Snakes and Ladders

Hey, blog snorkellers – whassup?

Just a quick one – yesterday’s rant about a certain global PR concern and its lack of control over its own blog (social media + no control = the chocolate cupcake of cock-up) – well, two things.

First – they’ve not taken the offending post down. They must have seen me linking to it, they probably read my comments – a bit of action here, people, please. Actually – bugger off – don’t take it down, it wasn’t a bad post. Just edit bits of it. And you know which bits I mean. Go on – do it now.

Second – a further post on the same blog. Now this is genuine genius. Brilliant. Honestly.

Tell me – would it be too difficult to hook up Author 1 with Author 2? My feeling is that everyone would benefit.

Googly I

 Been a while, blog snorkellers mine, been a while.

Frankly, this blog has turned into my foamy-mouthed rantings about the eville that is social media and, d’you know what, it’s becoming difficult to find anything new to write.

Why? Because I’m not a geeky techy, I’m a communicator. I do not hang around in the kitchen of the internet’s big social media party, discussing the tiny changes that social media keep making to themselves, nor the wholly spurious increases in fans and clicks, nor the fact that 52.673% of businesses run by hippies believe that social media will, eventually, replace God.

And unless you choose to rummage through this morass of soiled underwear, you have to accept the truth that nothing has actually changed in the year or so that I’ve been gracing the web with my musings. The evangelists are still evangelising, the fools are still fooling around, the inappropriateness is still inappropriate, the naysayers are still naysaying – but nothing has actually changed.

Social media are still what they are – and the communications and marketing community are still trying to work out how to leverage them. Anyway, today I come across this – which is a post from the Digital Brand Expressions Blog (thank you) musing on the possibility that Google may be planning to have another foray into the social media space with something that may, or may not, be called ‘Google Me’. Obviously, I think they’ve missed a trick here – ‘Googly I’ would be so much better, or Google U, which could then become Googlez Vous in French and Et Tu Google for the small Swiss community that still insists on speaking Latin.

Anyway (again), just a couple of thoughts on the back of this article:

1) It’s probably too late for choice. You’re either on Facebook, or you’re not. And if you are – well, you are (obviously) and if you’re not, I think it’s unlikely that you’ll suddenly throw your privacy away and embrace the sharing of drunken photographs simply because that nice Mr Google has provided a new medium for you to use.

2) If Facebook was going to launch a search engine, it would have done it by now. Let’s face it, a share of Google’s $23bn annual profit (revenue? not sure) is not to be sneered at. I can only think that either they can’t, or that they’ve decided it’s not worth the effort. And, simply because Facebook doesn’t make any money currently, I’m forced to believe that they haven’t the capability to create an algorithm that would approximate Google’s. (If indeed algorithm is the right expression for the magic mushroom of code that allows Google to hallucinate all the stuff that people want to view.)

So. I’d hazard that Google won’t be able to invade Facebook’s space and vice-versa. So, once again, nothing has changed.

See you in another couple of months – supposing anything actually moves on.

Kirk out.

Brand Standards? Be Tolerant Of Social Media

A word of warning. I’m posting this link in the spirit of acknowledging my sources and admitting that I have plagiarised content, rather than letting you, faithful blog snorkellers mine, believe that it’s all a product of my fevered imagination – however, for once, I strongly advise that you do NOT click on it. (Not that there was ever much chance, you lazy bunch of surfers, but just in case.) If you do click on it, you will find yourself transported to the homepage of Digital Transactions magazine, a wilderness in which your horrified screams will never, ever be heard.

Suffice it to say, it’s a publication that services the needs of the digital transactor, those involved in online payments – banks and so forth. And it is a sign of the malign growth of the social media cancer that even this benighted outpost on the media frontier has been tainted by it. Here’s a quotation:

“Banks and others scratching their heads over the exploding popularity of social networking and its close cousin, social gaming, can harness the online phenomenon for payments but will likely have to jettison decades of settled thinking, experts say.”

I know – sounds like the sort of thinking that was doing the rounds 18 months ago – but it was published yesterday. Welcome to today’s horrifying reality, banks and others!

