Apologies for the following rant.
Over the past few months, as I’ve become a lot more immersed in Twitter, I’ve learned a few things. First and foremost, the scary, creepy marketing people that your mom warned you about are still out there. The kind that suggest sending an email to customers on inauguration day with an inauguration theme because people are more likely to engage with it. These are the people who have marketing all figured out. They will allow you to come find out their 3 points to marketing success with an interesting sounding, easily repeatable mantra, for a small fee of a couple thousand dollars. It’s all very simple, and formulaic, and you’ll wonder how you’ve ever lived without it. These are people who are calling themselves experts in building social media relationships, but then boil it down into a series of bullet point style tips and other one-off tricks. They collect followers on Twitter as proof of how brilliant they are at social media marketing, without realizing the irony of turning their Twitter feed into a broadcast medium that reaches more people than they could possibly hope to have a “relationship” with.
Wading through this mess, day-in and day-out, it has become apparent that these folks think they have figured marketing out. They will say things about how tools like Twitter will be "the only corporate communications vehicle in the future." Anything that doesn't take place on social media is old school, and people that work in agencies don't get it. (which is only true some of the time)
Needless to say, I think they are missing the big picture. Just as people who think marketing is just going to be about delivering data are missing the big picture.
For either of those predictions to come true, people are going to have to stop being interested in what’s interesting. The second that marketing becomes predominantly one thing, it becomes boring, and the easiest way to make a splash is go to against the grain. In a world where marketing is confined to a bunch of dudes chatting on something like Twitter, someone is going to make an amazing video, or some other kind of experience, that is going to blow up this little social utopia that they are envisioning.
I think the big point in all of this is that “social” probably isn’t content, and it probably isn’t a channel. As Gareth has said before, social is a behavior. Social is a way to share things with each other, but ultimately it’s things that are interesting that are going to be shared. People always talk about the death of advertising, but I think it’s not advertising that is going to die; it’s crap advertising. It’s the 99% of TV ads that are so ignorable and cringe-able that are going to die. It’s the current “guaranteed” delivery system of that advertising has functioned on for the past 100 years that is going to die. To paraphrase Howard Gossage: People read what they want, and sometimes it's an ad. Interesting doesn't go away just because people are connecting more, in fact, I would argue that social media has only upped the ante on interesting, meaning that we're going to be seeing more an more advertising that is actually really good, because it HAS to be now. Those who can create interesting advertising are going to flourish, and they’ll flourish by way of social media, rather than in spite of it.
Though I could be wrong. I mean, those guys all wear suits in their Twitter profile pics, so they must be doing something right. Right?
In a casual email exchange with Russell yesterday morning, he asked if I had "received my copy of the newspaper." I had no idea what he was talking about, probably because I've been neglecting my RSS feeds lately, but when I checked my mailbox at work for the first time in about a month I found this:
It turns out that he and Ben Terrett decided to create a small newspaper-type-object using things that their friends had posted in 08.
Ben: "Russell and I thought it would be interesting to take some stuff from the internet and print it in a newspaper format. Words as well as pictures. Like a Daily Me, but slower. When we discovered that most newspaper printers will let you do a short run on their press (this was exactly the same spec as the News Of The World) we decided to have some fun."
Russell: "I suppose it was a combination of thinking about all these things, plus finding out how cheap newspapers are to print, that led me and Ben to make this newspaper thing. It's exciting because putting it in the world has clearly made all sorts of people think again about the newspaper format. Cheap paper, cheap printing, can make something beautiful and interesting. It's a great form factor. Just because it's attached to struggling business models doesn't mean it will inevitably disappear."
Besides just loving the idea of taking all of these digital thoughts and turning them into a real-boy, it completely made my day to see that one of my posts (certainly one that I least expected) made it into this little experiment …. they didn't tell anyone they were using their posts … so it was a total surprise.
The interesting thing about it is that it really highlights the dignity of the printed word compared to its digital counterpart. It made me wish that I had paid more attention writing well rather than just hammering out a post in 15-minutes (which is coincidentally what I'm doing right now). I guess that's the difference between writing for the always-in-beta Internet and the very final and finished world of publishing.
And thanks for including my work, fellas.
(My post that they used is here.)