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.)

Social Media ‘Face Comms Defiance’

Once more, dear B-snorkellers, into the breach of all that’s rationale, sane and – well, normal – that is PRWeek. What’s the Industry’s Bible been up to now, I hear you moan in a gibbering, tortured fashion, that implies you’ve been scalded by the Week’s toxic nonsense before.

Well, in this post, I was going to reference this story from the Bible (issue dated January 22 2010), which carried the headline ‘Blogs and webcasts face comms defiance’. The story is about in-house comms professionals ‘steadfastly resisting the temptation to use blogs or webcasts as the main channel to communicate with staff’ and cites ‘new research’ from Melcrum Publishing which seems to back up their interpretation of the story.

So I thought I’d do a bit on internal comms and digital communications (not necessarily social media, but probably touching on the subject) and how, actually, I’m a great advocate of adopting digital tools in the controlled and clearly-defined arena that is the internal comms space. Like shooting fish in a barrel – if you look on your employees as fish, the workplace as a barrel and you’re in the habit of taking a gun to work. So not an altogether apposite metaphor, perhaps.

Be that as it may, just to reassure myself – why is it that I simply cannot bring myself to trust t’Week – I though I’d track down the Melcrum Publishing research and see if there were any further insights to be gained. And I came across this. For those snorkellettes who cannot be bothered wid de clickery, it’s a blog post, from Melcrum, entitled ‘Research reveals widespread adoption of social media inside the firewall’. I think you can probably already see where this is going.

Yes – it appears to be almost wholly contradictory to the wee story in the Bible. Now, either Melcrum did two pieces of research, the findings of which are completely opposed, and the laddie or lassie writing for the Bible picked on the wrong one – or, once again, PR Week has screwed it up. You decide.

Anyway, because simply having a go at the industry’s mouthpiece is a) too easy and b) not a good enough foundation for a whole post, here’s a few thoughts about digital comms in the workplace. (All of which come from, sometimes bitter, experience.)

  • Don’t, as Melcrum and PR Week seem to have done, confuse digital comms and social media communication. The two things are very different – blogs, pod and vodcasts, webstreaming – these are digital tools – social is Twitter, Facebook et al which arguably have no place in a work environment. There is, of course, Yammer, which is a social media tool for internal communications, but is something of a resource-sharing, experience-tapping, project-co-ordinating tool. Social media is social – does what it says on the tin. Work is not social – work is something you do, sometimes to the best of your ability, to earn money.
  • Digital tools are only as effective as the number of people who can access them and actually do access them on a regular basis. Encouraging participation is another factor. No point having a spanking intranet – with feedback forms, fora and comment boards – if only half your work force can access it and only five per cent use the tools. Do your research, before you commit time, resource and cash in creating stuff that adds no value.
  • Do not treat digital in isolation. It’s a mix – face-to-face, small groups, large groups, print, advertising, exhibitions and events – all of these are also part of the internal comms toolkit.
  • If you do decide to get all social on your employees’ asses, then you’re going to need a social media policy – because, as we all know (don’t we, kids?) social media will bite you on the bum as soon as lick your face. The Coca-Cola Company (who’d have thought it?) have a great – and recent – social media policy which I’ve mentioned in a previous post. Go and have a look at it, and then rip it off mercilessly, twisting it to your own ends. Go on.