Social Media – Raging Against The Machine

News reaches Wordmonger Towers that the triumph of shouty rap metal outfit Rage Against the Machine over what, apparently, is Olly Murs wearing Joe McEldery’s skin in their race to grab the coveted Christmas No 1 spot is being seen as final, irrefutable proof that social media works as a marketing/communications tool.

As you’ll all know, dearest blog snorkellers, RATM’s win was driven through Facebook (by two people who, according to the tittle tattle, have now been offered jobs by Simon Cowell. And turned them down). As a result, you have otherwise fairly sensible marketing people running around implementing Facebook and Twitter strategies, because – quite clearly – social media can motivate hundreds of thousands of people to buy a product.

No. And stop it, before I get cross. There are a number of reasons why the RATM/OMIJM’sS battle was so big, and why it worked through Facebook. None of them are applicable to a brand, business or organisation.

Most importantly, this issue became so big because of the seething hatred of being manipulated by Simon Cowell that was latent in – well – most people, actually. I hate to state the obvious, but were it not for trad media (TV, print etc etc) there wouldn’t be any hatred for Simon Cowell (or his creations), because he wouldn’t be mainstream.

Social media did not invent the Cowell Beast and thus while Facebook stoked the fire, the fire itself was laid, fuelled, had petrol poured on it and was lit through traditional channels. The audience was ripe for this and I’d like to bet that many of those who visited Facebook for this particular issue had never done so before, were driven there by what they read in the papers or heard on the news, and will never go back because there’s nothing for them there.

And the fact that this was all about reclaiming the Christmas No 1 for the people (and the Christmas No 1 is an analogue tradition) meant that RATM’s victory was assured from the word go, social media or no social media. (And don’t go moaning that the victory was achieved through downloads – downloading music is not the same as using social media, and, in any case, had the single been only available on acetate through selected branches of John Lewis, it STILL would have sold enough copies.) Music is important to people – certainly it’s more important to more people than social media brands are – and it calls them to action.

So, today’s lessons. Social media is not a valid marketing or communications tool. It is not. (Yesterday I read yet another article about ‘great uses of social media’ and yet again, the example used was Zappo in the States. It’s about time we realised that THERE ARE NO OTHER EXAMPLES.) In this case, while the Facebook element was hyped beyond proportion, it was just one communications channel, which was amplified beyond belief by the swathes of trad media coverage. The other important point to make is that the subject matter – the product, if you like – was something close to very, very many hearts. It was personal. It was not corporate – in fact it was dramatically anti-corporate.

Social media, I conclude, can only really work if you are independent, anti-establishment, small in size and in tune with the current popular mood. Any hint of slogan, brand, message or intent to sell and you become Simon Cowell – and probably end up on the receiving end of protest through the very media you’re trying to harness.

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