Social Media’s New Low

Here, blog trotters mine, is a leetle quelquechose that I wrote for a magazine recently. Yes. That’s right. I am a columnist. But I have only written three. Not five. (Keep up, keep up.)

There are not many things that make me seethe, gentle reader, but one of them is the taking of credit where credit is most definitely not due. And so it was when the social medians (I’m presuming that ‘median’ is the collective noun for the black arts of the social medium – implying that they’re by no means the worst thing, but also nowhere near the top either) claimed responsibility for the frankly awesomely successful launch of David Bowie’s latest oeuvre.

You see, thing is, what kicked it all off was the design of a symbol. A white square. A white square which – if it needed saying – was superimposed upon the cover of a previous album, one which was recorded when The Thin White Duke was still Thin and White and not the The Slightly Orangey Duke of Edinburgh that he has now become.

The white square was pasted over posters around the world (real posters in real time, chaps) by fans. Bowie’s people made a movie (with Tilda Swinton, who apparently looks a little like a young David Bowie, if you don’t know what a young David Bowie looks like). Print advertising featured lyrics from Mr Bowie’s back catalogue. The rarely-giving-interviews Iman, er, gave interviews.

Those nice people at the V&A are staging a Bowie retrospective (purely by coincidence, obviously). Thousands of journalists all over the world (yes, I’m including those getting’ bloggy wid it – for bloggery is not social media) dedicated column miles to the launch. Oh – and that Mr Bowie? He’s a diamond, dog. (See what I did there?)

From where I’m sitting (overlooking the Tate & Lyle factory in Newham, since you ask) this has all the hallmarks of a well executed communications campaign, leveraging the benefits of profile, influence and financial clout, across a broad gamut of media types. To claim, glibly, that it woz social wot won it, is to miss the point with a purblind disregard for reality that beggars belief.

OK – so I’m being provocative and – not for the first time – I can hear the rising howls of derision from not-far-from Old Street. (And is that the tell-tale spoingy sound of pitchforks?)

Yes, the white square symbol might not have gained traction so quickly had it not been for Twat and Book, and would we have known about globally white-squared posters so rapidly had it not been for Instagram and Pinterest (not that Instagram and Pinterest are social media per se – think of them as a more interactive version of holiday snaps, football card swaps, or stamp collections)? Had it not been for YouTube, would we have seen the ickle film featuring that man who looks a lot like an old Tilda Swinton?

I take all of this on board. Yes, I get it. But I come from a time BSM (before social media) and while it might have taken a bit more effort, all of it could have been achieved without social (and without a frankly pointless app that allows you to post a white square over your own face.) (/headinhands/ Over your own face. /headinhands/)

There was a time when the Tilda Bowie movie would have been shown on TV, and you’d have had to wait up all night for it. A time when you’d have simply woken up to find white squares over everything (as a result of global overnight fly-posting).

A time when all would have been revealed with massive simultaneous launch events on however many continents there are these days. It would have taken real effort – on the part of both promoter and fan – and would have been that much better for it. (Obviously,  Iman would still have given interviews and the V&A would still be doing a retrospective.)

So step away from the credit, social media, and no-one will get hurt. And no, as someone connected with all this claimed, this does not make social a valid ‘business and sales tool’.

When Two Become One – Social Media and the Abuse of Language

Boom, snorkellers mine! Or is it ‘boosh’? Recently I had my faith in ‘boom’ as the young person’s emphatic of choice somewhat shaken when the young person I use as my ‘young person barometer’ opted for the latter. But it is possible that said young person was still coated in fall-out from the Jack Black oeuvre ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, where Mr Black does, in fact, use ‘boosh’ to denote triumph and satisfaction. Which then begs the question, did he use ‘boosh’ because he is American? Or because it was a family movie? Or both?  I will admit to worrying slightly about ‘boom’, as I suspect it has overtones of ‘gangsta’. But, and indeed, hey – that’s the way I roll.

Which digression leads us nicely into the theme of today’s meander down language lane. Oh yes, syntaxmen, grammarians and semanticleers, another excursion into the verbiage. So, those of you who’ve been here before (wind whistles round an empty, cavernous space and a small, adolescent tumbleweed rolls gently into the dusty distance) will know that one of my greatest bugbears is the abuse of language – whether that’s language used wrongly, or words that are made up, slapdash errors or mistakes that have become so commonplace that they are now practically accepted as part of the language they undermine. I refer, of course, to apostrophe’s.

The other thing that makes me seethe, of course, is social media. Now – and before anyone starts – I am not a social media denier. How can anyone be a social media denier? I am someone who does not believe that social media is the be-all and end-all. I see no reason for there to be a social media industry. I have no time for social media gurus. I do not believe that social media add any real value whatsoever, and I remain convinced that they are practically useless in any sort of commercial (sales and marketing) environment. At best another set of media for communications purposes, at worst, dangerous, misguided and damaging (for a brand or organisation, anyway). Shallow, one-dimensional and self-obsessed – that’s social.

