Posts tagged ‘social’

Self-indulgence is the new black

~or~

If you think now is a good time to write an article about Twitter or Facebook or “social media,” you’re high as shit

– posted by russellmania3000

Because really, the last thing I want to hear or see is someone else just now catching on to one of the dumbest things to get big on the web. How about you write me an article about 10 things I should be doing on Twitter and I write you an article about 10 things you should be writing about instead of Twitter? Does that sound like fun? By the way, if you think the fail whale is an ok tattoo because it’s a cute piece of illustration despite what it means, you should know that the same dude also has an Adobe AIR logo tattoo, which is…ugh nevermind.

The Sr. VP of Biz at work sent me this the other day, not as like a joke or a sarcastic musing, but as her way of saying that even though she doesn’t really get Twitter or Facebook, she’s excited that our organization is involved on those platforms. Thanks to me. And I don’t feel great about it, but if I didn’t get them on Twitter, I wouldn’t be doing my job. And that’s the sad state we’re in. What’s sadder than that? My old intern Zack just interviewed with the San Antonio Spurs for a social media position. I’m not familiar with their front office, and maybe they have a new media team that runs 7 deep like the Suns, but I doubt it, and seeing as how their team site isn’t a gleaming example of modernity, I’m not convinced that spending money to lose focus is the right idea.

I’ve been making a concerted effort to avoid own-industry-bridge-burning-slash-mud-slinging, but fuck it, I’ve always wanted to drive a truck or be a cop or something. Here we go.

This is Chris Brogan, and he is high as shit. He writes about social media marketing on his blog, makes good money banking on his reputation, and has all kinds of followers on Twitter. He writes disposable bits about personal branding or storytelling in marketing or how to not be a toolbag when attending a marketing conference, forgetting of course that attending the conference in the first place is grade A toolbaggery. He has no sense of humor. He formulaically ends his posts with cute little open-ended/rhetorical questions like “Now that we’re done discussing turd-polishing, what do you think? What turds have you polished lately? Are there turds you’re leaving unpolished when you should be scrubbing away?” with the intention of generating discussion, or probably more likely the intention of getting some CEO to think “gee wiz I’ve never thought about our business that way. He’s good. We should pay him to polish our turds”, but in practice it reads like he’s writing to third graders or belittling his audience, as in “what did you ever do? Nothing! I invented the piano key necktie.”

The other day I was having a beer with my friend Becky, a card-carrying member of the North American Society of People Who Couldn’t Go 5 Minutes Without Touching Their IPhone Even If They Had No Hands Or Feet. I love Becky, but she’s one of those people who, when you’re hanging out with them, you’re not really hanging out with them, you’re just sort of sharing the same physical space while they tap away at their phones. It’s a whole different thing than people who are always talking on their phone, because at some point the phone call ends and you can reasonably assume their attention has returned to the here and now, at least until the next one begins, but for compulsive texters/emailers/Twitterers/Facebookers, the time spent not tapping away, you know, existing fully in the temporal plane, it’s really just a lull spent in anticipation of that noise that used to mean “your CD is done ripping” but now means something entirely different and I’m not sure exactly what because my phone is the cheap-o free kind that you get three more of when you buy one for like $20. The other pertinent bit of information that makes this whole thing make sense is that she had recently fornicated with a guy whose girlfriend was pregnant and so Becky was currently being ostracized by this particular circle of friends, and understandably so. Mid-beer, roughly the following words were exchanged:

Becky: “I hate those guys, they never tell me what’s going on.”

Me: “Huh?” (I wasn’t paying attention because she had spent the last 5 minutes burried in IPhone)

Her: “They put where they’re going on Twitter, but you know how you can put, like, @-someone? They never put @-me.”

Me: “Why don’t you just follow them? Isn’t that the point of Twitter?”

Her: “I guess, but don’t you think that’s kind of desperate?”

My job is in new media marketing, just like Chris Brogan only I’m not high as shit. I don’t mean to pick on Chris; there are hundreds if not thousands of others just like him but I’m not readily familiar with too many because I don’t live in San Francisco. I know what’s up in the web/tech world, most of the time. Personally, I don’t use Twitter, but I do on behalf of the professional sports franchise that employs me. I thought I was aware of most of the mores and norms of this platform, but apparently not. The new thing I learned that day: actually following your friends on Twitter, you know, using it as it is intended and most effectively used, is so faux pas.

