB to twitter, to blogs and so forth.

    Then at HRevolution I got to meet some of these folks and discovered how interesting and compelling this stuff can be. I don’t know who the pitch man was, probably a number of folks. I guess I just saw social media as a good product and decided to buy.


    In all honesty, participating at ERE and got me involved in blogging because I didn’t think anyone else was out there. Kris Dunn and Ann Bares were there early to keep me going.

    • @Lance- I think you’re the new Billy Mays!

      @Mark- Thank you for the compliment. Like you, Laurie was a big influence on me from a blogging standpoint. Interesting for me to hear that Joe Gerstandt was one of the first people you followed. He certainly shares great info on Twitter so I can see how that would be a positive influence on someone new to Twitter. Seriously, none of us consider ourselves as “pitchmen” or women. I think we were just lucky to have people embrace us, teach us, and collaborate with us and now we’re all trying to pay it forward. So glad you commented!

  • Well, I’d love to say that the first three commenters got me into social media (it would make for a cool theme) but alas they were not. Still love you guys though. 🙂

    First of all, terrific post Trish. I honestly think this is one of your best because your points are dead on. For me, one of the first people I followed on Twitter was Joe Gerstandt (@joegerstandt). His authentic and unpretentious voice really set a standard that I tried to follow from the outset. Insofar as blogging, I was a huge fan of Jenn Barnes (who no longer blogs) and of course Laurie.

    What’s interesting is that none of the early folks I learned from considered themselves to be pitchmen/women. Instead they just lived the values of what makes social media interesting and powerful. That was the biggest lesson of all.

  • Lance, I vote for you. That post’s enthusiasm gave me a headache just like Billy Mays’ ads used to. LOL

  • Trish: great post — as usual. I’m actually thrilled to know that I’ve influenced some great HR pros to engage in social media. Laurie Ruettimann got me involved. Actually, she bullied me into getting a twitter account. Laurie and Michael Long (@theredrecruiter) and Lance Haun (@the lance) were my early coaches in twittiquette and introduced me to the world of blogging. And @Kris_Dunn has provided wisdom along the way, as well. A pretty stellar group from which to learn.

  • The second person posting a comment turned me on to social media. Thanks to John J @jkjhr! He spoke to one of our chapter meetings at #IVHRA and that got me going. Then most recently the #ILSHRM10 bloggers had a profound influence on me getting more involved. I still feel like a social media novice…but I’m all in now and loving every minute of it. I’ve been AMAZED at the quantity and quality of the resources. There are some very smart people writing some great stuff. (By the way, do hashtags do anything in a comment to a blog? LOL, see I really am still a novice!)

  • I ain’t gonna lie to you- I just never got telling your status in 140 characters or less. I used to have an active Twitter account as a joke (posting such things as “I picked my nose today. Wow-lots clearer”), but I just found it frankly useless. Between the goofball stuff celebrities Tweeted and all of the spam/porn followers, I got bored quickly wth Twitter. That being said- I probably need to learn how to use it more effectively and shamelessly promote my own business and blog.

    And as far as Facebook is concerened- it seems like it could easily become a social as well as career PR nightmare if not managed correctly. Too many people were spilling their personal lives over into what should have been a professional experience. I ended up in the middle of personal squabbles through no fault of my own; okay- the fault was that I friended non-professional contacts!!!

    I like the idea of my own blog much better, and I can edit and/or remove comments in a pretty easy manner. I must have control of my electronic environment.

    Call me an early adopter turned curmudgeon. Just the bad taste left in my mouth from social media turned my into a hater. Maybe when privacy filters get better on Facebook, I will return.

    • @Doug- Ok, I’ll definitely have to give you the Twitter for Business 101 talk. I get it that some people use it for garbage, but I can tell you that in my industry there are so many great pros I’ve met via Twitter. It helps me do my work every week. For you, I bet you could connect with some like-minded bike enthusiasts and share ideas on rebuilding bikes. No need to be a hater. Just find people worth “talking” to on social media.

  • @China Ha! Bullied! All five feet of me. I’m so tough.

    @Trish My vote is for Joel Cheesman, Kris Dunn, and Lance — but that’s because they were early adopters. When I outed myself in 2007 and started blogging under my own name, they were there. Then I started following HR Wench (Jenn Barnes) and Shauna. That led me to everyone else. When I was blogging in 2004, I met lots of feminist bloggers. It was a vibrant scene before mommyblogging and political bloggers stole the show. I was very active in BlogHer and learned quite a bit from that community.

