I’m at Ad:Tech today and I just learned a valuable lesson. Not, in fact, from any of the speakers, though a few have had interesting things to say.carpe diem adland

Last night I went to the AdTech sponsored Social Media Club, and this morning I presented at a session called “next generation social media strategy.”

Thinking about what that might really mean, I settled on what seemed to me a fairly conceptual, challenging (but ultimately rooted in common sense) combination of things I’ve learned over the past year or two. I thought about what the audience might already know, and tried to build upon that.

Admittedly in a 45 minutes session comprising six speakers, there was limited scope, but I thought I might have have shared some ideas that might spark debate and other ideas in turn. I had a solid case study with some excellent results to talk about, and I was feeling alright.

Then I wandered about the expo with the post-presentation adrenalin crash blues and realised I was utterly, utterly sick to the back teeth of the words “social media” and conversations about what might be done with it. And then I confess, dear reader, I fell into a bit of a funk.

Luckily I’m such a Zen-like hepcat these days it didn’t last too long.

I had the revelation -and this comes, Sheen-like – directly from the power of my mind, that I had committed the cardinal sin of believing things about my users (the Adtech audience) based on pure assumption, not data.

I sat in a couple of sessions and listened to the questions from the audience and came to the understanding that actually very few people here seem to have any real world professional experience of using social media. Even now, even after several years, and successive presentations and millions of blog posts, there seem to be a small cabal of practitioners, a still smaller cabal of decent practitioners,  a massive gulf and then  – everybody else*.

And I think it’s our fault. At a session this afternoon, an audience member asked what kind of agency social media belonged in. There was dissent.  We’re still talking about one platform versus another and how to measure stuff, and whether engagement is more important than the number of people on your social database (does anyone recognise this exact scenario from, say, email marketing?) and all the kinds of conversations that nobody has about other disciplines or channels…. and all this simply makes it seems like a difficult and arcane business and somehow exempt from the rules that apply to every other aspect of marketing activity.

Let’s stop fucking talking about it and just build it, from the outset, into the way we communicate. Let’s do it well, let’s do it creatively and effectively and in a way that seizes the immense opportunity the social web offers us all, but let’s, please, stop talking about it and just fucking do it.

Think of the children. If for no other reason than that they’ll be massively contemptuous of all this dithering.

*everyone who works in media, advertising, publishing etc. Not normal people. They don’t care; they’d just like you to delight or inspire them, or at least not to waste their time.

Thanks Erdogan for the photo.

6 thoughts on “the dead social media practitioners society

  1. A similar point struck home for me at another SMCSYD event when I asked a question about the analysing data. There seemed to be an implicit data determinism (as a variation of classic technological determinism) where data was seen to be able to provide answers. I asked a question about the difference between constructing a narrative using data (and other research outputs) versus the data itself.

    Part of this was due to assumptions about what media buyers or SME advertisers are after, due to the constant refrain about ‘numbers not lying’. Well numbers may not lie, but they certainly do not tell the whole story! Metrics measure interactions, but they can not account for the power of a message or a campaign in a complex media environment (print, online, live event, social).

    So I’d push your critical point further and suggest from my limited perspective we need a better grasp of transmedia (aka ‘media ecology’) approaches, so as to look at messages/campaigns as events repeated across diffuse channels.

  2. “Let’s stop fucking talking about it and just build it, from the outset, into the way we communicate.”


  3. I’m glad someone has written about this issue as I’ve been quietly saying the same thing direct to conference organisers including SMCSYD for the past 2 years.

    Just recently I sent an email to a certain conference specifically on this topic.

    This is some of what I said (in a hurry):

    Social Media Marketing is what most of us experienced professionals at the enterprise level call ‘social influence marketing’ because in fact you are trying to ‘influence’ other people either directly or indirectly.

    ‘Social media’ are the tools, ‘social networking’ is what you do in the communities, ‘social marketing’ is the strategy, plans and tactics to achieve your marketing goals and objectives.

    Ultimately you are trying to ‘influence’ end customers or other influencers to do something. Popularity does not equal influence and in fact many studies have now shown that popularity has an adverse effect on influence.

    Most of the metrics are wrong as well and marketers are getting too hung up on micro KPI’s which aren’t insightful. I cover some social influence marketing measurement in my Digital Marketing Measurement Framework which I’ve now put on SlideShare – http://slidesha.re/hb3jpR

    If speakers or social media ‘experts’ cannot articulate these things or have never been involved in designing, implementing or operationalising a social media program within or across an enterprise or company / organisation, then they really aren’t an ‘expert’ (they might be a commentator but that’s not the same thing).

    Social media marketing or social influence marketing is a commitment, not a campaign and social networking is not social media marketing. The lack of understanding of these key principles is what is driving the fact that 83% of social media marketing efforts have failed over the past 2 years. This failure rate has been largely driven by a lack of strategy, bad advice and poor campaign based executions by agencies and ‘experts’. They really don’t understand or know how to listen, develop a strategy, implement and operationalise a program within an organization or company.

    Further, many agencies, media and commentators are too narrow in their definition and understanding of social influence marketing focusing too much and too narrowly on reputation management which is only one small part of the discipline. There are many different use cases for Social Influence / Media Marketing and it all depends on the fundamentals; your business and marketing goals and objectives.

    Anyway, I could go on forever on this topic as I spend way too much time correcting poor advice……

  4. I’m guessing I fall into the everybody-else-media category. But to my clients _I’m_ the social media expert, because
    (1) I’ve used it ‘for business’.
    (2) I read social media news and remember some of it.
    (3) I’ve applied point 2 to point 1 with some success.

    I don’t feel expert, because I’m aware of the massive experience gap between my level and yours. But I’ve been operating on the “just fucking do it” principle from the start, and having done it at all seems to qualify me to do it some more with somebody else’s budget.

  5. Hi Cathie
    A view from the outside if I may:
    Welcome 😉
    I too am confused by this continual confusion of the “Media” with the “Message”.
    But you are not alone. Have a look at the non-hepcat funky introspection of the “Newspaper” industry.

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