Internal Communications – Solving The Sidewiki Issue

Oh dear. Much Fuss in the Wold. Google launches Sidewiki at the end of September and in reasonably short order – well, a matter of weeks – the blogosphere is givin’ it all that about how a) anyone can post anything about your website and b) your employees (if you’re a business) can get all disgruntled and post stuff about your website. Aaaagh – we’ll all be ruined!

 So, let’s get this straight. You’ve got a website and – for those people who’ve downloaded Sidewiki – they can now see visitor comments on your site, in a side bar. These comments are posted by both randomers visiting your site, and regulars, so they may – or indeed may not – be positive or negative or neutral. Those with Sidewiki can, obviously, post their own comments.

 And the hysterical rationale from those who’ve ‘embraced’ social media is that, of course, everyone who’s on social media will all get jiggy wid de Wiki and it’ll be the end of corporate web presences as we know it. Well, no. Bollocks.

 1)       In order to use Google’s lovely Sidewiki, you’ve got to download it. And in downloading it, you tacitly allow Google to track your internet usage. And you have to have the IQ of an Eccles Cake to do that

2)       Those people who do have the IQ of an Eccles Cake are, obviously, not people about whose opinion anyone actually gives a shit

3)       Those fine folk at Google have the final say on what’s posted on Sidewiki and they’re interested, obviously, in the thoughts of those people who’ve given them the most trade/traffic/personal information. The average (and most dangerous) Eccles Cake-head does not figure in the Googlisation of the world and thus their comments won’t get posted

4)       What are you doing anyway? Why are you worried about your employees (those who are Eccles Cakers anyway) posting to Sidewiki – they shouldn’t be able to do it from work anyway. And they should be dissuaded from doing it at home by a  binding contract that will see them skinned alive, rolled in salt and then parboiled should they decide to get all clever on your arse

5)       What are you doing anyway, Part 2. Why on earth should your website attract unpleasant Wikiness? Are you not the model of a business? With a luvverly corporate culture, and employees who believe in you and a demonstrable set of ethics and – hopefully – no instances of toxic waste and smothering children in your past? Of course you are and therefore – why should you be bothered?

6)       No company is wholly able to tick the point 5) box – get (and enforce) a Use of Social Media Policy, quick-smart, choppy-chop

 Oh – and please, please, can we stop panicking. How have we – perfectly sensible people – come to this?

Social Media – A Presence On Youmytwidioboobespace

Some time ago, I suggested the imminent coalescing of one or more social media – as the only real way that they can survive individually is by broadening their offer and thus encroaching on each other’s space. (It’s my space! No, it’s not, it’s TwinkedIn.) Just in case you’re not an avid follower of my random – but increasingly accurate – musings, you can catch up here.

Hurry up, the rest of us aren’t going to wait all day.

Right. Anyway, the point is that I’ve just received my first request though LinkedIn to be someone’s bitch follower (or was it that she wanted to be my follower?) on Twitter. Oh, but yes. The gradual merging of media has started and who knows where it will end. As an aside, I cannot see how the Twitter/LinkedIn deal is going to work – LinkedIn has already taken on some of the aspects of Facebook, as people forget that it’s a business tool and post quick updates on their musical tastes – and the culture of Twitter (the Twattish behaviour, if you like) will not mix well with the orignal culture of LinkedIn.

Be that as it may. This is the beginning – as I’ve said several times before – of the end, specifically the end of the social media free-for-all that exists now. So – if you’re a corporate, and you’re thinking of dipping your toe – perhaps even investing something in it – is now the time?

Remember Betamax. You don’t want to be Twitter-savvy, if it turns out that Wave is the future – and yes, OK, I know that’s a bit faux-naif. (Qui? Moi?)

But social media, as a business tool – marketing, comms and to a certain extent, sales – does not deliver tangible benefit. And while it’s still sorting itself out, it’s unlikely to. So curb your enthusiasm – because I know you’re just busting to get involved – and let’s see how it shakes down.

It won’t take long, mark my words……..

Social Media – Twitterette’s Syndrome

Twitterette’s Syndrome is a localised but extremely virulent strain of Social Media Tourette’s (oh yes it fucking is) which, as you will know, gentle blog snorkeller, is an odious ailment that afflicts a small but significant proportion of the population when they are presented with the opportunity to post whatever they like to a public forum.

It can take the form of simple intolerance of anyone else’s point of view, or extreme bad language, or posting of inappropriate material (visual or written), or racial harrassment (and yes, Nick Griffin is a white bollocks – he’s a White Nazi Bollocks, actually), or career-threatening stupidity. Or one of a myriad of other opportunities to be a complete arse.

