It’s Such A Fine Line Between Stupid And….Er…Clever

And I find myself experiencing an echo of the dilemma that faced Nigel Tufnel and David St Hubbins (St Hubbins – the patron saint of quality footwear) in that meisterwerk of the filmmakers’ oeuvre ‘This is Spinal Tap’, when I read this:

Social media nonsense

This – and I simply had to scan it, to display it in all its awfulness/brilliance – is taken from the Metro, an ubiquitous free morning paper of no renown whatever, that recycles news from the papers of the day before, although occasionally breaking an overnighter, its sole purpose being to occupy the dreary commute of (and here it gets interesting) literally hundreds of thousands of drone workers, every single day. This is an extraordinarily influential organ – getting people on their way to work, just as their brains are gunning up through the gears to their normal default velocity of barely-controlled-fury miles an hour.

Which makes this work of genius/idiocy all the more concerning. Someone might take it seriously. It’s printed on the business pages. Someone vaguely influential might read it before their inbuilt b*ll*cks detector has properly come on-line. Someone might take these ideas away and try and do something with them. Someone might – heaven forbid – promulgate the teachings of this clown Taylor. (Yes, it may, indeed, be a fine line between stupid and clever, but I have made my decision. I do not feel that David Taylor of 2010Media has come anywhere near crossing it. This is not his Rubicon. He is stuck in Stupidstan and has no means of getting to Cleverica.)

Where to start? No, David, social media are not specialist marketing tools. This has been amply demonstrated by the failures of massive companies like Pepsi, and Ford, and Dell to make any real correlation between social media and sales, and to create any meaningful revenue streams from social media. The only people who claim that social media are marketing tools are the charlatans that prey on the unwary and the foolish, selling the modern-day equivalent of charms and amulets guaranteed to turn base metal into gold and animate the inanimate. Are you a charlatan, David?

The point is, actually, well-made – if you’re having a conversation with a customer, then you don’t leave it to the work-experience lad to conduct that conversation, or decide what to say. But it’s a statement of the bleeding obvious. What’s dangerous is the assumption that you might ‘want your Twitter feed to sing and your Facebook page to be well(sic)liked’, implying that you somehow are obliged to have both of those items. Guess what? You’re not. You don’t have to use either of these media – it won’t make a blind bit of difference. Sure, there are some companies and brands that might wish to consider using social media as additional communications tools, and might be advised to, but for them somehow to be obligatory is nonsense.

And finally, if you want to be taken seriously, then have an eye to your own brand and corporate reputation. Just because you’re called Taylor, David, doesn’t mean that you should, or that you have to, have an alliterative title. Is your Twitter feed entitled @Taylor’sTwats? I suspect it isn’t. But ‘Taylor’s Titbits (fnaar fnaar) with David Taylor’ is arguably as close as you’re going to get.

The Kiss of Death – Yahoo Promise Not To Screw It Up

So a truly enormous ’nuff respec’ (as I believe the young people would have it) to David Karp (who’s making ‘Koi’ jokes now, eh?) for getting Yahoo to pay a truly staggering £750m for his web creation, Tumblr. Yes, I realise that, in the great scheme of it all, when Glencore and Xstrata are talked about in hushed £76bn tones, that £750m is loose change, but – d’you see – here’s the thing – Tumblr, with all its 102 million blogs and 44.6 billion posts, doesn’t actually make any money.

In the aftermath of the Yahoo acquisition announcement, one analyst actually said that it was hard to see how it would (despite being data rich and capable of providing loads of information about its, mostly young, users). I thought that was a bit naughty of said analyst – mostly, they hold their tongues on this topic, at least until the smoke has cleared, for fear that it will all unravel. As well it might because, and maybe it’s just me, the way you’d normally value a company is on a multiple of its earnings. And if it doesn’t earn anything, well – you do the math. Or not. Because, of course, there isn’t any math to do.

In the meantime, while we’re pondering how nothing can be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and Mr Karp is sitting in his bare garret in wherever it is (‘I don’t own any books’ he said – go figure) counting his couple of hundred million dollars and – apparently – not wondering what to spend it on (am I alone in finding it deeply sad and slightly suspect that a 26-year old with $200m, even if he is called Karp, is not, for example, buying a swimming pool and filling it full of Puligny Montrachet and inviting his girlfriend to ‘come on in, the white Burgundy’s lovely’?) the users of Tumblr are bemoaning the site’s apparently inevitable fate.

“A white-hot poker into the woodwork” was one such comment, although Tumblr and Yahoo are not, of course, made of wood, and even if they were, a white hot poker is not something you’d necessarily plunge into the woodwork, a chainsaw being that much more effective when dealing with woodwork, but you have to admire the sentiment as you do the simpler ‘Tumblr’s going to suck’. But how do they know? From what I know of Tumblr, I think it’s pretty ‘sucky’ (is that a word?) already.