Let’s stop picking on Chris. This is John Chow, who, as he puts it himself, “make[s] money online by telling people how much money [he] make[s] online.” The fact that he can state such openly and still be taken so seriously and make so much coin is a good indicator of just how much Kool Aid is being passed around at the new media cult meeting, I mean party. He is, in point of fact, high as shit, though not in the same way some other guys like Brogan are high as shit (Whoops. Sorry Chris. It just comes so easily.), because deep down I think he gets that what he does is simple Simon nonsense, and to a certain extent he’s honest about it. He also made an adorable video about parenting.

This time I’m going to try really hard not to make fun of Chris. This is Guy Kawasaki. He’s a former marketing guy for Apple, now doing stuff far less interesting, and this is going to shock you, but Guy is high as shit and luuuvs Twitter. Like I mean, he really hearts it, so much so that he’s so busy going to conferences to talk about Twitter that he doesn’t have time to actually do it so he pays other people to do it for him, not like for his business, for him personally like you might pay someone to do your food shopping or dog walking. And this is I believe a good illustration of the internet meme You’re Doing It Wrong(sic). Can you tell I’ve been reading Infinite Jest? But that’s not why I brought Guy up. Guy gave a talk on Twitter at SES recently. I wasn’t there because I’m not a toolbag, but I heard he went on a tangent about how he doesn’t understand why Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s CTO and holder of the world’s second most awesome name (first being Moxie Crimefighter Jillette), was on so many people’s recommended-to-follow list on Twitter and he wasn’t. Guy, if you’re out there, the answer is because maybe you’re the kind of guy who gets upset over Twitter. That and you don’t work at Apple anymore. Cisco is important and Alltop isn’t. Twitter also probably hates Hawaiians.

The VP of Technology at our team’s parent company sent me this article, right before he sent me a bunch of other stupid articles about social media. Probably around 90% of the people who write for Ad Age are high as shit, but their niche is in being staggeringly behind the curve and painfully speculative, vague and obvious, so one can only fault them so much. But the point is already there are ad agencies that offer placement in Twitter feeds, and Twitter itself is developing paid account features. Like hell it can’t be monetized. That’s exactly what happens when a platform’s user base nearly doubles in a little over one month.

Facebook recently changed the way most of their pages look and behave, and while the word on the street is they’ve gotten enough complaints that they’re already rethinking and making changes, the makeover is a tell that while the network isn’t over yet in the way that MySpace is over, it will be over sooner or later. Facebook’s ui is now clunkier, inelegant, straying from the near-perfect identity that made it such a success. But the upshot, I suppose from Zuckerberg’s view, is that it’s now more like Twitter. That idiot turned down all kinds of ducket in a buyout offer a couple years ago. In a couple more he’ll be kicking himself.

Here’s the thing about Twitter. It’s not all the rage because it’s simple or easy to use or “enables you to communicate in new and interesting ways” or any of that new media cult jargon. For one thing, it’s not simple. If you want to use Facebook, where do you go? Facebook.com. If you want to use Twitter, where do you go? Twitter.com? Amateur. Excuse me. Noob. There are enough third party desktop apps, feed aggregators, publishing tools and tracking utilities to make your head spin. All the really neat/lame/neat again/lame again shit people are doing with Twitter isn’t built in at all. And it’s not even that it’s compatible with mobile devices. There’s this arcane technology called email that’s been on phones for years. Hell, you wouldn’t believe, but phones actually make phone calls, or voice chats if you will, so you can fucking communicate in real fucking time and keep in touch with people and let them know what the fuck you’re doing.

Remember when you used to really like mentally invest yourself in thinking up the perfect song lyric that ever so poignantly expressed how you were feeling, right at that moment, man, so you could put it in your away message on AIM? Don’t lie, yes you do. Remember sitting around just sort of looking at other people’s away messages for the better part of an hour? Or coming home and checking your computer and the surge of pride and validation you felt when you saw all the people who responded to your away message while you were out, or the pang of disappointment you felt when no one responded, not even the person you expressly crafted the message for in the hopes that she would read it (you little emo fucker) ? I have to reach back about 7 years for that kind of warm and fuzzy memory but some of you might not have to go so far. Hell, some of you might have done this same sort of thing a couple months ago with your Facebook status, before you took up, in a nostalgic throwback to crafting AIM profiles, writing lists of 25 things that no one wants to know.

