Tag Archives: social media experts

What’s In A Name?

Sometimes, I feel that all this was made up just for my benefit. My older readers will remember a movie called The Truman Show, in which manic comedian Jim Carrey discovers that his whole life is a reality TV show played out for the entertainment of the masses. It’s the little things that, eventually, give it away.

For me, it’s names. Striking and wonderful names which, somehow, give pause for thought. Quite clearly, it is a game being played by those who are running my personal show – seeing how just how far they can take it before I have to stand up and say ‘c’mon guys – really?’

It started quite innocuously. President Canaan Banana. Rugby player Austin Healy. Emma Dale. The news reporter, Julia Caesar. Recently, however, it’s become quite serious. Obviously, the directors of my show – confronted, I imagine, by collapsing ratings befitting a programme probably entitled ‘The Not Very Inspiring Life and Times of the Rather Humdrum Jeremy Probert’ – need to provoke me to some sort of reaction.

So they’ve thrown me into contact with Hubertus Funke, Elly Button and – I kid you not – Ting Ting Dong. (Never mind the spurned mistress of billionaire Samuel Tak Lee, who tried to blackmail him for £3m – take a bow, the entirely-appropriately-named Fuk Wu.) But it’s not just amazingly named people that are the cause of my disquiet.

Toward the end of 2013, The Wall Street Journal (I have to say, I think Big Brother could have done better with that one) published a list of companies entitled ‘The Billion-Dollar Start Up Club’. These are startup companies that are valued at $1bn plus by venture capital firms. Running down the list, we see included Jingdong, Zalando, Houzz, Jasper, Deem and – oh, yes – MongoDB.

Now, the so-called ‘Wall Street Journal’ (I’m on to your game, sonny) has a back-story for each of them – quite convincing as it turns out – but even then, there are the little clues, the in-jokes, the oh-so-arch references that give it away. Take Palantir. Valued at $9.3bn in the last quarter of 2013, its data mining software is used by ‘the CIA and the FBI to distil large amounts of information’.

Of course, everyone here will know that a Palantir is a creation of JRR Tolkien in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. An artefact of great power, of Elvish creation, it was an early form of mobile communication device (although the largest of the Palantiri suffered from the same design flaw as the Motorola DynaTAC in 1973 – it was the size of a small room) combining some of the features of Cisco’s TelePresence. More germane to my argument, however, is that fact that when we see a Palantir in action – so to speak – in The Lord of The Rings, it’s being used by Sauron, the Dark Lord.

And, arguably, he’s using it to ‘distil large amounts of information’. Coincidence? I think not. (Yes, I realise that it is possible that the founders of Palantir decided to use the name for EXACTLY THE REASONS I HAVE OUTLINED HERE. But they can’t have – because that would be the conclusive proof I’ve been looking for. Wouldn’t it?)

Another unmistakeable hole in the fabric of what I will laughingly call my ‘reality’ is, of course, the frankly silly numbers that are being attached to these startups. In the WSJ’s list, Snapchat’s there with a value of $2bn. (Twice the value of Mogujie, as it turns out. See? See what I mean?) Today, and following a judicious investment of $20m from the VCs, it’s got a valuation of $10bn. Not bad, Messrs Murphy and Spiegel, for a few months work on something that doesn’t actually generate any revenues (no surprises there, then).

Frankly, with all of this going on, you cannot expect me to believe I’m living in a sane and rational ‘real world’. I’ve been Jeremy Probert. Thank you for watching.

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Never Trust a Hippie

This got me into a bit of trouble. Here’s the unexpurgated version for thos amongst you who don’t hold with no new-fangled expurgation and likes to call a spade a spade. Or in this case a ‘pikey’.

What? Are you still here? I have to say, what with the yawning abyss of time between this issue and the last, I’d have thought you might’ve got bored and ambled off in a slightly distracted (but wholly benevolent) manner. Found something else to watch. And on the subject of watching, which I am (serendipitously enough), let’s talk about hippies and social media – ideal bedfellows, perhaps, at first glance.

