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.

May 31 – Quit Facebook Day

Does exactly what it says on the tin – no explanation necessary.

Here. A piece from mashable.com.

Also see my previous post – You’re Zucked!

A small step, I would say, in the right direction.

The Zucked-Up Society We Live In

This from the Evening Standard yesterday, entitled ‘Just What Is Privacy in the Era of Google and Facebook?’, and discussing the gradual erosion of personal privacy, brought about by society’s obsession with empty, unearned (and certainly not merited) fame and the seemingly unstoppable fixation on all things social media. As I think I’ve said before, it is eeee-ville.

The thrust of Mr Greenslade’s piece is not new. I’ve posted about it before, and as I am in no way an original thinker, this means that better and weightier pundits than I have had a go as well.

In brief, our society’s need for validation, expressed through the lust for Warhol’s 15 minutes, the desire to be Cheryl Cole or Alex Reid, the need to be orange and blond and falling out of Krapz nitespot in Basildon, clutching a footballer or a glamour model, in a drunken state of undress, to be papped and red-topped – this, combined with the arrival of social media and true (if unregulated) freedom of expression, has given people the motivation and opportunity to reveal far more about themselves, to far more people, than they ever have done before.

And, as we all know, it comes back to bite you on your fake-baked bum. The girl who got fired from her job for complaining about it on Facebook, the NHS staffers who played the ‘lying down’ game at work and posted the pictures, the Dixons shop assistants who set up an anti-customer page and wondered why they got caned.

But the Standard article reminded me of something far more sinister than the antics of the idiocracy and the cretinarchy. It ran the quotation attributed to your friend and mine (dear blog snorkellers), the unwholesome – and somehow unsavoury – Mark Zuckerberg, who said  that he no longer believed privacy to be a ‘social norm’.

This is the man who is in charge of (apparently) a virtual nation that, were it a real country, would be the world’s third-largest. If it were real, he would be a dictator – he already is, in point of fact. And he is telling you, oh foolish of facebook, that he no longer believes privacy to be a norm. What he’s actually telling you is that you no longer have a right to privacy. (Google seems to believe this as well – if you aren’t aware of the Google story (because of some unfortunate circumstance like being stuck down a mineshaft for the past three weeks), then might I suggest you Google it?) (Irony, d’you see?)

Actually, many of you may not have a right to privacy. You gave it away when you posted your holiday snaps on a photo-sharing site. But the point is, you made that choice.

Now you and I are having the choice taken away. Some pasty geek is telling us that privacy is no longer the norm and 400 million people are having to accept that point of view.

Or you could, I suppose, take radical action. And close your Facebook account. Go on.

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.

Social Media – Pepsi Syndrome

It’s like Stockholm Syndrome, but especially for social media. What happens is that a company, brand or organisation becomes aware of social media – either from within (generally the rot starts in IT) or from without, via the snake-oil salesmen des nos jours, the self-styled social media gurus.

The background noise becomes a barrage, once aware of social media, you cannot simply ignore it – it’s like hives – and before you know it, you’re a hostage to the phenomenon. No part of your business is immune to the lure of the Shiny Object – no department is without its social media evangelist. It’s particularly bad in marketing-led organisations, riven (as they are) with insecurities and staffed by those who cannot be left behind and are possessed of a spectacular herd mentality.

Eventually, while you have to give credit to the decision makers in any organisation, who will understand that they are being coerced and will see the unhealthy nature of the relationship, the company, brand or business learns to love its oppressor.

And that’s when Pepsi removed the $20m from its sponsorship of the Super Bowl and decided to plough it into social media.

I came across this blog, by a lady called Christine Hueber. Because I know that you, dear blog snorkellers, are inherently lazy, and won’t click on the link (even if it were to save your life), I reproduce it here in full:

Pepsi: Social Media $20 Million — Super Bowl $0

LinkedIn was the initial source for me of this wonderful news:   Pepsi is spending $20 million on Social Media instead of Super Bowl advertising!

What do you think this news means for Social Media?

Best,

Christine

Christine Hueber

Engaging Social Media Relationship Marketing with Results!

+1 530.582.8091 Direct

What does this mean for social media? Nothing. What does it mean for Pepsi? That they’ve completely lost the plot.

Social Media – PR ‘Students’ And Twitter

You couldn’t make it up. This is another one of those jaw-dropping, what-the-f*ck moments. A moment when – for someone who’s spent the best part of two decades in the corporate communications business – I actually begin to question why I’m here and why the industry exists.

Here is a link to a post on the Teaching PR blog (May 2009), from Grady College, University of Georgia. I can only presume that this is a seat of learning with the same level of gravitas and respect that is accorded to Keele here in the UK.

It provides some hints and tips to PR students on ‘what not to tweet’. I’m not going to paraphrase it here. Trust me, you need to read it in all its truly frightening originality.

Without beating about the bush, the hints about ‘what not to tweet’ are not bad. Basic, but good guidelines for those embarking on a Twitter feed. But they’re all about image and communication – things that, arguably, a student of PR should have a natural feel for.