Then again, you might not have to go back that far either. If you’re a Twitter user, chances are you participated in this same sort of time-honored fishing-for-attention ritual earlier today. What Twitter really brings to the table is a diabolical tightening in and expanding upon the core of what makes self-indulgence and voyeurism so appealing to so many while stripping away all the extraneous features of social networks that might cause you to lose focus on yourself. Don’t have digital camera? Can’t edit video worth a damn? Screw that shit, relegate it to links to other sites. Can’t formulate cogent thoughts and arguments in written English? Fuck it, 140 characters is no place for nuance, complete sentences/spelling/punctuation optional. Don’t have any hip interests or feel weird lying about what bands/books/movies you like? Profiles are a thing of the past. Don’t have any real friends to friend? Plenty of people you don’t know will follow you for no reason. Your life is so stunningly uninteresting that your Facebook page is a barren waste of inactivity? Tweet on behalf of your pet. Or real people who have better things to do. Bored by friend counts or unable to generate comments? The following-to-follower ratio provides a brave new paradigm for competing for status.

From a business standpoint, I totally get the whole Twitter cult. There’s no compelling reason not to join and that’s why I helped get our organization on board. People might ask how much money you’ll really make or traffic you’ll generate or engagement you’ll create in your audience and the answer is I don’t know, but however much it is, it’s more than you would get by not doing it. And even though I don’t have a personal account, I can see the potential value for the individual. I just don’t see the potential being put into practice all that much. The kind of people who use Twitter in valuable ways are the kind of people that would get the same shit done if Twitter didn’t exist. They’d be awarded the same jobs, have the same reach to the same audience through blogging or something else, contribute to the same communities, and so on.

But for the laymen, the students, accountants, bankers, (ahem) fabric designers, media figureheads, entertainers and scores of other people who have joined the cult, something vile and absurd and uncomfortably revealing about what it is to be human is coming out of them on Twitter. It is a gateway drug, an enabler of a kind of short and not-at-all-sweet celebration of self, or the celebration of circuitous, silly shit, like tweeting about how to use Twitter better. It’s another way to shout at the world about nothing of consequence, another way to wear ourselves obnoxiously on our sleeves, another mirror for us to look into. It teaches us to use characters efficiently at the cost of using language well. It encourages us to believe the way to be interesting is to be proliferate rather than thoughtful. I mean for fuck’s sake, athletes are Twittering at halftime instead of listening to their coaches and Congressmen are Twittering instead of listening to the President speak. I don’t know what that speaks volumes about more: how little respect they have for Obama, how much Congressmen are shitty people, how much they don’t really care about how fucked this country is, or how clear it is that, even though we might like it and much like a lot of other things we happen to like, Twitter isn’t a good thing for us.

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March 29, 2009 at 6:55 PM 3 comments

Meet the new media, same as the old media

play defense goddamnit

I must be out of market or not watching enough college ball because I’ve never seen this ad on TV. How much do you think it would cost to get Bobby for a birthday party?

There’s a marginally interesting article in today’s New York Times about the struggles that brand advertisers face in working with social networks. It focuses on Proctor & Gamble’s strained relationship with Facebook, but the crux of the argument is thus:

When major brands place banner advertisements on the side of a member’s home page, they pay inexpensive prices, but the ads receive little attention. Seth Goldstein, co-founder of SocialMedia Networks, an online advertising company, wrote on his Facebook blog that a banner ad “is universally disregarded as irrelevant if it’s not ignored entirely.”

When advertisers invite members to come to pages dedicated to their products, they can attract visitors only by investing in expensive creative material or old-fashioned promotions like prize contests.

And when they try to take advantage of new “social advertising,” extending their commercial message to a member’s friends, their ads will be noticed, all right, but not necessarily favorably. Members are understandably reluctant to become shills. IDC, the technology research firm, published a study last month that reported that just 3 percent of Internet users in the United States would willingly let publishers use their friends for advertising. The report described social advertising as “stillborn.”

I know, you’re as shocked as I am. “Stillborn”? I chuckled, and that’s exactly why I know that kind of language is completely inappropriate. But seriously, why is this news? What kind of person reads this hard-hitting report and has their mind changed rather than their suspicions confirmed? My boss’s boss’s boss, that’s who.

Like a lot of you, I work with a sizable contingent of people who are completely divorced from the reality of being a middle class consumer even though they in fact are exactly that, people who think their particular company or sector is the exception rather than the rule, people who are foolish enough to think that if they care enough they can make other people care too. This thought disease is the fuel that powers the marketing and advertising business today. But you’ll hardly ever see any Times articles on how hard it is to create a successful TV or print campaign because the metrics for tracking these are no where near as precise as the metrics for tracking internet campaigns. When companies ran a campaign on a medium half a century old and got a hazy post-mortem and now run a campaign on a relatively new medium and get a brutally empirical post-mortem, it isn’t hard to imagine why some executives are so skeptical about new media. Their old media campaigns can be just as ineffective but the inconclusiveness of the data they get back makes it easy for them embellish a bit and imagine success where there is none.