Twitterette’s Syndrome is the delusion that people are interested in everything you do, leading the sufferer to tweet things that are wholly unimportant, have no relevance, wouldn’t be considered appropriate to say out loud or are simply the product of a mind with the consistency of blancmange.

Stephen Fry, recently. So you’re a manic depressive Stephen – that’s not a good thing, and I know you struggle with it, and I appreciate that it’s not easy – but if you’ve got a Black Dog, step away from the Twitter feed. Duncan Bannantyne, not so long ago. No-one wants to know that you’re in the airport, coming back from your house in France. In fact, most people actively don’t want to know. There are a million other examples, if you go looking for them. Most are, however and thankfully, hidden from overly public view and their authors are only perceived to be useless cretins by a small group of their peers.

This morning, however, we have the salutory tale of the woman who tweeted details of her miscarriage, while she was having it. Now, OK, I wouldn’t know about it were it not for the media picking up on it. And they wouldn’t know about it were it not for a few outraged souls who feel that a woman should not be pleased that she’s having a miscarriage – in fact probably shouldn’t be allowed to have a miscarriage full stop. Penny Trunk, the miscarriagist, (with a name that ‘minds me of a cheap elephant) put forward the perfectly valid point that if you don’t want to know about it, don’t log on. Totally agree.

But what, on earth, was she thinking when she decided to tweet about it? It’s not the sort of thing that most sane people would consider a valid conversational topic. I don’t know Ms Trunk, but I’m presuming that she didn’t actually say – in her board meeting – ‘Hey up, lads, I’m having a miscarriage – great!’ But she saw fit to tweet it. This is Twitterette’s Syndrome – and I can’t help but thinking it’ll get worse before it gets better.

Oh – and Ms Trunk – she’s the ‘boss’ of this firm. She was in a board meeting. And she’s tweeting. Goes to show that social notworking is everywhere.

Social Media – The Other End of the World

As my regular blog snorkellers will know, I’ve not been backward in coming forward with my theory that social media is on its way out. This is for reasons too innumerable to mention here, including the fact that no-one’s making any money out of it, it’s being swamped by spam, the user growth figures are slowing, the user growth figures have never reflected the reality of the amount of people who sign up then never use the service again and – my favourite – because I say so.

There is another theory, however and in the spirit of fairness and balance, I give an iteration of it a hearing here. Clickety-clink – here’s the link!

(Can’t believe I just wrote that.)

The theory says that the traditional digital comms tools – email, websites – are themselves on the way out, to be subsumed into social media. The reasoning goes that social media provides opportunities to communicate and to provide content that email cannot – to summarise and paraphrase – email is one-dimensional and the social media are not. Same goes for the traditional, reasonably static website – why would you, really, when user-generated, arguably richer content pertaining to a brand or organisation is out there in the blogosphere, or posted on Facebook?

But then the theory trips up. I think it trips up because of the widespread inability to separate social media into its two component parts.

  • Something that people do in their spare time (and when they’re notworking, obviously) to keep up with friends and family, ask for advice on things that trouble/interest them and view/download jokes, clips, tracks, patches etc etc.
  • Something that simply is not working as a marketing, communications or reputation-building tool.

Just because individuals, in their day-to-day lives, may decide to run those lives via Facebook or Twitter or some combination of the two, does not make them valid, or valuable, business tools. Business requires communication without distractions, without logins, without a ‘spirit of community’ and – most importantly – without commentary from everyone who reads it. This is why email, as it is currently, works – for business purposes – so well. You can choose who receives it, you can monitor it and you can cane people who misuse it or try to hide their use of it. The thing that will change about email is how we send and receive it and what it looks like when we do send and receive it.

I also draw attention to the school of thought that says ‘ask a 20-year-old whether they’re using email’ as if this has any bearing on the matter. No, they’re not – they’re texting and using social media (well, some are, anyway) – but, quite frankly, who cares? Email is a business tool (and I include marketing and corporate comms within ‘business’) and 20-year-olds are a notoriously difficult-to-reach audience with limited appeal. You might as well ask an 80-year-old whether they’re using email for all the relevance it has.

And traditional, static websites – well, here’s a sensible post. Actually, there’s more of a place for traditional corporate websites that ever before – and why? Because, thanks to social media (and the way the bigger internet players are forcing us to behave – yes, forcing – Google SideWiki, anyone?) there’s such a slew of information that, ironically enough, the only place you’ll be able to go for reasonably accurate and (dare I say) impartial information will be the corporate website.

