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.

Social Media – B*ll*cks to Twitter

Better late than never. Trawling through my backlog of trade magazines, I came across an issue of Marketing from September 30. Almost a month old. I’d be a really crap journalist.

Luckily I’m not. And neither is Mark Ritson, who wrote this (to my mind) brilliant article. Mr Ritson is an ‘associate professor of marketing’ – whatever that is – and these are his thoughts on the parallel between what’s happening now with social media and what happened 10 years ago just prior to the dotcom bust. Here’s a flavour:

“If you believe the hype, Twitter is the future of media and marketing. John Borthwick, chief executive of web investor Betaworks, told the New York Times last week that Twitter ‘represents a next layer of innovation on the internet’ and that the investment was justified ‘because it represents a shift’. Ten years ago, I would have gulped, assumed I was missing something, and nodded my head at this.

“These days I am older, fatter and a good deal wiser, and I say (in fewer that 140 characters): bollocks to Twitter. And bollocks to it being worth a billion dollars.”

It’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

(Mind – a month is a long time in social media and Mr Ritson may already have changed his mind.)

Social Media – A Bit of a Roundup

This is for those of you who think I’m at my best when dealing with social media as a topic area.

(Keen blog snorkellers may have noticed that I’m essaying a move away from just ranty nonsense about social media to more considered, but still ranty, horse-droppings about other elements of the communications mix. But it’s not to say that here isn’t still stuff to marvel at in the wacky world of social media, with all those fine gals, guys and horrible, abnormal cretins who are busy filling up the internet with mindless, unentertaining shyte. Oooop – did I say that out loud?)

So – thanks to the Evening Standard yesterday evening for their profile of Mark Zuckerberg (for those living in an hermetically-sealed coffin, buried at a depth of 75 metres beneath the Gobi Desert, he’s the 25-year-old wunderkind behind the terrifying Book of Face) and the idea that Facebook has a bigger advertising potential than Google. Which makes it pretty damn’ huge, ladies and gentlemen. As an aside, it also makes Marky richer than several squillion Croesuses, and good on him. Putting an interpretation on this, it means that otherwise sensible companies will be able to stop messing about with Facebook groups, sack their overpaid Heads of Social Media Strategy (bye-bye Scott Monty), and spend their money sensibly on the only thing that social media will ever offer to a commercial concern – advertising space. Yes, good old above-the-line.

What this means is, finally, we can all blow a big, fat raspberry in the face of the truly evil American idea of ‘The Conversation’. Ooooo – it’s all about The Conversation. The Conversation – it’s the future of business. We need to have ‘The Conversation’. I even came across – and I’m not going to link to it, it makes me all wobbly and cross – someone, with (I presume) a straight face, actually suggesting that a good measurement of social media strategy effectiveness would be a ‘share of conversation index’. Oh – please just f*ck off. You nasty little hippy.

And, therefore, the inevitable demise of The Conversation will mean a drop off in the slew of noisome Twitteration that’s being forced down our throats currently. Once and for all, Twitter is an ego trip and no-one cares what you are reading or eating or thinking/watching/excreting etc etc – except those people who also think that someone might be interested in what they are etc etc etc. This is why Twitter’s growth is slowing in the US. It’s a fad, always has been, and it will be for the rest of its (hopefully) short and dwindling existence.

Meanwhile, stuff surfaces proving once again a) the danger of social media to a company or brand and b) that every company, among its employees, has a greater or lesser number of fuckwits who I wouldn’t trust with a digestive biscuit, never mind access to a uncontrolled, unregulated, global communications portal.

Recently the employees of two UK electrical retailers – Currys and PC World – created a Facebook group, poking fun at their customers. Really, really stupid, did nothing for corporate reputation and, I sincerely hope, nothing for the career prospects of those who set the group up. Now, I read, again in The Standard (great paper – free, d’you see?), that they’ve done it again – and the clowns have set up a Facebook page as an open letter to their bosses, which – in summary – accuses them of being barriers to free speech. The sheer enormity of their delusion and stupidity is beyond comprehension.

And finally, as a little light relief, here’s something from I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – in capitals, just in case you’re missing the point – DO NOT LET YOUR EMPLOYEES ANYWHERE NEAR SOCIAL MEDIA IN WORK TIME, ON WORK BUSINESS, OR ON BEHALF OF YOUR BRAND OR COMPANY. There’s a lot of stupid people out there. Beware.

