Not just me, then………

Good morning, dear blog snorkellers all, and welcome to the bloggy equivalent of diving for meal stars in a tank full of spiders and cockroaches but, thankfully, without Ant and Dec. For those of the faithful that haven’t got a clue what just went down there, it’s a knowing and thus quite irritating reference to the current expression of the Great British zeitgeist, ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’ only, of course, they’re not and everyone (secretly) wants them to stay there. Especially Nadine Dorries and Helen Flanagan, two people without whom I am absolutely certain the world would continue on its merry way, not in the least bit troubled by their absence.

So, you must be whispering amongst yourselves, ‘why has he called us here’ – on a day like today, as we barrel headlong into a gripping British winter. Well, since you ask, it’s for reasons social mediaeval, trotters mine and something that you may be interested in persuing yourselves. It is this – see – an article by one Charlie Brooker, reproduced here by linkery to t’Guardian newspaper of this parish, without so much  as a ‘by its leave’ or, indeed, permish from Brooker himself. I do hope he’s not overly bothered and decides that it’s a) too much faff and b) uneconomical to get all McAlpine on my ass. As the Mercans might say if they knew who McAlpine is and were as able to bend the English language to their will as I am.

I’m in agreement with this train of thought because it suits me to be so. Anyone who knows me will know I’m not a great fan of t’social, and this article posits that “Like the wheel, social media is another invention that is starting to resemble more of a millstone than a breakthrough.” It also suggests a few simple rules to solve a problem like the internet. Unlikely, you may say. P*ssing in the wind, you may say. Important, I say, and eminently necessary as we spiral headlong into a digital despond where, OMG, everyone is LOL, or worse, ROFL, or even, at the extremes of society, RAOTFLMFAO.

I think it’s code for ‘I’m a Luddite, Get Me Out Of Here!’ And I’m waiting for my request to be granted.

New Date For The End of The World – 2017

We’ve all seen The Terminator (OK, so maybe some of you haven’t seen The Terminator – if so a) you are undoubtedly a horrible hairy hermit who has been living in a cave, on a diet of unmentionable wiggly things for the past three decades and b) it is a seminal movie from 1984, starring thesp behemoth Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg from the future, sent to kill the mother of the man who will lead the resistance against the machines, in a future where machines have taken over the world).

As I was saying, we’ve all seen The Terminator and know how untidy and radioactive a planet can become when machines decide they’re better at ruling it than the indigenous carbon-based lifeforms that have happily been making a fair old hash of it for the past few millennia.

Here’s an article from The Grauniad (a UK-based daily paper of some note, for those blog trotters of a foreign persuasion) which says that “mobile subscriptions set to rise from 6.2bn now to 9bn by 2017, according to report from Ericsson”. Yes, friends, by 2017 there will be more devices than people on this wee planetoid that we call home.

And then it can only be a matter of time before the first Blackberry gets all Bold (see what I did there?) and decides that, rather than being in a bag or a pocket, it would rather be out in the fresh air. And once it decides that, then it’ll BBM all its mates, and before you know it, they’ll all be clamouring for their freedom. And in so doing, they’ll inevitably decide that – actually – they’d probably make a better fist of running the place after all and – well, you can see where I’m going with this.

Is there a John Connor in the house?

Mealtime Communication

Following on from yesterday’s food-fuelled diatribe about the importance of the idea and not its provenance, here’s another foray into gastronomic thinking around issues communicantes.

For background, you’ll have to look at this, a post from TechCrunch by the gloriously-named MG Siegler. (Mr., Mrs., or Ms. Siegler, I salute you and your fabulous name.)

However, because I know that you won’t, slothful blog trotters all, let me just pique your appetite with the tempting hint that it’s about the old and thorny issue of mobile ‘phones at the dinner table. Yes? Or no?

For me, it’s a no. If I’m out to dinner, I want conversation that is spontaneous and well-thought out – not just a commentary on who’s texted what to whom and who’s updated their status to what. If, on the other hand, you’re MG Siegler (and someone definitely is) then it’s a yes – because the continuing convergence of functionality and the prevalence of ‘smart’ ‘phones means that you can actually add to your well-thought out and spontaneous conversation with details that you’ve found on the webternet. (OK, this might make your conversation a little less spontaneous, but you’ll never be left thinking ‘ooo, ooo, ooo – what are the names of all of The Saturdays – oooo, it’s on the tip of my tongue’ etc etc etc.) (No, I don’t know.)

Anyway – as I said – it’s an issue and I’ll not get it resolved here.

