Social Media – Who Will Rid Me Of These Troublesome Twits?

It’s genuinely insidious. Barely a day goes by without a further example of a misguided attempt to bend Twitter to a purpose for which it is clearly unsuited. In fact it isn’t actually suited to anything except self-promotion by a few deluded individuals – sorry, influential socmed evangelistas – now I come to think about it. What is it about Twitter that makes people think it’s some kind of digital messiah? I think it’s possessed of some sort of electronic voodoo and is turning otherwise sane people into the living braindead. It seems to be well suited to people living in the ‘Bay Area’ (wherever the hell that is, but it sounds deeply troubling) who appear to have an all-encompassing desire to tell people about their tall, decaff, skinny, soya lattes and the new to-die-for herbal muffin at Pratt’s Deli, but other than that, it’s pointless mojambo. Oh yes it is.

Anyway, there’s a few recent examples which I will list here, in the hope that, by listing them, I can break some small part of the Twittery spell. If just one Twitterator reads it, stands back, and says (a eureka moment): “I see it all now! What a fool I’ve been! It’s crap!” (oh yes it is), Then I will feel justified. So:

Why did the BBC feel the need to broadcast live coverage of the Chilcott enquiry on the telly, and split the screen to feature live tweets from the self-same enquiry? This is so wrong on so many different levels – not least of which is I’m watching it on TV, I really don’t need someone giving me 140 character commentary on what I’m watching. Especially when that commentary was along the lines of ‘Tony Blair is looking visibly shaky’. I know, you f*ckwits, I can SEE it.

Twitter from space – big noise about how the astronauts on whatever cosmic caravan is currently spinning happily along the Earth orbital are tweeting about their tasks. Well, they clearly aren’t fulfilling one of Twitter’s major ‘selling points’ (what are you doing now) because a) there’s little or no mobile device network coverage in space and b) even the iPhone is difficult to manipulate when you’re wearing a spacesuit.

Olympic Twitter – apparently (here’s a random piece from a Google search I did) there are athletes at the Winter Olympics twittering. For those people with such a small amount of life that they’re following competitors in a winter sports event. And again, it’s not really of much real use – is it – because it’s not about what they are doing now. No downhill skier is going to be tweeting his experiences as he hurtles down a mountainside, barely in control, at 90-odd miles per hour.

So, there you have it. Three examples of totally superfluous Twitter use. It is the answer to the question that no-one asked. It is a tool for the horrifically self-important and the sadly less than self-worthy. It is shallow and superficial. Unfortunately, even athletes, TV producers and astronauts have ego and validity issues – and Twitter just feeds off them.

That’s why it’s called a Twitter ‘feed’. It’s like a tapeworm of the soul.


Social Media – PR ‘Students’ And Twitter

You couldn’t make it up. This is another one of those jaw-dropping, what-the-f*ck moments. A moment when – for someone who’s spent the best part of two decades in the corporate communications business – I actually begin to question why I’m here and why the industry exists.

Here is a link to a post on the Teaching PR blog (May 2009), from Grady College, University of Georgia. I can only presume that this is a seat of learning with the same level of gravitas and respect that is accorded to Keele here in the UK.

It provides some hints and tips to PR students on ‘what not to tweet’. I’m not going to paraphrase it here. Trust me, you need to read it in all its truly frightening originality.

Without beating about the bush, the hints about ‘what not to tweet’ are not bad. Basic, but good guidelines for those embarking on a Twitter feed. But they’re all about image and communication – things that, arguably, a student of PR should have a natural feel for.

Personally, if I came across a potential communications practitioner making any of these mistakes, I would advise them that perhaps they have made the wrong career choice and that they should f*ck off and trouble some other industry with their ridiculous and naïve viewpoints and attitudes. (Hey – call me harsh.)

On top of that, if Grady College feel the need to give these hints and tips to their students, then they have wholly failed to engender any sort of PR sense into them – thus, arguably, their course should be shut down.

It’s this sort of misunderstanding, naivety and ill-informed behaviour that will provide the comms industry with the next generation of PR lovelies – all blonde hair and parties – that will perpetuate the crass mythology of PR as a business of fluff and spin and will continue to deny the industry its seat at the top table.

My faithful blog snorkellers will know my feelings on social media. This scary nonsense does nothing to change my opinions, or give me any faith in the future of our profession. I’ll leave you with the following:

“Earlier this semester, @BarbaraNixon tweeted a wise suggestion to her students: go to the Web and look at your last page of tweets. Is that really how you want to represent yourself to the world?

If not, it’s time to rethink your twitter strategy.”

No, it’s time to rethink your life.

Social Media – News Tweets And Measuring Impact

(Just as an aside, could we dispense with the term ‘press release’, used to describe a piece of writing, carrying a message and sent to a journalist with the aim of generating media coverage? Could we not just say ‘news release’ or ‘media release’? Is it not time we broadened our horizons? Anyway.)

