ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Welcome to the Social Media Medicine Show

Updated on October 14, 2012
Modern social media shares much in common with medicine shows of the 'Wild West'.
Modern social media shares much in common with medicine shows of the 'Wild West'.

Social Media as a Medicine Show

During the years the west was being settled, it was common to see medicine shows where businessmen attempted selling their goods to the public. During the medicine show, the businessman or huckster stood up in a public arena. In some cases, he may have used barkers or ringers in growing an audience. The barkers announced his speaking and through their proclamations attempted generating what is now termed ‘”buzz”. By generating excitement about the show, the size of the audience increased. Very often, the more emotions that could be excited, the larger the crowd grew. The ‘ringer’ was a person or persons planted in the crowd. These plants often testified about how well the product worked with them.

During his presentation, the medicine showman gave his speech regarding the product. After entertaining the crowd about the origin or properties of the product, he began the sales pitch. These businessmen made elaborate promises about their product, using hard sell techniques and showmanship to attain sales. Their use of hard sell techniques and elaborate promises were entertaining to the crowd, yet soon earned them reputations as charlatans and snake oil salesmen. Once the medicine show businessman tarnished their reputation in one community, they moved on to the next one. Even to this day, the term ‘snake oil salesman’ carries with it the image of a charlatan.

Although knowledge of human behavior has increased since those times, the techniques used by many modern entrepreneurs on the internet, especially in the use of social media amounts to digital versions of the medicine show. Elaborate promises about massive profits, minimal investments, and large crowds are often heard. The promises may indeed by true, yet their approach is damaging to social media. In promoting their product, many still use the hard sell approaches of the snake oil salesmen. They use social media as conduits to access the public with their hard sell message.

Besides entrepreneurs, many politicians and political groups use social media as part of their political campaigns. Although the technology is new, the techniques share many similarities with the medicine shows of the west. These groups often attempt generating ‘buzz’ like the hucksters of old. Whether it is through comments their candidate made or a response to their opposition, the groups use them to generate the buzz. When dealing with buzz, once again, the higher the emotionality, the larger the crowd. In the political world, statements and positions are often exaggerated in order to gain more buzz. Some groups even make outlandish comments in order to generate more buzz. What becomes important to them is growing the largest crowd they can, rather than focusing on the truth about their candidate (their product) and their positions. In the arena of social media, there are many times that exciting emotion is more important than being factual.

Political groups also use ‘ringers’ with social media as well. This is done via endorsements or using celebrities to endorse the candidate. By using someone that the public is familiar with, there is a greater chance of believability. When dealing with a group, presenting them with someone they like or are familiar with can be persuasive in selling the candidate. These modern ringers serve the same purpose as the ones in the medicine show, they function as plants that encourage the crowd, or public to accept the product or candidate.

The medicine show format is also used by many people selling their products. Large established businesses are often slower in adjusting to the new technology than the entrepreneurs and politicians. When businesses have been around for a while, they have seen their share of trends and gimmicks. Since they have experience in dealing with other “Johnny come lately” approaches, they are more cautious in their use of social media.

The new technology of social media requires new approaches. Social media is designed to be ‘social’ or interactive. This technology is designed for building friendly social interactions. It is designed to build friendships. These old school marketers are instead using the media to exploit relationships rather than build them.

When social media is used in the interactive way it was designed for, there is give and take on the websites. Those with a product interact with the public. The message is not limited to one-way communication. With an interactive media, the consumers in the public can give feedback and comment on what is being sold. When there is such interaction, the marketer is no longer in a position where they can make wild claims about their product. The product will have to stand on its own and sell itself. In a social media marketplace where social media is allowed to be social, the product will have to deliver what it promised.

Besides social media providing interaction, it also changes the marketplace by speeding up interaction time. The consumers are in a position to speak up immediately. The fast reaction time means that those selling products will need to not just deliver results, they have to deliver on their promises quickly.

Besides fast results, with social media, the marketers have to hold the attention of their public. With social media, marketers will need to have games, gimmicks and attractions to hold the attention of the public. When marketers do not deliver what they promise, or when the crowd is bored, the public moves on to the next product. In order to fully utilize social media, you have to attract the attention of your audience and keep their attention.

Those entrepreneurs and marketers who have mastered social media have learned about the power of a following. They may call their following their mailing list, or client list, subscribers or some other kind of list, what this list amounts to is their followers. These social media experts have learned about ‘critical mass’. When the number of followers reach a point of critical mass, there is a tendency for the mass to purchase whatever product is being offered. This fan base of critical mass often follows the business or person wherever they are found. Like groupies, they loyally support those who have won their loyalty and delivered the product promised.


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)