Social Media’s New Low

Here, blog trotters mine, is a leetle quelquechose that I wrote for a magazine recently. Yes. That’s right. I am a columnist. But I have only written three. Not five. (Keep up, keep up.)

There are not many things that make me seethe, gentle reader, but one of them is the taking of credit where credit is most definitely not due. And so it was when the social medians (I’m presuming that ‘median’ is the collective noun for the black arts of the social medium – implying that they’re by no means the worst thing, but also nowhere near the top either) claimed responsibility for the frankly awesomely successful launch of David Bowie’s latest oeuvre.

You see, thing is, what kicked it all off was the design of a symbol. A white square. A white square which – if it needed saying – was superimposed upon the cover of a previous album, one which was recorded when The Thin White Duke was still Thin and White and not the The Slightly Orangey Duke of Edinburgh that he has now become.

The white square was pasted over posters around the world (real posters in real time, chaps) by fans. Bowie’s people made a movie (with Tilda Swinton, who apparently looks a little like a young David Bowie, if you don’t know what a young David Bowie looks like). Print advertising featured lyrics from Mr Bowie’s back catalogue. The rarely-giving-interviews Iman, er, gave interviews.

Those nice people at the V&A are staging a Bowie retrospective (purely by coincidence, obviously). Thousands of journalists all over the world (yes, I’m including those getting’ bloggy wid it – for bloggery is not social media) dedicated column miles to the launch. Oh – and that Mr Bowie? He’s a diamond, dog. (See what I did there?)

From where I’m sitting (overlooking the Tate & Lyle factory in Newham, since you ask) this has all the hallmarks of a well executed communications campaign, leveraging the benefits of profile, influence and financial clout, across a broad gamut of media types. To claim, glibly, that it woz social wot won it, is to miss the point with a purblind disregard for reality that beggars belief.

OK – so I’m being provocative and – not for the first time – I can hear the rising howls of derision from not-far-from Old Street. (And is that the tell-tale spoingy sound of pitchforks?)

Yes, the white square symbol might not have gained traction so quickly had it not been for Twat and Book, and would we have known about globally white-squared posters so rapidly had it not been for Instagram and Pinterest (not that Instagram and Pinterest are social media per se – think of them as a more interactive version of holiday snaps, football card swaps, or stamp collections)? Had it not been for YouTube, would we have seen the ickle film featuring that man who looks a lot like an old Tilda Swinton?

I take all of this on board. Yes, I get it. But I come from a time BSM (before social media) and while it might have taken a bit more effort, all of it could have been achieved without social (and without a frankly pointless app that allows you to post a white square over your own face.) (/headinhands/ Over your own face. /headinhands/)

There was a time when the Tilda Bowie movie would have been shown on TV, and you’d have had to wait up all night for it. A time when you’d have simply woken up to find white squares over everything (as a result of global overnight fly-posting).

A time when all would have been revealed with massive simultaneous launch events on however many continents there are these days. It would have taken real effort – on the part of both promoter and fan – and would have been that much better for it. (Obviously,  Iman would still have given interviews and the V&A would still be doing a retrospective.)

So step away from the credit, social media, and no-one will get hurt. And no, as someone connected with all this claimed, this does not make social a valid ‘business and sales tool’.

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