Well, yes, in one way. Like a hippie, social is all about freedom of expression and speech, it’s all about participation and equality, it’s about everyone having a voice and being able to use it, it’s all about a lack of rules and regulation, about immediacy and instantaneous sharing.

Oooooh, it makes cold shivers run down my spine. As John Lydon once said ‘never trust a hippie’ and social media are a breeding ground for them and their woolly, ill-informed (if well-intentioned) thinking. It’s a mire of mung beans, a lake of llamas, a whole load of hessian and the usual of yurts. If I think about it – if social had a colour it would be pastel and tie-dyed, if it had a sound it would be pan pipes and if it had an odour it would (of course) be patchouli. Its metaphorical smell would (equally of course) be fishy. Because I don’t trust it.

(I find writing quite therapeutic. Like Timothy Leary and his LSD (he was a hippie), and the South American Indians and their ayahuasca (they’re all hippies), and the publisher of this very magazine and his habit of going to festivals (I suspect he’s a hippie) – I find writing is a path to higher consciousness. For example, I have just now had the revelation that my loathing of social media stems directly from my mistrust of hippies. In the same way that my inability to countenance camping is related to my horror of pikeys.)

(That’s probably an indie band, and if it isn’t it should be, ‘The Horror of Pikeys’.)

Is there any point to this? Sorry, that’s not a metaphorical question, it’s more a summation of what I imagine you’re thinking. And the answer is yes – yes, there is. You see I recently had a run in with some hippies which only served to reinforce many of my beliefs about social media and why they are – in a business communications context – so badly contaminated as to be dangerous.

Exploring that for a moment. I know that social media, like traditional media, have many aspects – a gamut of seriousness and usefulness, from the gravitas of the FT to the fluffery of OK Magazine. Where there is a difference is that there are only two social media and this entire gamut is contained within each one. You can’t choose to opt out, in the same way that I can choose not to buy Grazia.

Did you know, for example, that Shakira (whose hips, clearly, do not lie) is the most liked thing on Facebook, after Facebook itself and its ‘phone app? That’s a Grazia piece of news that I didn’t need, but I couldn’t choose to avoid. I even know what a ‘Jennifer Aniston’ is. Yes. I do.

Getting back to my friends, the hippies, or, more accurately, the ‘brave young protestors’ of The Future (see what I mean?) – they recently caused me no little irritation, not by what they did, which was more performance art than protest, but by making unsubstantiated claims on social media. This translated into blogs and citizen journalism and suddenly something completely without foundation or substance might as well be hard fact.

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There Is No Secret Ingredient…………..

Those of you who – like me – thought ‘kids – how difficult can it be?’ and then went and got yourself a handful, will most likely be familiar with the film classic ‘Kung Fu Panda’ (2008). And I’m not kidding – it is a classic. Those of you who haven’t got kids, and haven’t seen it – stop what you’re doing right now, hie thee to Netflix with alacrity, sit back and enjoy.

So, having just done you a big favour (no worries, you can – as the Americans would have it – get me back later) I am going to reveal a big truth that will benefit us all. (Yes, it’s in Kung Fu Panda. I’ve not gone all Barry Norman on your collective ass not to make a point.)

It comes when Po (the eponymous panda) is running away from his destiny because he doesn’t understand the scroll of the Dragon Warrior. (See? I told you. Brilliant.) His adoptive father is a duck called Mr Ping, a noodle chef, who shares with him the secret of his famous Secret Ingredient Soup.

“The secret ingredient is…..nothing!……There is no secret ingredient.” At which point Po has an epiphany, which is explained, for an audience that is probably quite young and still slightly hard of thinking, when Mr Ping continues “to make something special, you just have to believe it’s special”.

Which brings me to my point. I don’t for one moment believe social media is special, but I am realising that there is no secret ingredient. And, of course, this has been the problem all along – why otherwise sane companies have chucked endless resource at social media (talking to an airline recently – 130 people on their social media team – think about that for a second or two), why organisations with no revenue-generation model are suddenly worth billions and why social media gurus are the rock stars des nos jours. (Probably a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.)

