The end of social

I dislike predictions. But I’m going to make one… there will be no more big social networks. We’ve reached, and passed, a tipping point.

Why?

Because they’re all being strangled at birth by over-eager PR and marketing people, who – for all their impressive-sounding job titles and amazeballs CVs – seem to have completely forgotten all the basics of social.

Twitter and Facebook dominate the social landscape for most of us*. Similarly, they dominate the marketing spend of those brands that advertise on social media.

There’s a clear cause-and-effect thing going on here … first came the platform, then came millions of regular users, then (and only then) came the marketing and PR people.

That’s the way it works. The logic is pretty robust and if you felt like it, you could template it and see that it applies in many other walks of life.

Something has been lost, or forgotten, though.

Because now, when a new social platform launches, before most people have even created an account or downloaded an app there’s a slew of ill-conceived blog pieces and articles from marcomms people all treading the same tired old ground … ‘what brands should do on X…’

Almost none of them say “what brands should do is back off for a while, see if this thing gathers momentum, whether or not people will naturally gravitate to it, and if so what their behaviour can tell us about how we should use this platform – if at all.”

David Meyer wrote a piece on Gigaom which hits the nail on the head as far as the recent launch of Jelly was concerned… “Goodbye for now, Jelly – it’s not you it’s the marketers.”

And he’s right!

I’ve been an active and enthusiastic user of social media since before that term became common parlance – dig around in the archives of the Scotsman and the FT and you might even find me quoted in articles as far back as 2006 on how businesses could use social media for research and recruitment.

But it pains me when I see people in my sphere of work forever caught up in the Emperor’s new clothes outlook.

It really wouldn’t kill any of you to slow down a little, ask a few questions, be intellectually curious and maybe even a little sceptical.

From a purely pragmatic perspective, if we choose to ignore the old recipe for success, which turned the likes of Facebook and Twitter into the enormous beasts they are, we’re doing ourselves and our clients a disservice and we’ll eventually be over-taken by events – or smarter thinkers.

Your clients are – or should be – paying you for your consultancy. So be a consultant. If they just wanted to spend time in the company of someone to jump up and down on the spot shrieking excitedly, they’d get a job at a soft-play centre.

 

* – Europe, North America, the Antipodes, etc… ‘the West’ as it’s sometimes called.

Don’t get engaged … be engaging

The word engage has been taken hostage by the social media marketing community, and I am probably as guilty as the digital comms person of bandying that word around just a little too much.

I’ve written countless blog pieces, opinion articles and PR plans in which I extol the virtues of a three-step plan to social media nirvana .. listen, analyse and engage.

When you were a child did you ever say a word over and over and over again until it sounded like meaningless nonsense? I’m fairly sure I wasn’t the only one to do that. But if you’ve never done it, give it a try.

So it is with words that get hijacked – they can begin to lose their meaning.

I was reflecting on this in the wake of Facebook’s most recent set of changes, which are designed to give users of the service more control over what shows up in their News Feed. At the moment the News Feed is an all-in-one repository, but users will soon be able to filter different types of content into separate feeds. A little like the way you might sort your emails into folders.

There are two points of interest for businesses using Facebook as part of their marketing mix. The first is that from now on they will be able to use bigger images and video in the advertisements they place in the Facebook News Feed.

The second is that their potential audience has now been given the tools to automatically siphon advertising into a separate feed which they can ignore completely for as long as they like.

Which brings us back to the E-word.

Brands have been trying hard to engage with people via social media for years. Facebook just shifted the goalposts.

Want to be seen, listened to, remembered for your Facebook marketing? Well, you’ll have to be that much more interesting, memorable and shareable.

It’s not a revolutionary concept. But if it stems the flow of lazy thinking that lurks behind too many companies’ attitudes toward social media marketing, that’s not a bad thing.

Stop trying to have a conversation with me about the things that matter most to you but least to me. Instead, show me something that holds my attention, that reflects well on you without your products being the hero of the hour, and which makes me want to spend my money with you rather than your competitors.

Be engaging.

The war for digital hearts and minds

There’s been a bit of a turf war going on in the advertising/marketing/PR world for several years now, and it’s not really showing any signs of resolving itself.

