Fallouts And Unfollows…

So following yesterday’s post about the 2oceansvibe thing (which I don’t care to rehash) out here, I noticed something interesting: a drop-off in Twitter followers. At first blush, this phenomenon is barely worth mentioning but it bears looking into since this is essentially the digital equivalent of “I don’t want to play with you anymore”. The same can be said about Facebook and the unfriending vibe.

Why this is interesting, is simply that the line between personal and professional is so easily blurred out in the social media environment. More often than not, a professional or academic opinion is taken as a personal attack. The existence and acceptance of Godwin’s Law (despite its being pedagogical or rhetorical) is proof that such histrionics in reaction to opposing ideals in the digital sphere is commonplace. In fact, if ever there was a space that required more objectivity, it would be social media. The levels of passive-aggression are simply beyond measure. What is more, rational discourse around any topic is nigh-on impossible. Ad hominem arguments abound and what should be a debate (or at least a conversation) becomes a bunfight, fraught with the tactics employed by pre-schoolers in a playground screaming match.

So why does it matter if people unfriend/unfollow/unsubscribe to you? It doesn’t. Well, at least it doesn’t matter to you. What it means though in the greater scheme of things is that as people choose to surround themselves with likeminded individuals (and by likeminded I mean thought-clones), they shut themselves off to opposing or differing points of view. Essentially, this places them in an echo-chamber where all they hear is their own opinion being amplified exponentially. This same echo-chamber eventually intensifies until dissenting voices are shouted down and vilified for disagreeing before being expelled from the group. No, it’s not melodramatic. It’s mob mentality. And as we all know, the stupidity levels of people in great numbers can and should never be underestimated.

Back to the point of departure though. Sure, I’m now a few followers down on Twitter. Now, these are people who’ve decided that my reaction to a situation didn’t sit well with them and despite the (I hope) mutually entertaining time we’ve had on the platform, that’s enough to sever ties. And that begs that we question the strength of these ties in the first place. Issues of engagement, loyalty, authority and efficacy come into play. I’m not questioning the relationships between myself and the followers. I’m questioning just how strong the ties can be if they’re built on this platform.

I tend to believe that no engagement out in the digital world can replace real-time interaction. Sure, it can augment an existing relationship and it can initiate the genesis of relationship but it can’t sustain one. Not alone, anyway and out there, the dynamic of a relationship is even more fragile than you would expect. In marketing terms, it’s the symbiosis between these two environments that can create, build and sustain a relationship.

Ultimately though, the current outlook of the social media world is one based on tribes of people who really don’t want to engage with others who don’t subscribe to their way of thinking. In fact, the more correct way to describe people out here would be as sheep or fish or any other creature with a herd mentality. And that is sad because now we’ve done the complete opposite of what social media was intended for. Instead of bringing us together, it’s amplified our differences and our dislike for things that are different.

The question is: can we reverse this or is social media just an amplification of our own base natures?

Is Apple Trying To Kill Facebook?

The WWCD has sent the expected ripples through the Apple fanboy community. Now that the dust has settled, there may be reason for the rest of us to pay more attention to the latest updates in Apple’s world.

Essentially since the launch of the iPad, Apple has been accelerating its development in both hardware and software, driving the convergent device uptake by its market. And with rumours floating around abou the phasing out of the iPod in favour of the iPhone, the last of the Apple non-covergent devices in the stable seem to heading for extinction.

So what does all this mean? Well, at first glance not much: a range of user-friendly exponentially cool advancements, the kind of stuff we’ve come to expect from Apple. From a different angle: Apple is trying to kill Facebook.

Farfetched?

Here’s a scenario: with your iDevice, you won’t need an app for Facebook, because your app will be your presence on the network. This network will in all likelihood be content-run via the iCloud as a series of connected apps, so whenever you snap a pic, record a movie, update a status, whatever, it’s instantly delivered to your friends (because they’ll have your app or at least be connected to the cloud). Of course, apps can catch as well as throw info, so your app will talk to your friends’ apps, getting data and making sure you’re up to date. Throw in iMessage that allows you to message anyone in your network with any iDevice (can your hear the screams over at RIM Blackberry?) and your end result is an Apple powered social media network that’s accessible only through your Apple device.