A mass breakout of Shiny Object Syndrome caused – and still causes – many to believe that social media are special in some way. And as Mr Ping said, the belief is enough to gloss over the inherent non-specialness. Worse, like Mr Ping’s Secret lngredient Soup – only were I to use a food-based metaphor for social media, it would be Secret Ingredient Tripe ‘n’ Onions – it has been assumed that there is, in fact, a secret ingredient. Something that’s not unakin to the philosopher’s stone of ‘virality’.

And, clearly, while these assumptions still hold sway, you average social media guru can get away with charging over £400 for – I kid you not – a Pinterest Marketing Masterclass. (I’m talking about you, Social Media Advance, of London EC2.)

But there is no secret ingredient. The same stuff that has always counted, still counts. There are still about five elements that will make your narrative a story. A picture will still do its business with a thousand words. The difference is that if the social audience like what they’ve seen, they’ll share it virtually, rather than really chatting to their mates about it down the pub.

But that’s it. You don’t need content prepared especially for social, on the basis that it’s somehow different. You don’t need distinct strategies. You don’t need gurus. You don’t need hundreds of people. You do need great customer service and unique product proposition – ‘twas ever thus – and, if you’re going to take part, you should be readily available to respond.

There is, of course, one secret thing about social.

It’s a new class of data called “social data” which are data that people create when they use social platforms like Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn – their likes, pins, favourites, retweets, status messages, the content of those messages and the people we are friends with.

Needless to say, I doubt you’ve given anyone permission to gather this data – but they’re mining it anyway.

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Another dotcom bubble?

It’s another one from the vaults. I wrote this in November 2013. Shocking, actually, to see how – in the intervening five months – so many things have changed and moved on. What has stuck – and grown, if you like – is the feeling that Twitter and WhatsApp and the rest simply aren’t worth the stupid sums being paid for them. We’ll see.

$11.2bn. As much as $30bn. As I write, now around $20bn. Oh, yes, dear reader, you know what I’m talking about. And still it doesn’t make a profit. Meanwhile, in what was quite clearly an attempt to start making a profit, I receive a promoted tweet from @BMWUSA asking me to show my support for Team USA, as we approach the winter Olympics.

Erm, an’ thank you most kindly, but why, exactly, would a Welshman with English overtones, resident in London, wish to express support for Team Merca? I’m sure they’re all lovely, with their splendid muscles and super hair and dazzling teeth, but – and it’s a small one, I know – nit-picky almost – they’re from a completely different country to which I have no links whatsoever, unless you count my ancestors’ compatriots’ vain efforts to shape it up a little.

So, a poorly targeted promotional tweet – well, I’m not the target market for much of the TV advertising I sit through (too lazy to reach for the clicker, d’you see), and this is simply the socially medieval equivalent.

But, of course, it isn’t. Because social ain’t TV – there’s no Strictly Come Tumblring or I’m a Celebrity Follower, Unfriend Me! – and promotional tweets aren’t big budget, glossy items, with soundtracks and celebrities and (this is most important, pay attention) paid for in advance.

(When I make this point, I’m thinking about the Louis Vuitton ‘L’Invitation au Voyage’ ad with David Bowie (or is it Tilda Swinton) and Arizona Muse. Not the Cillit Bang ‘Barry Scott in a big purple fighter jet’ ad with Barry Scott.)

No. Promoted tweets are cheap as chips for the tweet promoter. As long as I, the recipient of the promotweet, do not click ‘pon said spamulous item, nor neither follow the issuer of same, then the spamuliser pays nowt. Not a brass farthing. Which, clearly, means that targeting simply isn’t an issue, and is why I’m happy to call this stuff spam.

So now Twitter’s under increasing pressure to demonstrate its revenue model and to show some sign that it could, in future, turn a profit and reward the enormous valuation that’s been put on it.

This means, I’m afraid, considerably more of these poorly-targeted promoted tweets. Is it just me, or can anyone else see a flaw in a business plan that relies on the social equivalent of the Nigerian email scam for revenue generation?