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


Social Media – YouTwit? TwiTube? Twidioboobe?

Article in the Sunday Times says that Twitter’s thinking about offering a short video hosting and broadcast facility. As far as I could make out – and read it for yourself, mousey-clicket – it’s a video version of Twitter (erm – that sounds a bit obvious, doesn’t it) by which I mean it’s the video equivalent of 140 characters or less, ideally suited to eg mobile ‘phones. I see a new craze – HappyTwatting.

Mind – all of a sudden, Twitter’s encroaching on YouTube. And when it starts an audio service, it’ll be encroaching on Audioboo. I suppose the reality is that there’s a limit to the media you can offer. It’s text, voice and pictures. So – actually – they’ll just be the same services under a different brand. And how many social media brands can actually survive in this limited space?

Possibly not Twitter. According to the Sunday Times (I knew this, but The Thunderer is a reputable source) there’s a few high profile Twitterators who are leaving, and despite the service being valued at 630 million units of some currency or other, the operators are finding it difficult to make any money out of it. The video offering is, more than likely, a late attempt to revitalise a flagging brand.

I suppose the next thing will be the live Twitter. Go to a venue, meet someone, limit yourself to 140 characters. Or go to a venue, meet lots of people and exchange 140 characters with each one, moving from one to the next when you’ve exhausted your 140 character allocation. A bit like speed- dating but with even less chance of a shag at the end of it.   

As I’ve said before – the end is nigh.

Social Media – What They Really Want (2)

Since my last post I’ve been inundated with quite literally no requests for clarification of the term ‘Free Stuff’. This complete lack of interest seems to centre round the misapprehension that, when I say ‘Free Stuff’, I’m talking about tangible goods, for free.

No. It’s a metaphor. What I’m talking about is something that a consumer (or stakeholder) wouldn’t otherwise have, that adds value to their existence, and comes without charge. So – it could be tangible goods for free, or it might be an exclusive discount, or a print-and-play voucher, or a competition, or simply some useful information.

As we’re discussing this in the context of social media, I know there are those who will maintain that this is exactly what social media does – through the medium of the conversation, the Q&A, ‘Free Stuff’ (generally information) is provided.

Well, yes and no. Mostly no. Social media are populated by several groups. Those who seek to belong, those who seek validation (through followers and fans), those who cannot bear to be alone, those who believe others are interested, those who are there by mistake and the ghosts who came once, never go again, yet leave traces of themselves in terms of usernames and unfinished profiles. All untraceable, unevaluable and – mostly – unquantifiable.

And as they are so diverse and give little clue to what they really, really want (and I’m certain that many of them do, simply, want to zigazig ah) a brand or organisation wishing to give them ‘Free Stuff’ actually can’t. Because one size does not fit all and they don’t ask directly (well, not often).

What this means is that brand or corporate pursuing its benighted and expensive social media ‘strategy’ is obliged to provide one of three things. Reaction to negative comment, general product or corporate info or Irritating Voiceover. Or any combination of the three.

Well, the pedants will say, this IS, by the definition outlined here, Free Stuff.

And indeed it is. But it’s low-level, generic Free Stuff that should be on your website anyway. If your consumers are having to get, or ask for, general info via Twitter or Facebook, then there is something seriously wrong in another area of your communications mix. Or, maybe, those consumers (stakeholders) are just sad and needy and desperately crave human contact. Any human contact.

Going back to Free Stuff – the Free Stuff that people want is stuff that feels special and unique – unique to them and their group. It’s stuff that cannot be delivered via mass-market social media, open to everyone. It’s stuff that can only be delivered on a ‘personal’ basis – in today’s internet age, signing up to a brand’s website is personal enough.

Two things, then.

  • Social media cannot fulfil the consumer’s defining need for Free Stuff
  • Your website (and associated digital marketing) can

Why, therefore, are you wasting time, money and effort on social media?

Social Media – I’ll Tell You What They Want

So. There I was, sprawled on the couch (the grey one that used to be cream in a time Before Children) in what passes for a living room (which is, incidentally, supposed to be a Child-Free Zone, but has recently, I’ve noticed, been threatened by a slow-moving but inexorable tsunami of plastic cars, aircraft and soldiery) pondering life, t’universe and everything and waiting for the second episode of Flash Forward. 

