Social Media – Nothing More To Be Said

“Fry warns on social media” – yes, it’s PRWeek again. (Or, if you’re in the States, it’s PRWeek – but monthly. Of course.)

Englands most treasured national treasure, the warm, mellow, avuncular and perhaps, even, a little tweedy, Stephen Fry (for all those of my faithful blog snorkellers who are not familiar with this afternoon-tea-and-crumpet of a man – he’s a middle-aged, rather camp, comedian) has pronounced on social media. This is the same man who made a complete Twit of himself – he had a Call-me-Dave moment with a surfeit of Tweets – not many weeks ago, so I suppose he has the experience to back his pronouncements up. Anyway PRWeek pounced on the pronouncement (I’m channelling the spirit of Stephen here) and published it (issue dated November 27 2009 – if you haven’t seen it, go out and buy one for £4.22, or whatever spurious cover price they’re featuring this week, it’s a collector’s item, in that there’s not going to be a print version for much longer). (Apparently.)

Anyway, summarising wildly, dear old baggy, arch, loveable Stephen has (apparently, again) ‘warned communicators of the risks inherent in using social media as a new type of PR channel’. (Welcome to the party Stephen! Better late than never, I suppose.) He went on to say (according to t’Week) “All new means of communication have been derided and decried because they are seen as encouraging demagoguery of the worst kind. It may be that there will be dark days when social media are seen to cause genuine damage and even death by inflaming people wrongly.’

By which I think he means that every new type of communication that comes along gets hi-jacked by the snake oil salesmen and the charlatans, and, if a majority of people continue to insist on using social media as an extension of the nasty, murky dark bit in their heads, then there could be fisticuffs.

And it’s not that he’s wrong – rather that what he’s saying is so dreadfully obvious and has been done to death on fora around the world. As Mr Fry is an enormously clever man, I can only take from this that there is nothing more interesting, relevant or current to be said about social media.

The conversation – which, after all, is what social media is all about – appears to be over.

Social Media – Twitter – Is There Really A Point?

Or, as this post would seem to imply, is it just an artificial ecosystem made up of the vain, the docile, the needy, the under-resourced and those who’ve take bad advice?

Comments on the back of a tenner to the usual address.

Twitter – I Can Do That, Gis A Job

Came across this, which is a look at the American political Twittersphere – I know, I know, sounds horribly complicated and not a little worthy (and it is) – but actually worth a quick look – if only to see who’s using it. Anyway, it’s not the point of this post, so don’t waste too much time.

While I was looking at it, I was drawn to @schwarzenegger (like a moth to a flame, or a fly to dog poo, or a small child to an unprotected electrical socket) and my morbid fascination, dear blog snorkellers, was amply rewarded. Do, please, have a quick look.

Quite clearly, The Governator is not going to tweet himself. No, he has a team of tweeters – and judging by their performance over the last few days, they have fallen foul of ‘Call Me Dave’s ‘too many tweets makes a twat’. I’m sorry – I don’t know Mr Schwarzenegger (although I am a great fan of his oeuvre) (serious) but there is no way on God’s green earth that he is going to post “in case you missed it, here is a clip from our water press conf. That’s what I call bipartisan.” He’s just not. Sorry.

So, I may have missed the point. 1) Maybe it is him, and I’ve been suckered by his monosyllabic silver screen routine. 2) Maybe he dictates it. 3) Maybe no-one cares what the words actually are – it’s the message that counts.

Actually, none of this. What we have here is failure to communicate. Governor Schwarzenegger, publicity-hungry, comms-oriented soul that he is (and I believe he is, and for most of the right reasons) has been advised to ‘do Twitter’. So he’s said yes. And he clearly can’t do it himself, so he’s got someone to do it for him.

Nothing wrong with that – I think most people would expect it – but it throws up a fundamental rule of corporate communications which perhaps the social media strategists have yet to learn. It’s a simple one. Ready?

If, in your communications, you take on the voice of someone else – the CEO, or the Governator – make sure that you approximate their usual delivery (either spoken or written).  Most people understand that this stuff is written by a ghost writer, but no-one wants their face rubbed in it.