It’s the war for digital hearts and minds and it’s being fought across all the major social media networks. From the familiar landscapes of Twitter and Facebook, through to the newer territories of Microsoft’s Socl, the revitalised MySpace and on into Pintererst, Instagram and beyond.

In business communications circles, everyone acts like they have the right to own social media: advertising agencies, marketing consultancies and PR firms. And it doesn’t stop there – there are digital creative agencies, interactive marketing houses and tech-based SEO companies. All claiming they have the secret sauce that will help a brand cover itself in digital glory.

But it’s the PR world that has the strongest claim, in my opinion.

Before you pull a muscle shouting “he would say that, wouldn’t he” let me explain why I think that.

One of the key functions of the PR industry is to intercede with the media on behalf of its clients. The media is changing, indeed has already changed, due to the impact of the internet and social media. The PR industry is changing with it.

Circulation figures for all newspapers are lower, as are advertising revenues from their print-based activities. The BBC, the Financial Times and the Guardian are just three of the UK’s major broadcast and print names that are investing heavily in their digital output. Some titles, including Newsweek, have turned their backs on print altogether.

This move to more digital-friendly output from mainstream news providers is more than a passing phase. The traditional reliance on the written word has decreased as video and graphics are increasingly sought out by readers and viewers, and this is a tide that is unlikely to turn any time soon. As a result, the PR industry has had to learn how to craft its clients’ messages and brand stories into formats that meet the needs of these changed media requirements.

But my reasons go deeper than simply the ability to update story formats.

Despite the many different views on what constitutes successful social media engagement, there is perhaps one aspect that everyone agrees on, and that is that social media requires a more discursive approach to corporate communications. The audience you reach via Facebook, for example, is not receptive to one-way communications, they will expect brands to listen as much (more, even) than they talk.

Get that bit wrong, and the rest of whatever it is you’re up to won’t matter a jot.

This is why, in my opinion, if any of the marketing disciplines can claim any form of ownership of social media outreach, it has to be PR.

PR is the only branch, if I can call it that, of the marketing tree, and I realise I probably can’t call it that, where conversation is one of the fundamental building blocks of the whole discipline.

In the event of a crisis that has dragged you into the media spotlight, who is it that businesses turn to for help? It’s not the ad agency. It’s not the web designer. It’s not the marketing consultant. It’s the PR people.

Why..? PR people have no magic powers, after all. Well, it’s because the PR world knows how to listen, how and when to talk, how to avoid making things worse by lying, and how to think on its feet.

Nowhere are those traits more welcome than in the world of social media.

This piece was first published on the Nexus Communications website. You can find it here.

 

 

The King is Hacked, Long Live the King

So, the Burger King Twitter account was somehow hacked into on Monday (18 February). Did you see it? Were you aware? Do you even care?

There was certainly a great deal of brouhaha in the immediate aftermath, almost exclusively from people who work in the marketing, PR and social media sectors.

In short, someone took over the official Burger King Twitter account, changed the BK logo to a McDonalds’ logo and started tweeting nonsense. Some of it said that Burger King had been sold to McDonalds, most of it wasn’t funny and was filled with grammatical errors.

You can read more about it here.

The decision was eventually taken by Burger King – once they had regained control of it – to suspend the account. Presumably to clear out all the nefarious tweets, check they weren’t following any undesirables, and to send someone from their digital marketing team to sit on the naughty step and think about what had happened. At the time of publishing this piece, the Burger King account had reappeared.

But amid the sound and fury that gripped my Twitter stream on Monday afternoon, I couldn’t help but wonder does any of this actually matter?

“Will sales of Burger King food fall because of the hack?” asked one person I follow on Twitter.

I think it was a genuine question. The answer, quite obviously, is no. The quality of the food sold by Burger King is not affected in any way, directly or indirectly, by what happens on Twitter.

I retorted by saying in the event that sales of Burger King food don’t fall thanks to this very public social media problem, should we all conclude that social media is utterly pointless?

Well, of course the answer to that one is also no.

What this alludes to though is the question of how one assesses the value of – and ROI from – social media. And the chances are that sales of your core products is not the right metric.