Now, I’d just like to make it clear – again, and mainly for my wife, who thinks I’m a cave-dwelling technophobe – that I am not either denying the existence of social media or telling anyone to stick their heads in the sand. Social media is here. Loads of people are using it. It is right and fitting that if we work in communications then we should have a knowledge of it. That being said – I repeat – do not confuse the social media that people use to run/ruin their personal lives and the social media that has all the potential to ruin your business (uncontrolled rumour and bad-mouthing) and none of the potential to materially enhance your revenues.

Social Media – A Bit of a Roundup

This is for those of you who think I’m at my best when dealing with social media as a topic area.

(Keen blog snorkellers may have noticed that I’m essaying a move away from just ranty nonsense about social media to more considered, but still ranty, horse-droppings about other elements of the communications mix. But it’s not to say that here isn’t still stuff to marvel at in the wacky world of social media, with all those fine gals, guys and horrible, abnormal cretins who are busy filling up the internet with mindless, unentertaining shyte. Oooop – did I say that out loud?)

So – thanks to the Evening Standard yesterday evening for their profile of Mark Zuckerberg (for those living in an hermetically-sealed coffin, buried at a depth of 75 metres beneath the Gobi Desert, he’s the 25-year-old wunderkind behind the terrifying Book of Face) and the idea that Facebook has a bigger advertising potential than Google. Which makes it pretty damn’ huge, ladies and gentlemen. As an aside, it also makes Marky richer than several squillion Croesuses, and good on him. Putting an interpretation on this, it means that otherwise sensible companies will be able to stop messing about with Facebook groups, sack their overpaid Heads of Social Media Strategy (bye-bye Scott Monty), and spend their money sensibly on the only thing that social media will ever offer to a commercial concern – advertising space. Yes, good old above-the-line.

What this means is, finally, we can all blow a big, fat raspberry in the face of the truly evil American idea of ‘The Conversation’. Ooooo – it’s all about The Conversation. The Conversation – it’s the future of business. We need to have ‘The Conversation’. I even came across – and I’m not going to link to it, it makes me all wobbly and cross – someone, with (I presume) a straight face, actually suggesting that a good measurement of social media strategy effectiveness would be a ‘share of conversation index’. Oh – please just f*ck off. You nasty little hippy.

And, therefore, the inevitable demise of The Conversation will mean a drop off in the slew of noisome Twitteration that’s being forced down our throats currently. Once and for all, Twitter is an ego trip and no-one cares what you are reading or eating or thinking/watching/excreting etc etc – except those people who also think that someone might be interested in what they are etc etc etc. This is why Twitter’s growth is slowing in the US. It’s a fad, always has been, and it will be for the rest of its (hopefully) short and dwindling existence.

Meanwhile, stuff surfaces proving once again a) the danger of social media to a company or brand and b) that every company, among its employees, has a greater or lesser number of fuckwits who I wouldn’t trust with a digestive biscuit, never mind access to a uncontrolled, unregulated, global communications portal.

Recently the employees of two UK electrical retailers – Currys and PC World – created a Facebook group, poking fun at their customers. Really, really stupid, did nothing for corporate reputation and, I sincerely hope, nothing for the career prospects of those who set the group up. Now, I read, again in The Standard (great paper – free, d’you see?), that they’ve done it again – and the clowns have set up a Facebook page as an open letter to their bosses, which – in summary – accuses them of being barriers to free speech. The sheer enormity of their delusion and stupidity is beyond comprehension.

And finally, as a little light relief, here’s something from msn.co.uk. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – in capitals, just in case you’re missing the point – DO NOT LET YOUR EMPLOYEES ANYWHERE NEAR SOCIAL MEDIA IN WORK TIME, ON WORK BUSINESS, OR ON BEHALF OF YOUR BRAND OR COMPANY. There’s a lot of stupid people out there. Beware.

Social Media – Social Media Crisis Management

I’m still fretting about Domino’s Pizza. As you’ll all know, the company came under some pressure earlier in the year as two employees posted a video on YouTube of themselves – ahem – ‘abusing’ the food they were preparing. Cue furore. Anyway, it’s in the past now, the company hasn’t gone bust and pizzas continue to be delivered to the free world as usual.

Thing is that there are two schools of thought on Domino’s response to the crisis (for such it was). One is that they handled it well, the other (clearly) is that they didn’t. (Just so you know where I stand, I read that it took them some time to address the issue and when they did, the response was limited.)

