Having taken a step back from blogging and all that ‘meta jazz’ for a while, I’ve had a good long think about the Social Media Guru (SMG) vid I put together in September, and what motivated me to be so cynical. The video is the only web ‘thing’ I’ve ever really created, it has generated 143,000 hits and counting. That’s unexpectedly large given what it was (ten times the hits of the much-vaunted DJ Hip Op vid), yet infinitely small in Youtube terms (20 million people have watched this surprised kitten video).
It sparked some pointed animosity from American SMGs, already sick of being mocked, despite the video being aimed squarely at their clients, whose gullibility and laziness of mind is the root of the real issue. One full-on viral case study was done on its global spread, which was very interesting indeed. The video was met largely with a wall of silence by those in the sector in Ireland, in comparison which is unsurprising due to the small marketplace here.
I’m not a guru or a techie, I’m not selling any guru-like services (at present), but I have helped friends get started in the sphere and written copy for plenty of websites. I’m also a chronic lurker. I sit, watch, read and listen. I don’t generally join in the Irish web backslappery that has been lamented of late (except where justified), and wouldn’t class myself as part of the inner clique of Ireland’s bloggertwitterati, despite having met some great people within that group through online interactions, and having won a Blog Award, which I was very grateful to receive.
What grasps me about the whole social media phenomenon is its simplicity and accessibility. The majority of people out there who ‘get it’ never took a course. They opened their ears and figured out how to apply it to what they already did. Ditto a lot of the people who are now profiteering on the back of it. And what they’re preying on is the Irish penchant for mee-tooism, the total and utter failure of independent thought that is, if I were to link into something more big picture, at the root of Ireland’s economic collapse. And well they might – anything to keep the wolf from the door, I suppose. If there’s money to be made, go for it.
With social media, there are a few golden unwritten rules to follow, but beyond that things largely parallel established business wisdom, if you’re using it for business. No matter if you’re selling kid’s raingear or attempting to redefine journalism, versions of the same rule apply. Know what your brand stands for. Make sure everyone else in your company knows, too. Identify your goals, your ideas and whatever innovations you want to introduce and then, if it fits, use social media to further those goals, realise the ideas and facilitate the innovations, while always making sure everything is in line with what you want your identity to be. Foundations first.
Beyond that, it’s a matter of staying current. Keep up to date with emerging trends, but don’t necessarily jump on every bandwagon that pulls into the station. Be selective in what you use. Read widely, think analytically and act independently. Resist groupthink. Don’t react until you’ve thought things through. Avoid the myriad opportunities for being a total fuckwit. Slow down, think a bit. (Everyone breaks these rules at least once)
Knowing what you want to be, and what your goals are, would seem to be obvious first steps, ones that should carry through into everything you do, but it baffles me how even large multinationals will often chuck all sensibility aside when it comes to adopting social media, even if they’ve apparently sought the best advice out there. Out goes consistency of message. Out go brand guidelines. Tone of voice isn’t even an issue, apparently, neither is strategy – social media is presented as a shotgun with which to shoot whatever clay pigeons get spat out of the machine. Why is this? Why chuck out all accumulated wisdom for the sake of the next new thing? Innovation does not erase all that has gone before, it adds to it, enhances it, and, yes, makes some things obsolete. Much old wisdom stands strong today, though. Gravity still pulls downwards.
This is all common sense, of course.
We don’t have a great track record when it comes to common sense here, though, which is why so many people look to anyone with a shiny blog and a knack for passable guff for a socmed lifeline. Even the big guns. A friend recently attended an in-house talk at a major global plc with an established Irish presence, who had hired in a reputed SMG for the day (not one of the well-known ‘influencers’ incidentally). In a shabby, ill-fitting suit, the guy pretty much told this massive global tech giant to ‘hook their Myspace to their Twitter’, before handing out cards with ‘The Social Media Guy’ under his name. My friend nearly snorted directly in his facebook. (They had seen the video).
The ones who will win out in all this are the SMGs and the clients who understand where social media fits in the full context of established wisdom in whatever sector they inhabit, from SMEs right up to multinationals. They will be people who know where to put the equity of corporate identity on a balance sheet so that they can relate its bottom-line worth to a CEO and the tombstone-faced CFO sitting to his right. At the same time they’ll be able to relate how best to use things like Twitter to the blonde 20-something, €23K-a-year PR bunny who’s in charge of implementing the practice via Tweetdeck. And they’ll equip the middle management layer with the understanding of how important it is to ensure, through the filter of best practice, that what’s being implemented by the bunny has to make the boardroom happy. They’ll know that it should complement and act as an extension of existing marketing strategy rather than rail against it or be shoehorned uncomfortably into it. And if they know they don’t know all that stuff, they’re the ones who are smart enough to admit it, acknowledge its relevance, and find and bring someone along with them who can provide said context, rather than continuing with a bluff of buzzwords and a blizzard of statistics.
There’s no room for jesters in today’s court.
(Note: I wrote this post back in early January, so a lot of the guff that sparked my animosity has blown over since then, or else I’m just not paying attention to it any more – blogging being dead again, and all that. A very illuminating chat with two online writers yesterday prompted me to post it. You know who you are.)