Research commissioned by Nexus Communications last year into the grocery shopping habits of UK households’ primary shoppers, found that a staggeringly low two per cent cited social media as having influence over the choices they make.

Social media is not the place to promote your products and push your messages onto people. It’s where people will expect to find you listening, talking, answering their questions, and generally being a bit more human than you are elsewhere – like on your website.

People will come to your Facebook page to participate in competitions and take advantage of offers and vouchers – no one with the Facebook account needs to pay full price with the likes of Domino’s Pizza, for example.

But if you’re not measuring the pull-through from offers and competitions, if you’re not tracking the offline redemption of online vouchers, how can you know what’s working and what isn’t?

In short, if you’re measuring the wrong thing – no matter what it is – you’re measuring the wrong thing.

I’m not privy to the ins and outs of what Burger King’s social media KPIs might be, but I’d be surprised if burger sales is one of the main ones.

Right, I’m off in search of a Whopper. Who’s with me?

(This piece was first published on the Nexus Communications website. You used to be able to find it here. You can’t any more as someone has moved it.)

 

Fake authenticity: the compassion lie

I may lose friends. I may attract abuse. But this is one of those moments when I feel like I can no longer resist the urge to point and shout “the king is in the altogether.”

What am I talking about?

Fake authenticity.

Never heard of it? There’s a lot of it about, and you’d do worse than read this piece by Jonathan MacDonald – The Fallacy of Social Media.

In it he touches upon the fake approach taken to telling stories and building relationships online, particularly in the realm of social media.

Someone once said to me that to use expressions like “telling stories” in the context of PR was to admit that it was all spin, lies and bullshit.

The more I reflect on that the more convinced I am that it’s one of the most ignorant things anyone’s ever said to me and I should have said as much at the time.

Whether you are an individual, a brand marketer, a politician, a social media coordinator, when you are telling people something about who you are, what you do, how you behave, or what you believe in, you are telling them your story.

If you bullshit them you’ll get found out eventually.

Something Jonathan MacDonald picks up on is a piece of advice mooted by someone that says: “Act like you’re a company made of real, actual people, and good things will surely follow.”

It’s a liars charter in tl;dr form. And I find it quite distasteful.

As I’ve already said, there’s a lot of it about. And it’s not just brands that are doing it. I see a lot of people in my stream doing it constantly.

Recently jazz musician Terry Callier died. But for his work with the likes of Massive Attack he would only have been known to a fraction of the people in my stream – those who are serious-minded fans of music, or seek out interesting non-mainstream things to listen to. I don’t fall into either of those categories, just to be clear.

I remain unconvinced that a great many people who own something he worked on had ever heard of him either. In fact, I got a bit nauseated by the wave of “oh that’s terrible. #rip” tweets I saw from people who spend most Saturday evenings are watching X-Factor.

Oh, yes you are a very serious and dedicated follower of interesting musical collaborations, aren’t you?

No, you’re not. You’re a bullshit merchant trying to make yourself look cool, or – worse – desperately hoping to connect with something real, something meaningful to fill that foetid hole you drag round with you everywhere you are.

It was also evident in the wake of Hurricane Sandy making landfall in the US. “It’s awful,” read one tweet I saw, “13 people have been killed. #sandy”

Yes, of course it’s awful. Truly awful. Particularly for those directly involved. But do you know what else is awful…? The fact that the person whose tweet I saw – and the dozens more like them – had expressed no concern or compassion whatsoever for those left dead, displaced and traumatized by Sandy in Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, the Bahamas, and probably other parts of the Caribbean too. Haiti hasn’t recovered from the earthquake it was hit by in 2010, and was in the midst of a cholera outbreak when Sandy passed close by. So fucking what, eh..?

The death toll in the Caribbean is around 70. Probably more. It’s possible no one will ever know.

The only time I saw anyone on twitter referring to that was as a counterpoint to the many, many, “I hope everyone in New York stays safe” type tweets.

Why is it that so many people, here in the UK, were so eager to express such concern?

Dislocated empathy. Not misplaced. Dislocated.