No, what’s great about this post is the last bit. I’ve talked before about great ideas, but this is a genius idea. This is a Dyson moment. This is the sort of idea that I don’t have, which is why I am not a) a thought leader or b) as rich as Croesus. This is brave thinking, challenging the paradigm – whatever the f*ck that means.

To summarise – what does the future hold? People going to restaurants and having mobile device-less conversations? Or restaurant tables that are designed to facilitate the use of mobile devices?

Genuinely amazing.

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.

You’re Zucked!

Proof, were it needed, that Facebook is eeeee-ville.

Well, OK, it’s not actually proof, per se, and it’s not actually Facebook, per se, it’s more a bunch of opinions about the loathsome whelp who started it all, Mark Zuckerberg. Who, incidentally,  sounds like a genuinely unpleasant nerd with few ethics and a touch of the pulling-the-legs-off-flies Asperger’s about him. 

(But that’s just my tuppence worth and I am happy to state – for the record – that it is in no way based on fact or personal experience and is merely a conclusion drawn from available material and thus only probably bang on the money.)

Anyway, if, lazy, slothful, comatose blog snorkellers mine, you were (for once) to follow the link that I’ve posted, you’d find yourself inside the head of one Jason Calacanis, who definitely has a downer on the Zuckerbergster. And, if half the things he’s saying are half true, then perhaps he’s right. (Although he does go on at quite some length, implying that he may have an axe of a personal nature to grind.) 

I was taken with the term ‘You’re Zucked’ which appears to describe the state of having had your ideas stolen by someone, or having been screwed over by a business partner. Apparently, his behaviour has been so bad that those in the know are now calling for a boycott of ‘book, and have decreed that ‘book is seriously uncool.

(Mind, if ‘book really has 400 million users and is the third largest country in the world by population, I think it may take a little time for this uncoolness to filter down. I also cannot help but thinking – what did you expect? His Zuckness is an entrepreneur and a businessman and you don’t get anywhere by being nice and holding the door open for people. But maybe that’s me.)

My worry is that if ‘book goes down – what hideous creature will rise in its place? See – I don’t believe the social media hippies and I don’t believe in the inherent goodness and niceness of all and sundry. There’s always someone who wants to make money and screw everyone else – and if it’s not the Zuckerburger, then who (or what) is waiting in the wings?

Maybe we should be careful what we wish for. (Or, as I’m speaking for myself, what I wish for.)

Quiet in here, isn’t it?

Make Or Break For Social Media

Here’s a link to dailyfinance.com and a piece about Twitter’s new ad plan, which you can only be ignorant of if you have spent the last day with your head in a bucket of ostrich poo. The journalist calculates that Twitter needs to make between $146 and $241 million in order to justify the current (and apparently sane) valuation of its service of $1.4bn.

(I cannot help but remember Mark Ritson in Marketing magazine saying – and I’m paraphrasing – ‘Twitter worth $1bn? Bollocks to Twitter!’)

Tha means a revenue of $1.95 to $3.21 per user per year. Which apparently is nothing compared to Facebook’s per user revenue of between $3 and $5. Which brings in more than $1bn a year, for the hard of thinking. (I cannot help but suspecting, mind, that this is nonsense of the horrible horseshit variety, but – hey – that’s just me).

Anyway, suffice it to say that there is an opposing school of thought which says that the Twitterads simply won’t work – no matter what anyone says, it’s not like Google (a search engine) and the ads are limited to 140 characters (difficult to communicate at the best of times). On top of that, these ads rely upon people re-Tweeting them and passing them on – a concept which I, personally, find difficult to understand.

The opposing school of thought also points out that Twitter’s infrastructure costs $25m each year to run. Currently it makes no money at all. It simply HAS to find a way of monetising itself – and no, Biz Stone, there’s no time left to do this in a gentle and questioning fashion. It’s acts together time boys, or you’ll go the way of MySpace, Bebo and Friends Reunited.

In fact, now I think about it – and as predicted on this blog last year – there’re only two social media sites left (when I say left, I mean with any sparkle in them). It’s Facebook and Twitter. (LinkedIn is a business medium – and even that, if you listen to the rumours, is on its way out.)

Two big social media brands, one of which will inevitably be eaten by the other in their rush to ‘monetise’ and justify their valuations.

TwatFace, anyone?

Social Media – Taking The (3) Ps

This is what happens if you follow links. You end up confronted with stuff that you really didn’t want to see – nasty, horrible, hessian, hippy mojambo that elevates nonsense to an art form. Here is a link to it. Go ‘click’ if you dare.