So imagine my joy when I came across this: “We have learned through experience tweeple don’t like brands jumping in if they have chosen not to include them. It could cause a black lash especially if they are out spoken. It is strange but they don’t like being watched even though
it’s public forum.

Do the users of Twitter know they’re being called ‘tweeple’? Do they call themselves ‘tweeple’? Are the Tweeple the inhabitants of Tweetville? If there are many Tweeple, are there individual Twersons? Does anyone have any idea how much this makes social media seem like a figment of the imagination of Dr Seuss and one that makes even less sense than a portion of green eggs and ham? What, social medians, are you thinking of?

I am a guardian of corporate reputation by profession. Something I’ve learnt is that, if you want to be taken seriously, you don’t give yourself a ridiculous name. It takes a long time and a lot of effort before you can start being jokey with your brand, and even then, the jokes have got to be clever and make people think. Or, of course, you can start out with a ‘whacky’ personality (Innocent Drinks) but even then it needs to be thought through to the nth degree. In this case, you’ve got a case of the whackies without any longevity or substance. And it is value and reputation-destructive.

But, hey (again), go with the flow. In the spirit of entente cordiale, here are a few generic nouns I’ve come up with for the users of other social media. These are free and anyone can use them without even thanking me. (Although it would be nice, obviously.)

Faceboks. Tumbleers. Foursquats. Instagrates. Youtubigrips. Pinteresticles.

And, of course, it’s not Tweeple.

It’s Twats.

That Old Content Myth

So. I’ve been reading a book with the rather pointed title of ‘Social Media is Bullshit’, by one BJ Mendelson. Available from Amazon, it is (sound a bit like Yoda, there – ‘when 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not’ – and I’m fairly certain this post will not change the opinon of that great morass of people who think I’m a dinosaur), at a fairly impressive price, even for the Kindle edition, of over eight of your finest sovereigns. As, as someone pointed out to me, you don’t actually get anything papery for that, neither.

That being as it may, as it usually is, I was delighted to find that someone had written a book agreeing with my entire premise on the subject of social, and that, therefore, if there are two of us, there must be more. Not alone. Like the caveman crawling out of the dark and gazing up at the stars – ‘I’m not alone’. (Obviously, that was his second thought, coming shortly after ‘Oh f*ck me, would you ever look at that.’)

Anyway, the premise of the book is that social media are just more media. Nothing special about them, nothing magical and certainly nothing life-changing. With social media, as with so much else, your success will be dictated by luck, how well-known you were beforehand, whether you’re famous already and how much money you’re prepared to spank away on other types of communication (this is important chaps) to bolster your social. But mostly it’s luck.

All this horsedoo about content and community and conversation is exactly that – just horsedoo. Ideas propagated by the only people who will ever ‘monetise’ social media – yep, the snake-oil-selling social media gurus, the ones who make their money out of telling you how to make social work for you. (And the answer still remains – ‘it doesn’t’.)

All of this put me in mind of something I wrote a while back – actually a comment on another blog. It was about just that idea that somehow social media ‘content’ is a mystical, magical substance that doesn’t have to obey the same rules as traditional ‘stuff’ – by which I mean be interesting, compelling, unique or new. All things that news used to be before it – oh, hold on, news still is, isn’t it? It’s the main currency of broadcast and print media – still very much alive, still terribly well, thanks, and communicating effectively with an enormous audience near you right now.

Here you are (nothing like promoting my own thoughts):

“It’s still about news. News is content, content is news. No-one is (in the main) interested in something that’s not new to them. The old adage about the things that make news – sex, celebrity, money, technology, controversy and ‘fluffy bunnies’ – still holds true.

The press release was always treated like spam, even in the days when they were delivered in cleft sticks by men in loincloths. Why? Because news releases were, are and always will be – in the main – badly targeted and of little relevance to the person receiving them.

The CEO of Joe Bloggs, the clothing company, was known as Chef Underpant Officer – probably apocryphal, although I’d love it to be true. No matter, the point is that it’s not importnt what you’re called, if you’re in communications, your job is to create presence for your clients and their messages.

Which is why all this conversation, community, content nonsense is exactly that – nonsense. We’re not in the game of creating communities, or conversation, on the offchance that someone might wish to participate, not more are we in the game of creating lovely free content that someone might wish to view.

We – as communicators – are in the business of selling. Which is why social media don’t really work as commercial marketing or comms tools.”

Boom!

Social Media – Waiting for the Wheels to Fall Off

I say, I say, I say. What do you call 600,000 people leaving Facebook? I’m afraid I do not know what I would call 600,000 people leaving Facebook – do please enlighten me. You would call it – a start! (Ba-dum tish. Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week, next show starts at eight-thirty, do try the veal etc etc etc.)

So that’s the news today, blog trotters mine, off of the back of Instagram (something that allows you to share photos apparently – although why you would want to share photos with anyone save close friends and family, unless you wuz an exhibitionist – hold on, you’re not an exhibitionist are you?) losing vast swathes of its user base because it was going to sell people’s pictures to advertisers. (Thank you, Metro.)