On another note, Apple promises brands that the people who see their iAds will at least be able to afford it. It’s not just targeted advertising. It’s targeted advertising within a targeted market. And where Facebook serves up tiny classified-style ads, Apple offers fully interactive branded experiences. Of course, you know that the same scenario that applies to your network applies to branded apps: the content you want delivered when you want it.

The biggest advantage to Apple though is that they make hardware and their platform runs only on their hardware. So you need to pay to play. Now a lot of folks may call that a barrier to entry but Apple is firmly in the zeitgeist, with an amazing amount of credit in the global hearts and minds bank. Also, their stuff just works – and their TVC propaganda campaign didn’t hurt at all.

From where I’m sitting, it looks like Apple is lining up  its forces for an attack on Facebook’s territory. What will be interesting is how the (world’s only?) social network reacts to this challenge. That’s not to say Facebook is sitting still, with announcements about making Spotify and movie rental services available via the platform being made with huge fanfare. Yeah, it’s not going to happen overnight but if I’m right, this is the first open act of aggression in what has thus far pretty much been a cold war for your attention and your wallet. Who are you going to side with?

Let the games begin.

Of Moguls, Media and Mr Demi Moore…

Mogul? That's from Harry Potter, right?

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and just say it: I don’t care what Sean “Diddy” Combs says – Ashton Kutcher is not a new-media* mogul.

In Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People In The World” issue, Kutcher makes the grade with the sub-head “From actor to new-media mogul”. Pee-Diddly had the following to say: “Like me, he’s [Kutcher] a mogul – a new-media mogul.”

Poh-Doofy’s little ego-trip/dubious-declaration-as-an-authority-on-the-subject aside, what kind of proof is there that Kutcher can own that title? Unlike Jimmy Fallon (2k9’s Webby Winner: Person of the Year), Kutcher hasn’t exactly made waves in social media. Sure, he beat CNN to the finish line in million-follower race, but what else has he done? He’s no evangelising the merits of social media (unlike Fallon on his talk show). He’s not attending SXSW. He hasn’t used it to get a light shone on his talent.

Social media didn’t make him famous. Mass media did that. Kutcher got his audience on “That 70’s Show” and now he’s broadcasting to his existing audience.

At the time of writing, Kutcher’s Twitter account had 4.5 million followers. He follows 458 back.  His value to his followers can be measured in content like: ” Can u keep your other four toes on the ground and just tap your big toe to a beat?” and “great work today @mrskutcher”. That kinda kills Poof-Fluffy’s little assertion that Kutcher “uses Twitter to connect, strike up conversations, to send positive messages to the millions of people who read his words”. No, what Kutcher has done is turn Twitter into his own little no-budget-required reality show and added fuel to the fire that perhaps Twitter is the social media opiate of the masses.

As a bonus, with the US Library of Congress archiving every Tweet in existence for posterity’s sake (and probably for the FBI/CIA/NSA to dissect for years to come in a pointless profiling exercise), Kutcher’s also done his bit to reserve a few bytes for his perpetual legacy.

And that’s why I don’t believe Diddly Combs when he claims “This guy will show us the future.” Sorry to burst the bubble, but the future is here.

Let’s be clear: as an entertainer Kutcher has amazing global influence (on tweens and similar). He’s a likable guy, he’s married to Demi Moore (awesome!) and he’s funnier than a kid falling on its face in the rain (well, publicly anyway). Hell, I’ll even admit that I LOVED “What happens in Vegas”, but he’s not a social-media mogul. Not by a longshot.

If you want to look at someone who really gets social-media and the digital platform, who really uses them to enagage and entertain and evangelise (and not just push their own little pointless thoughts), then you want to look at people like Neil Patrick Harris and Joss Whedon or the guys who run the Penny Arcade site or Mitch Joel or the guys behind TED

In fact, the only person who gets it less is P.Dippy, the man who still refers to social media and the digital platform as “new media”. It’s 2010, Mr Combs. Wake up. It’s not new. It’s everywhere…

Why Social Media Won’t Change The World…

A Social Media Revolution

Wow. Can you hear that? It’s the sound of hackles rising around the world.

