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.

Social Media Ate My Brain

I’m on LinkedIn – regular visitors to my blog (oooooooh, matron, fetch the side-stapler, I may have done myself a mischief) will know this, as I may occasionally have mentioned the fact. I’m a great fan of the questions bit, because, from time to time, there’s something useful. What follows is not useful, but it does illustrate some points. Here’s the question:

“So-called “social media” is a great way to reach very tech savvy audiences. But the reality is that millions and millions of people are not reached by online tools like MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube and the like. How is your nonprofit reaching those who are not reached by social media, whether that’s people locally in your geographic area or audiences on a larger scale? How are you recruiting volunteers, reaching new clients, and reaching potential new donors who are not reached by MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.?”

And here’s a couple of answers. First, one with a slight social media evangelist bias:

Using so called “social media” translates right away that you are not a fan of it
There is a difference between social media andthe social media networks which LI/FB and Twitter are only part of them
It doesn’t need a high tech person to be on FB or myspace, it has been proven that FB is getting gray
According to Pew Internet& American Life project in a report done March 18,2009, there is a jump of Users Ages 70+:
70-74 Years: 26% (‘05)- 45% (‘08)
75+ Years: 17% (‘05)- 28% (‘08)
MSNBC also had a report about how grand parents are on FB now so it doesnt really take a tech savvy to be on a SM network, all what it takes is to know how to sign in with a user name and password exactly as someone does with Emails signing and I believe that everyone agrees that people from all ages use Emails now
Anyhow this being said, you can reach people that are not on the internet by the traditional channels of marketing: flyers, postcards, letters, ads in local newspapers and magazines, having a radio interview in a local radio channel, newsletters, posters …”

And then there’s one with a little more – well – realism, when you come down to it.

“Well, my 80 year old father is a bit of a Linux hacker – I guess you get that way if you remember when mainframes had vacuum tubes…
Google “cincom” sometime…
Anywho, I think that one of the largest hurdles for “social media” (whatever the heck you want to call it – you can split hairs, but if someone says “social media,” I at least have an idea of what they’re talking about…) is…
Your urban folks don’t have a problem – IF they can afford to set-up the hook-up…
The people it won’t touch are folks without computers/internet, and folks in rural areas… If you’re in the boonies, you either pay about $70 or so a month for satellite, or you sit waiting for your service provider’s messed-up hardware to figure out what it’s going to do… or maybe it’s the phone folks… Jen’s father has a dial-up connection. With a 56k modem, the best it gets is in the high 20s… And that’s with dialing a variety of different numbers (they use AOL, and I tried numbers from nearby to into the St. Louis metro area). Tried two modems – One a windoze modem, and the other a decent USR – same results.
There are also your basic luddites – they just don’t care.
Combined, I’ll guess that the “no net” folks probably are darn near 50% or more of the population.”

So, dearest blog snorkellers, what lessons can we extrapolate from today’s sermon? Firstly, we can get a grip on ourselves, and recognise that internet penetration – globally – sits at about 26%. (Fair enough, in the US it’s 74% and in Europe it’s 52%, I know). This means that, globally, only one in four people has the capability – never mind inclination or time – to access social media. The real penetration of social media is much, much lower. Some will bleat on about the US and European stats – where still one in four and one in two do not have social media capability, mind – and say that social media is of genuine importance in these markets. Isn’t that horrendously elitist? Tantamount to saying that only the US and Europe matter? And isn’t it just a little stupid, also?

Which brings me to the second learning for today. Judging by the use of language, the grammar, the syntax and the general presentation of (not just) these posts, plus the quality of some of the arguments they put forward, I can but conclude one thing.

Social media, quite obviously, eats your brain and turns you into a sub-spongiform cretin.

Social Media – Socialnomics – Please, Make It Go Away

Help, help – they’re at it again! Them! The social media gurus, the digital numpties, the facebook freaks! The horrible cyber-hippies, with their hessian and their mung beans and their ridiculous belief that if they chant spurious data often enough, one day it might turn out to be true.