Facebook saw an immediate 16% dip in its share price when ‘senior executives’ revealed that young people were leaving the site – in fairness to it, however, its share price recovered once it was realised that the audience hole was being backfilled with the young people’s parents and grandparents.

But the point remains made – young people, the valuable Holy Grail audience, trendsetters, early adopters, rainmakers – don’t like being sold to through channels they consider they ‘discovered’ or ‘invented’.

They don’t like their feeds being abominated with spamulous commercial messages. They – making a little leap here – don’t like promotweets. Which is, arguably, why the current valuations of various social media are a wee smidge on the high side.

Now we hear about £8bn for Dropbox (actually, I can see why Dropbox might be worth something) and Pinterest securing funding that would value the enterprise at £3.8bn, despite the fact that it has only recently begun to clarify its business model.

I think it’s clear that I don’t think much of social media as marketing or promotional tools. There are too many gurus telling you how to do, and not enough do. The Emperor is risking risqué with his lack of vestements.

But what is increasingly scary is that no-one seems to remember the rush of the lemmings into the tech bubble of the late nineties and what happened in March 2000.

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It’s Such A Fine Line Between Stupid And….Er…Clever

And I find myself experiencing an echo of the dilemma that faced Nigel Tufnel and David St Hubbins (St Hubbins – the patron saint of quality footwear) in that meisterwerk of the filmmakers’ oeuvre ‘This is Spinal Tap’, when I read this:

Social media nonsense

This – and I simply had to scan it, to display it in all its awfulness/brilliance – is taken from the Metro, an ubiquitous free morning paper of no renown whatever, that recycles news from the papers of the day before, although occasionally breaking an overnighter, its sole purpose being to occupy the dreary commute of (and here it gets interesting) literally hundreds of thousands of drone workers, every single day. This is an extraordinarily influential organ – getting people on their way to work, just as their brains are gunning up through the gears to their normal default velocity of barely-controlled-fury miles an hour.

Which makes this work of genius/idiocy all the more concerning. Someone might take it seriously. It’s printed on the business pages. Someone vaguely influential might read it before their inbuilt b*ll*cks detector has properly come on-line. Someone might take these ideas away and try and do something with them. Someone might – heaven forbid – promulgate the teachings of this clown Taylor. (Yes, it may, indeed, be a fine line between stupid and clever, but I have made my decision. I do not feel that David Taylor of 2010Media has come anywhere near crossing it. This is not his Rubicon. He is stuck in Stupidstan and has no means of getting to Cleverica.)

Where to start? No, David, social media are not specialist marketing tools. This has been amply demonstrated by the failures of massive companies like Pepsi, and Ford, and Dell to make any real correlation between social media and sales, and to create any meaningful revenue streams from social media. The only people who claim that social media are marketing tools are the charlatans that prey on the unwary and the foolish, selling the modern-day equivalent of charms and amulets guaranteed to turn base metal into gold and animate the inanimate. Are you a charlatan, David?

The point is, actually, well-made – if you’re having a conversation with a customer, then you don’t leave it to the work-experience lad to conduct that conversation, or decide what to say. But it’s a statement of the bleeding obvious. What’s dangerous is the assumption that you might ‘want your Twitter feed to sing and your Facebook page to be well(sic)liked’, implying that you somehow are obliged to have both of those items. Guess what? You’re not. You don’t have to use either of these media – it won’t make a blind bit of difference. Sure, there are some companies and brands that might wish to consider using social media as additional communications tools, and might be advised to, but for them somehow to be obligatory is nonsense.

And finally, if you want to be taken seriously, then have an eye to your own brand and corporate reputation. Just because you’re called Taylor, David, doesn’t mean that you should, or that you have to, have an alliterative title. Is your Twitter feed entitled @Taylor’sTwats? I suspect it isn’t. But ‘Taylor’s Titbits (fnaar fnaar) with David Taylor’ is arguably as close as you’re going to get.

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Social Media – Waiting for the Wheels to Fall Off

I say, I say, I say. What do you call 600,000 people leaving Facebook? I’m afraid I do not know what I would call 600,000 people leaving Facebook – do please enlighten me. You would call it – a start! (Ba-dum tish. Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week, next show starts at eight-thirty, do try the veal etc etc etc.)