Today, blog snorkellers mine, I give you not one wonderful thing to look at – but two! And, as you know that I am not a great advocate of social media as business or marketing communications tools, you may be intrigued to hear that they are both social media ‘value-adds’. Of course, I will put my spin on both, but you can think for yourselves, can’t you,  and you might just go away with something you feel you can use. Never, as I have said before, never say I don’t give you anything.

First I give you This appears, as far as I can see – and I can’t go very far into these things, as my eyes mist over, a sense of panic descends and I find myself forgetting how to breathe – to be a sort of happy journalistic tweety site, to which you, the hapless PR practitioner, can post (for a small sum) your press releases, in tweet form. (See what I mean about the use of ‘press release’? In an online medium? Or is it that ‘press release’ is a bit like ‘press gang’ – you read the headline and it hits you over the head and the next thing you know you’re waking up in front of your PC and you’ve written a rubbish story about some crappy feminine hygiene product. Hmmmm?)

Personally, I think Muckrack is a site too far. I think it’s the answer to a question that no-one asked. I think it’s someone, probably with the best of intentions, trying to make Twitter relevant to the communications/media industries. I think the content’s a bit poor and there isn’t really a context. I’m afraid that Muckrack is doing nothing to convince me that I ought to be any closer to ‘social media strategy’ than my current ‘not with a bargepole’ default state.

But ignore me. S’pose you pay a dollar a word to put your news tweet through Muckrack. How will you monitor its impact on the blogosphere and the reactions of consumers, competitors and stakeholders? How will you know whether you achieved an ROI or not?

Fear not – well, OK, be a little fearful, because I do not have a clue and frankly don’t think it can be done, but these guys over at VMR Comms do. Blokey here is talking about Radian6, ScoutLabs and Sysomos – and I have no idea what they are or what they do, but I’d say, if you’re serious about your social, then you should be checking it out. I also check this post because it puts forward a list of questions you may need to ask before embarking on a social media monitoring gig. And they are very good questions – so good I post them here:

  • Are you looking to compare your share of voice online versus that of your competitors and track that over time using easily comprehensible metrics that can be assigned a $ value?
  • Whose voice do you want to listen to? Key influeners? General consumer sentiment? Stakeholders? Traditional Media? Male? Female? In North America or worldwide?
  • Do you need a platform that can be used in focus group fashion to slice and dice general consumer sentiment, key influencer sentiment, and or journalist sentiment?
  • Do you need to know where the fish (your prospects and key influencers) are currently swimming (“conversing”) before you dive into or create an empty pond?
  • Would you like to track how well your PR campaigns have increased share of voice specifically among key influencers or among consumers at large?
  • What about your sales and customer services teams? Are they looking for the actionable
  • intelligence that a social media monitoring platform can provide? Will the monitoring platform you choose need to integrate well with a CRM like
  • Which social media “venues” are you most interested in monitoring? Blogs? Traditional News Outlets? Forums? Linkedin? Facebook? Youtube? Blogtalkradio? Podcasts? (Check out the conversation prism below to get a better sense for what’s out there)
  • If influencing the influencers is important to you, do you need a platform that helps you identify key influencers by showing you inbound links, comment count, level of engagement?
  • Is yours a global brand where you need to monitor not only key influencer sentiment but also the so-called “Long Tail” of your marketing sales curve?
  • Is your CMO demanding specific and meaningful metrics that can demonstrate a clear ROI from your social media engagement efforts?
  • If you are monitoring global brands, will you need a platform that translates content and sentiment in multiple languages?
  • Do you have the resources, expertise and social media savvy currently to fully leverage the capabilities of whatever platform is best for you?
  • How much historical data will you need? Some platforms have absolutely enormous amounts of historical data. Is that going to be helpful to your PR and marketing teams? Or not worth paying extra for?
  • What about ease of use? Do you need a platform that multiple users in your organisation will learn quickly and easily, thus increasing their level of online engagement?

Social Media – Another Top Twits List

I am sooooo lazy. It makes me feel almost unbearably guilty. It is linked in to my innate shallowness. (Shallowance? Shallocity? Or is that a characteristic pertaining to a small onion?) Anyway, what it all means is that I simply cannot be bothered to re-invent this splendid (but metaphorical) wheel. It’s a post by communications and customer services blogger Rich Baker (nice blog Rich, keep up the good work, excellent content, opinion and thinking – worth a read, blog snorkellers mine) which gives the full listing of Klout founder @JoeFernandez’s Top Twitter Influencers in the United Kingdom.

(No. You don’t listen. I’m lazy. You will have to research Klout for yourself. And Joe Fernandez.)

Anyway, the point is the same as the point I attempted to make when I posted this – which was a similar list, posted by INQ Mobile.

