Some More Thoughtful Social Media Commentary

You know me, not much of a socio-mediavelist on the whole – but, still, I bet you thought I’d gone a bit Southern (for my friends from the United States and America, ‘southern’ in this context means ‘effeminate’, not ‘toothless, hairy, armed and smelling of bourbon’) (and for my UK fans, yes, I am a southerner, so it is perfectly alright for me to use the word ‘southern’, as it is not offensive. In the same way I could use the word ‘gay’, if I wanted to) (which would be offensive) when I stopped ranting about t’social and how it represents a direct road to hell for civilsation as we know it.

Anyway, rumours of my descent into southernness have been greatly exaggerated, as demonstrated by this article from that stalwart bulwark of editorial honesty (on matters communication), Communicate Magazine. I cannot tell you how much I echo the sentiments in this article – not all of them, obviously, there is some very Southern thinking contained within – and how I am in complete agreement with the school of thought that says social media are completely irrelevant. (OK, that’s not EXACTLY what it says, but near enough as makes no difference. To my mind.)

I also admire the (again, to my mind) extremely clever way that one of the authors – the one in the right, obviously, the one on the side of truth and justice – has designated social media ‘SM’, which, of course, is simply shorthand for a very Southern practice indeed.

Yes, I am wholly in favour of one half of this article.

The one that I wrote, clearly.

 

Facebook – Show Me The Money

Today, I present, for your delight and delectation, a piece from the Wall Street Journal, a regional newspaper with a reasonable circulation, entitled ‘Big Brands like Facebook But They Don’t Like To Pay’. I am not going to paraphrase or summarise the article so, lazy blog trotters, you’ll have to get all clickety wid it for yourselves.

So, to my mind, there a few key points to be dragged out of this, and you’ll forgive me for re-ordering them, but in the following sequence, they make more sense:

  • Facebook’s global revenues were ‘not as robust as I would have expected”, said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson.
  • Facebook’s estimated market value, now in the neighborhood of $70 billion, is founded on the belief that companies will spend big to advertise on the site. Facebook’s revenues, which come largely from ads, were $1.6bn in the first half of this year, up $800m from a year earlier.
  • Facebook is expected to capture just 6.4% of total online ad spending this year, according to estimates by eMarketer.
  • EMarketer expects Facebook’s ad revenues to reach $2bn in the US, from 162 million unique users, according to comScore; Google is expected to earn $12.8bn in US ad revenue from 184.6 million unique US users, according to comScore.
  • The auto maker (Ford)……….said it spent less that 5% of its total online ad budget for the (Ford Focus) campaign on Facebook.
  • Martin Sorrell………..said Facebook works for brand building, but companies that use traditional advertising “are invading a social space. You have to be extremely careful”.
  • “You can give them money, and they can give you Likes,” said Mr Kelly (Scott Kelly, Ford’s head of digital marketing), “but the question is, what is the value of those Likes?”
  • “Likeonomics.” Rohit Bhargrava, SVP with WPP agency, Ogilvy.
  • Facebook says 96% of the top 100 US advertisers, as ranked by Ad Age, bought ads on the site in the past year. Of the world’s 100 largest companies, 61% have a presence on the seven-year old company, up from 54% last year, according to Burson Marsteller.
  • Sony Corp is shifting 30% of its traditional ad budget into social sites, including Facebook, for its Playstation console. Diageo, maker of Smirnoff and Guinness, committed in September to spending more than $10m on Facebook ads.

So, snorkellers all, I’m just throwin’ this out there:

  • Facebook’s immense valuation is based on its certainty that companies will spend big on ads. They’re not. Most of the ‘Book’s ad revenue comes from SMEs.
  • Ford used Facebook for its ‘viral’ possibilities – it spent a little and then pulled the spend once momentum had been achieved. Ford’s head of digital raises questions over value.
  • Martin Sorrell issues a warning against traditional advertising on Facebook and even Diageo (one of ‘Facebook’s recent successes’) is only committing $10m to Facebook ads – which is hardly the big bucks Facebook needs.
  • 61 of the world’s top 100 companies have a ‘presence’ on Facebook – define ‘presence’, please

I’m still looking for the Emperor’s underwear here.

My perception is that Facebook is finding it tough going monetising its undoubtedy enormous user base – and this is partly because savvy companies (Ford amongst them) realise that – whetever value there may be in using Facebook as a marketing and sales tool – it is not delivered through advertising on the site.

Facebook themselves are not helping their cause as David Fischer, VP of advertising and global operations for Facebook, has said that the company is “building our business for the long-term” – and turning down ads that compromise the user experience. In addition, Facebook ads are small – because of an early decision by Zuckerberg to keep the site uncluttered.

Sorry Facebook – you can’t have it both ways. You can either liberate the revenues and sell companies what they’ll pay for – or you can stick with your ideals, and never realise the potential that might (just might) justify the frankly obscene estimated market value that’s being bandied about.

My bet is that Zuckerberg will attempt to have his cake and eat it – and the rumoured float next year will be a car crash of epic proportions.

