Tweeting while naked

Not literally naked. Good lord, no.
But figuratively speaking – as in the Emperor’s new clothes.
There was a story circulating last week about how few CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are active on twitter – 19 of the 500 have accounts and only nice actually tweet regularly.  This low take-up of twitter can be linked to $1.3 trillion of missed revenue opportunities, apparently.
Unlike one member of my family, I am not a mathematician. But even I know a trillion of anything is a lot. So, when someone starts talking about $1.3 trillion and links that with tweeting, you can be certain lots of publicity will follow.
Wow. Only 19 of the Fortune 500 have a CEO on twitter, and only nine of those are active.
Wow. $1.3 trillion in missing revenues.
Wow. What a bunch of bozos those CEOs must be. It’s a wonder they haven’t all gone to the wall, isn’t it..?
It’s all nonsense. Furthermore, its misleading, dangerous and self-serving.
What I see from this report is that 491 of the Fortune 500 are getting along nicely without their CEO being paraded around like some superannuated Aunt Sally.
I can’t think – off the top of my head – of any other genre or sector where research can be so blithely turned on its head in an attempt to convince us all that black is white. Nor a sector where so many seemingly bright and capable people are duped so easily – and so frequently – into believing social media will save us all… that if we tweet a bit more, like a bit more somehow businesses will gain a financial reward.
Maybe… if they’re in the business of charging simpletons for wafer-thin research and hokey advice on social media. Otherwise, nah.. there’s no direct causal link between tweets, likes and sales.
There’s more to social media than Twitter and Facebook, I hear some of you cry. Well, of course there is. But we all know where the concentration of traffic, investment and attention lie.
I saw something else recently that said the ‘marketing function’ within businesses was now redundant because of social media. I can only presume that was written by someone who once had marketing explained to them briefly and promptly forgot most of what they’d heard.
Which brings me back to the naked thing.
There are so many flaws in these kinds of report they remind me of sixth form magazine journalism. All posture and opinion, no facts and bugger all evidence.
If you recall the childhood fable, the reason you can see the Emperor’s bum because he’s not wearing any trousers. Not because you aren’t special enough to be able to see the magic cloth.
The continued insistence by some in the comms world that social media (note, ‘social media’ not ‘digital communications’) and in particular the use of twitter is one of the great business transformers of our age is misguided.
Social, in all it’s multi-platformed glory, might be relatively new, but it’s not so new that there hasn’t been time to try it out, use it and see what it’s good for.
It’s good for chatting to people, sharing stuff, issuing vouchers or running competitions. It’s amazing for cat videos going viral, and for giving customers a variety of ways with which to broadcast how much they hate your shitty products and crappy customer service.
It’s good for off-piste online dating activities, and for pretending to be something you’re not.  (hello bored married people wherever you may be).
Not so good at helping any kind of business-to-business transaction though.
Otherwise it wouldn’t be so hard to find actual case studies of businesses (that you’ve heard of) deriving actual ROI from their use of Facebook, twitter and gawd knows what else.
Before you say anything, yes… I know it works better for businesses selling to consumers. But even then, it’s generally acting as an adjunct to existing marcomms tactics and the extent to which it is used well depends on the creativity of those responsible for its use.
The more of us that push back on the nonsense and deploy a little critical thinking, the better.

Telling stories, human nature and social media

Since the very dawn of time itself mankind has told stories.

Ok, maybe not since the dawn of time perhaps “since the evolution of language” would have been more accurate. But that didn’t sound very story-like.

Someone once told me that all the stories we are familiar with are in fact based on just a handful of original story ideas that came into being eons ago.

That could be true.

Certainly many cultures have a rich story-telling tradition. Viking sagas, the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, Greek myths, the Tales of 1,001 Nights – frankly there’s loads.

Stories don’t just come in that more obvious narrative format either. Cave paintings, totem poles, the adornments on boomerangs – graphical story-telling is a strong part of human history.

We’ve come a long way from sitting round the fire recounting our ancestors’ tales of derring-do or painting on cave walls. But stories are still a fundamental part of who we are as individuals, as nations and also in relation to how brands identify themselves.

The approach taken by advertisers and marketers just a generation or two ago looks naive by our sophisticated 21st century standards. It was, with some exceptions, “here’s our product – buy it.”

And while that approach still exists – and of course the motivation of generating sales is still hugely valid – consumers tend now to switch off to a lot of that stuff. We’re all so accustomed to being marketed to that maybe we’ve started to become immune.

Whether you call it PR, communications, marcomms, or whatever, those who ply their trade in the same sector as I are in the business of telling stories. Stories that will resonate with our clients’ target audiences and give them a sense of affinity with a particular brand.

This can be seen being played out in the digital space even more clearly, where the time between brand execution and customer feedback grows ever shorter.

But much like the crazy preacher-man berating the passing crowds at Oxford Circus I passed this morning, there’s a danger we end up trying to tell our stories to people who simply aren’t interested.

Again, the online world has made this trap ever more easy to fall into.

The fundamentals of story-telling – much like the fundamentals of human nature, in my opinion – remain:

  • Get the story right
  • Know who it is that you want to tell your story to
  • Be sure you’re talking when (and where) they will listen.
  • And who knows, maybe even ask them to share their stories with you too

We haven’t really come such a long way at all, in this story-teller’s opinion.

Although at least we’re not still writing on walls.

Ahem..!

Yes Facebook, I’m looking at you.