Social Media – a Two Trick Pony

Let’s look at what’s new for 2013 – don’t think it’s too late – erm…riffling through the deck…ooooh, here’s one! Pheed! And Thumb, and Chirpify! And Flayvr and Medium (the cerebral platform, apparently.)

Nope, me neither. New toys, but nothing that promises a) more than we had before or b) any sort of progress against the Holy Grail de nos jours – that of delivering an actual, measurable, commercial result from social media.

When (oh when, oh when) are we (as communicators) going to admit that when we discuss social media as tools, we’re actually talking two things – Facebook and Twitter. Incidentally why is it two  and not one? By which I mean why hasn’t Zuckerberg’s Sylvester eaten Tweety pie, or at least, seen it wither and die?

Because one is big and the other is small – in terms of what you can post, what you can share and the general longevity of your self-absorption – and they do not threaten each other. (Mind, Twitter decided you could post six second long video clips and within a day at least one someone had posted freely viewable porn. Says it all.)

They occupy the two big social media spaces (compiling a public library of your all? and washing your ego in public), and there is no room for anything else. Whisper it, but social media are shallow and one-dimensional.

‘Course, what this means is that Twitter is good for informational updates and Facebook is like war. (Hurgh!) (Sorry, obvious gag, saw the opportunity, couldn’t resist, etc.) Facebook is ‘good’ for – well – at least monitoring the ravings of the internet, occasionally for some developmental feedback for your brand, as a repository of content that someone might, one day, use, and as an unexpungeable record of your brand’s mistakes.

Now I hear the susurration of dissent from Outraged of Old Street and Hoxton, and I proffer mitigation. As part of a fully integrated campaign, both ‘Book and Twit have roles to play – further promoting your message and, yes, encouraging ‘conversation’ (the very word, in this context, makes me shudder).

Particularly splendid is social media integration into experiential marketing around one-off special events (the telcos do it well, but, as they put social-on-the-go into your hands in the first place, you’d be astounded if they didn’t) but let’s not kid ourselves, Fb and Tw (two new elements – one heavy and lumpen-of-share-price, the other fizzing around and exploding into nothing) are add-ons. Not standalones.

There is no measureable correlation between sales and SM activity and, arguably, none between corporate reputation building and solus SM activity. Even Blackberry (aren’t you glad they ditched ‘RIM’?), who are good at this stuff and believe in it, are spending shootloads on Neil Gaiman, Alicia Keys and the Mercedes F1 team to add substance to their social.

There is, of course, a fairly high correlation between corporate reputation destruction and SM generally – because social media (and digital media, to make the distinction between blogs and specialist websites and Facebook and Twitter) provide even the most frightening of gnolls, in their darkened bedrooms on the outskirts of Grimsby, with a voice and the immediate, uncontrolled opportunity to air it. They can say what they like – valid or invalid, polite or impolite – and there’s no telling what will set them off. Internet Tourette’s.

All that being as it may, if there are only two social media (*), surely we have to question the entire existence of ‘social media guru’. Rather than claim overview expertise in a field that is actually rather more of a small backyard (for the purposes of communications and marketing) would we not be better (and I know it goes against the grain, or maybe it’s fashionable again?) specialising in particular aspects of SM?

There’d be a new breed of social media consultants called ‘Faceboks’ – a name which conjures images of wild creatures, fleet-of-foot and raising-of-bar, easily outrunning the grizzled, baggy predators of old media.

Clearly, no-one would want to specialise in Twitter.

(*) LinkedIn is not a social medium. Would you show an employer pictures of you drinking tequila naked with a goat called Tufty? No.

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