Of course we all hoped that everyone was going to be ok in New York and elsewhere in the US. The same ought to apply to everywhere that was in the path of Hurricane Sandy. No..?

Yet it would appear to be ok, desirable even, to carry on ignoring the plight of poor black countries hit by disaster, when latte-sipping, iPhone-using, GAP-shopping people, wherever they may be, have also been affected by something bad.

I know it’s easier to identify with people who have similar lives, but that’s no excuse, in my opinion, for not giving enough of a damn about the rest of the world to pause your lazy thinking and cast off your me-opia.

It made me rather cross. Still does. You might have noticed.

But more than that, it was telling to see the stories people tell about themselves.

Who do I indentify with..? Who can I identify with..? What kind of person shall I be today…

If you’re a genuinely compassionate person, and care about what happens to others, you can see further than those that wear the same clothes as you, or even the countries where you have personal contacts.

And you aren’t compelled to bleat about it in public in an attempt to define yourself.

Fake authenticity.

Nice work people.

 

Why it’s time to stop counting your retweets

How easy would it be to write a post ridiculing the practice of assessing the success and relevance of your social media activity by counting the number of retweets, likes, followers or fans you have?

I think we all know it would be quite easy.

How much value would there be in my doing that?  Well, about as much value as there is in assessing the success and relevance of your social media activity by counting the number of retweets, likes, followers or fans you have.

Did you see what I did there?

I read a blog post today in which someone said they’d tweeted something about the Uberdaddy of record-breaking sky-diving, Felix Baumgartner. That tweet was then retweeted more than 5,000 times, reaching more than 140,000 people’s streams.

Woah..! Big numbers.

Big so what, too.

In an exchange on Twitter with a social marketer at one of the world’s premier sports brands, I recently said something that went a little bit like this:

Measuring your online relevance simply by counting how many retweets you get is a bit like driving all the way to the supermarket at the weekend, not actually going in to buy anything, but still considering it to have been a trip to the supermarket.

Technically, that’s a trip to the supermarket.

You don’t have anything to eat though.

One point I (try) to make to the brands I speak to about how they measure social success – and more importantly how they should measure social success – is that surely it has to be better for their business to find 50 people they know are spending money with them than to have 50,000 Facebook likes from people who probably aren’t.

That’s me all over though… I state the obvious.

Social media. Digital communications. Where did it all go wrong? We let it fall under the spell of people with no real experience of what it takes to create genuine interest and actionable desire.

Affecting a sustainable change in people’s perceptions and behaviour is not as hard as it might seem. As for measuring those changes, well OK that is a little bit hard. But it’s not impossible and it gets a good deal easier when you know what it is you’re trying to measure and why.

A former business contact of mine got a job last year as a “social media coordinator.”  I posited that one day, maybe in three-to-five years, there wouldn’t be anyone with the word social in their job title.  It’s all just media.

We need to stop dressing it all up as something it isn’t and get back to the business of crafting great narrative, building compelling brand stories, and measuring the things that really matter.

 

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.

What the Olympic sponsors could learn from Beckham and Adidas

Adidas pulled off a fantastic PR stunt yesterday at the Westfield Stratford shopping centre (that’s ‘mall’ to my colonial friends).
They installed a photobooth and encouraged people to step inside, whereupon… from the O to the M to golden-balls G – there’s David Beckham waiting for them.
Brilliant work. Inspired. You want warm and fuzzy brand association – there you are. You want to be seen as well connected – help yourself. You want people to think your brand is cool – you got it.
So how come the other big ticket sponsor brands haven’t also done something interesting, different, entertaining..?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not for one minute suggesting that anyone in their right mind would want to see Ronald McDonald emerging from the darkness and coming toward them, least of all while they’re in a confined space.
Yet, unless I’ve missed something, there appears to be a dearth of other Olympi-brands dusting off their creative mojos and winning the hearts and minds of the public.
There’s really no excuse in 2012 – it would be as cheap as chips (which you can only buy from McDonalds, unless they are served with fish as part of an authentic fish ‘n’ chips experience) to knock out a whole rash of Facebook competitions and games, or do some cool London stuff via Foursquare, maybe linked to previous London Olympics.  Plus all the big brands have so much corporate sponsorship going on that they have more than enough potential strings to pull for a spot of A-list celebrity endorsement action.
  