Anyway, as I was looking for reportage on the incident, I came across this on usatoday.com, which got me thinking more about the general principles of handling a ‘social networking attack’ (their words not mine). The article publishes the views of experts – I reproduce them here. As usual, the plain text is theirs, the italics are mine.

“Here are key things experts say marketers can do to quickly catch and respond effectively to similar social-networking attacks:

• Monitor social media. Big companies must actively watch Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social sites to track conversations that involve them. That will help uncover potential crises-in-the-making, says Brian Solis, a new-media specialist and blogger at PR2.0.

Couldn’t agree more with this, and it’s not difficult to do – however, although it’s easy to believe that Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are the only social media, there are (of course) myriad others that may not appear on the radar and which could be the source of your issue. Nothing beats pre-planning – what are the issues that could impact your business and how would you handle them (and how would you respond) if they came up? Your crisis management plan needs a social media section.

• Respond quickly. Domino’s responded within hours. “They responded as soon as they heard about it, not after the media asked, ‘What are you going to do?’ ” says Lynne Doll, president of The Rogers Group, a crisis-management specialist.

This isn’t what I heard, but responding practically immediately is exactly what’s required.

• Respond at the flashpoint. Domino’s first responded on consumer affairs blog The Consumerist, whose activist readers helped track down the store and employees who made the video. Then it responded on the Twitter site where talk was mounting. “Domino’s did the right thing by reinstituting the trust where it was lost,” Solis says.

Yes, by all means – but how are you going to deal with the wider fall-out? Trust may initially have been lost on Twitter, but you can be certain it was also lost amongst the readers of mainstream, traditional media, who don’t go online, and don’t use social networks. They won’t have seen the response.

• Educate workers. It’s important that all employees have some media and social-media training, says Ross Mayfield, co-founder of Socialtext, which advises companies on new media.

No it isn’t. It’s important that all employees understand what your social media policy is, and the consequences of breaching it.

• Foster a positive culture. Workers who are content and customers who like your product are far less likely to tear down a company online, PR guru Katie Delahaye Paine says. “This would be a lot less likely to happen at places like Whole Foods.”

These are, unfortunately, Utopian motherhood statements. Workers are not content and not everyone likes your product. Social media or not, there is always a risk – even at Whole Foods – that someone will have a go. By all means invest in company culture and corporate reputation – but don’t forget your contingency planning.

• Set clear guidelines. Companies must have clear policies about what is allowed during working hours — and what isn’t, Doll says. “It won’t prevent everyone from breaking the rules, but at least they’ll know what the rules are.”

Yes – but make it a policy, not a set of guidelines. Guidelines are open to misinterpretation and flex – policies say what is and isn’t allowed and specify the penalties for infringement. Call them rules, if necessary.

Social Media – These Truths…….Self-Evident…..

Well – here’s something of a landmark – the 100th post since this blog commenced its outpouring of random musings on all things communications.

Well, that was the idea, anyway. What’s actually happened, as my regular blog snorkellers will know, is that I’ve been cunningly diverted from my original aim by this new-fangled social media malarkey, which has taken up vast swathes of this blog, big chunks of my time and a fair amount of wordcount.

The 100th post seems a good time to round it all up, briefly. To summarise the small amount I’ve picked up, the conclusions I’ve reached, the positions I took and the way that they have changed over time. The one thing that is certain, however, is that – whether you’re a social media aficionado or not – you cannot ignore it and the speed at which it (and the thinking on best practice that surrounds it) has changed and continues to change is quite – as our American friends would have it – awesome.

My charming wife – who is something big in marketing – was completely horrified when I shared my thoughts on social media as marketing tools – for the record, they aren’t. She was dreadfully concerned that I’d be seen as a dinosaur, a Luddite, and be left behind as the rest of you surfed away on the crest of the nouvelle vague.

So, once and for all, as a statement of intent, here’s where I stand on the whole social media deal.