Personally, if I came across a potential communications practitioner making any of these mistakes, I would advise them that perhaps they have made the wrong career choice and that they should f*ck off and trouble some other industry with their ridiculous and naïve viewpoints and attitudes. (Hey – call me harsh.)

On top of that, if Grady College feel the need to give these hints and tips to their students, then they have wholly failed to engender any sort of PR sense into them – thus, arguably, their course should be shut down.

It’s this sort of misunderstanding, naivety and ill-informed behaviour that will provide the comms industry with the next generation of PR lovelies – all blonde hair and parties – that will perpetuate the crass mythology of PR as a business of fluff and spin and will continue to deny the industry its seat at the top table.

My faithful blog snorkellers will know my feelings on social media. This scary nonsense does nothing to change my opinions, or give me any faith in the future of our profession. I’ll leave you with the following:

“Earlier this semester, @BarbaraNixon tweeted a wise suggestion to her students: go to the Web and look at your last page of tweets. Is that really how you want to represent yourself to the world?

If not, it’s time to rethink your twitter strategy.”

No, it’s time to rethink your life.

Social Media – Vodafone Twit Highlights Need For Corporate Social Media Control

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – corporate use of social media is a dangerous thing, and if you are going to dip your toe, then you need a frankly medieval ‘corporate use of social media’ policy in place to ensure the wingnuts do not scupper your dinghy.

As happened earlier this month over at Vodafone, a rather large purveyor of telecommunications services to the global community. Vodafone’s on Twitter, d’you see, and although it’s only managed to garner some 9.5k followers with its 5k-odd tweets, it’s pursuing its strategy with verve.

Suddenly, last week, a tweet was tweeted suggesting that – avert your eyes, those of a sensitive disposition – “@VodafoneUK is fed up of dirty homo's (sic) and is going after beaver”. Well. Here’s commentary from www.pocketlint.com, suggesting that Voodoofone’s Twitter account is internally compromised.

Of course, it wasn’t, and – whether you choose to believe it or not, you have to give credit to Mojambofone’s crisis management people – pocketlint posted this yesterday, recounting Jujufone’s official explanation. For those of my blog snorkellers what is hard of de clickery, the explanation is pretty much ‘a big boy did it and ran away’. Only in this case, they appear to have found the big boy, and I can only imagine that he (or she, even) is in a small room somewhere, tied to a chair, while some HR lovelies get all 16th century on his ass.

 Moral of the story? There need to be rules. Perhaps Blackmagicfone has a ‘corporate use of social media’ policy, but it sure as hell ain’t working. As I’ve postulated before, there’s always a proportion of employees – and of the general public, as it happens – terminally afflicted with Twitterette’s. This is the unholy urge to shout ‘bum!’ and ‘poo!’ in public places and at inappropriate times. Generally when confronted with a mass medium (like Twitter, or Facebook), the implications of which they do not fully understand. They do not understand that their ‘bum!’ has a potential audience of – ooooh – everyone. (Luckily, in this case, it was an immediate audience of 9.5k people – although you can still find the post, because it’s been re-tweeted and re-tweeted – whatever that means.)

Anyway, bottom line – a proper use of social media policy, with proper rules, is absolutely imperative. It won’t stop this sort of nonsense altogether, but it may make the f*ckwits think twice. I recommend really, really serious disciplinary action. Boilings in oil. Skinnings alive.

But really, the way to deal with it – folks – is NOT TO GET INVOLVED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

How many times do I have to say this?

Social Media – Not Just For The Nasty Things In Life….Oh…Hold On…

This piece from the new York Times. Jonathan Schwartz, the ‘last chief executive’ of Sun Microsystems – sounds like he ought to be the subject of a movie starring Tom ‘Frighteningly Insane’ Cruise – announces his resignation via Twitter. (Here’s the feed in all its Twittery glory.)

(Actually, I’m fairly sure that he didn’t announce his resignation via Twitter – technically speaking – I’m fairly sure that he did it like everyone else would have, in a letter, delivered by hand to Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle and a man ‘not especially fond of Mr Schwartz’.)

For the hard of clicking, who want everything fed to them on a plate, he did it in the form of a haiku.

That being as it may, the NYT has some interesting stuff to say about Mr Schwartz. Apparently, he ‘has been fond of using the internet as a soapbox’ and was ‘the first CEO of a major company to put up his own blog’ and, indeed, ‘pushed the Securities and Exchange Commission to put blogs on equal footing with press releases and filings when it comes to disclosing critical business matters to investors’. Doesn’t say whether he succeeded.

Which all sounds great. Then you dig a little and find that between April 30 2008 and Feb 3 2010, he managed 36 tweets. Hardly prolific, although he has amassed over 10,000 followers. (Sycophants.) Oh – and his Twitter tag is OpenJonathan, which I’m not wholly convinced by. Luckily, a lot of his Tweets link to his blog.