Something. Anything. Anyone..?
It really wouldn’t be hard for these big brands to create campaigns or one-off stunts that demonstrate they’ve actually been listening to their customers through all the Facebook groups etc they have.
It makes me wonder what the point of it all is (having a brand presence on Facebook, I mean) if you can’t then take everything you’ve learned about interacting with your customers via a meaningful two-way dialogue and put it to good use throughout all your PR, advertising, marketing and comms activities.

I think that might be worth setting aside for another post.


Footnote: list of the London 2012 Olympic sponsors, partners and supporters here.

O2 and the social media handbrake turn

Did O2 get it right on twitter in the wake of their network outage problems?

No.

And yes.

This may be one of the biggest clichés in PR and comms, but it gets to the heart of a very important consideration – what are you trying to achieve, and what does success look like?

When I and thousands of other O2 users found we couldn’t make calls or send texts, we turned to twitter to see what else we could learn about the problem… was it happening to anyone else, was there an explanation, and so on.  The O2 support page seemed to go offline around the same time, possibly due to being swamped by enquiries.

Twitter was soon a-buzz with tweets from disgruntled O2 customers.

There wasn’t a great deal of information coming out of O2 and the grumbles began to grow in volume and intensity. The O2 twitter account seemed to go a bit quiet at that point too.

By Thursday, O2 seemed to be more in control of itself, if not of the glitch that had caused the outage, and the company’s twitter stream was soon alive with responses to customers.

O2 is one of the few brands I follow and interact with on twitter. Not just because I’m a customer, although that is ultimately the explanation, but also because I’ve always thought they got the balance of interaction and broadcast right. There was a human touch to the O2 account but it never overpowered the O2 brand.

But in my opinion the wheels came off on Thursday.

If you check out Karen Webber’s excellent piece about the outage on NewsReach you’ll see what is probably the most famous tweet from O2 in response to an abusive customer’s tweet. It was inspired. Genuinely funny.

That whoever was staffing the twitter account was given the freedom to do that is a masterstoke.

However, I also got the impression that the huge positive sentiment that tweet elicited from the wider audience prompted someone at O2 to declare “do more tweets like that, I think we’ve found our way out.”

For a while it seemed that O2’s motivation on twitter was no longer to inform or engage with customers, but to demonstrate how achingly funny the brand could be – how irreverent and not-at-all-how-you-expected it was capable of being.

For me, that joke wore thin pretty quickly.

It was clever though.

Social media is a fickle environment. The speed with which people get enthused and subsequently bored is staggering at times. So, why not take advantage of that..?  Which is what O2 did.

By engaging in a spot of banter, attempting to shock us all a little by responding to remarks about anal sex with people’s mothers for example, the brand was executing the perfect social media handbrake turn.

O2 outage..? What O2 outage..?? Look over here – they’re being funny about tweeting first and fellating in hell later, and joining in with jokes about pigeons.

Did O2 get it right? I think that depends entirely on what we think they were trying to achieve. If it was reassuring customers (and don’t forget some of them rely on O2 for their business) that the problem had been identified and was being put right, I don’t think so. If it was turning the tide of negative tweets, then yes.

They could have posted some animated cat gifs, that would probably have had the same effect in terms of getting the angry mob to put down the pitchforks and torches.

Personally, I think there was too much emphasis on trying to be clever and funny, and not enough on acknowledging the problem.


Footnote: can you see sour grapes here? If you feel like trawling through my twitter stream you’ll find a tweet from me to O2 stating that despite being inconvenienced by the outage, I wasn’t feeling at all aggrieved. There are no sour grapes.