(For those who haven’t been exposed to this meisterwerk of the television producer’s art, Flash Forward, and its cast of thousands, deals with the premise that everyone on earth suffered a two minute and 17 second blackout – at exactly the same time – during which they all experienced some sort of glimpse of their individual futures. The rest of the series, I’m presuming, will be spent finding out why, who, how and – most importantly – how to stop the future happening.)

Now, Flash Forward isn’t a bad programme, but I’m getting the feeling that Channel Five are absolutely desperate for it to achieve cult status. It’s the irritating voiceover you see. Just when you think it’s safe to sit on your sofa and watch your programme of choice, you get some voiceover lovely (on behalf of the station) telling you just how marvellous the programme is going to be. And, by implication, what a wonderful human being, a paragon of taste and style, you are for watching it. Indeed for discovering it in the first place. You are well and truly sat in one of the very frontest seats in the tip of the pointy end of the vanguard. And then Irritating Voiceover Woman starts asking rhetorical questions! As if you hadn’t noticed the f***ing kangaroo hopping down the street and the strange person in black who should have blacked out but didn’t!

Thing is, this is a blatant sales technique. It’s not adding anything to my enjoyment. It’s simply hyping something that I’ve already bought into. It is uneccesary puffery – preaching to the converted – a waste of resources. It does not bring the consumer in – in fact, speaking personally, it alienates them (me). Worst of all, it’s pitched at a very low level – I recognise it for what it is and find it mildly insulting. And if I do, then, speaking as no Einstein here, so do thousands of others. (And finally, in this instance, unforgiveably, Flash Forward ain’t no Twin Peaks – don’t even think about drawing a parallel. )

Briefly – very briefly, because I didn’t want to miss any programme (I’m terribly respectful of my audience, but I’m afraid, dear blog snorkellers, you’re not as important as Flash Forward) – I was minded of stuff I’ve read and conversations I’ve had about the nature of content. Specifically, obviously, content posted to social media by brands (companies or organisations) as part of a social media strategy.

It’s one of the main tenets of the big US argument for letting employees post to social media, without going through the PR department. As I understand it, the (US) feeling is that anything coming out of the PR department is like the Irritating Voiceover – full of needless promotional puffery, recognised for what it is, and – truth be told – slightly insulting  to the consumer. This, obviously, is not what the social media consumer wants.

Unfortunately, in their mad rush to get away from what the social media consumer doesn’t want, the social media gurus seem to have lost track of what it is that the consumer ALWAYS wants – always has done and always will do.

There’s this belief that the consumer wants a say, wants a conversation, wants to be asked questions. Well some of them probably do – and they’re the ones who are tweeting Starbucks or Facebooking Domino’s Pizza. (Is it just me or is there something rather sad and depressing about Facebooking a global pizza company?) But I’d be willing to bet that most of them don’t. From my experience, there’s one thing that consumers want from a brand (once they’re vaguely satisfied that the brand doesn’t kill babies or manufacture its products from toxic waste).

Consumers want Free Stuff. They don’t want an Irritating Voiceover – although they’ll put up with it, if there’s some Free Stuff at the end of it. They want Free Stuff, given to them in a non-threatening, non-patronising, non-strings-attached manner. They don’t want to be told they’re brilliant, they (mostly) don’t want to be asked their opinions, they don’t really want to have a say.

They want Free Stuff. And if it’s good Free Stuff, they’ll probably come back and buy it next time. The moral of the story, therefore, is:

  • PR people – stop doing irritating voiceover – be genuine, be honest and, occasionally, tell people how to get Free Stuff.
  • Social Media Gurus – stop asking for opinions, stop trying to start conversations and keep them going – acknowledge those who want to say something and tell people how to get Free Stuff.

Tell me I’m wrong.

Social Media – Effectiveness Depends on Point of View

Flicking through the pages of a PRWeek advertising supplement – it was the Corporate Affairs one – and came across an article by Colin Byrne.

(And no, contrary to what you might expect, I’m not going to have a go at these trivial exercises in self-publicity and ask why do what appear to be otherwise quite sensible people insist on perpetuating their existence by agreeing to participate and paying for the privilege. No – this time I shall demonstrate some restraint.)