  • Social media is here to stay. You cannot ignore it
  • Every company, large or small, should have a clear-cut, unambiguous, not-open-to-misinterpretation social media policy – properly communicated and enforced
  • Social media comes to the fore in times of crisis and is a creator of issues – every company’s crisis management document should contain a section on social media
  • Every company should have trained spokespeople whose responsibilities include responding to comments/issues generated or communicated via social media. Sometimes they might even be proactive
  • The majority of a company’s employees, however, should not be allowed to post to social media, either on company time, on company business or about the company
  • Social media are not – yet – valid marketing tools. Your budget is still better spent elsewhere
  • Social media are, however, communications tools and, as such, belong to the PR or communications department
  • Everything that gets posted to social media on behalf of a company must either go through, or have gone through, an approval system
  • You do not need to spend a vast fortune on social media strategy or social media monitoring – one is an oxymoron, the other can be carried out perfectly adequately, in-house, in minutes, via search engines
  • Social media is not the same as digital. Digital is wide-ranging, well-established and value-adding – social is but one small, unproven, part of digital
  • Social media does not have a track record, no-one has much experience with it, and no-one knows what it can and cannot do
  • Traditional media can bite if mishandled – there’s no reason to suppose that social media won’t do the same
  • No-one has found a way of making money out of social media yet – not even the social media owners
  • Inevitably, social media will consolidate – the question is which social media brand/s will survive
  • Social media is not the saviour of PR, nor is it a doorway to a new society or a new way of doing business. Engage with it by all means – understand what it is – monitor its development – but do not get carried away. If the Emperor has any clothes on, they are limited to a pair of baggy, grey y-fronts

There you go, That’s it. I hope it’s unambiguous enough and shows that I’m neither a dinosaur, or a Luddite. I’m a lean, mean communicating machine, currently having a cup of coffee and smoke on the sidelines, waiting to see how the surf develops.

Happy hundredth post – I look forward to seeing you at my next centenary.

Social Media – Approval Processes For Corporate Users

This is one of my favourite topics (and I’m only partly joking when I write that). In brief – to bring you up to speed – my thinking goes like this. Social media are channels of communication. As such, they represent an opportunity and a threat for brands, companies and organisations.

They can enhance and damage corporate reputation like any other channel of communication and, like any other channel of communication, because they are not ‘tame’ they can bite if mishandled. This is why every organisation needs a rigid social media policy, why corporate dealings with social media should be restricted to the professional communicators and trained spokespeople, and why everything should be approved so that the message – as far as possible – can be controlled. After all, that’s what we, as communicators, do.

Now (he sighed, wearily) there is an opposing viewpoint. And, in the spirit of balance and fair play, I give it a bit of an airing now and then. In my travels round t’internet, stuff tends to stick to me (such is the nature of the beast) and I find myself receiving all sorts of bits and bobs, like souvenirs from the places I’ve been. In the last couple of days I received this and it’s only now that I’ve got round to reading it.

This is a very prevalent school of thought in the US. Corporate dealings with social media should be, to all intents and purposes, unregulated and unapproved. We should trust our employees, whoever and wherever, to post on behalf of the brand, company or organisation. In fairness, this post talks about those within the organisation responsible for handling social media – so it’s not a free for all that’s being recommended (which is a relief and a definite development of the argument from where it was a month and a half ago) – but it still talks about people who can speak on behalf of the organisation without getting approvals.

As far as I’m concerned, no-one speaks on behalf of the organisation without – at some point – having had their messages approved. No-one makes off-the-cuff remarks – the company’s reputation is far too valuable and the result of far too much effort for it to be jeopardised by unrehearsed commentary.

So potentially what we have here is a question of what constitutes approval. And what is, generally, being posted to social media. I agree, if you’re answering a customer query on the price of one of your products, then as long as you’re polite, and the information’s correct, you don’t need a formal approval to post it on Facebook.

But, all too often, social media throw up questions that aren’t about price, or opening hours or other anodyne stuff. (As most of this information is/should be available on your website.) No – social media either throws up people with Tourette’s, or protest groups, or litigants, or questions about matters that either are not up for discussion, or require a ‘corporate’ response. All of this stuff needs to be approved. So that everyone knows what’s being said and – if they’re asked – knows what the response is.

And if you’re in a situation where some stuff needs approval and some doesn’t – sorry – it all needs approval. This is the only way of ensuring that nothing slips through the net. Yes, it’s time-consuming, no it’s not as ‘free-to-air’ as some would like, but hey – busines isn’t a democracy or a commune. It’s a process whereby people make money from other people.

And I completely disagree – approved responses do not equivalent to ‘canned’ PR messages. And I also disagree that there is some Utopia being created where people want to have relationships with the people who work within organisations.

No. They don’t. They want their cereal, or soap, or computer, or socks – they want the item or service at a fair price, delivered in a polite and timely fashion and they want to be reassured that it is not responsible for the deaths of babies and that it’s not made from toxic waste. Occasionally they want some free stuff. Mostly, however, the vast majority of these people – myself included – want to pay our money, take our choice and be left alone to consume our item in private. Thanks a heap.

