Lies, Damn’ Lies and Social Media Statistics

Another day, another hefty dollop of horseshit about how the social media conversation is changing, irrevocably, life as we know it. (While I’m here, big up to Danny Rogers, the ‘editor’ of PR Week, for this phrase ‘Increasingly one hears that ‘PR is the new advertising’ or ‘conversational content is now king”. On so many different levels, blog trotters mine, on so many different levels. He goes on to say that we need some stats to confirm what we suspected – don’t tar me with your cavalier ‘we’, Danny – as if stats could actually prove that ‘conversational content’, whatever the living crap that is when it’s at home, is indeed ‘king’, another nebulous and completely immeasurable concept. Anyway, the whole stats thing is what’s driving this post, so let’s proceed, shall we?)

Today’s merde de cheval du jour is from the Not PR Week (some may say that this is a good thing),  Communicate Magazine – you may visit its hallowed portal here – swish and flick – crucio!

Anyhoo, it’s an article entitled Fit to Print (which is, indeed, in the print version of the magazine but not, strangely, available online) and it’s about how ‘social media has fundamentally changed online communications over the last few years.’ Backed up by a wodge of statistics – here’s a few examples:

  • 90% more journalists use social media than in 2010
  • Tumblr’s referrals to news sites increase 350% in past year
  • The Independent has seen referrals from Facebook grown (sic) 680% year on year, whilst Twitter referrals have increased 250%

The problem – obviously, I don’t have to point this out, I know, but let’s pretend that there’s one lone blog snorkeller out there who’s maybe just a soupcon less incandescently bright than the rest of us – is that the stats are meaningless. An increase of 350%? Enormous! Unless your starting point was one, or two. In which case it would be up to three and a half, or seven. (I think. Maths never was my forte.) You see, without hard numbers, it’s impossible to tell. And if people are making it difficult for me to see the full picture well – forgive me – I get a little suspicious.

Even when the stats are reasonably clear cut, there’s something not right about it. Read!

“Visits to news and media sites from social networks have increased by 80% in three years up to March 2011, and in that period social networks have gone from providing6.26% of total traffic to news and media sites to providing 11.33%.”

Great! My comment would be that news and media sites are on t’internet, and part of t’digital age. Thus, really, you got to expect that a proportion of their traffic would come from social media, which are also internet-based and part of the much-vaunted digital age. In fact, you’d be forgiven for expecting that the proportion of traffic provided by social networks – if they’re the phenomena everyone says they are – would be CONSIDERABLY FUCKING MORE THAN A MANGY 11.33%. Just sayin’.

Thank God, however, that Communicate magazine got digital content agency Zone to ‘dramatise the findings’.  Interesting choice of words. ‘Dramatise’. Implies making a story out of something. A fiction.

Which is exactly what I remain convinced the hype around social media actually is.

Corporate Communications – Trends for 2011

I don’t really know what I was doing, publishing an overview of communications trends for 2011 – and here’s the good bit – more than halfway through 2011. I was either bored, or labouring under delusions of grandeur and importance, or I was temporarily insane. Possibly for tax reasons. In any case, I’ve just re-visited this post and, with my delusional grandiose Hat of Importance on my head, it is actually quite good.

And it stands up for 2017, also. I’m brilliant, me.

It has been a mighty long time, blog trotters mine, a mighty long time. I’d like to say that it’s because I’ve been doing something incredibly exciting, dangerous and isolated for the last however many months it has been since my last post – like single-handedly piloting a spaceship to Venus, without either lights or a radio, or breaking the world record for lying immobile and silent in a flotation tank.

But, of course, I haven’t. Simply been busy, mind on other stuff, d’you see.

Anyway, without further ado, guess what is the most popular post on my blog? Actually, that’s unfair, it would take you days to trawl through all the posts and even then you’d still be guessing, so I will go ahead and tell you – it’s this.

It seems there are a lot of people out there looking for guidance as to where the Corp Comms industry is going – so desperate are they for answers, any answers, that they’ll even read my blog which, as my faithful followers will attest, is to be found sticking, damply, to the bottom of the internet’s barrel.

Today, therefore, I am – without any source material, without any proof points and without any visible means of support – going to bring you what I believe to be the current Corporate Communications trends in 2011. I think publishing this on July 15 gives you ample amounts of year left in which to follow my trends, slavishly. (It’s very important that they are followed slavishly. Makes all the difference.)

