Embrace Social Media Or Die! (Part Deux)

Oui, oui, my hydrophobic British chums (and dear, dear blog snorkellers of whatever persuasion, religion, creed, nationality or proclivity you may have assumed on rising, this fine matin) here we go again with the increasingly rabid and just-on-the-left-bank-of-sane meanderings of one Erik Qualman, evangelist of this parish and the Dr Evil-alike behind socialnomics.net.

You will know, because of your avidity in the following of this blog, that I have already dealt with the thoughts of Qualman (have a look here) but, to maintain a flimsy gauze of pretence, I will tell you about it again, as though I were addressing the needs of a new visitor.

Mr Qualman puts forward an entire raft of statistics which, on the face of them, appear to tell us that not only is social media here to stay, but that it is becoming fundamental to the core of our very lives. They go on to imply that by ignoring social media from a commercial perspective, then your business will no longer be around in five years, and from a personal perspective, you might as well rub yourself with a fish, don a hessian all-in-one and wander the highways and byways, ringing a bell and wailing ‘unclean, unclean’, for all the future you’ve got as a valid member of society. And I had a thing or two to say about that.

Now Mr Qualman has updated his statistics. Again, on the face of it, can’t argue. Facebook (by population) is the third largest country in the world? Check. Social media has overtaken porn as the number one use of the internet? Check. One out of every eight couples married in the US in 2009 met via social media? Er. OK. If you say so.

I’m sure it’s all true. “Some universities have stopped distributing email accounts…….instead they are distributing ipads” – so, if I’m understanding this correctly, enrol in University, get an ipad. Certainly beats the £5 I got for opening a bank account. And it’s a very attractive offer for those people who a) can’t afford an ipad of their own and b) couldn’t get one anyway because they’re in such short supply. In fact now we know why they’re in short supply – because all the universities had bought the entire stock to give to their students instead of email accounts.

Ashton Kutcher and Ellen Degeneres (combined ) (now there’s a nasty thought) – or Allen Detcher – have more Twitter followers that the population of Ireland. No – that IS the population of Ireland, having a laugh. Some of the population of Ireland are finding it so amusing that they’ve been following Elshten Kuneres more than once. Wags that they are.

The point is – and still remains – that I cannot be the only one (or even one of a few only ones) who don’t really want ‘the news finding us’ (rather than us looking for the news, when we want it) or ‘products and services finding us via social media’ (rather than that quaint old-fashioned thang called shopping around when we’re good and ready, thankyou).

I’m sure social media is growing in leaps and bounds – statistically. I just don’t believe there’s any  longevity, loyalty, depth or substance to it. It’s millions of little voices, yapping into a void. It’s certainly not a valid marketing, communications or sales tool.

PR’s Groundhog Day

Here’s a piece from PR Week. (What do you mean you don’t read it, blog snorkellers mine? Go out and buy a copy immediately. This week’s cover price is – for the sake of argument – a highly reasonable £32.57.)

It’s about integration – and lest anyone be unclear – that’s the integration of communications disciplines through the creation of what used to be called ‘one-stop shops’.  PR Week see fit to grace the front page of their organ with this story, so they obviously regard it as ‘news’.

But – hold on, and correct me if I’m wrong, hasn’t this happened before (twice, as far as I can remember) – and then sort of un-happened, sort of dis-integrated, if you like? (And I do.)

Doesn’t it prove that the old adage ‘PR – it’s a young person’s game’ is fundamentally wrong? It’s not a young person’s game because young people can’t remember the hideous fuck-ups of the past and thus cannot learn from them.

Mind, as long as the clients are young as well, I suppose it doesn’t matter. They can all repeat the same errors together. Again and again and again. It’s like Groundhog Day, but it will never sort itself out and it’s somewhat less amusing without Bill Murray in it.

And the final bit of the ‘story’ just underlines what cack it actually is. “It’s not as simple as being in the same office” – no, you’re right, sunshine, it’s not – “there has to be a willingness…..to work together to understand…….” Yes, nail, head.

There has to be a mutual respect, an acceptance that the ‘idea’ can come from anywhere, and an innate ability to recognise what makes a good idea. These three things do not come from making the poor, hapless drones sit together and share the same canteen. Didn’t work in the late eighties, didn’t work in the early noughties, won’t work now.

Oh, and for the record, PR Week has been around for much, much longer than a lot of agencies and most account execs. Why, then, is PR Week slavishly reporting this, rather than working from its years of experience and pointing out that ‘integration’ is not new, not big and definitely not clever.

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?

Serving Mammon In His Communications Department

Yesterday I praised Lucas van Praag, Spinmeister-General at the Vampire Squid, for his audacious strategy of actually instigating an FSA investigation to shift the focus from the bank’s nausea-inducing profits and bonuses.

I was wrong – according to this piece by Jason Karpf (a four-time champion on the game show ‘Jeopardy!’) (which is, I can only presume, where the hapless contestants have to escape from a cage full of hungry jeopards? No?), this truly epoch-making piece of lateral communications thinking comes from Texas-based PR firm, Public Strategies.