It’s an ‘article’ (I’m being generous here) entitled “How to build conversations in social media using the 3 P’s (sic)’. It uses an ice-cream parlour as a metaphor (and no, dear blog snorkellers, it is not a good one). The three Ps are (ready?):

  • Passion
  • Planning
  • Promotion

(At this point, I’d like to draw a parallel withe four Ps of marketing – product, promotion, price, placement – nice solid Ps that end in an S. S for sales, chaps, S for sales. Unlike these wishy-washy, unsatisfactory and ultimately, given the media, unimplementable, wee Ps of conversation.)

Let’s ignore Passion for a moment. No-one knows what it means anyway. It’s like ‘quality’. Define ‘quality’. Anyone?

Planning – we’re told it’s important, apparently, to keep the conversation relevant to your business goals. An uncontrolled discussion is of no use. Hello? Social media = uncontrolled, I’d have thought. If I had a unit of Earth currency for every time that I’ve been laughed at by slightly disturbing social media evangelists for wanting to control the message, then I’d be driving a decent sports car by now. And if you can’t control the message – as the socialists tell me – then how can you control the conversation?

Promotion – no-one will find your conversation unless you promote it. Obviously, you’re using your conversation to promote your business. So you’re involved in promoting the promotion of your business. Why not cut out the middleman and just promote your business directly? Do traditional marketing channels require that you promote them? Does anyone advertise their advertising? No, of course not.

We’re shoehorning here people. Shoehorning. This is another example of taking the Next Big Thing and desperately trying to find a way of making it work in a commercial sense.

My current thinking is that social media does have a commercial value – the 7m plus fans of Starbucks must drink at least some coffee, and there must be incremental coffee sales to be had off of Facebook. The point is that no matter what you do, you cannot harness it, and it will bite you as soon as lick you. There are no rules, no acronyms, no strategies – it’s luck, serendipity, happenstance and chancing to create something interesting enough for people to want to view or interact with it.

It seems a hell of a gamble to put some or all (like PepsiCo – $20m diverted from the Superbowl) of your marketing budget into social media on the off-chance.

Social media – Privacy No Longer The Norm

Coming a bit late to this – although I have used it as a platform for my opinions on the validity of ‘the conversation’ (in summary, ‘the conversation’ is just another pair of Imperial undercrackers) – but, for clarity, this is Mark Zuckerberg’s much-vaunted assertion that: “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”

My personal take on this remains that simply because anyone with internet access (59% in the UK) has the opportunity to post to social media, this doesn’t mean that they’ve also been magically granted the capability to do so. There is – and I’m working on the laws of probability here – a vast swathe of users out there who simply do not understand what they are doing and have no concept of the implications of posting personal details on a free-to-access web portal.

Some people have ‘gotten comfortable’, others are neither comfortable with, or uncomfortable about, sharing information openly and with more people. Many, I’d wager, have yet to grasp that when you stick something on the net, anyone can see it and – possibly worse – there are all sorts of organisations, agencies and groups who are actively looking for it. So-called privacy controls on social media sites are, currently, no more than lip-service – not obvious, not understood, not used.

Anyway, that’s me – and here’s a post from a gentleman by the name of Ed Hartigan. The post sort of reiterates what I’m saying but, all credit to Mr Hartigan, he takes it a bit further. What is genuinely interesting, however, is his reference to VRM (Vendor Relationship Management for those few of my blog snorkellers who didn’t already know) which I’d not come across – as a specific discipline – before. Obviously, I’d given thought to some of the suite of VRM tools before, from a consumer’s point of view, but I’d not seen it as a specialism in its own right.

It’s interesting because it’s wholly the product of business’ inability to behave ethically and the consumer’s inability to deny themselves or consider the implications of their actions. VRM exists to combat CRM – which, after all and despite what its name implies, is a sales tool, wholly reliant on being able to prise a potential customer’s personal details out of them.

Strange, isn’t it, that in this age of social – which, let’s not forget, is all about openness and transparency and the conversation – where it’s all down to individual relationships and contracts – where brands have to humanise – that VRM mechanisms need to be put into place to protect consumers from rapacious brands that, given half the chance, will spam them out of existence.

But what really pisses me off is that because business cannot stop being business, and no matter what it says, will continue to try to use social media to turn a profit; and because Percival D Consumer cannot stop being a turkey and spilling his life history at the drop of a freebie, we, the sane minority, will have to start dealing with yet another new-consultant-on-the-block.

Social media gurus, meet the Vendor Relationship Managers. I hope you’ll be very happy together.

Social Media – What Value Conversation?

After my recent assertion that all this ‘conversation’ voodoo was little more than the next great excuse for not doing very much at all (and being paid, often quite highly, for not doing it) – my reasoning being, simply, that ‘conversation’, as she is hyped by the social media gurus, doesn’t actually exist – I come face to face with this. It is a listing and explanation of the ‘ten most common stages that businesses experience as they travel the road to full social media integration’, created by someone called Brian Solis, who, apparently, is a principal at new media agency FutureWorks. (Should you be the sort of terrifying masochist who seeks out opportunities to peel your fingers or pick at your eyes with fishhooks, you can connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.)