Anyway, I didn’t come here to poke fun at the financial services industry, easy though that would be. No I come here to highlight an opinion provided in this piece which, for me, sums up the insanity and inanity of the whole social media thing and how it is supposed to work (to our benefit, apparently). Have a read:

“For example, people who use social media are accustomed to changing things on the sites in ways that suit them individually – and that can include corporate designs, said George Warfel at Fiserv Inc. He advised banks to be tolerant of this, even if it horrifies marketing officers. ‘Let people on MySpace change the color of your logo,’ he advised. ‘That’s not vandalism. It’s customer acceptance.”

What George is blithely advocating is ceding control of your brand identity to any Tim, Darko or Barry who wants to appropriate it for his or her own ends. Apparently customers will be more accepting of your expensive, hard-won identity if they are free to do what they like with it. Who knows, maybe they won’t just stop at changing the colour. Maybe they’ll include a couple of rude words and a lewd illustration and then post it on a Facebook page entitled “(your name here) Sucks!” Or maybe they’ll just change the colour of your logo, print it out and stick it on a counterfeit product.

This is, and remains, the problem with social media. From a commercial point of view, it cannot provide the reassurance and control that is necessary to make it a valid comms, marketing or sales tool.

And as for the bankers – well, I sincerely hope their attitude to looking after my money is slightly less laissez-faire than their attitude to their own brand identity.

Embrace Social Media Or Die!

Well, that’s the only conclusion I can draw from this set of statistics collated and published on socialnomics.net by Erik Qualman, an evangelist.

I cannot argue with them or dispute them. They seem to come from a variety of reliable sources. The only conclusion I can draw is that the world and the bulk of people in it live for their social media. When social media becomes more popular than porn (which, as any fule kno, is what the interweb was invented for), then you know that momentum has grown into an unstoppable tsunami of Big Conversation.

And yet. I STILL don’t know of any company that’s making money through social media marketing. Mr Qualman includes this point – “the ROI of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years” – which sounds like a bit of a bullying threat to me. Try telling that to Rolls-Royce, Marks & Spencer, Garrards and Cheney the Bootmaker. I’m in no way involved in the social media ‘phenomenon’, yet somehow I still seem to be able to function perfectly well in today’s society. Apparently products and services and news are now going to find me – well, if it’s OK with them, I’ll stick with the old way of doing things and choose which ones I want, in my own time, on my own terms.

Finally, apparently, if Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s third largest, after China and India.

Better than that, I wouldn’t have to live there. Or even visit. And I would no longer have to put up with the endless wittering about social media being my future.

How good would that be?

Serving Mammon In His Communications Department

Yesterday I praised Lucas van Praag, Spinmeister-General at the Vampire Squid, for his audacious strategy of actually instigating an FSA investigation to shift the focus from the bank’s nausea-inducing profits and bonuses.

I was wrong – according to this piece by Jason Karpf (a four-time champion on the game show ‘Jeopardy!’) (which is, I can only presume, where the hapless contestants have to escape from a cage full of hungry jeopards? No?), this truly epoch-making piece of lateral communications thinking comes from Texas-based PR firm, Public Strategies.

So well done to them.

Mind, lest Mr van Praag be diminished in our eyes, here’s a piece from something called New York Magazine which compiled a list of the Praagster’s best rebuttals. I will leave the last word to @manic_impressive, who commented on the article:

“Dude, Goldman is just so much better than all of us.”

Social Media – Thoughts For The Day

(N.B. dear blog snorkellers, there will be no links in the copy today. This is because I can’t be bothered to tell you where I’ve been and also it’s a test of faith. Like so many of the social media posts and threads that I stumble upon, today I am going to say ‘trust me’. Take what I say as read. Don’t ask for proof. For once in your lives, believe in something. Me.)

Facebook, apparently, has 400 million users, half of which log in every single day. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I don’t think is true. Today I ran across a reasonably authoritative article that quoted a figure of 160 million logging in every day. But hey, what’s 40 million users per day between friends?

I’ve also made a big point of my belief that no brand, business or organisation is yet to make a significant commercial return on their investment in social media. This has got me into a lot of trouble – but I stick by it – every time I scratch the surface, the same old names crop up – Starbucks, BestBuy, Amazon, Dell, Coke, Ford. I gave myself into the gentle embrace of that most Googlicious of search engines and tried variations along the lines of ‘big brands social media’ and ‘brands social media success’. I know this isn’t scientific, but I couldn’t find any list of branded social media successes more recent than July/August last year. Not terribly reassuring, is it?