Reinventing Online Shopping With ‘Social Commerce’

Thanks to The Globe and Mail (Toronto) for this article published yesterday, entitled ‘Retail Giant’s @Walmartlabs plans to reinvent shopping with ‘social commerce’.  You can read it by doing the light clicktastic on this word here.

Working in retail in 2000, as I did, one of the questions that ‘brick-and-mortar’ retailers were often asked was ‘do you feel threatened by the rise of e-commerce?’ To which the answer was ‘no – people will always want to experience real goods, in real time, in real surroundings, sold by real people.’ At the time they were right, the tech bubble imploded and things (briefly) went back to how they were.

But, d’you see, we got it wrong – both the question and the answer. We got the question wrong because we didn’t know what to ask – social media had not been invented – and we got the answer wrong because we could never have imagined how reliant people would become on the opinions, statuses, needs, wants and ill-informed dogmatism of others.

The question now is – as a ‘brick-and-mortar’, offline retailer, do you feel threatened by social media?’ And the answer really should be ‘yes’. When Walmart are bringing social media to the in-store shopping experience (want a review of the microwave you’re looking at? Post a message – a member of staff or another customer will respond to you. Want to know where the peanut butter is? Post a message – someone will respond) then you can be certain that this – or something like it – is the future.

And as for the boy turd Zuckerberg – yes, of course he’s in on it. To quote the article – ‘this is where Shopycat comes in. The Facebook application uses social media profiles and comments to generate gift ideas’. Back to Walmart’s breathless tech spokesperson, Venky Harinarayan. (No disprespect to Venky, he (or she, I suppose) has already made a sizeable fortune selling Walmart a thing called Junglee, a shopping comparison site. Well done, that capitalist.)

“It is becoming clear to us that one of the shopping behaviors that people have that is inherently social is gifting. We are building a product that we believe makes peoples’ gifting much more efficient, because all of your friends and family, within reason, are on Facebook. We are leveraging that information to help you buy better gifts and make it easier for you. We believe gifting and social networks are fundamentally made for each other, so getting that right over the next year will be important to us.”

D’you know, snorkellers mine, I’m going to leave it there. I’ll let you work out the number of different levels on which this is just so wrong.  I’ll start you off.

‘Efficient gifting.’

Baileys on Face

Ah, snorkellers mine. D’you know what day it is? It is Sad Day.

You know that ( to my mind) rather charming and evocative painting by the clearly quite stable Mr Munch – The Scream? That, dear trotters all, is a bit like how I feel today, on Sad Day, only the painting doesn’t quite capture the same sense of lonely, existential despair.

(Incidentally, do you think that Edvard had a brother, Monster? Or, as it would be in the original Norwegian, Munster?)

So, I hear you breathlessly cry (or, technically, ‘cry breathlessly’ – let’s try and keep our infinitives unsplit), what is the cause of my misery on this, Sad Day? Well , I’ll tell you, it’s this piece from the FT – as is your wont – point your wands, swish and flick – avada kedavra!

Yes – it is a tale of woe. As you’ll know, blog rollers all, I am not a big fan of social media – the ‘book and the twats, mainly – and one of the reasons that I am not a fan lies in the belief by many (otherwise and seemingly quite sensible and likeable) corporates that social media can somehow deliver revenue to the bottom line. Social media, I have maintained, until now, on Sad Day, are not sales, marketing or communications tools – they are at best reputational tools, with a part to play in scenarios of crisis.

So imagine my dismay and horror and feeling of universal wrong-ness when I read that Diageo – a purveyor of pleasant beverages to functioning alcoholics, youths-on-a-bender and stressed-out citizenry – has been using Facebook for marketing activity and has found (through Nielsen basket-scanning research) that certain campaigns for brands like Smirnoff and Baileys boosted  purchases by as much as 20 per cent in the US.

And how am I tempted to be cynical and note the terminology ‘certain campaigns’, and question how, exactly Messrs Nielsen conducted their basket-scanning  research, but I will not give in. As much as 20%. That’s revenue enhancing, whatever way you look at it.

It also adds some extra detail to my own version of The Scream. It’s called The Face (just a working title, most revered rollers) and it is a mental picture (no, not as in ‘mental, mental, chicken oriental’, mental as in ‘all in the mind’) of the tipische Facebooketeer. Hunched over a computer in the darkened third bedroom of his parents’ semi, oblivious to sunlight and the outside world and surrounded by empty pizza boxes and tins of energy drink.

And now with a bottle of Baileys and a liqueur glass by his side.

I think the Munchster would be proud of me.

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.

Told You So.

Now, dearest blog trotters, I am not one to say ‘I told you so’. Nope. Hold my tongue and never take pleasure in other people’s discomfiture, those are my watchphrases. (Is discomfiture a word? Or a sort of anti-fruit preserve?)

Anyway. I told you so. Oh yes I did.

Here’s the headline – ‘Facebook won’t become e-commerce force, analyst says.’ And here’s the link:

Told you so.

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.