I do note that Yahoo are talking about ‘light touch advertising’ – which doesn’t sound good – but I’m at a loss in trying to understand why – with 300 million unique users, people somehow think of Tumblr as being independent and in a way ‘theirs’. It’s not. It’s a commercial concern – or Yahoo would like it to be – and just because Big Purple has bought it, does not mean it is going to change significantly. They’ve promised that Fish Boy will remain CEO and his team will continue to run the business – this, also, does not mean that it is going to stay significantly the same. If you see what I mean.

Oh – and to my great joy, at least one pundit left the word ‘social’ out of his descriptor, referring to Tumblr simply as ‘media’.  Or maybe it was a typo.

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’.

When Two Become One – Social Media and the Abuse of Language

Boom, snorkellers mine! Or is it ‘boosh’? Recently I had my faith in ‘boom’ as the young person’s emphatic of choice somewhat shaken when the young person I use as my ‘young person barometer’ opted for the latter. But it is possible that said young person was still coated in fall-out from the Jack Black oeuvre ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, where Mr Black does, in fact, use ‘boosh’ to denote triumph and satisfaction. Which then begs the question, did he use ‘boosh’ because he is American? Or because it was a family movie? Or both?  I will admit to worrying slightly about ‘boom’, as I suspect it has overtones of ‘gangsta’. But, and indeed, hey – that’s the way I roll.

Which digression leads us nicely into the theme of today’s meander down language lane. Oh yes, syntaxmen, grammarians and semanticleers, another excursion into the verbiage. So, those of you who’ve been here before (wind whistles round an empty, cavernous space and a small, adolescent tumbleweed rolls gently into the dusty distance) will know that one of my greatest bugbears is the abuse of language – whether that’s language used wrongly, or words that are made up, slapdash errors or mistakes that have become so commonplace that they are now practically accepted as part of the language they undermine. I refer, of course, to apostrophe’s.

The other thing that makes me seethe, of course, is social media. Now – and before anyone starts – I am not a social media denier. How can anyone be a social media denier? I am someone who does not believe that social media is the be-all and end-all. I see no reason for there to be a social media industry. I have no time for social media gurus. I do not believe that social media add any real value whatsoever, and I remain convinced that they are practically useless in any sort of commercial (sales and marketing) environment. At best another set of media for communications purposes, at worst, dangerous, misguided and damaging (for a brand or organisation, anyway). Shallow, one-dimensional and self-obsessed – that’s social.

So imagine my joy when I came across this: “We have learned through experience tweeple don’t like brands jumping in if they have chosen not to include them. It could cause a black lash especially if they are out spoken. It is strange but they don’t like being watched even though
it’s public forum.

Do the users of Twitter know they’re being called ‘tweeple’? Do they call themselves ‘tweeple’? Are the Tweeple the inhabitants of Tweetville? If there are many Tweeple, are there individual Twersons? Does anyone have any idea how much this makes social media seem like a figment of the imagination of Dr Seuss and one that makes even less sense than a portion of green eggs and ham? What, social medians, are you thinking of?

I am a guardian of corporate reputation by profession. Something I’ve learnt is that, if you want to be taken seriously, you don’t give yourself a ridiculous name. It takes a long time and a lot of effort before you can start being jokey with your brand, and even then, the jokes have got to be clever and make people think. Or, of course, you can start out with a ‘whacky’ personality (Innocent Drinks) but even then it needs to be thought through to the nth degree. In this case, you’ve got a case of the whackies without any longevity or substance. And it is value and reputation-destructive.

But, hey (again), go with the flow. In the spirit of entente cordiale, here are a few generic nouns I’ve come up with for the users of other social media. These are free and anyone can use them without even thanking me. (Although it would be nice, obviously.)

Faceboks. Tumbleers. Foursquats. Instagrates. Youtubigrips. Pinteresticles.

And, of course, it’s not Tweeple.

It’s Twats.

That Old Content Myth

So. I’ve been reading a book with the rather pointed title of ‘Social Media is Bullshit’, by one BJ Mendelson. Available from Amazon, it is (sound a bit like Yoda, there – ‘when 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not’ – and I’m fairly certain this post will not change the opinon of that great morass of people who think I’m a dinosaur), at a fairly impressive price, even for the Kindle edition, of over eight of your finest sovereigns. As, as someone pointed out to me, you don’t actually get anything papery for that, neither.