So well done to them.

Mind, lest Mr van Praag be diminished in our eyes, here’s a piece from something called New York Magazine which compiled a list of the Praagster’s best rebuttals. I will leave the last word to @manic_impressive, who commented on the article:

“Dude, Goldman is just so much better than all of us.”

Doing God’s Work – And Serving Mammon

Goldman Sachs, after a bit of a PR disaster last year (‘doing God’s work’, they were, apparently, according to that nice, humble and eminently charming Mr Blankfein) has taken what I consider to be the correct course of communications action – kept its head down, kept schtum and got on with its raison d’etre, which is the making of frankly obscene amounts of wonga. I’m not going to talk about its first quarter results – do the light clickdango here – but suffice it to say that amongst other little frissons was the figure of $5.5bn that they’ve given to their staff. Equivalenting to some $100k per employee, including the blokes who clean the loos. (No of course they didn’t – you figure it out.)

One of the recipients of some of the Goldman’s cash fallout – quite a lot, I am told by unreliable sources – is one Lucas van Praag (apologies to Mr vaan Prag if I got his name wrong), Director of Corporate Communications of the Sachs Parish. It should be said that, following last year’s PR shambles, some did wonder whether he’d actually earned his money.

So did I – until I read this. It takes a genuinely skilled exponent of the spinmeister’s art to come up with the idea of leaking the suspicion of fraud in order not only to initiate an investigation by the FSA, but also get none other than Gordon ‘Wingnut’ Brown lobbying for it.

It’s a stroke of genius. So Goldman Sachs gets investigated – worse, it’s found guilty of misleading investors in the area of toxic stocks. It gets fined. It has to lose the middle-ranking member of staff that (apparently) landed it in the mess in the first place.

But – but. The fine will be but a fraction of its profits. One gets the feeling that the middle-ranking member of staff is persona non grata anyway and is already washed and in the laundry basket waiting to be hung out to dry. The loser in the whole toxic stocks issue was RBS – hardly the most popular or stainless of financial institutions.

No. On balance, all this investigation will succeed in doing is making people see that nice Goldman Sachs as the underdog, unfairly pursued – nay, scapegoated – for something that could have happenend to anyone. And while people are thinking this, they won’t be thinking about the telephone number profits and fat bonuses that have never stopped being a part of the Goldman’s culture.

Mr van Praag – there’s another big sack of money waiting in your office for you. Enjoy.

Volcanic Communication

Well. I know that this has been rumbling on for a while now, and, frankly, from a communications point of view, there’s not been much to say. Volcano, ash cloud, danger to human life, ‘planes grounded. As Aleksandr the Meerkat would have it, simples. But we’re now entering a smoke and fire scenario, or possibly, a smoke scenario involving mirrors, depending on who you are and your point of view and it merits a few moments thought.

Firstly, and obviously, there’s no smoke without fire. (Or in this case, no ash without superheated gases.) By which I mean if the aviation experts say that ash in the atmosphere can cause aircraft engines to fail – and provide examples of same – then it’s fair to say that flying when there is ash in the atmosphere is most definitely Not A Good Thing. There was a bloke on the TV last night who spelt it out quite well – so well that I almost choked on my glass of wine – when he said “if the engines fail, everyone will die”. (I’m paraphrasing slightly.)

Then there are mirrors within the smoke, which is there, obviously, because of the fire. The airlines are losing hundreds of millions of pounds through not being able to fly. And as the situation continues, there’s been an increase in the number of airlines voicing the opinion that it’s perfectly safe to fly – if you’re careful – and that they’ve sent ‘planes up (one with a CEO on it – see how safe it is, if we’re prepared to risk our CEO!) and the ‘planes have come down again completely unscathed. Now I’m but one cynical step away from suggesting that, despite the fact that there is a risk (and I’ll misquote bloke again “if the engines fail, everyone will die”), it isn’t a big risk and – well, set the risk against the money being lost and – hell – get the ‘planes in the air!

Despite the fact that two F-16s flew into the ash yesterday and sustained damage to their engines.

Meanwhile, here on the ground, I can’t see the ash, and I’m relying on the media to assure me that it’s there. Cue the conspiracy theorists who would have me believe that there IS NO ASH and, in fact, the closing of airspace is in reaction to a real and present threat of international terrorism identified by the European governments. Which, if true, wouldn’t make the airlines’ decision to start flying again any less reprehensible.

And as this is, in some small way, a communications blog, spare a thought for the communications people within the airlines with responsibility for crisis management – in fact those crisis communicators working for all the interested parties – aviation authorities, airports, government, weather agencies etc etc.

One ‘plane. That’s all it’ll take and this will be the biggest communications bunfight that we’ve seen in quite some time.

Oh – and if you’re due to fly somewhere in the next week or so – are you sure? I can’t say I am.