Might I posit that the following be considered an axiom of marketing: all commercial messages are universally disregarded as irrelevant if they are not ignored entirely. Perhaps this is a personal tick or something, but I’m convinced that every ad produces some level of negative brand association just out of the simple fact that every ad is an interruption or intrusion and that’s just plain rude. I’m very popular around the office. Theories aside, when it comes down to brass tacks, which is a bigger waste of money: Figure 1 or Figure 2?

Seth Goldstein is right that banner ads are ignored but he and scores of other marketers are convinced that they can create something different, that somewhere in the muckymuck there is a way to do it right, and maybe it has to do with privacy and engagement and creating “real conversation and interaction around certain products and brands”. In his own words: “We don’t get paid to put you in ads. We’re getting paid to present you with the opportunity to interact with a product socially.”

Except that real people don’t do that. At all. I’m too busy pirating DVDs, reading comics and trying to get laid to care about your brand. Intelligent people with disposable income don’t waste time using mini-apps to do the same thing that the macro-app (Facebook, or the internet at large, telephone) can do far better and less fundamentally dickwadishly. Seth’s products hinge on the bet that if I see a little message on Facebook that Hotrod Johnny is washing his denim jacket with Tide presently, I will somehow be more likely to buy a bottle of Tide or have a positive association with the brand than if I were shown a traditional display ad. And what he’s really hoping is that I’ll write back to Johnny, “Hey dude, that’s awesome! I just washed my daisy dukes with Tide yesterday. Let’s fornicate.” Which is rubbish, quite frankly, because it’s going to take a lot more than spring-fresh outerwear to get me to even remotely consider committing a homosexual act. A display ad I can ignore and move on with my day, but I really liked Hotrod Johnny and now here he is shilling out Tide to me. Now I’m disenchanted with Facebook, I’m really adverse to not just Tide but laundry in general, and I’m beginning to reconsider whether I should even try to have sex with Hotrod Johnny at all if he’s gonna be a tool like that. There is a very short list of consumer items that my friends and I will ever bring up in normal conversation (in order of frequency): booze, Apple products, video games, bike parts, and contraception. I don’t need your widgety-woo to facilitate that interaction and, believe you me, you want no part in that conversation either.

On the flip side of this filth coin, consider what brands really want. In a rare exception to the rule, people do have real conversations about the Apple brand and its products. If Samsung is interested in competing with the iPhone, do they want people to update little status messages and hope other people pay attention or do they want to generate real word of mouth about their handset? One kind of “conversation” can be facilitated with a widgety-woo. The other kind that actually moves units only comes from making an awesome phone and getting David Pogue to write about it. Does anyone really think Apple would sell any fewer iPhones if they pulled their ads? Might I suggest that Samsung concentrate on manufacturing such a device and Proctor & Gamble simply come to terms with the fact that no one cares about their brands because detergent is boring as all fuck.

The bottom line is that advertising as we know it is a dead paradigm that has yet to be replaced, and in this writer’s opinion, may not be replaced at all. There is such an overabundance of things to buy and information on why or why not one should that we all can make important and mundane purchasing decisions with relative ease and little interest. But more importantly, we as a culture have become so inured to self-promotion in all its guises, including the much-ballyhooed “social interaction” as advertisement, that these messages no longer register. In the worlds of products and brands, there will always be peacocks and pigeons. In marketing, just as with human interaction, there is a clear distinction between those who make fools of themselves at parties by shouting obnoxiously and those who can hold a good conversation. And then there are those boring dudes who have nothing interesting or obnoxious to say because they’re accountants or something so they just stand in the corner and sip their beers like effete turds, holding the bottle by the neck and dribbling on their collars. Above all, it’s always easy to spot those who are inappropriately muscling themselves into the conversation and they are so not getting laid tonight. The best thing marketers can do is make a good offer for a good product at a good price and hope it sticks.

Yes, as a new media developer myself, I realize that this evangel isn’t quite in keeping with my self-preservation, but that’s probably why talk of this sort isn’t given much of a voice in the industry itself, and that’s why this piece in the Times might be valuable. Marketing professionals are usually louder cheerleaders for tech innovations than their engineers. But when the interactive marketing manager at the world’s biggest ad-spender publicly states he’s disinterested in working with the world’s biggest social network and unenthusiastic about behavioral targeting, one has to wonder what he is enthusiastic about. Is Ted McConnell a unique outlier in an industry of confident marketers or the first rat to scurry from the sinking ship? Either way, he deserves a Facebook poke for being so candid; I doubt his recent remarks are making him any new friends.

-Posted by RussellMania3000

December 15, 2008 at 10:09 PM 1 comment


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