Anyway, based on the Governator’s twitter feed – I could do better than that.

Dear Mr Schwarzenegger, can I be your twat?

Social Media – A Presence On Youmytwidioboobespace

Some time ago, I suggested the imminent coalescing of one or more social media – as the only real way that they can survive individually is by broadening their offer and thus encroaching on each other’s space. (It’s my space! No, it’s not, it’s TwinkedIn.) Just in case you’re not an avid follower of my random – but increasingly accurate – musings, you can catch up here.

Hurry up, the rest of us aren’t going to wait all day.

Right. Anyway, the point is that I’ve just received my first request though LinkedIn to be someone’s bitch follower (or was it that she wanted to be my follower?) on Twitter. Oh, but yes. The gradual merging of media has started and who knows where it will end. As an aside, I cannot see how the Twitter/LinkedIn deal is going to work – LinkedIn has already taken on some of the aspects of Facebook, as people forget that it’s a business tool and post quick updates on their musical tastes – and the culture of Twitter (the Twattish behaviour, if you like) will not mix well with the orignal culture of LinkedIn.

Be that as it may. This is the beginning – as I’ve said several times before – of the end, specifically the end of the social media free-for-all that exists now. So – if you’re a corporate, and you’re thinking of dipping your toe – perhaps even investing something in it – is now the time?

Remember Betamax. You don’t want to be Twitter-savvy, if it turns out that Wave is the future – and yes, OK, I know that’s a bit faux-naif. (Qui? Moi?)

But social media, as a business tool – marketing, comms and to a certain extent, sales – does not deliver tangible benefit. And while it’s still sorting itself out, it’s unlikely to. So curb your enthusiasm – because I know you’re just busting to get involved – and let’s see how it shakes down.

It won’t take long, mark my words……..

Social Media – Twitterette’s Syndrome

Twitterette’s Syndrome is a localised but extremely virulent strain of Social Media Tourette’s (oh yes it fucking is) which, as you will know, gentle blog snorkeller, is an odious ailment that afflicts a small but significant proportion of the population when they are presented with the opportunity to post whatever they like to a public forum.

It can take the form of simple intolerance of anyone else’s point of view, or extreme bad language, or posting of inappropriate material (visual or written), or racial harrassment (and yes, Nick Griffin is a white bollocks – he’s a White Nazi Bollocks, actually), or career-threatening stupidity. Or one of a myriad of other opportunities to be a complete arse.

Twitterette’s Syndrome is the delusion that people are interested in everything you do, leading the sufferer to tweet things that are wholly unimportant, have no relevance, wouldn’t be considered appropriate to say out loud or are simply the product of a mind with the consistency of blancmange.

Stephen Fry, recently. So you’re a manic depressive Stephen – that’s not a good thing, and I know you struggle with it, and I appreciate that it’s not easy – but if you’ve got a Black Dog, step away from the Twitter feed. Duncan Bannantyne, not so long ago. No-one wants to know that you’re in the airport, coming back from your house in France. In fact, most people actively don’t want to know. There are a million other examples, if you go looking for them. Most are, however and thankfully, hidden from overly public view and their authors are only perceived to be useless cretins by a small group of their peers.

This morning, however, we have the salutory tale of the woman who tweeted details of her miscarriage, while she was having it. Now, OK, I wouldn’t know about it were it not for the media picking up on it. And they wouldn’t know about it were it not for a few outraged souls who feel that a woman should not be pleased that she’s having a miscarriage – in fact probably shouldn’t be allowed to have a miscarriage full stop. Penny Trunk, the miscarriagist, (with a name that ‘minds me of a cheap elephant) put forward the perfectly valid point that if you don’t want to know about it, don’t log on. Totally agree.

But what, on earth, was she thinking when she decided to tweet about it? It’s not the sort of thing that most sane people would consider a valid conversational topic. I don’t know Ms Trunk, but I’m presuming that she didn’t actually say – in her board meeting – ‘Hey up, lads, I’m having a miscarriage – great!’ But she saw fit to tweet it. This is Twitterette’s Syndrome – and I can’t help but thinking it’ll get worse before it gets better.

