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.

Chips and Beans

Chips and beans – staple foodstuffs – the very foundation of a robust and balanced diet. Every day, three times a day, if I had a choice. (Sorry, dearest blog trotters, I find myself a little lacking in the breakfast department and – quite frankly – I could suck a frozen dog.)

But this post isn’t about me and my almost unmanageable craving for fried food, no, it’s about ideas. And it touches on what I believe to be a potential communication trend for 2011, so, if’n’ your in the field of communications, you might want to stick around to the end.

I’ve touched on the topic before – there’s this debate that rages on in the communications background (and when I say comms, I mean advertising, marketing, PR and corporate communications because, unlike so many others, I AM inclusive and I embrace both sides of the line and, yea, through it as well – I am, truly, a renaissance communicator) which occasionally surfaces almost, but not totally, completely unlike a small volcanic eruption – and the debate is – who owns the idea?

Obviously, the answer is – who gives a shit who owns the idea? If the idea is a great one, we should all embrace it and use it as a great theme for our part of the business mix. Unfortunately, too many companies trammelled by ‘not invented here’ syndrome, meaning many good ideas smothered at birth. I’ve had my fair share.

So how genuinely marvellous to see a totally fantastic idea (I cannot tell you how much I am in awe of this idea), being used across a business – increasing sales, making consumers feel warm inside, evoking memories, generating laughter and, I’d wager, bringing the home team together in an internal-communications-stylee. Yes, blog snorkellers, it really is that good. And it’s for beans. Baked beans. Heinz baked beans to be exact.

Here it is in all its glory, presented through the medium of film. (Obviously, I’d prefer it if it were presented through the medium of insane industrial mime, but you cannot have everything, as me old mam used to say. Still does, in fact.)

So, the idea – for you lazy, lazy slackers who cannot be bothered wid da clickety – is a resealable jar of baked beans. A screw-top jar. Why is it so good? Let me count the ways (and sorry if I miss some):

  • We’ve all had that ‘not used all the beans in the tin moment’. What do you do with the ones that are left?
  • It is a childhood memory for everyone. Newborn babies know about leftover beans, at a genetic level
  • It is humorous
  • It is a money-spinner – a screw-top jar of beans is going to be more costly than a tin
  • It makes the workforce feel proud

It, genuinely, is a work of genius. Have I said this before? It works across every piece of the business melange. And no, it is not important who had the idea, it is important what everyone does with the idea. This could be a communications trend for 2011 – everyone working together – through-the-linery – accepting that the brilliant concept can come from anywhere. Chances of it happening?

Briefly, then, chips. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for a restaurant chain. I had an extremely creative PR agency. We needed some local media coverage, because we couldn’t afford to advertise or offer local discounts.

(PR purists, look away now.)

We made up a story – the story being that this restaurant chain were launching something called a ‘Pincher’s Portion’ of chips. This  was – supposedly – a half-portion of chips that you could order for your girlfriend to stop her eating yours (after having flatly denied that she actually wanted any). This is very resonant – every bloke in the entire world – at a subatomic level – knows how frustrating – and true – this scenario can be.

It was brilliant – the coverage was beyond our wildest dreams. And better, the NPD department looked at the idea, worked out how they could implement it, and made it a reality. A half-portion of chips at three-quarters of the price of a full one. Money spinner. Again, doesn’t matter who had the idea – a good idea can benefit everyone.

Finally, riding on the tube the other day, I saw a big poster advertising MacDonalds. It featured a packet of chips. With fingers. And the slogan ‘pick packet’. It minded me of the Pinchers Portion and also of the fact that no-one has a monopoly on ideas. At any one time, different people all over the shop are having the same idea. Embrace the idea – once again, it doesn’t matter who had the idea – it’s what you do with it that counts.

I am really, really hungry.

God Loves Facebook

Proof, if any were needed, that the world is no longer a suitable place for right-thinking people like you and me, blog snorkellers mine, in light of the fact that it has gone completely and utterly hatstand.

Here’s some numbers for you. $500m. $50bn. $2m minimum. Can you tell what it is yet? How about $850m and $10m (or less)?

Well, the first set of figures is what the workers of God (the lovely people at Goldman Sachs) have invested in Facebook (in conjunction with some Russian oligarch), the apparent valuation this puts on Facebook’s business and the amount of liquid lolly you would have to ante up to participate in God’s social media investment vehicle. The second set of figures is what the founder of Bebo sold his company for in 2008, and the amount of money that was paid for it by a venture capitalist in June last year.

Now Bebo, according to Google Trends (March 2010), had around 1.5m unique visitors. Facebook, according to the same Google Trends in the same period, had roughly 210m. At which point, if Bebo is to be valued at $10m (or less), then Facebook would have been worth a maximum $1.5bn. And now it’s worth $50bn.

Absolutely amazing growth. If only one could invest in it. But – hold on – now you can! And all thanks to those super and – by common acknowledgement of the very clever people on Wall Street – very clever people at Goldman Sachs. Fact is, of course, through the miracle of trading stuff of which I wot not, that one has been able to trade in social media ‘shares’ for some time – an option that will no longer be available to one if one throws one’s lot in with God. Along with the option of pulling one’s money out if it all goes tits up before 2013.

So, what is wrong with this picture, people? OK, I know you’re all embarrassed to put your hand up in front of so many people, so I’ll tell you. 

  • Facebook is not worth $50bn. It isn’t. End of. ( In the same way that tulip bulbs were never worth 50 gold coins, Skype and Friends Reunited were never worth billions and millions respectively and a one-bedroom flat overlooking Dublin’s M50 was never worth half a million euro)
  • Goldman Sachs are obviously angling for the right to handle the flotation of Facebook and the fees that would accrue from said flotation
  • The Busy Bees of God have shaped an investment vehicle that may well carry a bunch of high net worth individuals to their doom. As it crashes on the rocks of fiscal prudence, they will look to God’s Worker who should be in the driving seat. He (or indeed she) will probably, and conveniently, be somewhere else
  • Fabrice Tourre, Abacus 2007-AC1. ‘Nuff said

I think it is highly likely that Les Travailleurs de Dieu will get this one away. I think it is highly likely that many many investors will put their money into the phenomenon that is social. I think it highly likely that this headlong rush to make money out of the shiny thing will contage (hey, looky here! I made up a new word) and social media that exist on the very boundaries of understanding will become enormously valuable and a new generation of uber-geeks will become – if they sell at the right time – hideously wealthy. I think it highly likely that, despute the recent opportunity to learn from our mistakes, another bubble will expand and burst, leaving far more losers than winners. God – through his Workers – will be, most likely, a winner.

As someone who has some knowledge of these things said to me: “if they float, short them. Short the shit out of them.” Sounds sensible to me.

Anyway – as evidence that you can always find someone to support any argument – here’s a piece that’s probably more rational than my post. Enjoy!

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.

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!