Well it isn’t and it won’t. Here’s a new example of social media snake-oil salesmanship, featuring a short fashion show by – ladies and gentlemen – the Emperor!

Have a look – note the lack of any tangible hows, or whens, or wheres and the apparent inability to distinguish between digital marketing and the (very small and practically valueless) subset of digital that is social media. 

Frankly, this is dangerous voodoo nonsense and it makes me quite uncomfortable.

Social Media, Social Commentary

“Meanwhile Professor Henry Brubaker, of the Institute for Studies, said the latest Fry-related Twitter slaying strengthened his theory that social networking was steadily turning everyone into a clinically insane 14 year-old girl.”

From The Daily Mash – read the full article (if you wish) here.

Social Media – Is Social Not Working?

Here’s an interesting post – as far as I can see, what it’s actually saying is that a good story, is a good story, is a good story. If there were no media at all, a good story would spread by word of mouth – that’s what makes a good story – it’s something that people want, or feel compelled, to talk about. It just reinforces my view that social media is over-analysed and that, if it didn’t exist, no-one would bother to invent it. (Only they would, because there’s always someone looking for an opportunity to make a buck. Oh…….yeah………no-one’s actually made a buck out of social media. Not even the social media owners.)

Anyway, this dropped into my inbox this morning. (Why, you may ask – well, I was trying to comment on one of this blog’s posts – having a pop at me, I may add – and thought that, if I registered, I might get access to the posting tool. Nope, all I got was regular updates from a PR woman in America. Lesson – look but don’t subscribe.)

The gist of it is how clever said PR woman has been to dedicate herself and her agency to the pursuit of social media. She’s now ‘ahead of the curve’ and, if you click on some of her other posts, you’ll see that she doesn’t like to fail, either. If you’ve got time, then I recommend you read the comments thread. You can almost hear the high-fives and the ‘woooo’ every time someone is perceived to ‘get it’.

Erm…… it a possibility that there is, actually, nothing to ‘get’? That the reason that many companies and organisations don’t invest in social media, or outsource it to self-styled social media strategists (the Wizards of Me), is because, in fact, social is not working (on a business level)?

I may be shot down in flames for this – but let’s just stand back for a moment and consider it rationally. In the great scheme of things, social media has been around for a heartbeat. In that time, because of its nature and its ease of access, it has grown out of all proportion to its real value or worth. I’m sure everyone recognises that there has been – as with all ‘next big things’ – a fair amount of band-wagon-jumping, gravy-train-riding, and snake-oil-salesmanship.

Again, as everyone would agree (I’m sure), simply because it is a medium for communication, the corporate communications industry – indeed industry in general – cannot afford to ignore it.

But – it is out of control. By which I mean that it is unregulated, difficult to evaluate (on a qualitative basis), so fast-moving that it requires ever-more effort and investment simply to keep up and – here’s the killer – doesn’t deliver a quantifiable ROI. By which I mean that I, personally, don’t know of any company that’s making money out of their social media activities.

Save for the social media strategy agencies and those involved in providing ‘counsel’ around the phenomenon.

Just to repeat what I said at the top of this post – even the social media owners are not making money out of it.

I do agree that if there is corporate social media activity, then it should be owned by the communications professionals. However I believe that it is but one tool in the box – it is neither a unique selling proposition, nor a deal-breaker if it’s missing.

Oh, and I want to be the first. I want to be the first to say that I sense the beginning of the beginning of the end. I sense (I should be a medium) an ever-so-slight waning in the interest in social media. I sense that quite a lot of companies and organisations have not bought it, and – on reflection – aren’t going to. I sense that the general global population are getting bored with the endless ‘me, me, me’ that is the foundation of social media.

In short – if you’re making your living out of social media – if you are a Wizard of Me – then make hay while the sun shines.

The end, my friends, is nigh.