Oh – and Ms Trunk – she’s the ‘boss’ of this firm. She was in a board meeting. And she’s tweeting. Goes to show that social notworking is everywhere.

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.

Public Relations – Best Practice…..I Think

I’m seriously anti-fluffy. I think there’s too much fluff in PR. Sadly, I think there are too many la-las as well. Thus, when I come across a trend-setting (or identifying) newsletter from an up-to-the-minute PR agency, my heart sinks and my stomach turns over. I know what it’s going to contain. Lots of laaaa, and Dysons full of fluff. “How great are we?” sort of stuff, with garish graphics and pictures of Charlotte, a junior account exec from their sTYleWerKs division, riding camels in an amusing manner. (Or is that just me?)

Anyway, much as it pains me, a shout out to Lexis PR for this. (Particularly for the Meatwater heads-up, which my regular readers – ho ho ho – will know sparked off a bit of a diatribe.)

Tentatively, because I’m not one to get all definite about anything, I think this might, actually, be quite good. No pictures of Charlotte riding camels, you see. I hope they can keep it going.

But – because nothing, here on Wordmonger Farm, is ever without its ‘but’.

“Dear Lexis,

Loving your website – but does it not take an absolute age to load? Is it, perhaps, slightly more clever than it needs to be? I hope this is seen as constructive criticism.

Also, in your lovely e-newsletter, just a small thing, you namecheck Bring Me The Horizon as being a beat combo who may achieve some popularity in the mainstream hit parade in 2010 and have a ‘new sound’. I’m seriously middle-aged and I know that Bring Me The Horizon have been around since 2004 and the sound, far from being new, is an evolution of that well-established and popular easy-listening genre, deathcore. Possibly not as cutting edge as you might be, here.

Good luck with it!

All the best

Jeremy”

Social Media – Really Worth the Risk?

Came across this paragraph this morning. I’m not going to go into the context – suffice it to say it was the conclusion of a commentary on Barack Obama’s ‘off-the-record’ comment that Kanye West is a ‘jackass’. (Which he is, but that’s another song, as they say.)

 Anyway – it’s not new – it’s what every comms practitioner knows, simply updated for the social media age in which we live.

 “In today’s wired world, every bystander with a camera phone, a blog or a Twitter account can play reporter and turn an off-hand comment into a worldwide news story. For almost any setting, the best policy today is not to say, write or do anything that you don’t want to see in the newspaper tomorrow, on the TV news tonight or on Twitter or YouTube in the next two minutes.”

 So – given that we take this truth to be self-evident – how does this square with official employee use of social media? Already this week I’ve come across – and published – the quite extraordinary assertion that “….since this type of communication is often viewed as less formal than other (sic), there is increased risk for inadvertent disclosure”. And we know, from some very high-profile examples, that – above and beyond inadvertent screw-ups – there are also employees who come over all Tourette’s when confronted by Twitter or YouTube.

 As I’ve said already, I’ve changed my mind. Doing nothing and hoping it will go away is not an option. Every organisation, by now, should either have, or be giving thought to, a social media policy. Preferably one that doesn’t entertain the notion of allowing employees free rein to post to social media either during company time, from company machinery or on behalf of the body corporate. The sanctions against anyone doing it should be quite draconian.

 I was, frankly, open-mouthed when I found out that WholeFoods has over 1,370,000 followers on Twitter. It is extraordinary. I was reasonably shaken when I saw Starbucks had nearly 294,000. Even allowing for the large proportion who became followers on their first visit to Twitter and have never visited again, that still a lot of potential dialogue and a lot of room for error.

 I know that Ford and Coke have created social media ambassadors – carefully trained, briefed and monitored social media spokespeople – to deal with their respective 15,000 and 8,500 followers. I’m presuming that WholeFoods and Starbucks has done the same.

 Best Buy, with its Twelpforce, hasn’t and the experiment is not considered, universally, a success. They’ve had some Tourette’s incidents with some of their employee Tweeters.

