Post 55:08 Is a social media bust coming?

Trevor Cook’s Unleashed piece has me thinking. His central theme is that social media evangelists’ current beliefs may not be coming about.

They¬† believe that our big institutions will have to become open, transparent and accountable or they will crumble like so many Berlin walls unable to withstand the internet-empowered populace’s thirst for freedom.

Or they used to believe it.

Now, he says, blogging has gone mainstream, the dream is dieing and far from blogs and social media providing a vibrant alternative to the things MSM does well, or encouraging transparency:

In the hands of a PR pro, the opportunity to bypass the ‘media gateway’ can just mean an open invitation to pump out unfiltered propaganda.

I think he’s pretty much right. As I have blogged before, I don’t see how social media overcomes the combination of apathy and inertia that so many people display in their media consumption. The fact that some of that consumption has gone online seems to me irrelevant. If people are passive, it does not matter whether they are online or offline.

So I wonder if there is not a social media bust on the way.

I won’t be like bust 1.0, money-wise. The level of investment in Web 2.0 has been comparatively modest, compared boom 1.0.

But the reason for bust 1.0 was the collapse of the business models that excited investors. If Trevor Cook is right, the business models underpinning many social media assumptions could also go bang.

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Post 54:08 Much better corporate social media

Vuki* was kind enough to send this link, to a Dell blog explaining one of the company’s new products.

It is actually pretty good because you get to see the product in action. The spokesblokes talk like real people and even make some dorky, self-deprecating, jokes that make them seem like real people, not corporate drones. After just two minutes of video, you get a nice feel for the product. Shame it’s not actually in a social media release (SMR): it comes from a blog.

This is soooooooo nicely different to a SMR that just does the usual PR yadda yadda in multimedia. It also, IMHO, just about kills the standard issue two-hour press lunch stone dead.

It also show how social media needs to be social. Think about the interactions you have every day with the people with whom you socialise. Do they ever commence a formal oration detailing the virtues of their positions? Heck no! Yet we are expected to believe that press release and corporate-speak are suddenly social just because they appear on YouTube.

Sigh … it took ten years for PR to figure out that putting pictures in every press release was a good idea. I give them another decade before they actually figure out how to convince their clients to speak like real people.

* Vuki does Australian PR for the company whose SMR I disliked.

Post 53:08 I’m back, good and grumpy about social media releases

Press releases are the most predictable documents in the world.

They contain little or no news, plenty of self-congratulation, and offer little value to most journalists I respect other than for their role putting things on the record, i.e; when the CEO says something so turgid you are actually better off using the canned quote in the press release. The real story, the one that adds value to readers, almost always lies elsewhere.

The same, sadly, applies to the new creation of the “social media release.”

Those of this genre that I have seen do a few things differently to a normal media release. They have links to a Facebook group or some other social networking site. They have links to photos, which should really have been standard issue in press releases a decade ago, but let’s not go there. Sometimes they have podcasts or videos.

It’s the latter two I want to take issue with, because I am yet to see one of these social media releases in which the multimedia do more than offer dull, low-production-values, versions of the same kind of PR corporate-speak you get in a written release.

Here’s a good example. The videos in this social media release are just garbage. I fell asleep after two minutes. The Chalk Talk video, IMHO, is the worse of the two. Why waste my time filling a whiteboard with theory? Why not just SHOW me the software in action? This, to me, seems like the most basic idea imaginable. Now that video lets you show things to people, why not do so? Cut out the boastful self-promotion and let me have the visceral experience of watching the software actually DO something.

So it’s the same old useless content. But in a different medium.

At this point, readers might have one of two reactions. If, for example, you are privvy to the knowledge that I have recently had a spat with a representative of the PR firm that does some work for the company whose social media release I have linked to, you could think this is a get-square. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just like to blog about this stuff. And I am a gnat on the vendor’s ass anyway.

Another thing some folks have done when I raise this topic is to accuse me of being an old fogey, a digital immigrant and therefore unfit to comment on anything 2.0. Bullshit. You could be a 14 year old who spends all day with a pair of iPhones glued to your eyes and still find stuff like this SMR dull as dishwater.