Here’s the thing: social media is not activism. It’s not even a mild protest action. Blogs won’t change the world. Twitter is not going to remove a politician from power. Facebook is not going to sink an multi-national exploitationist corporation.

Social media platforms are not built for that. They’re communication platforms…like email. Fundamentally, you could probably do the same things you do on Facebook and Twitter that you can do with email.

It’s a good bet that everyone you follow (and everyone who follows you) will, for the most part, share your views on a number of issues, political and otherwise. After all, who goes out looking for people to argue with (except maybe a certain local politician who failed woodwork)? So chances are that if you’re a political moderate, most of your followers will buy into this ideology et ceteris paribus.

And that’s no good, because you’re yelling into an echo chamber and hearing your own voice coming back. You’re not changing minds where there are opinions that differ from yours. You’re not growing your movement, building momentum for your cause… You and your followers are a school of guppies swimming in formation around your tank remarking as one on everything even though nothing’s changing

Social media platforms are there to start the revolution. It’s there to find support and build a launchpad for your movement. It’s the catalyst…not the result.

And because it’s a widely-held opinion (proven by history time and again) that there’s no such thing as a bloodless revolution, you’re going to have to hurt just a little bit to make a real change. You’re going to have to confront the very people you disagree with and try to win them over. And the only way to do that is to go to where they are, to meet them on their terms, in their backyards. In marketing terms, you have to make the sale by engaging and converting. That’s how you make a real change.

Social media can be a weapon for change, but on its own it’s not enough. And since there hasn’t been a successful argument for the power of social media over any other kind of marketing platform, I believe that right now, the outlook is that social media will never be enough to effect sustainable change on its own. It will (always) need a powerful off-screen push to make the change happen.

The revolution starts with social media but it’s won on the streets.

Get up.

Is This Thing On?

So here’s a stream of consciousness post about why your company doesn’t need a social media marketing campaign.

Let’s be clear about one thing: social-media is digital communication.

It’s all of it, from blogs and Facebook,mobile-phones and postcards, to email and text-messages. Social media includes any medium that allows people to talk to people. It’s a funny thing. Most would argue that only web-based tools qualify as social media, but I think it’s a little more complicated than that. Wherever people swap ideas, opinions and facts, that’s a social media platform.

Currently, it’s all the rage for companies to get involved in social media and engage with their consumers. The approaches to social media engagement can generally be split into two: positive and negative.

Negative engagement is setting up a visible presence (like a Facebook page) for a one-sided conversation by fans or critics of the brand. It’s the more cautious approach and sadly, the more favoured approach not only by social media experts, but also by brands that don’t really have much to say or offer in the way of value to their consumers. And while it’s great for collecting compliments, the lack of active involvement by the brand makes it difficult to respond to less-than-stellar comments. I think of this as the insincere approach to social media. Brands that do this are just there to say they did – so they can say it didn’t work for them.

Positive engagement is a full-on commitment to engaging and responding to your consumers’ contributions to the conversation around your brand. It’s not just setting up a blog or site for conversations – it’s joining the conversation on other platforms. And this means doing more than just leaving a form-response on sites where these conversations are happening. It means contacting the commentor directly, maybe even publicly, especially in the case of a negative comment. This means investing in people who are skilled in marketing, PR and most importantly, customer service.

Note: I said “marketing” not “social marketing”. You don’t need a “social marketing expert.”. A good marketing or PR professional can make any platform work to your brand’s advantage.

Ok, so how does all add up to you not needing to be in social media?

Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock (or busy sucking on sushi in your corner office with your back to your office floor) you already know that your customers, consumers and clients are already there. They’re already talking about you, saying what they want to say, be it good or bad.