 The point is, I guess, that I’m not convinced of the value-add of social media. If it didn’t exist, would anyone actually bother to invent it? What I am convinced of is the increasing amount of time, effort and budget that is going to have to be invested in it – and its ancillary activities like training and monitoring – if those companies who have so bravely (and so very quickly) embraced the technology are going to keep on top of it.

 I am also convinced that the rise of social media has introduced a new, and very elevated, level of risk into external and internal corporate communications that we, the gatekeepers, ignore at our peril. As social media cannot be (properly) monitored and isn’t regulated, so it is difficult to create a plan for its use or target the message.

 Every organisation should, by now, either have, or be working on, a social media policy. And it should aim to restrict corporate usage. Before the trouble starts.

Social Media – Come Connect With Me

Came across a blog this week – all about social media, social media usage, social media marketing, written by one o’ they new-fangled social media marketing strategy gurus.

At the end of it, he signed off by saying “connect with me on: Twitter, Jaiku, LinkedIn, Tumbir, Pownce, Plaxo, Friendfeed or Facebook’.

J*sus H Chr*st, I thought. Who knew there were so many social media sites? (Well, maybe you did, but I’d never heard of Jaiku, Tumbir or Pownce.) Do we need this many? Is it sustainable? What’s the difference between them? How can you keep up with all of them and have any sort of life?

My suspicion is that they’re little more than the result of the social media doughnut being sliced ever-more thinly in order to stretch it out and make it last a little longer.

And the other thing, of course, is – well – that much social media presence. It’s a bit needy, isn’t it? Smacks of real desperation.

Internal Communications – Freedom of Speech? You Cannot Be Serious – Part 2

In a recent post, I suggested that allowing employees to post to social networking sites without checking what they’re posting first (which is, pretty much, what Ford and Coke are planning to do) was just on the howling-at-the-moon side of psychotic insanity. For the record, I blame the inappropriate and unmerited levels of influence ascribed to the rash of self-styled ‘social media strategists’ that are oozing out of the woodwork wherever you look these days.

I got a response. Here it is:

“I completely agree! That’s why it’s so important to make sure your employees are all always well-briefed. That goes for every single employee throughout the company. John C. Havens and Shel Holtz give several good examples of the importance of internal transperancy in their book, Tactical Transperancy.

Good, up-to-the-minute internal communications will make sure your employees are always on-message and well-briefed. Asking them to recommend the brand to friends in person is no different than asking them to do so online, except that online their voices can be heard by a lot more people.

Your point is well-made for employers that urge their employees to go out into cyberspace (and the real world) and promote the brand. That’s why a good social media strategy includes a strategy for keeping the employees well-briefed and well-aware of the message.”

Ah – would that it were so easy.

 ‘Internal transparency’ (in one meaning of the term) shouldn’t exist. There is no argument whatsoever for ensuring that everyone knows everything. In fact, it would be dangerous – it’s not that you cannot trust your employees with the information, it’s that you cannot trust their interpretation of the information.

 No matter how good and up-to-the-minute your internal comms is, unless you undertake to brief each employee individually, on a one-to-one basis, then you cannot guarantee understanding and a correct interpretation of the data. Which is why all internal comms messages need to be broad-brush and unambiguous – there is no room for subtlety in internal comms. Because of this, good internal comms does not give you the control you need to allow your people to go off on their own.

 I would never ask an employee to recommend the brand or organisation to their friends – it seems needy and might, in fact, turn that employee against me. I want to capture the hearts and minds of the employee (through broad-brush, unambiguous internal comms) and then I want them to talk to their friends, in their own words, of their own accord, with the unambiguity that I have provided for them. And talking to their friends is very different to them posting online PRECISELY because it can be seen/heard by so many more people.

 I wouldn’t ask my employees to post about my brand or organisation on social networking sites – and if they decided to do so, I would want to see every post before it was posted. There may be a strategy for keeping employees well-briefed (isn’t that simply another reference to our internal comms programme?) but it will – I’m afraid – have the same lack of subtlety that I’ve just mentioned. The added issue with social media is that it’s not just your employees that may misinterpret the message – their misinterpretation will then be freely misinterpreted by an audience that you cannot track or measure.

 It still seems like a recipe for disaster to me.