The point – or, rather, the question, dear blog snorkellers – is this. Do you really, really want to live in a world which has, as its Top Influencers, the likes of Lily Allen, Chris Moyles, Duncan Bannantyne, Peter Andre and Dougie Poynter? I’ve nothing against them, but they’re hardly at the apogee of intellect, culture, education or morality, are they?

Sadly, it merely underlines the vapid, transient and shallow nature of Twitter, and the medium’s arrogant and misguided belief that it actually has an influence.

I read yesterday, elsewhere on the net, that Pepsi is spending/has spent $20m on social media marketing. Some wag had posted a comment which suggested that the company should have held on to its money, because it would probably be able to buy Twitter for that amount in the not-too-distant future. I have a suspicion this might be nearer to the truth than anyone thinks.

Twitter – Are You Sure You Want To Be Involved? Certain?

Today, dearest blog snorkellers, more light is shed on the essentially trivial, vapid and meaningless nature of Twitter. For yesterday INQ Mobile – a purveyor of social media-friendly mobile devices to those with too much time and too little life – released its Twitterati List. This list – which you can find here, clickety-click – purports to rank the most influential celebrities using Twitter – not the most well-known, or those with the most followers, but the most influential. (No, I’m not sure how they did it. Stop asking silly questions.)

Pleasingly, because it saves a little effort, there is a UK and a US list. What it shows, I guess you could infer, is the level and depth of influence that Twitter has. Put another way, it gives an insight into the average Twitterist, if the average Twitterist is genuinely ‘influenced’ by the celebs on the list. (And before some pedant says – ah, but it’s celebrities, isn’t it, what did you expect – may I point out that it appears, because it includes politicians and business people, it might also have included authors and intellectuals. Tellingly, it didn’t.)

You can read it yourself and draw your own conclusions. And I acknowledge that the US list contains Al Gore and Barack Obama. However, seriously, what value do you put on a medium that has, amongst its most influential users, the likes of Russell Brand, Peter Andre and two members of McFly (in the UK) and P Diddy, Ashton Kutcher and Mariah Carey (in the US).

I ‘umbly submit, yer honours, that Twitter is no more valuable – in terms of an information-sharing medium that may have an impact on the future of communications – than an issue of Grazia magazine, received on your mobile device of choice, in instalments of 140 characters.

Tell me it’s not so.

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?

Internal Comms/Social Media – Addenda to Social Media Policies

The whole social media space is a minefield littered with UXBs and especially so for a company’s employees. Social media are growing and changing and influencing behaviours far faster than most people can keep up – it’s got to the point where a corporate use of social media policy is not only a business necessity, it’s actually part of the corporate ‘duty of care’ to employees.

Here’s a thought – educating employees in the use of social media may be seen, in the future, as an employee benefit provided by the company. Possibly those more forward-thinking companies, without exposing themselves to the free-for-all that is open employee access, might actually be seen to be taking a lead on the issue, simply by ensuring their employees are social media savvy in a semi-formal fashion. Brown-bag training sessions, interactive intranets. Who knows.

Anyway – here’s an article from The Guardian that deals with the specific problems of colleagues following you on Twitter, or friending you on Facebook. Particularly senior colleagues. The implication – and it’s correct – is that social media are blurring the lines between work life and personal life. There is no such thing as a personal life anymore – what you’ve got is a work life and life when you’re not working. Use of social media – Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, et al – means that anyone can find you at anytime. Nothing that you post to these sites is private. There is a record of all you have written and uploaded. If it sounds a bit Big Brother, that’s because it is.

There is, obviously, a solution to the dilemma. It’s taken a lot of thought. It’s not popular. It flies in the face of current thinking. It’s this. DON’T USE TWITTER OR FACEBOOK. OR ANY OTHER SOCIAL MEDIUM. If you want to organise a party, send out invitations via email (still trackable, but not available to everyone). If you fancy getting in touch with someone – meet them for a drink. Give them a call. Write a letter. Go on, give it a try.

But no. You want to be free, to get LinkedIn, to have a good time. And this why – as the boundaries between you personally and you professionally blur and dissolve – it’s more and more important that there are not only corporate social media policies, but corporate social media etiquette statements also.

It pains me, but we’re here (how? how?) and now we have to deal with it. So, in the spirit of understanding and sharing, here’s something that I stumbled across earlier. I should say now that these are the thoughts of one Bristol-based managing editor (mid-thirties, apparently) who makes it clear on his blog that monkeys like me are not to steal his thoughts without due attribution and permission. I haven’t got permission, but consider this attribution. These are not my thoughts – I am simply passing on the wisdom of another.

(NB The guidelines that Mr Bristol sets out here are, actually, quite corporately focused. But they work equally well for use of social media on a personal level. You could adapt them. But I’d ask Mr Bristol for his permission first. You never know.)

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……..