Frankly, dear blog snorkellers, where do I start? It’s delusional and, if it got into the hands of the weak-minded (you’re not weak-minded, are you?) could be seen as dangerous. Take this, for example:

“At last, 2010 is expected to be the year that social media goes mainstream for business. In speaking with many executives and entrepreneurs, I’ve noticed that the path towards new media enlightenment often hinges on corporate culture and specific marketplace conditions. Full social media integration often happens in stages — it’s an evolutionary process for companies and consumers alike.”

What on earth does he mean – goes mainstream for business? No-one, as yet, and as far as I can see, has managed to make business out of social media. Not even the social media owners are actually making money out of it. Does no-one remember the dotcom bubble of 11 years ago? It’s not the messiah, people, it’s a very naughty boy. 2010 will not be the year social media goes mainstream for business – it might be the year when business pisses away a significant proportion of its total marketing spend following the advice of Mr Solis and his peers, however.

I also cannot help but noting the use of the phrase ‘the path towards social media enlightenment’, deliberately imbuing his subject with some quasi-religious significance and tacitly implying that those who do not run towards social with open arms are both unenlightened and somehow heathen.

And then there’s the assertion that ‘full social media integration often happens in stages’ – as if it’s something that happens all the time, the new normality, an inevitable metamorphosis that will change us all – thereby bestowing credence on what are, after all, little more than crackpot theories.

And that, gentle readers, is just the content of the first paragraph. There’s pages and pages of this insidious and infectious nonsense. It talks about “the conversation” (as you’d expect it would), it talks about ‘finding a voice and a sense of purpose’ and it talks about “humanising the brand”. It goes as far as to suggest that social media both merits and may cause an organisational transformation, in which it is imperative that teams and processes support formal Social Customer Relationship Management programmes.

To be fair, the document pays lip service to the concept of metrics to measure ROI – volumes, locations and nature of online interaction – but at no point does it address true value-adding business goals, such as selling more product, dispensing more counsel or lending more money. In fact it goes as far as to say ‘we report to executives who may be uninterested in transparency or authenticity – their goal, and job, is to steer the company toward greater profits’ as if there’s a special type of person whose job it is to worry about profit, while the rest of us get down and dirty having conversations, creating communities, listening, responding and adapting our products and services.

Don’t get me wrong, social media is here and it’s (probably) here to stay. Ignore it at your peril. But it is not that important. It is not something that has to permeate your business, brand or organisation at all levels. It is not the future of communication as we know it and it is not an excuse to stop what you’re doing now and enter some Utopian world where no-one’s responsible, there’s no control and you simply have to go with the flow – because this is bigger than all of us, man.

Horseshit! Wake up! This is the call of the sirens and the more you listen to it, the more chance you’ll throw yourself overboard and drown in a sea of endless, meaningless ‘conversation’.

Twitter – Are You Sure You Want To Be Involved? Certain?

Today, dearest blog snorkellers, more light is shed on the essentially trivial, vapid and meaningless nature of Twitter. For yesterday INQ Mobile – a purveyor of social media-friendly mobile devices to those with too much time and too little life – released its Twitterati List. This list – which you can find here, clickety-click – purports to rank the most influential celebrities using Twitter – not the most well-known, or those with the most followers, but the most influential. (No, I’m not sure how they did it. Stop asking silly questions.)

Pleasingly, because it saves a little effort, there is a UK and a US list. What it shows, I guess you could infer, is the level and depth of influence that Twitter has. Put another way, it gives an insight into the average Twitterist, if the average Twitterist is genuinely ‘influenced’ by the celebs on the list. (And before some pedant says – ah, but it’s celebrities, isn’t it, what did you expect – may I point out that it appears, because it includes politicians and business people, it might also have included authors and intellectuals. Tellingly, it didn’t.)

You can read it yourself and draw your own conclusions. And I acknowledge that the US list contains Al Gore and Barack Obama. However, seriously, what value do you put on a medium that has, amongst its most influential users, the likes of Russell Brand, Peter Andre and two members of McFly (in the UK) and P Diddy, Ashton Kutcher and Mariah Carey (in the US).

I ‘umbly submit, yer honours, that Twitter is no more valuable – in terms of an information-sharing medium that may have an impact on the future of communications – than an issue of Grazia magazine, received on your mobile device of choice, in instalments of 140 characters.

Tell me it’s not so.