That being as it may, as it usually is, I was delighted to find that someone had written a book agreeing with my entire premise on the subject of social, and that, therefore, if there are two of us, there must be more. Not alone. Like the caveman crawling out of the dark and gazing up at the stars – ‘I’m not alone’. (Obviously, that was his second thought, coming shortly after ‘Oh f*ck me, would you ever look at that.’)

Anyway, the premise of the book is that social media are just more media. Nothing special about them, nothing magical and certainly nothing life-changing. With social media, as with so much else, your success will be dictated by luck, how well-known you were beforehand, whether you’re famous already and how much money you’re prepared to spank away on other types of communication (this is important chaps) to bolster your social. But mostly it’s luck.

All this horsedoo about content and community and conversation is exactly that – just horsedoo. Ideas propagated by the only people who will ever ‘monetise’ social media – yep, the snake-oil-selling social media gurus, the ones who make their money out of telling you how to make social work for you. (And the answer still remains – ‘it doesn’t’.)

All of this put me in mind of something I wrote a while back – actually a comment on another blog. It was about just that idea that somehow social media ‘content’ is a mystical, magical substance that doesn’t have to obey the same rules as traditional ‘stuff’ – by which I mean be interesting, compelling, unique or new. All things that news used to be before it – oh, hold on, news still is, isn’t it? It’s the main currency of broadcast and print media – still very much alive, still terribly well, thanks, and communicating effectively with an enormous audience near you right now.

Here you are (nothing like promoting my own thoughts):

“It’s still about news. News is content, content is news. No-one is (in the main) interested in something that’s not new to them. The old adage about the things that make news – sex, celebrity, money, technology, controversy and ‘fluffy bunnies’ – still holds true.

The press release was always treated like spam, even in the days when they were delivered in cleft sticks by men in loincloths. Why? Because news releases were, are and always will be – in the main – badly targeted and of little relevance to the person receiving them.

The CEO of Joe Bloggs, the clothing company, was known as Chef Underpant Officer – probably apocryphal, although I’d love it to be true. No matter, the point is that it’s not importnt what you’re called, if you’re in communications, your job is to create presence for your clients and their messages.

Which is why all this conversation, community, content nonsense is exactly that – nonsense. We’re not in the game of creating communities, or conversation, on the offchance that someone might wish to participate, not more are we in the game of creating lovely free content that someone might wish to view.

We – as communicators – are in the business of selling. Which is why social media don’t really work as commercial marketing or comms tools.”


Social Media – Waiting for the Wheels to Fall Off

I say, I say, I say. What do you call 600,000 people leaving Facebook? I’m afraid I do not know what I would call 600,000 people leaving Facebook – do please enlighten me. You would call it – a start! (Ba-dum tish. Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week, next show starts at eight-thirty, do try the veal etc etc etc.)

So that’s the news today, blog trotters mine, off of the back of Instagram (something that allows you to share photos apparently – although why you would want to share photos with anyone save close friends and family, unless you wuz an exhibitionist – hold on, you’re not an exhibitionist are you?) losing vast swathes of its user base because it was going to sell people’s pictures to advertisers. (Thank you, Metro.)

Two things, people. If you stick your photos up on t’interworldyweb, then someone is going to use them. Get over it, stupid. If you give away your privacy, you won’t have it any more. Derrrr. Then, Mr Instagram (or can I call you Brian?), as I’ve said before, in the socially mediaevil world that we live in, if you try and blatantly monetise the onlinesters, they will disappear without a trace. AND THEY WILL NOT COME BACK. And neither will anyone else. Call yourself a guru, Brian? You’re just another soft-centred hippy getting the whole ‘business’ thing badly wrong.

Meanwhile, although it’s too soon to say (I know) – but when has that ever stopped me – the feeling has to be that Facebook is falling into the same trap (albeit in a different way). The thing about Facebook, as I understood it, was that it was a free-for-all, free-to-air community, happily unregulated, where people could live and share and communicate (and, obviously, be trolls and dump their garbage and bully and groom and all the other exciting stuff that people get up to in their darkened rooms on the outskirts of Grimsby).

Now we find that His Odiousness, the Markster, is about to zuck you all, once again, with a something. Not sure whether it’s a device, or a piece of software. but, guaranteed, he’s going to be monetising you. He’s coming for your cash. Because that’s the only way he can prop up his hideously over-valued and over-inflated empire.

And if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it – oooooh – a handful of times, if you get all blatantly commercial on your social media bunnies, they scamper off into the undergrowth. Which is why, dear blogsters, the news that the ‘book is building something, and wants the media to come and see what it is, and the subsequent speculation that it’s a ‘phone, or a search engine, has led to a bit of a dead-hippy bounce in the share price (because maybe the something will be revenue-generating) and an exodus of some 600,000 facebook users.

As the yout’ of today would have it – ‘boom’.