Two things, people. If you stick your photos up on t’interworldyweb, then someone is going to use them. Get over it, stupid. If you give away your privacy, you won’t have it any more. Derrrr. Then, Mr Instagram (or can I call you Brian?), as I’ve said before, in the socially mediaevil world that we live in, if you try and blatantly monetise the onlinesters, they will disappear without a trace. AND THEY WILL NOT COME BACK. And neither will anyone else. Call yourself a guru, Brian? You’re just another soft-centred hippy getting the whole ‘business’ thing badly wrong.

Meanwhile, although it’s too soon to say (I know) – but when has that ever stopped me – the feeling has to be that Facebook is falling into the same trap (albeit in a different way). The thing about Facebook, as I understood it, was that it was a free-for-all, free-to-air community, happily unregulated, where people could live and share and communicate (and, obviously, be trolls and dump their garbage and bully and groom and all the other exciting stuff that people get up to in their darkened rooms on the outskirts of Grimsby).

Now we find that His Odiousness, the Markster, is about to zuck you all, once again, with a something. Not sure whether it’s a device, or a piece of software. but, guaranteed, he’s going to be monetising you. He’s coming for your cash. Because that’s the only way he can prop up his hideously over-valued and over-inflated empire.

And if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it – oooooh – a handful of times, if you get all blatantly commercial on your social media bunnies, they scamper off into the undergrowth. Which is why, dear blogsters, the news that the ‘book is building something, and wants the media to come and see what it is, and the subsequent speculation that it’s a ‘phone, or a search engine, has led to a bit of a dead-hippy bounce in the share price (because maybe the something will be revenue-generating) and an exodus of some 600,000 facebook users.

As the yout’ of today would have it – ‘boom’.

Social Media Are Now Addictive – Official

I’d often wondered what they were cutting that Facebook with. All that inanity, and insanity, and lack of self-control and propensity for sometimes career-threatening embarrasment, and morals out the window and sheer filth – it’s all so clear now.

The inability to walk away from it, to leave it alone – an itch that has to be scratched, a digital open wound – the tippity-tappety of fingers on device, from morning ’til night – why couldn’t we see it? The Evil Boy Turd, Zuckerberg, is obviously lacing his product with something with the dependency-generating qualities of crack, or scag, or meth and the mind-to-cheese-turning properties of e or mephedrone.

Rather like the creepy bloke hanging around outside the campus gates, handing out sweeties for free, and promising to hand out more on demand. Which then turn out to cost something.

What’s that? Sorry? Oh. You mean you can’t adulterate a website with an addictive substance? So what’s going on then?

Oh.

So you’re saying that the compulsion to get on to Facebook or Twitter or MyTumblinstagram at every opportunity, the inability to carry out seemingly simple tasks without checking your alerts, is – in fact – just the failure of those with weak wills or limited self-control to get a grip?

And, further, that the flood of rubbish content found on social media is not the result of substance raddled minds, but simply of the fact that the vast majority of people using these media are self-obsessed, sub-standard mutants with barely an original thought to share between them?

In summary then, this new ‘addiction’ is not really an addiction at all. It’s an excuse for people not to put their devices down. It’s an excuse for them to behave badly and justify their rudeness? It creates a new industry – people who treat social media addictions – and it breathes the oxygen of publicity (once again) into something that is purposeless and (so far) valueless?

Ah.

So this article (from the Evening Standard) is hardly worth reading.

The Social Media Marketing Miracle That Wasn’t

What a fantastic title this post has (even if I do say so myself), and all the better for having been delivered to me, on a plate, courtesy of The New York Times in this genuinely thought-provoking piece about the inherent value of social media and how it is linked to the socio-cultural phenomenon behind them and their growth. (Ooooh, get me and my socio-cultural phenomena!) (Yes, yes. Alright. I made it up. No, I don’t know what it means.)

Anyhoo, the key point (for me) is this:

“That, in fact, may be the ultimate lesson to draw from the social media marketing miracle that wasn’t. The impact of new technologies is invariably misjudged because we measure the future with yardsticks from the past.”

Now, being breathtakingly simplistic here, what this can be taken to mean is that social media are being judged (in a commercial sense) by their usefulness as marketing or communications tools – because there must be a way to monetise them. Worse, those who do not see them in this light, or judge them using these yardsticks, are seen as naysayers and luddites.

Obviously, this is wrong. Social media are not sales, marketing or communications tools in a commercial sense. This is not awkwardness, or a refusal to go into the light – this is trying to see beyond the traditional uses of ‘media’, by which all such channels are judged (at present).

I’m with the author of this article (well done, sir!) when he says:

“Social networks, like them or not, are fast laying out a new grid of personal connections. Even if this matrix of humanity sputters in advertising and marketing, it’s bound to spawn new industries in consulting, education, collaborative design, market research, media and loads of products and services yet to be imagined. Maybe, just maybe, it will even be able to sell soap.”

Not sure about the soap, mind.