The article was, in summary, about the danger to corporate reputation presented by the rise of social media and the fact that guarding against it – or being prepared to guard against it – is now a fact of business life. It also plugged a recent Weber Shandwick (Mr Byrne is CEO, UK and Europe, Weber Shandwick) study – Risky Business: Reputations Online – which I am delighted to re-plug here. Should you so wish, I am certain that Weber Shandwick will be delighted to furnish you with a copy of the study (and some salient advice to go with it), in the same way that I am certain that PRWeek will furnish you with a copy of their Corporate Affairs advertising supplement. For a small consideration.

In the article, Mr Byrne referenced the now-infamous Domino’s Pizza incident, in which a group of employees filmed themselves abusing ingredients and posted the result on YouTube. He suggests, rightly, that ‘reputation assassins in their many shapes and forms are hard at work out there and the real test is how the incident is subsequently handled’.

So far, so good. A description of Domino’s response follows – apparently ‘instead of issuing press releases and back-pedalling to limit the reputational damage, Domino’s released an apologetic YouTube video response featuring company president Patrick Doyle, and set up a Twitter page to answer customer queries’.

Thing is, blog snorkellers, Mr Byrne seems to think this is a good response.  Now, I could be misinformed and my memory could be playing tricks, but as I remember it, it took Domino’s an unconscionable amount of time to do anything at all about the incident – whether on social media or otherwise – and this delay was not seen as a good thing.

Regardless of whether that is the case or not – the incident, which started out on YouTube, rapidly went mainstream and (given that not everyone is plugged into social media, and not everyone has internet access) many thousands of people will have heard about it via broadcast and print without ever having seen the offending film.

By not issuing a press release (hell – I’d have gone further and taken out some tactical ads) and restricting themselves to Twitter (4,412 followers) and Facebook (312,645 fans), Domino’s missed a chunk of their audience, and only semi-addressed the issue. This is the problem with taking the ‘social-only’ route, or giving undue prominence to social in the communications mix. It doesn’t work in isolation. Can’t.

So – the Domino’s issue. Same incident. Same response. Different views on it and – therefore – different views on the effectiveness of social as a whole. Take your pick.

(By the way – the last comment on the Domino’s Facebook page reads “EWWWWWWW THE NEW SALAMI AT DOMINOS IS FUCKING SHITHOUSE. IT TASTES LIKE SOMEONES ARSE!!!!!!!YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK.” Makes you wonder why they bother. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion – but I think I’d rather gather it through customer research, myself.)

Social Media – What Comes After Twitter?

This was a question asked on LinkedIn some hours ago. Well, I’m a sucker for these things, so I did the whole clicketry bit on it, well expecting to find – two things, actually.

First, an entire bunch of new social media gubbins, none of which I had heard of, and none of which would actually make any sense.

Second, a wave of new age fullshump (copyright P Mandelson 2009) talking about how this stuff would change the worl..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….wha’? Who? Eh? Oh….yes. Change the world.

But no! Wonder of wonders! There are people who don’t believe! I thought I was on my own! Welcome! Welcome!

Actually, commentary was divided, not equally, into three bits. Those who don’t necessarily see the point of Twitter to start with, those who are promoting the next big thing (Google Wave, apparently) and those who are citing various, what-can-only-be-described-as, minor players.

So – here you are. Have a look. See what you think. MOOs, Aardvark, foursquare, and ning.

Frankly, it’s all a bit bobbins. But you may disagree. I suppose the point, if anyone cared, is that already Twitter is being seen as yesterday’s news. It is approaching the end of its sell-by.

So what of all the Twitter gurus who are busy trying to tell us that a) we’re antediluvian and, actually, quite stupid  if we don’t take part in Twitter and b) Twitter is going to change the face of business practice as we know it? Will they keep bleating, as it all swirls down the twitter?

I often think the problem is the massive disconnect between US-driven communications and communicators and communications and communicators from the rest of the world. Two (roughly) halves of a world separated by fundamental world-view issues. I’m not even going to bother to explain this. If you don’t know what I mean – then ask.

Social media suits the States ( as a generalisation). The rest of the world is not so accommodating (as another generalisation). The one thing that’s certain is that what we see currently – current thinking – will be very different tomorrow.