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.

CEOs Avoid Social Media

Ah – there you are. As you were.

When I read the title of this piece from the august and authoritative communications organ, Communicate Magazine (a title which I have simply stolen and used as my own), I was – I will not deny it – delighted. At last, I thought, CEOs show some sense. CEOs have (collectively) told their social media advisers (gurus, probably) – people whom I imagine to look and behave rather like the character Grima Wormtongue out of The Two Towers – that enough is enough and, starting today, we’ll be avoiding that social media malarkey, an’ thank you kindly.

Grima Wormtongue and a CEO, yesterday

Grima Wormtongue and a CEO, yesterday

Unfortunately, I was a bit previous. On fuller examination of the article’s contents (go on, do the clickety, you know you want to) I find it is reportage of yet another survey by yet another holistically thinking communications agency, promoting their expertise in the field of corporate reputation management by revealing (ta-DAAAA!) that “more than one-third of American CEOs do not consider the reputation their company has on social media when making decisions…….however, B2C CEOs consider social media more than their B2B counterparts.” The figures, because you’re gagging for them (I can tell) are thus:

  • B2B businesses only respond to online crises 43% of the time
  • (This is) well behind consumer-facing companies’ 63% response rate
  • B2B companies are twice as likely to entirely avoid addressing reputational issues with their digital audience

(I am afraid that I didn’t feel compelled to read the rest of the findings, but should you – dearest blog trotter – be desperate, here’s a link to the source.)

Anyhoo, having taken a bit of time to analyse the sentence “more than one-third of etc etc etc”, sad to say, I’m not sure what it means. Does it mean that, when making decisions, American CEOs don’t think about the potential effect that decision may have on social media communities and how they may, therefore, react (positively or negatively)? Or does it mean that American CEOs (possibly through the offices of Grima Wormtongue) have managed to put a value on the reputation their company has on social media, but don’t really care about whether that value goes up or down as a result of the decisions they make? Either way – and this POV won’t surprise those of you who know me – I think we’re allocating social media a corporate-reputation-affectiveness weighting (yes, I just made that up) that it doesn’t have. I would be fascinated if American CEOs have managed to put a value on social media reputation, mind.

(And, just briefly, how was this research carried out? Was the question “Out of every 100 online crises, how many did you respond to?” really asked? Yes, I know I’m being facile. Sorry.) (But, a serious point here – we’re obviously not talking about crises, we’re talking about issues. No company can be unlucky (or incompetent) enough to have encountered 100 real crises.)

So. I’d like to attempt an answer to the burning question raised by this research, which is (obviously) ‘why are CEOs avoiding social media?’ And in formulating my answer, I provide this piece of evidence, which I shall call (to make it sound weighty and official) ‘Exhibit A‘. It’s quite old, but it is the record of an online complaint being addressed, reasonably sensibly, by the company at which the complaint was aimed, and the subsequent response from the complainant.

Ladies and gents, I put it to you that the reason that social media ‘issues’ are being avoided by many (not enough) companies is because a vast majority of those using social media – and commenting on a vast range of topics, including the doings of big corporate – are completely and utterly hat stand. Dribbling, incompetent loons, gibbering into the void. And no matter what you, the corporate, do or say, you will not win.

Best, often, to keep schtum.

Is Social Media a Load of Rubbish?

Yes, yes it is. But don’t take my word for it – follow this link (which you can do by manipulating your mouse – and yes, I realise that by giving in to the temptation of including the childish mouse gag, I have now rendered this post NSFW, which means that it cannot be read in New South F#cking Wales, oops, there we go again) and read all about it.

Anyway. This is an article from the Metro (a free newspaper of this parish, and a barometer of whether someone is inbetween content on their kindle, as I am) which dares ask ‘Social Media! What is it good fia?’ In a sort of post-ironic Edwin Starr stylee.

As it turns out, it is good for absolutely nothing. Now, this is not me talking, or posturing – no – the posturing and styling is done for me by others. Oh, I know you’ll be poo-pooing it all the way to the Twitter feed, but I’d suggest you stop and think just for a moment.

Newspapers exist to be read. If they’re not read, they tend to stop existing. Which means that what’s in them is deemed by someone to be of interest to the readership. If the content is of interest to the readership, it implies that there is some resonance in it. If there’s some resonance in it, it’s a fair assumption that there is some agreement with it. If there’s agreement, then – de facto – there’s truth. For what is agreed with, amongst those who agree, is commonly held to be true. And what better definition of truth could you want than that of ‘something which, by common agreement, is held to be correct’?

(Apologies for the last paragraph. I’ve been reading too much Neal Stephenson.)