So that’s the news today, blog trotters mine, off of the back of Instagram (something that allows you to share photos apparently – although why you would want to share photos with anyone save close friends and family, unless you wuz an exhibitionist – hold on, you’re not an exhibitionist are you?) losing vast swathes of its user base because it was going to sell people’s pictures to advertisers. (Thank you, Metro.)

Two things, people. If you stick your photos up on t’interworldyweb, then someone is going to use them. Get over it, stupid. If you give away your privacy, you won’t have it any more. Derrrr. Then, Mr Instagram (or can I call you Brian?), as I’ve said before, in the socially mediaevil world that we live in, if you try and blatantly monetise the onlinesters, they will disappear without a trace. AND THEY WILL NOT COME BACK. And neither will anyone else. Call yourself a guru, Brian? You’re just another soft-centred hippy getting the whole ‘business’ thing badly wrong.

Meanwhile, although it’s too soon to say (I know) – but when has that ever stopped me – the feeling has to be that Facebook is falling into the same trap (albeit in a different way). The thing about Facebook, as I understood it, was that it was a free-for-all, free-to-air community, happily unregulated, where people could live and share and communicate (and, obviously, be trolls and dump their garbage and bully and groom and all the other exciting stuff that people get up to in their darkened rooms on the outskirts of Grimsby).

Now we find that His Odiousness, the Markster, is about to zuck you all, once again, with a something. Not sure whether it’s a device, or a piece of software. but, guaranteed, he’s going to be monetising you. He’s coming for your cash. Because that’s the only way he can prop up his hideously over-valued and over-inflated empire.

And if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it – oooooh – a handful of times, if you get all blatantly commercial on your social media bunnies, they scamper off into the undergrowth. Which is why, dear blogsters, the news that the ‘book is building something, and wants the media to come and see what it is, and the subsequent speculation that it’s a ‘phone, or a search engine, has led to a bit of a dead-hippy bounce in the share price (because maybe the something will be revenue-generating) and an exodus of some 600,000 facebook users.

As the yout’ of today would have it – ‘boom’.

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Not just me, then………

Good morning, dear blog snorkellers all, and welcome to the bloggy equivalent of diving for meal stars in a tank full of spiders and cockroaches but, thankfully, without Ant and Dec. For those of the faithful that haven’t got a clue what just went down there, it’s a knowing and thus quite irritating reference to the current expression of the Great British zeitgeist, ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’ only, of course, they’re not and everyone (secretly) wants them to stay there. Especially Nadine Dorries and Helen Flanagan, two people without whom I am absolutely certain the world would continue on its merry way, not in the least bit troubled by their absence.

So, you must be whispering amongst yourselves, ‘why has he called us here’ – on a day like today, as we barrel headlong into a gripping British winter. Well, since you ask, it’s for reasons social mediaeval, trotters mine and something that you may be interested in persuing yourselves. It is this – see – an article by one Charlie Brooker, reproduced here by linkery to t’Guardian newspaper of this parish, without so much  as a ‘by its leave’ or, indeed, permish from Brooker himself. I do hope he’s not overly bothered and decides that it’s a) too much faff and b) uneconomical to get all McAlpine on my ass. As the Mercans might say if they knew who McAlpine is and were as able to bend the English language to their will as I am.

I’m in agreement with this train of thought because it suits me to be so. Anyone who knows me will know I’m not a great fan of t’social, and this article posits that “Like the wheel, social media is another invention that is starting to resemble more of a millstone than a breakthrough.” It also suggests a few simple rules to solve a problem like the internet. Unlikely, you may say. P*ssing in the wind, you may say. Important, I say, and eminently necessary as we spiral headlong into a digital despond where, OMG, everyone is LOL, or worse, ROFL, or even, at the extremes of society, RAOTFLMFAO.

I think it’s code for ‘I’m a Luddite, Get Me Out Of Here!’ And I’m waiting for my request to be granted.

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