And no amount of flashy social-media campaigning is going to change the bad into good…unless (and you’re really going hate to this part) you switch your mindset from profits to people. Essentially, social media marketing is about customer service: listening and responding effectively to your consumers’ requests and complaints, so they can go off and market you.

That means starting on your shop floor, office floor, front door – anywhere your clients are going to meet your business – and doing everything you can to make sure they walk away smiling – whether it’s innovating in their direction or finally spending a little extra to fix that broken bench in your reception area. Better still, throw out the bench and buy some armchairs.

It’s not the popular thing to say. There are people out there who will tell you that a Facebook page can fix your problems. They’re wrong. You need to do all that stuff mentioned in the previous two paragraphs first.

And as tempting as it may be, you’re not allowed to tell anyone you’re doing it.

Actually, that’s worth saying again: don’t tell anyone you’re making a change. If you do, it’s like saying that your brand has done nothing for its consumers since it’s been in existence. That may not be true, but that’s the perception – and it’s one you can avoid, if you keep your mouth shut.

That’s the slight of hand when it comes to social-media: don’t actively market your brand in the social media channels at all. At least, not with the traditional broadcast tactics. Let people discover for themselves why you’re the best thing since the best thing since sliced bread and let them tell your story.

Ask yourself if it’s easier trying to convince everyone how cool you are, or having someone else tell everyone how cool you are? It’s High School popularity 101. And at all times be humble, be aware, be pro-active…

STILL NOT CONVINCED?

That’s fine. If you’re prepared to have huge 18k spotlights shone into every nook and cranny of your business, then go ahead and spend huge amounts of money on that social media marketing campaign.

But do me a favour: before you go all flashing-lights and huge launches, go covert.

Use shadow-accounts to search Twitter to get a reading on your brand’s temperature. Get onto Facebook and do your homework – find the people who are raving or ranting about your brand. Google your brand and go past the 5th page of results. Gather up all the information you need to make the changes your brand needs before throwing the switch on your social-media marketing campaign.

Common sense, right? You’d be surprised.

You Got Served!

Remember the furore that broke out over the “Divorce-SMS” thing? C’mon…the one where the guy told his wife he was divorcing her via SMS. Muslim folks do it all the time – from the guy’s side anyway since all he has to do is to thrice declare publicly that he’s divorcing his wife. Cool…unless you’re the woman in the picture. Interestingly, if you are the woman, you need to attend a religious tribunal and show just cause for divorce. Yeah. It sucks – and you gotta wear a headscarf. But I digress…

Anyway…

A British High Cout has now ruled that it’s peachy-keen to drop a summons or an injunction on someone via TWITTER! Are you kidding me? Is nowhere safe? What next? Traffic fines? Arrest warrants? Deportation orders?

These things are always fun until someone tells the law about it. So here’s my little piece of advice: LOCK DOWN YOUR PROFILE! Be searchable, just don’t make it too easy for the buggers to actually find you.

Fight the power!

🙂

Flex Your Muscle…

How powerful is social-media anyway?

The recent kerfuffle over Standard Bank’s less-than-impressive new campaign has died down somewhat…with the bank’s spokesperson appearing to choose not to continue the conversation out in the open and instead hiding behind company rhetoric and citing time spent on social networks as a benchmark for the validity of any kind of critical comment.

The same could be said for Horizon Property’s little pop on the social media radar (my take on this is elsewhere on this blog). What was once front-page news now garners not a single tweet.

And Dunkin’ Donuts has already litigated one critic into silence.

Here today, gone tomorrow… So where’s this so-called switch of power that social-media experts heralded so heartily? You’re looking at it – and you’re part of it.

The trick is to keep making a noise…don’t go away…don’t be put off…don’t be intimidated…keep kicking the doors. The noise will draw others and if your complaint is a valid one, they’ll join your cause.

Martin (a mate of mine) recently ran into hassles with Mercedes Benz at Century City. His blog post detailing his experience is here. You’ll find it’s a long way from Mercedes’ claim of “ensuring the ultimate sales and service experience”(as per their site). What’s really cool is how people are picking up on the story and spreading the word.

You should check it out. And keep kicking the doors. They’ll open eventually.