Social Media Policies – Pros and Cons

You may well have seen this, but I hadn’t and I thought it’s worth commenting on. This is from February this year, when an Irish blogger – Jason Roe – thought he had discovered a glitch in Ryanair’s website. He blogged about it. His post attracted commentary from Ryanair Staff – later confirmed as being, yep, a member of Ryanair’s staff.

Read – and gasp in wonder – here.

Quite clearly, at the time, Ryanair had no social media policy, governing who could post to what, when and how they should approach it. When the official response came out – here’s an article containing it (and a picture of Mr Roe) – it was made quite clear that they had no intention of getting a social media policy anytime soon.

You can take one of two things from this – up to you.

  • This is a salutary lesson in the importance of having a social media policy and ensuring that all your employees understand and abide by it
  • This demonstrates that it really doesn’t matter whether you have a policy or not, and whether your employees post to social media sites/blogs/messageboards or not – if your company has a sound business proposition, corporate reputation is not important, you’ll continue to make money

Personally, I think it’s all about what sort of company it is and – most importantly – what sort of leadership it has, based on the eternal truth that, like it or not, all business organisations will reflect the character of their leaders (CEO, President, Chairman – whatever).

In the case of Ryanair, it’s all about price. It’s cheap and it at the moment it has a strong customer base because it’s cheap. As long as it’s cheaper (or as cheap) as its competitors, it will have a share of the current market, a market which is (must be?) growing as people (generally) have less money. Therefore, the warmth of corporate reputation and customer admiration is something it doesn’t need.

And its leader is Michael O’Leary, a seemingly unpleasant, short individual with – it would be easy to infer from interviews given and commentary made – the emotional intelligence of a scorpion and the subtlety of an angry rhino. (Just in case anyone’s missed him – here’s some O’Learyisms.)

On balance, a company such as Ryanair has no need of a social media policy currently. It remains to be seen how long they can continue like this, mind.

(Oh – and I’d fly Aer Lingus or Aer Arann if I were you.)

Social Media – What They Really Want (2)

Since my last post I’ve been inundated with quite literally no requests for clarification of the term ‘Free Stuff’. This complete lack of interest seems to centre round the misapprehension that, when I say ‘Free Stuff’, I’m talking about tangible goods, for free.

No. It’s a metaphor. What I’m talking about is something that a consumer (or stakeholder) wouldn’t otherwise have, that adds value to their existence, and comes without charge. So – it could be tangible goods for free, or it might be an exclusive discount, or a print-and-play voucher, or a competition, or simply some useful information.

As we’re discussing this in the context of social media, I know there are those who will maintain that this is exactly what social media does – through the medium of the conversation, the Q&A, ‘Free Stuff’ (generally information) is provided.

Well, yes and no. Mostly no. Social media are populated by several groups. Those who seek to belong, those who seek validation (through followers and fans), those who cannot bear to be alone, those who believe others are interested, those who are there by mistake and the ghosts who came once, never go again, yet leave traces of themselves in terms of usernames and unfinished profiles. All untraceable, unevaluable and – mostly – unquantifiable.

And as they are so diverse and give little clue to what they really, really want (and I’m certain that many of them do, simply, want to zigazig ah) a brand or organisation wishing to give them ‘Free Stuff’ actually can’t. Because one size does not fit all and they don’t ask directly (well, not often).

What this means is that brand or corporate pursuing its benighted and expensive social media ‘strategy’ is obliged to provide one of three things. Reaction to negative comment, general product or corporate info or Irritating Voiceover. Or any combination of the three.

Well, the pedants will say, this IS, by the definition outlined here, Free Stuff.

And indeed it is. But it’s low-level, generic Free Stuff that should be on your website anyway. If your consumers are having to get, or ask for, general info via Twitter or Facebook, then there is something seriously wrong in another area of your communications mix. Or, maybe, those consumers (stakeholders) are just sad and needy and desperately crave human contact. Any human contact.

Going back to Free Stuff – the Free Stuff that people want is stuff that feels special and unique – unique to them and their group. It’s stuff that cannot be delivered via mass-market social media, open to everyone. It’s stuff that can only be delivered on a ‘personal’ basis – in today’s internet age, signing up to a brand’s website is personal enough.

Two things, then.

  • Social media cannot fulfil the consumer’s defining need for Free Stuff
  • Your website (and associated digital marketing) can

Why, therefore, are you wasting time, money and effort on social media?