So – a happy 2013 to you all, dearest blog trotters. Let us hope that this is the year when the metaphorical little boy stares up at the metaphorical Emperor and shouts, metaphorically, “Oi – your Pomposity – you’ve got no clothes on!”

An’ thank you.

It’s Not a Conversation, Stupid

Heads up chaps. While this post is to do with something that’s ongoing here, in the good ‘ol UK of GB’n’NI (although, if anyone’s feeling radical, I’m not horribly possessive about NI and, quite frankly, think it would probably be best if we just quietly gave it back, without much of a fuss, d’you see), there’re bigger issues up for grabs here.

I am, of course, talking about what we might call (and probably will fairly soon) McAlpinegate or Twittergate, which, for those who don’t follow current affairs in the UK, and I suspect there may be a few, is the threat, by lawyers working on behalf of Lord McAlpine, sometime Treasurer of the Tory Party and all-round Big Beast, to hunt down and punish those Twitter users who promoted and furthered certain recent (and unfounded) allegations about aforementioned former Treasurer. (And breathe.)

Be that as it may. It’s a lead in to a couple of issues. The first is one that I’ve posted about before – and I know that linking to oneself is the height of vanity publishing, but, hey, I’m flexible enough – and is the propensity for ostensibly sensible people to go all yoghurt-brained when confronted by social media in all their myriad forms and with all their myriad possibilities, and to start publishing things that are either inappropriate, or offensive, or cringeworthy or simply just cretinous in the extreme. I called it Twitterette’s Syndrome. (Thank you. Yes. I thought it was brilliant also.) It is this, in part, that has lead to certain Twitterers leaving themselves open to a right royal suing for libel. Ouch. Costly.

The second is an issue that is raised in this rather edifying piece from yesterday’s Evening Standard, a widely-read (and quite informative) newspaper, based here in London. The issue is that social media, by their very natures, encourage people – if not into full-blown Twitterette’s, at least into unguarded and unwise commentary. As the author, Sam Leith, rightly points out – social media, through their informality, lead us to believe we’re engaging in conversation.  By dealing in the moment-by-moment, that all is temporary. By being streams of content, that they’re transient.

None of this, of course, is true. If you Tweet something, you are publishing.

And what was it someone once said? ‘Publish and be damned’? How, I sincerely hope, very appropriate.

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.

Some More Thoughtful Social Media Commentary

You know me, not much of a socio-mediavelist on the whole – but, still, I bet you thought I’d gone a bit Southern (for my friends from the United States and America, ‘southern’ in this context means ‘effeminate’, not ‘toothless, hairy, armed and smelling of bourbon’) (and for my UK fans, yes, I am a southerner, so it is perfectly alright for me to use the word ‘southern’, as it is not offensive. In the same way I could use the word ‘gay’, if I wanted to) (which would be offensive) when I stopped ranting about t’social and how it represents a direct road to hell for civilsation as we know it.

Anyway, rumours of my descent into southernness have been greatly exaggerated, as demonstrated by this article from that stalwart bulwark of editorial honesty (on matters communication), Communicate Magazine. I cannot tell you how much I echo the sentiments in this article – not all of them, obviously, there is some very Southern thinking contained within – and how I am in complete agreement with the school of thought that says social media are completely irrelevant. (OK, that’s not EXACTLY what it says, but near enough as makes no difference. To my mind.)

I also admire the (again, to my mind) extremely clever way that one of the authors – the one in the right, obviously, the one on the side of truth and justice – has designated social media ‘SM’, which, of course, is simply shorthand for a very Southern practice indeed.

Yes, I am wholly in favour of one half of this article.

The one that I wrote, clearly.

 

Social Media in a Crisis

More evidence, if more were needed, that we really do not have a clue what we are doing with social media (in using the word ‘we’ I am embracing the entire PR and Corporate Affairs community, even the slightly creepy ones, like one I met this morning. The one who was so engrossed in herself and her own importance she forgot the first rule – don’t believe your own hype. There’s nothing more edifying than watching someone who thinks they’re good being seven shades of awful).

Anyway, long story short, I was at something billed as a breakfast briefing on ‘The Role of Social Media In a Travel Crisis’. Which sounded fab – and there were two speakers, who definitely had had crises. Sadly, the session never really got past the ‘travel crisis’ bit with the ‘social media’ piece being relegated to some screengrabs and an admission that neither of the spokepeople’s organisations had either dedicated budget or dedicated resource to deal with the phenomenon that is social. Which is fine – but I know something about crisis management and I don’t need to be told to ‘have the facts’ and ‘be sincere’ – I really wanted to hear about others’ experience of crisis played out on social.

