I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. If you are a regular dim bulber, you know what I’m going to say. My apologies, in advance, but this content thing has gotten waaaaaay out of hand. I don’t blame the proponents of social theory. They’re good salespeople, and they seem to believe what they’re pitching; the fact that they’re completely clueless isn’t my beef. I say shame on marketers for being so gullible and lost for believing the BS.
What prompted my ire was a dim bulber from Down Under who forwarded a link that he knew would get under my skin. It’s entitled Deploying Volunteer Marketing Armies with Internal Social Media, and it promotes the now-common ideas that every individual should share everything with everyone else, and that this represents a new, gloriously open-ended model, paradigm, or shadow on the cavewall of how businesses should operate.
Again, no slight intended to the authors of this nonsense, who are at worst fascinated by their own reflections. Good for them. I should be so brilliantly entertained. But this stuff isn’t science, business, or particularly rational.
If you’re in a corporate marketing department, please refuse the next bong hit and consider the following:
Nobody wakes up wishing they could hear more about brands. Sorry. I know the technology makes it possible, but that’s not the same as making it needed or wished for. The very premise that your customers want to hear more from you — as an absolute good — is absolute nonsense. The world doesn’t need more content. Your challenge isn’t to figure out how to produce more of it, but rather to make whatever you say matter more. This means most of your outbound social campaigns are based on a mistaken premise.
The Crowd isn’t particularly trustworthy, so the idea that you should give up your brand communications to an anonymous collective is nutty. Throughout history crowds have been considered mad, unpredictable, and usually quite capriciously violent (and self-destructive). So Twitter has changed this? I don’t think so. Humanity really doesn’t know (or particularly care about ) how to run your business, so the next “big” idea that your consumers should design your advertising, propose new processes, or simply talk about themselves instead of your product or service…is all about immediate gratification (of the few customers who’ll participate, and the even smaller universe of consultants who sell the program to you). It’s not business strategy.
There’s no inherent order inherent in chaos. Every time somebody tells you “just start creating content” or “open up and talk” they should be asked to leave the room. Sure, structure emerges from chaos, occasionally, but you’re risking replacing your well-crafted novel of a brand with the plot to Lord of the Flies. The idea that you could shirk responsibility for your brand is intoxicatingly attractive but it’s a lie. Respecting the mechanisms of true peer-to-peer communication has little to do with the slick digital campaigns you’re considering right now.
Finally, your brand has to do things in order to exist. Doing is the lingua franca of the Internet, not conversing. Don’t confuse the medium for the message. And don’t confuse the buzz of conversation for the substance of what they’re talking about. Chances are the most celebrated social campaigns had really better, smarter, faster, or otherwise more competitively good products or services behind them. Great digital usually means great reality; if there’s no there there, the program is really just a lot of pretty noise.
Here’s a catechism for you (repeat it to yourself when you start feeling yourself falling for the next down-is-the-new-up digital pitch).
“Human behavior hasn’t suddenly changed. The truths of experience are consistent now with the truths a decade ago, or those of a hundred years ago. Business has the same challenge now as it always had: Make better things and do things better than the competition. Social media are an immense opportunity to communicate from and within this reality. They’re not a substitute. I will be far more likely to sell things if I affirm these truths instead of ignore them, no matter how good it feels to do so.”
There, I said it. And I apologize for going all Howard Beale on you.
(Image credit: Howard Beale)