1) Social media. Despite my best efforts and those of the small band of underground Luddites like me, social is showing no signs of going away, and I am afraid, sickening though it is, we are going to have to participate. I myself have just updated the Twitter account that I have never used since I opened it in 2009, and I am going to have a right good twat, when I can think of something useful to contribute. What is interesting, however, is that when we talk about social, we no longer, necessarily, mean Facebook, as even the most weak-minded amongst us is beginning to realise that Zuckerberg is an odious turd who simply wants to control. (Parellels between Murdoch and Zuckerberg anyone?)

The role social media plays in a corporate context will, of course, depend on what sort of corporate you are. Simply put – if you’re an airline, then Twitter is good for twatterating about your routes and your schedules. If you are a global firm of accountants, no amount of Facebooking is going to make you interesting. Know your audience, know yourself, take approriate action.

2) Austerity is with us every waking, breathing day – things are not getting better (unless you’re the Scots couple who won £161m on Monday – why have they waived their right to anonymity? Why?) and it looks like it might get worse – so if you’re talking to the end user, empathise with them and – if you can – give them something. They will love you for it. Especially if it’s beer, or pizza or a free holiday. Do not underestimate the shallow needs of the impoverished.

3) Also driven by austerity is the need for inclusion – we’re all in this together, even if we’re not – so when formulating comms plans, be part of the group you’re talking to, think the things they’re thinking, watch the stuff they’re watching, eat the food they’re eating. This maybe very nasty, if your medium is the Daily Mail, but trust me, no-one’s listening to stuff that doesn’t come from within.

4) Austerity, the threat of a winter of discontent, rising fuel prices (incidentally, if – dear reader – you work for an energy company and you’re searching for a way to make your company/executives look good – I’m sorry, you are a reprehensible reptile and there is nothing for you here), rising taxes, perhaps even rising interest rates – we need something to snigger at. Do communicate with humour, there’s a chap – it should be clever and whimsical and it should make ’em laugh.

5) Transparency is an old ideal, but let’s remind ourselves that without transparency, you don’t have trust and without trust you don’t have any sort of relationship. More and more important these days – we’re all feeling threatened, we’re all worried about the future and no-one’s goingto be loyal to anyone or anything unless they’re certain it’s clean, and they can see what makes it tick. And if you feel you can’t be transparent then, for goodness sake, go away and clean yourself up until you can.

6) Working together – another much-vaunted ideal – but one that’s still conspicuous by its absence. what it means is simply eschewing the cult of the ego, realising that it doesn’t matter where the idea comes from if the idea is the right one and all pulling together to make it effective. That’s PR and advertising and marketing and direct mail and digital. It also means being polite to each other and playing nicely. This way, everyone’s interest is served. Honest.

So this is where I think we’re going in 2011. I’d be interested to know what others (anyone?) think.

Social Media In The Workplace – Medieval Thinking

Morning snorkellers.

Yesterday, you may recall, I stuck up a much-viewed and widely-discussed (I am almost certain that it probably was) post – Social Media In The Workplace – The Debate Rageth On – in which I set out my (by now pretty ragged from overuse) stall of arguments as to why allowing employees access to social media during working hours is not, on the whole, a Good Thing.

This was in response to a post on stopblocking.org (do the clickety-doo here) which – unfortunately – I found (and still find) a little too glib and easy for my taste. Anyway, long story short – as I guess was to be expected – the author of the post (one Shel Holtz) has reacted in kind (see, here!) in which he has, quite kindly, actually, put me straight on a number of my points. Again, right-thinking blog snorkellers mine, you may wish to don the mental equivalent of a welding mask before viewing his (lengthy) sounding off, but it does highlight at least one thing. You’re social, or you’re not. The whole debate over its usefulness has become so widespread and heated that there is no choice but to choose sides. Choose wisely, young padawan.

Anyway, Shel also had a bit of a twat about my post. He described it as thinking from the medieval era. Which, in turn, got me thinking. Would it not be fair to say that today’s many-too-many of social media strategists and specialists and gurus and advisers are, in reality, little different from the mendicant monks that would trudge the filthy by-ways and low roads of the 16th century, looking for the gullible and lazy, to whom to sell their fake and worthless relics? ‘Look here, lumpen peasant with your interesting diseases, shiny thing make it all better.’ ‘Be certain of your passage to heaven with this splinter from the one, true media – sorry – cross!’