And his blog’s a belter. This is the way it should be done. The NYT under-egged the cake in my opinion. It was started in June 2004 – here’s the first post, read it before Mr Ellison takes it down – it’s been updated regularly and, as far as I can see, mixes core product messaging (at least I think that’s what it is, I’m not really qualified in the techie arena) with splendid, apparently homespun philosophy. I particularly like the post about having lunch with Tony Blair – genius.

Anyway, this isn’t a hagiography. What it is is a suggestion that more c-suite execs should be trying to approach this tone of voice and this balance of content and should be talking to their audiences through the medium of digital (and I do mean the medium of digital, not the medium of social – I know they’re easily confused. For the record Twitter is social – and we can see here that it’s nowhere near as effective or compelling as the blog, which is digital).

As we know, in this post-economic apocalypse age, our audiences – especially employees, suppliers, business partners and customers – want messages of comfort and reassurance, and want to see companies walking the walk, not just talking the talk. What better way to achieve this than by showing a bit of personality – something that people can relate to.

Why do I suspect that Mr Ellison of Oracle probably disagrees.

Corporate Communications – Power Of The People, Not Power Of The Media

Recently I posted about Starbucks and its amazing transformation – a 200% rise in profits over a three-month period – and how it appeared to be driven by a) the return of Howard Schultz (undoubtedly) and b) an emphasis on great, best-in-class, employee and customer relations. True, S-Bux has more than five million Facebook fans and 700k Twitter followers, but the reality is that the ‘conversations’ that are taking place there – while no doubt translating into some level of sales – are in no way responsible for the dramatic turnaround in Big Coffee’s fortunes.

No, they are not. But it didn’t take very long before some socmed evangelista leaps on the bandwagon and attempts to imply that they are and – more – that Howard Schultz prefers social media over other marketing channels. I was alerted to this frightening opportunism by this post on Steve Virgin’s blog, which directs you to the piece in question – here – at BrandRepublic.

The argument, which is used to engender and foment one of my least favourite discussions (‘Why do some people get it, and others don’t?’ – more of it later), is based on an interview that Schultz gave to Marketing Magazine – which you can read here.

(Sorry, dearest blog snorkellers mine, I know this is a lot to be dumping on you, late on a Wednesday afternoon, but it is important in our crusade against the spurious lionisation of social media as a tool for business benefit.)

In the interview, Mr Schultz was asked ‘Which one (marketing) channel will take precedence?” – a leading question, of ever there was one – and his answer was really quite clever. He said “I think social media is a natural exten­sion of our brand because we want to do things that are unexpected, and to speak to all sorts of people who are engaged in social media. It’s tough to measure but there is an incremental benefit to sales.”

And he’s right, there is an incremental benefit to sales – but notice he’s careful not to go overboard in terms of what that incremental benefit is. He also, tellingly, qualifies his answer by saying that social media ‘is a natural extension of (the Starbucks) brand’ – ie it is suited to the Starbucks brand, but not necessarily suited to other brands. He also, even more tellingly, doesn’t actually answer the question – he doesn’t say that social media is the channel that ‘will take precedence’. To put those words in his mouth is careless misinterpretation.

And, as promised – here’s a thought on that ‘getting it’ question. (Apparently, according to an Internet Advertising Bureau study, only a fifth of marketers see social as core to their marketing strategy.) Some brands, businesses or corporations don’t seem to ‘get it’ because they don’t need to. It is not right for their brand or business. It is not – in Mr Schultz’s words – ‘a natural extension.’ It really is as simple as that.

Social Media – Still, Mostly, A Mystery

Here’s a list from Communicate Magazine – a very useful list actually, of events and training courses of interest to the communications community, taking place over the coming weeks and months.

I say it’s useful, because it works well as a yardstick, with which you can measure what the medium/long-term concerns of the industry are – a lot of these events depend on the attendance of paying punters, so the organisers are clearly not going to bother with content that people are not interested in or concerned by. Creativity is always a big one, as is handling the media.

All that being said, blog snorkellers, you might also find something here that is of use to you – heaven forbid, something that you might want to stump up some of your own (or your employer’s) cash to attend. Never let it be said that I don’t give you anything.

But for the purposes of this post, I want to re-visit the email that I received from Communicate Magazine, alerting me to their list. In the body of the email – I presume to give me a flavour of the richness of content that awaited my link-clickery – they provided some 27 examples of events happening over the next three days. And of those 27 events, 17 had social media as their subject.

That’s a lot – it’s a preponderance actually, given the amount of differing issues and topics that these events might be addressing.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – there’s an entire industry grown up around the chimaerae that are business’ use of social media, and social media marketing. Some of it is well-meaning – I am sure – no, I am – but much of it is cynical profiteering. You wouldn’t provide your bank account details to a Nigerian emailster – why would you pay someone to ask the question “is effective measurement critical to effective marketing strategy”? (This is a genuine example, btw.)

This is phishing, really – caveat emptor.

(I would also like to add that not all of it is, some appears to be very well-meaning. What it does show however, in clear, sharp relief, is that – despite 2009 having been hailed as the year that business ‘got’ social media – none of the big questions (ROI, for example, or how to make social media pay) have been answered. And the tone of the conversation is now sounding ever-so-slightly desperate.)