Why I like Pinterest and why you should too

New terms of service from the many and varied sites and feeds we’re all subscribed to are a regular occurrence. Apple, for example, routinely updates its Ts & Cs. You haven’t read them, nor have I. Pages and pages of jargon-heavy legal terminology that, let’s face it, aren’t going to stand between you and your iTunes account for any longer than it takes to blithely scroll down and tick the “accept” box.
Of all the online too-ings and fro-ings I’m signed up to, the latest to update its terms is Pinterest.
Ah… Pinterest. Admitting to using Pinterest is a tricky business. Some people enjoy it. Some are still valiantly looking for the crock of doo-dah at the end of the “how brands can maximise their oopmpah using Pinterest” rainbow. And others will just sneer at you.
But I like Pinterest.
There, I’ve said it.
Unlike blogging, tweeting and jibbing about on Facebook, Pinterest is a wholly-visual medium where you get to interact (in a very limited way) with a bunch of strangers. A bit like Chat Roulette but without the promise of having video-phone sex with someone else’s bored wife.
One of the best things about social media is the exchange of ideas, opinions and information from sources and individuals you might not otherwise have encountered.
But one of the worst things is the exchange of ideas, opinions and information from sources and individuals you might not otherwise have encountered, and in many cases wish you never had.
When asked a few months ago why I liked Pinterest I said I liked the lack of discourse with other users. I also like the visual aspect of it. Not just because I can’t get enough of looking at pics of cupcakes. But because the written form isn’t for everyone. Being able to share images of things you like with an online community is – and here I risk sounding like a colossal smunt* – a great example of the democratising nature of social media.
I find someone’s half-baked opinion, or massively dull world view far less irritating when it manifests as a image than as a tweet infected with bad grammar and insufficient thinking.
I regularly get emails, tweets and DMs from people who read stuff on this blog and then say to me “oh, I could never do that. I can’t write.”
True, most people can’t express their thoughts and opinions as clearly and, dare I say entertainingly, in writing as they might be able to when speaking. I’m not sure that means they shouldn’t have any form of outlet, though.
A lot of what I see on Pinterest is not very different from retweeting or sharing links to articles other people have written. Neither of which are creative exercises, yet they rarely come in for much criticism.
It’s not all kittens, cupcakes and wedding dresses on Pinterest either. In fact, I see more pics of cats and cakes shared via twitter. And don’t be fooled by the whole “it’s a mummy-blogger thing with a prevailing female wind” schtick.
Two things… 1) so what if that’s the case; 2) that’s not the case.
Within two weeks of being on Pinterest I was carefully unfollowing users who were pinning porno. Not the soft kind. There’s a time and a place for most things but I don’t really ever want to see some fat German bloke’s favourite stills of people having sex.
Like all things social, if you pick the right people to follow Pinterest can be interesting and funny. Sad how many people I’ve seen on twitter writing Pinterest off because they aren’t enjoying the experience. It’s as though they’ve forgotten what it is to put time and effort in to developing your networks.
But let’s not forget the copyright stick that many people have sought to beat Pinterest with. I can only imagine these people have only started using the internet very very recently. Either that or they have very very selective memories.
Stealing other people’s content is bad. Illegal even. But it didn’t start with Pinterest and it won’t end with criticism of Pinterest either.
OK, so some lawyer or other closed their Pinterest account because it all looked wrong to them.
Massive so what alert…
Get a grip people. There’s no Father Christmas, there’s no Tooth Fairy and lawyers get things wrong sometimes. Maybe those people placing so much importance in this lawyer’s actions have never actually had to deal with lawyers in a professional capacity.
As an interesting comparison, I haven’t seen Soundcloud, for example, come in for the same kind of criticism. Maybe that’s because music, like writing, is deemed a worthy and creative exercise. Whereas sharing images of the things you like is something it’s ok for the twitterati to look down on.
Funny thing, looking down on people. I’ve almost always found myself looking down more on those who do the looking down.
But the thing I really like about Pinterest is the approach they took a few days ago to updating their terms of service. They issued an email written in very accessible, non-legal language, explaining there had been a change. There was a summary of some of the changes and a link to the terms in full, which the recipient of the email is encouraged to read.
I think this compares very favourably with the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple who could do a lot worse than start talking to their users and customers like human beings again, rather than treating us like assets.
Pinterest, like every other shop in the social media mall, is far from perfect. But it is clear to me that unlike many others they are listening to naysayers and at least attempting to correct the course they’re on. There’s a lack of arrogance in that approach that I wouldn’t mind seeing go viral.

* – yes, I invented a word… smunt.