Got me thinking though. Thinking a couple of things. Once again – and in this context – social media is not a force for good – it is likely to carry reputational risk and will suck at your time like a Goldman Sachs(*). And, again once again, our industry is bullsh*tting and bl*stering its way through, ‘avin’ it large on topics about which it wots not. We do not understand social media, fellow communicators mine, and maybe it is time that we did. Maybe it is time – to address the specific point – that crisis management planning, training and simulation all contained dedicated social (new) media modules. Maybe it’s time we planned, rather than – as I saw this morning – leaving it to chance and doing it on the hoof.

I for one shall be taking this very much more seriously from here on in.

And finally – a general comment on people who work in PR. If you’re asked to speak on a topic – then speak on the topic. Please don’t attempt to spin it to suit you. It doesn’t work (mostly) with general audiences – what makes you think it’s going to work with your peers?

(* Vampire Squid)

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?

Social networking ‘dehumanising’ – who knew?

I’m a little bit cross today, gentle blog trotters, and – although it’s unlike me to burden you with my problems – I’m going to tell you why.

First off, you should know that I employ the services of an accountant, for the simple reason that I am not an accountant myself, and I cannot be doing with all this numbery business. What I didn’t cop on to was that, in the eyes of the law (quis aliem facit, facit per se), if you employ an accountant to do your numbers, you are effectively doing them yourself. It’s a great gig (for accountants), as – in the (obviously) highly improbable scenario that they should f*ck it all up – they are not responsible. Nope. You are. Because – get this – you should have checked their work. Which, to my mind, kinda implies that everyone should be qualified as an accountant. Either that, or accountancy is such a piece of piss that anyone can do it, in which case, why are we paying the horrible f*ckers so much money? Eh?

Anyway, long story short, yadayada, my accountant f*cked up, I got hit with a £700 penalty by the revenue. Accountant ‘fesses up. Accountant agrees that I am in no way to blame and says that accountant will pay the 700 notes. Payment day was last week. Accountant now refusing to take my calls. Hence I am cross. And poor.

Anyway, today’s post is about a piece in the FT this morning, which I cannot post a link to because I do not wish to register with the paper and therefore cannot view its content. And no, Mr FT, I’m not going to buy a copy of the paper either, so, in both ways, you lose. That’s the thing about the internet, d’you see, you can’t eat it. What I mean is, that you can’t have it and eat it. It’s free. So you can’t post your content and then expect people to pay for it, either on-line or in the crinkly newsprint. No. What they’ll do is ignore you.

Anyway, in the FT. The headline ‘Sean Parker Unveils Facebook Video Site’. Apparentky he’s launching some  video chat site to counter the ‘dehumanisation’ of social networking. Sean Parker is the President of Facebook (no, all you foursquareys, that’s not like being the Mayor of the Copacabana Club in Leighton Buzzard), which, given that, with its many hundreds of millions of slaves users, the ‘book is the (I think) third largest nation by population on earth, is somehow quite appropriate. Anyway, Seanio has obviously come quite late to the party and realised that spending half your life in front of a computer or glued to the tiny, twinkling screen of your handheld of choice, is – or could be – quite isolating of the human condition, rendering one – yes – almost dehuman.

Anyway, he seems to think that videochat will solve it. Poor deluded soul. I also hear he’s thinking of opening a chain of ‘meeting places’ – where the dehumans can go and interact in real time. Places with smells and sounds and warmth and three dimensions. And, probably, coffee. I came up with a name, which they’re free to use, if they like. Try this. (Ready?) “Facebucks”.

See what I did? It sounds a bit like ‘Facebook’ and a bit like ‘Starbucks’, but, in melding the two, you’ve got the unwritten promise that you too, yes, you, the retail investor, can make some easy money out of social networks…er….when they…mmm…..d’you know….when they…er…like….float?

On second thoughts, how about Faceb*ll*cks?

 

Vindicated at last!

Or I could have titled this post ‘justified’, but then someone would have accused me of being a Belieber. When, in fact, I am simply Marked. Mark Borkowskied, to be clearer.

Here you are, all of you who have sneered at my take on social media. All of you – I believe the term is – ‘haters’. All of you gurus, you charlatans, you bearers of Greek gifts, you purveyors of snake oil. You clothesless Emperors, you herd-following sheep, you shiny-object-collectors. You next-big-thingies. Yes, you. And who’s laughing now. Eh?

See!

I’d like to quote Mr Borkowski – a real PR guru, with lots of experience mind, not a pretend guru, who is using the bauble of social media to fleece gullible clients who should know better. Here you are – if you want more, clickety-linky, read fulsome!

“Twitter and social media is not a marketing platform, it’s a channel to engage with an audience. It’s not a way of actually selling more. It’s totally about visibility.

This is nothing new, this is nothing interesting.”

Nothing see here, then.