  • Trish-

    I use internet forums, a.k.a. message boards for connecting with like-minded motorcycle customisers. I do NOT have to have an immediate response; remember that my cell phone is a DUMB phone, NOT a SMART phone…

    I will eagerly listen to the Twitter for Business 101 talk, as nobody has sold me on Twitter’s usefulness to date…

  • My college roommate Kim got me blogging and some of the first blogs I read were HR Maven, HR Capitalist, Your HR Guy, Evil HR Lady, Ann Bares, HR Wench, Punk Rock HR and HR Minion. De, Kris, Lance, Shauna, Laurie, Suzanne . . . Twitter just sort happened one rainy, fateful afternoon and then I met you and so many others. The inspired by list goes on and on.

  • Loved the post Trish – and also the comments thus far! It’s interesting to see how connections are made and who influenced whom.

    For me, I was turned on to LinkedIn by a VP of HR who was in job search and mentioned to me that he had been contacted by some recruiters for interviews from this “new thing called LinkedIn” back in early 2006. Since I was a recruiter, I didn’t want to get left behind, so I checked it out immediately after he left.

    I joined Facebook reluctantly some time in 2007 after continuing to read comments and posts on ERE (back when it was an email list serve). Amybeth Hale was one of the first people I “friended” on FB because she frequently posted on ERE and was from Cincinnati – but we’d never met. (We didn’t meet in person for another couple of years after that either!)

    I started blogging after Kris Dunn put out a post on the HR Capitalist looking for bloggers for Fistful of Talent in early 2008 and I responded. Kris helped me a great deal and encouraged me a lot, so I started my own blog in October 2008 in addition to writing occasionally on FOT.

    I signed up for Twitter in March 2008 after reading a blog post from Jim Stroud mentioning that there were only about 80 recruiters on Twitter (there were less than 1 million total on Twitter at that time). Once again, I didn’t want to get left behind, so I joined and started trying to figure it out.

    Laurie Ruettimann and Maren Hogan inspired me to try out video posts, but mine are neither as cute nor as funny as most of theirs. But hey, it’s about learning from others and giving it a shot, which is what this post is all about!

  • Great post Trish. When I hopped on twitter 2008, I was drawn to fellow dog lovers. Then I discovered the HR Community, and fell in love with a new set of colleagues and friends. All of you who commented have influenced me in one form or another.

    Now, I’m a social media strategist, and I couldn’t imagine being off line for more than five minutes. I’m hooked. This is both a big part of professional, and social life.

    Thanks for making it fun.

  • OK, the year was late 2006 for me when I decided to start the HR Capitalist… I know Evil HR Lady was out there, and I may have been aware of Laurie R at the time, so there weren’t as many people in the game… Probably was motivated to take a shot by Evil and some of the non-HR blogs I was reading at the time, like Deadspin… I actually tried to get the Deadspin editor’s job a few years back… 🙂

    But, once I got started, I was always motivated by Laurie at Punk Rock and Lance at YourHRGuy (remind me again why he mothballed that domain?). Then, I was motivated daily by the gang we recruited over at Fistful of Talent, including Jen M, Maren, Jessica Lee and all the other yahoos… Lately, I’m motivated to keep the game going by some of the newer entries into the game, including Trish and Steve B. And of course, Ann Bares has always been the blogging gold standard for me…

    One thing I’ve learned – involvement as a practitioner makes you better because you have to think and defend your ideas, which is very healthy…


  • @Jennifer – Jeepers! I am flattered and humbled to know that I have inspired someone (or anyone for that matter) towards a positive endeavor. Based on some of the comments here, I am in good company.

  • Trish:

    Great post and what a great discussion. I am so touched that some of my favorite bloggers would mention my name here. This was such a gift for me today, that I was inspired to post about it.

    Having started my blog in 2006, I feel like one of the old-timers here – but there were certainly those who led the way … and those that inspired me after I first put my toe in the water. The first HR blogs I read were Evil HR Lady and Joel Cheesman. I tried to get a bead on the blogging thing by learning from them. Soon after I began, I connected with Kris Dunn, Paul Hebert, Lisa Rosendahl, Frank Roche and others – impressive bloggers with great content and their own unique styles. From there, it snowballed and I found more and more great HR voices to listen to and learn from, including people like Lance Haun and Mike Haberman. And, of course, Kris and Jessica Lee’s work at Fistful of Talent inspired me to try a rewards-focused group blog and start the Compensation Cafe.

    (Oh, and Twitter happened back in 2008 some time. I think I owe Kris for that.)

    On days when I struggle with my motivation and enthusiasm for blogging, it is the HR community that inspires me to keep going. I am in all of your debt.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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