Wasn’t that time one of mountebanks and charlatans, dissimulation and deceit? Rather than being medieval myself, I rather think I’m trying to prevent those who wish to get all medieval on our asses.

Social Media In The Workplace – The Debate Rageth On

It’s been a long time, gentle readers, since I came across something that deserves an award for its icky, sticky, company hippy nature, its inherent stupidity and intellectual laziness and its truly horrible smug and self-satisfied tone. But today is the day – it chills my very soul to introduce this, the Stop Blocking website and it disheartens me even further to link to this, a piece entitled ‘Demolishing Barclays Communications’ Blocking Argument Point-by-Point’.

Now, for this post to make sense to you, you’re going to have to do the clickety-dickety and read the article. You may wish to have a bucket and a towel handy while you do so and also to warn anyone in the immediate vicinity that your anguished howling is nothing to be alarmed about. Unless it goes on for longer than – say – thirty minutes, in which case it may be the onset of PTSD.

In brief, this is a continuation of the battle between two diametrically opposed viewpoints – that employees in the workplace should have no access to social networks during work hours whatsoever (which I do not believe to be a workable solution to the insidious eville of social) and that employees should be free to do what they want, when they want, simply girdled with a loose set of suggestions and guidelines. Which, as a solution to the problem of social media in a corporate context (and it is a problem, mark my words) is also a nasty pile of cattle droppings. In a nutshell, it’s the Corporate Nazi vs Company Hippy debate, which I have posted about before.

Thing is, the Company Hippy arguments for social media, used here, are the same ones that have been trotted out since social media began. And they didn’t make sense then, and they don’t make sense now. On top of that, here they are dusted with the icing of  ‘research’ and ‘example’ – and we all know how easy it is to find support for an argument. Any argument. (Don’t make me give you specifics.)

Here’s just a few idiocies:

  • Apparently, all workers, regardless of status or paygrade, put in extra hours and therefore compensate for any time that they may waste using social networks. Of course they do. In the same way that they all love the company that they work for, its senior management and its brands
  • Productivity suffers if employees can’t connect to social networks at work (thanks, University of Melbourne!). Apparently use of social media ‘resets an employee’s concentration’. How DID we manage to concentrate before?
  • Because the US Department of Defense has opened its networks to social media, does not mean that LargeCorp Industries LLC (in the business of profit, not homeland security) should – it’s not a question of risk from cyber-attack, it’s a question of perceived need and value. (In any case, I would ask whether the ‘private in the field in Afghanistan’ is free to change his status willy-nilly (‘Safe behind a wall’ to ‘In a ditch with blast concussion’) or to share any sort of geographic or temporal information)
  • Company ‘confidentiality can be violated anywhere, even an elevator’. True – but your average elevator holds 12 people and Facebook holds a potentially eavesdropping audience of 450 million. Go figure
  • ‘Many employees carry smartphones – or they can (access social media) from home after work’ – again, true. But what they do on their own time is their own business – unless it contravenes company policy on how they may represent themselves as employees, or the laws of the land – in which case they get fired. In the workplace – well, the clue is in the name – ‘work’place. Not ‘fun’place or ‘do-your-own-thing’place
  • ‘If normal use of bandwidth (this refers to employee use of social media) is slowing (your) network to a crawl, get more bandwidth.’ Just go to your finance guys and ask them to approve an increase in your budget, to purchase bandwidth to allow your employees to update their Facebook statii. That’s bound to work. Job done

All of this is hopelessly Utopian – the ideals of an imaginary world where everyone is nice, contented, loyal and trustworthy. Well, here’s the wake-up call. They’re not, and you need to bear that in mind when thinking about social media use in the workplace.

The solution, however (and it’s the one point on which I vaguely coincide with Stop Blocking) is not to shut down employee access to the internet. You see, it’s the internet that is (or can be) a useful corporate tool, it’s the internet which – as much as I still think this is a sucky argument – ‘resets concentration’ – not social media. Social media is wasteful and vainglorious. The internet is (partly) full of useful information, commentary and viewpoint.  Social media is full of weak-minded individuals who honestly believe that what they do and think is of interest to others (see Twitter).