Mashable.com – useful blog, but hideously heavy going – published a list of Top 10 Twitter trends for last week. Tell, just who in the hell is Justin Bieber? I’m guessing here, but I’d imagine he’s got the same level of social and cultural significance as The Jonas Brothers, Tiger Woods, Super Junior, Lil Wayne and American Idol. I don’t think anyone’s in danger of drowning in this particular knowledge pool.

And, finally, I had a quick skim round the various Twitter feeds belonging to some of the bigger brands, just to reassure myself that the ‘Big Conversation’ hadn’t somehow become more valid and meaningful over the weekend. It hadn’t. Here’s where we’re at with corporate tweeting: “Woo-hoo! Just launched! check out the brand new http://www.starbucks.com/” (It’s the least I could do – give them a bit of a plug. Apparently, the fact that Mr Bux has got some social media icons on the home page, that’s enough to make the average punter believe they’re soc-med savvy. All smoke and mirrors.)

(B*gger – there’s a link in my copy.)

Anyway – conclusion for the day? Social media is obfuscation, flim-flam and chiffon gauze. (Sort of.) It still does not represent a route to market. An ROI cannot be extrapolated from social media. All business is about sales, and the value that those sales deliver to the brand, business or organisation – social media do not sell, nor can the effects that they may have on an audience be defined or evaluated. At best, social media raises awareness – but not of overtly branded messages because if you break the unwritten rules of the feral community, its members run back into the shadows, yelping abuse.

By all means – experiment. But don’t waste too much time, resource or money on it.

Corporate Reputation – Toyota And The Need For Purpose

I am very fond of the internet. (Even though, obviously, I don’t know all of it.) It’s mostly the way that things just crop up, without one necessarily looking for them, which provide insight into, and opinion on, stuff that is instantly resonant and relevant. There’s always someone out there in webworld who sees the connection between events and best practice, in any field, or sector, or discipline, even when you haven’t. Everything I’ve just said here is, of course, stating the obvious – that’s what you’d expect from the feral communities engendered by the net – and it’s not that which astounds. No – it’s the serendipity with which the net throws things one’s way – almost as if there was some sort of a fate lending an ethereal hand.

Most likely, it’s to do with quantum. Algorithm’s gonna get you.

Anyway – here’s a piece that I think is splendid. It’s from a blog called Decision to Lead – Expanding the Practice of Leadership and it’s by a lady called Frances Frei, who is (according to the blurb) ‘Harvard Business School’s resident expert of service excellence’. Which, to my mind, gives her a bit of gravitas.

The piece is about the whole ongoing Toyota situation of which we are all aware, even if we’re not sure how many cars have been recalled and what, exactly, they’ve been recalled for. Mechanical bloopers, shall we say. Frances comes at it from the angle of what I will call ‘corporate religion’ and what she calls a purpose. You can read the post yourselves, dear blog snorkellers, but Frances posits that Toyota lost its focus on its corporate purpose of ‘improvement’ – improvement of its product and improvement in the way its product was constructed. From the pursuit of this purpose came business success – sales and profits. Toyoat lost its focus – or rather its focus shifted, from improvement as a corporate purpose, to sales and profits as goals in themselves. As these became the goals of the company, so corners were cut, so the pride and motivation of the workforce became less – and it was then but a matter of time before what happened, happened.

It’s a great lesson – shame that it takes a global product recall, and its affect on the consumer, to teach it. The lesson is that businesses and organisations that have true longevity, that are the ones that enjoy enduring success (in the form of sales and profits), that are the ones that engender respect and admiration in their stakeholders – these are businesses for whom sales and profits are not goals in themselves. They are function of the bigger corporate purpose – the mission, the vision, the intent, the corporate religion – whatever you’d wish to call it. With a clearly defined and articulated purpose comes pride and motivation and – yes – reward for the people that make the business or organisation run.

(PS. Lest I be accused of being an unreconstructed, irredeemable hippy, I know that there are industries and business sectors where the purpose is nothing more or less than profit, and the people who are involved in them are wholly subsumed in the pursuit of the purpose – banking, mostly. I will be hippy-ish, mind, and ask whether we’d be in such a global economic bind right now if, perhaps, the bankers had had another purpose, other than sheer greed.)

(PPS. The need for corporate purpose has been around forever. I say this to prevent anyone trying to tell me that it’s part of the New Age of business, where everyone has a voice and everyone’s voice is important, which has been brought about by that life-changing, world-shaping phenomenon, social media. Horse droppings.)