Social Media – A New Dotcom Bubble, As If Proof Were Needed

ITV sell Friends Reunited for £145m less than they paid for it. DC Thomson buy it, announce that they plan to make a dating site for the over-50s out of it.

As a service for the hard-of-thinking, in simple terms, this is what it means. ITV paid over £150m for Friends Reunited because they thought they could ‘monetise’ it (to press a curennt buzzword into service). They couldn’t. DC Thomson, being slightly smarter AND with the benefit of some years extra intel, realise that they’ll not be able to sell it as a marketing/advertising opportunity, so look at the ways they can make money from the users of the site. Who happen to be over 50 and – let’s face it – looking for something.

This – and eBay’s experience with Skype (OK, not technically a social network, but reliant on users parting with cash to communicate with each other) – really underlines where we are with social media as a marketing tool. Nowhere. Marketing activity through social media delivers no tangible value – certainly nothing that translates into noticeable uplift in revenues. The ITV/Friends Reunited debacle just shows how futile it is to try and ‘monetise’ – get a sensible, serious and stable revenue stream out of – a social medium.

It is an object lesson. Do not do it.

Oh, I hear you say, but I have no intention of buying placebebo.com and trying to monetise it. No, my social media marketing strategies involve using existing social media channels, and require no investment from me.

Wrong. Every hour you, or your people, spend monitoring Twitter or creating groups on Facebook is time, effort and opportunity cost that would be better dedicated elsewhere.

(Oh, yeah – Twitter – becoming the province of the middle-aged and older. Young people moving away, new research says so. Google it.)

It’s Not What You Say – It’s The Way That You Say It

Bit of a rant, I’m afraid.

I think I’ve already stated on this blog that I’m something of a fan of what I would term PR stunts – bit fluffy, bit wheeey, bit whoooar – but, actually quite effective while they last. I think I mentioned Aleksandr the Meerkat from comparethemeerkat.com (a search engine dedicated to meerkat paraphernalia and accessories, as far as I can see) as a particular example of how something fairly silly and with low relevance to anything and with an undeniably ‘cheap’ feel to it can be extremely successful and tap into the zeitgeist. Simples! (And cross all sorts of media divides – digital, print, experiential, broadcast etc etc  etc.)

Anyway – peeping out from under my stone the other day I came across another one – you probably all know about this, but anyway – it was the absolutkindness.com campaign, ‘Give Kindness Not Cash!’, on behalf of Absolut Vodka. I only read a case history, but I quite liked the idea of giving smiles, hugs or high-fives in exchange for food, drink, whatever. I don’t know whether it was a success – but it deserved to be – it had legs, it had digital, it had experiential and it had the possibility of print as well. Hooray for whoever it was who came up with it. Silly, yes, foolish, perhaps, short-lived, most definitely – but attention-grabbing and thought-provoking.

So why did some clown let the Absolut head of marketing ruin it with this quotation: “We wanted to put a smile on people’s faces. Absolut is more than just a vodka, it’s a way of life, and this seemed like a good way to communicate that attitude to people.”

Aaaaaaaaaagh. It reminds me of something I might have written when I was young and stupid. No, Absolut marketing and PR bunnies, Absolut is not more than just a vodka. It is actually, quite plainly, just a vodka. Nothing wrong with that, and I’m sure it’s very nice, but it’s just a vodka. It most certainly is not a way of life – that would be a worry – but luckily, most of those who see spirits as a way of life cannot actually afford them, which is why they drink Special Brew.

(Also, and it’s a side issue – ‘a good way to communicate that attitude’ – well, is it an attitude, or a way of life? Make up your minds, guys.)

This is a plea – and an object lesson, perhaps – never give your spokespeople words, or allow them to use words, that will jar with, or patronise, or offput your audience. The quotation above runs the risk of achieving all of those things – I’m not stupid, and therefore I don’t presume that anyone else is.

‘We wanted to put a smile on people’s faces. – your choice of Absolut Vodka says something about you – and this was a great way of communicating that something to people.’

See where I’m coming from?

Silent with Rage – Better Off Just Silent?

‘Fraid this isn’t very timely – been busy doing nothing, d’you see – but the more I sat and thought (as opposed to just sitting, which is what I try and do mostly) I felt this needed a little exploration/explanation – what with all the current hoo-ha over Directors of Communications for political parties (sorry – that’s the ‘phone……….strange…….nobody there).

Anyway, there I was, minding my own business, consuming some media, when I happen across a (what can hardly, really, be called a) story about Damien McBride and the PM (Gordon, not Peter) and the PM’s reaction (Gordon’s, not Peter’s) when McPoison told him about the content of the unfounded smear emails he’d been circulating. He was (that’s the PM, G not P), and I’m paraphrasing, shaking and silent with rage. Might even have been speechless. Beyond angry, anyway, and out the other side.

Well, you’d hope so, really, wouldn’t you. But, and here’s the thing, why did we need to know? And, more to the point, how come the ‘news’ got into the media anyway (‘cos it wasn’t just one story, no, I saw it run across other outlets, when I bothered to look).

So, was it No 10, trying, as part of a rearguard action, to show G (not P) in a favourable light (speechless with anger and rage and probably coated in mortification also)? And therefore distancing himself further from the evil McPoison? Or was it McBride himself, finding it all a bit difficult on the employment front, making an attempt to rehabilitate himself – a bit ot a tw*t, but honest enough to ‘fess up and take the (silent with rage) consequences? Or was it a half dozen of one and six of t’other – collusion between No 10 and McPoison – ‘this’ll help us both, Damian, mate’? (And if so, was it also testing the waters, laying the first good intentions on that road to Damian’s rehabilitation?)

Whatever, it made me suspicious. (But I’m always suspicious.) For what it’s worth, I reckon it’s McBride trying to rehabilitate himself. I mean, no-one would be stupid enough to fan the dying embers of this unhappy episode, running the risk of re-ignition and all the nightmare that would come with it, on the off-chance that it might have some small positive impact on the PM’s (G’s, not P’s) reputation.

Would they?