How can you do it? Some companies have a couple of open-access machines in their public areas, for employees to use when they’re on breaks and time spent on these machines is (obviously) monitored by other employees – much like smokers on smoking breaks, internet users will be kept honest by their peers. Other companies make internet access a privilege, granted to those who’ve achieved – promotion, sales targets, whatever – although this is obviously a little elitist. Others allow internet access, but block social media sites – possibly the best of the options.

What is essential, however, is a good, solid, draconian Use of Social Media Policy and an internal communication plan to make sure that no-one can claim ignorance of it. Needless to say, this Policy should outline clearly how an employee may represent the company or brand online and in social media – what is acceptable and what is not – and, most importantly, make it clear that it applies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Enforce it rigorously, because there’s nothing like a public hanging to make people understand that you are – and it is – serious.

So, Did You Bury The Bad News?

Ah well, so I don’t seem completely curmudgeonly, and before I go any further, congratulations from all here at The Wordmonger (that’ll be me then, and the tumbleweed, and the wind, moaning softly through the broken shutters) to Kate and William. Who knew? (And, for the record, I’m with Mrs Middleton on toilet and pardon. ‘Excuse me, I must rush off to the lavatory’? Puh-lease.)

Anyway, blog snorkellers mine, it was (and still is, get in quickly) a good day to bury some bad news. I look forward to the City pages of the Evening Standard this evening. However, if you’re Ireland, I think it may not be a good enough day to bury the sizeable tranche of horrid tidings concerning your wrecked economy and starving population. Clearly, I don’t actually know that they’re starving, but it seems a fair assumption, based on the reportage to date. (I’m going to Ireland for Christmas – do hope it’s picked up by then.)

So, and back to the wholly unlikely and unexpected Royal union – did anyone else clock the similarity between that famous piccy of a young Diana in a (wholly appropriately enough) diaphanous skirt, and a young Catherine Middleton in her undies and a diaphanous dress? (Only there’s something of the grubby about Kate – in a good way, obviously.) If one were cynical enough, and of a conspiracy theory bent, one might almost say it is too serendipitous. Non? Or is just me?

I’m losing track. I don’t often (ever, actually) post links to social media, but I found this on Twitter this morning and it resonated. Enjoy!

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.

So Many Pitfalls, So Little Time…

And, as I’m not exactly overburdened with spare time myself right this instant, I’ll get straight to the point, dearest blog snorkellers.

Regular snorkellers of this blog will know where I stand. (What’s that? ‘Just to the right of Genghis Khan’? See me afterwards, Blog Snorkeller Minor.) Social media, while not exactly evil (in themselves), are much overrated and are certainly no great shakes in the big MacDonald’s Happy Meal that is marketing and communications. But they are potentially dangerous – which is why I have always advocated tight controls on, and careful monitoring of, their use in a corporate context. There is, sweet reader, massive potential for you and your brand to be sitting, waiting, at home for Mr Fuckup to call.

My other pet bugbear (I breed domesticated bugbears – small, furry, friendly and – if you keep them well fed – they won’t eat your children) is the lack of real talent in PR. Enthusiasm maybe, talent, not so much. And the appalling lack of basic skills. This has always been the case mind, but, for god’s sake, if you can’t write, what are you doing here?

So imagine my delight when I come across this.

Oh yes, people, a blog on behalf of a big PR agency. And they’ve let some hapless staffer loose ‘as part of the foodie contingent of the H&K blogging bunch’. And she can’t write – “Although the initial instinct is that there can be nothing less festive than a pot noodle, it begs to differ that the mere intrigue of such a flavour will generate sales on its own.”

So – it’s a twofer! I’ve got a PR person who – while undoubtedly enthusiastic – is in need of some training, and I’ve found it through the medium of social! (Well, a blog is social media, isn’t it?)  

Serious questions, mind. Who’s moderating the H&K blog, why didn’t they spot this and why doesn’t the company have a more stringent policy in place? Far, far worse – this is a global communications company. They’re supposed to be good at this shit. Much reputational damage on the wold, I’d say.

(I really do hope I’ve haven’t left any typos in this. Now really would not be the time.)