Friday, September 11, 2009

I Hate Social Media (Well, sort of...)

I make my living , in large part, from social media. It's not specifically what I do (that still remains a big question to many, including myself), but it is a catalyst or a major complement for what I can do as a strategist and a technology developer.

What I've really come to realize is that social media - and all of the respective channels - represent so much more than what we make them out to be. In many ways, we’ve compartmentalized and siloed social media as a practice that is supposed to operate like another form of advertising outreach. Further, it’s become such a buzz term that it’s gaining popularity at an exponential rate... in spite of itself. And, to top it off, most brands and consumers don’t really know what it means or is supposed to represent, other than the experiences that are unique to each and every one of them.

Let’s lose the term. I hate it. It’s complete bullshit.

With all due respect to the early adopters – no doubt some very bright and very influential people who I admire  – how do you honestly ‘evangelize’ human behavior? How are you an ‘expert’ in culture? Are you an established sociologist or pathologist or social archeologist? A behavioral scientist? Are you Nostradamus? Do you know something that the rest of us don’t? Are you somehow the online world’s ‘social chairman’? Better yet, were you even popular in high school?

My point is that all media is inherently social.

I’ve said this many times before, and I’m certainly not the only one to say it. You can argue with me all you want on this (I hope you do), but the fact remains that conversations happen in and around TV ads, print ads, pre-rolls, posters, banners, in-store displays and a whole slew of ‘traditional’ and ‘non-traditional’ media. This isn’t any real mystery or revelation. ‘Word of mouth’ has been around since cavemen and women could grunt and point, hunt and procreate.

We’ve already reached an inflection point with the ‘social media revolution’ -- every Mike, Maggie and Martha is waxing poetic about “10 ways to optimize your Facebook fan page”, “6 ways to get more Twitter followers”, “27 ways to build an online community”, “42 ways to be an effective blogger”. To boot, most social content these days is regurgitated and redistributed to the point that parity and duplicity are afterthoughts. What about originality?

Let’s be honest, social media is about culture. It is culture. Plain and simple. The value is in what we talk about, not so much how we talk about it. More important, it’s what we are prepared to do as people, members of society, who are responsible for one another. Fathom that.

If you consider brands to be people, or owned by people, then why all the convincing that this is such a viable method of engagement? People shouldn’t have to look any further than themselves for the answers... Other than, of course, the meaning of life (and even that’s debatable).

Ok, so we don’t live in a perfect world. I’m not suggesting that we now establish a new term for ‘culture’ and add to the hyperbole we throw out at clients and partners that makes their faces scrunch, their brows furrow and their throats dry up. What I am saying is that we need to get real about our intentions and the substance of what we’re trying to say. Advertisers and agencies alike have incredible power in creating and influencing people in positive ways. But most often, they treat this as a right, not a privilege.

Well, I say fuck that. You want to get into ‘social media?’ Step down from the ivory tower and get creative in empowering culture. That’ll create something everlasting... Oh, and dare I say, improve the bottom line.

Posted via email from goonth's posterous


Kneale Mann said...

Hey Gunther,

I always love your passion and you speak your mind. Keep speaking it.

We're overdue for a chat. Let's do that next week.


brandon said...

It seems that many brands are so defensive about their image that their outreach gets stunted when they go outside of their traditional marketing. Then the agencies get involved and they are much more incentivized to do large spends on traditional campaigns. You deal in this world much more than me though. How do you find the landscape?