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Congratulations, you and your company have done it. You have your own Facebook page and Twitter stream. How hard was that now? How do you feel, and what are you expecting to gain. Now that you’ve caught up to the times, here are some things you may want to think about before investing too much more time, money, and energy in this endeavour, because chances are that your company should ditch Facebook, Twitter and Co.

“What is this guy talking about?” you’re probably thinking. “Why would we do that after everything that we’ve invested already?” Here’s my answer to these questions.

Let’s get started

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From Xplornet

First of all let’s look at the purpose of social media. Social media was initially created to connect people using the internet. Sure we were already connected via e-mail and chat rooms, but generally the internet was and is a repository for information. Individuals, companies, and organizations can load information onto the web, where it can be found thanks to search engines like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Co. This content and search function was to be paid for by online advertising. Social media was supposed to be, well… social, and connect individuals to engage in conversations. However, already at an early stage social media started to become a public stream of consciousness. With so many messages showing up in any average user’s stream(s), trying to get heard has become a shouting match, and unfortunately much of what is being shouted lacks any importance, it’s like the below scene from Anchorman, where Brick, played by Steve Carell, best sums up the intelligence and importance of what many are saying.

The Story Continues

Continuing on with our history: Companies were obviously quick to adopt social media into their marketing. Being social, meeting the customer where they’re comfortable, and metrics were the lucrative claims that sold business decision makers. Your advertising could go viral for next to nothing. People would market for you. The promise was akin to actually being able to track and quantify word-of-mouth advertising.

The easiest thing to measure are Likes on Facebook, and followers on Twitter, views on YouTube, and +1s on Google+. So everyone went looking for them, but how do you get people to like your page? Well either people like your brand or you need to attract them. Attracting them usually revolves around giveaway campaigns. These campaigns do a great job attracting those looking for free stuff, but they are not evangelists. These are not people who spread the word about a product, and some companies have realized this like Burger King in Norway

Of course your interactions will generally climb as a percentage the fewer followers you have. Liking is too easy and doesn’t actually say or do anything other than potentially give Facebook & Co. an insight into your interests, though even here there is the difference between saying and doing. And when we see how many things are posted on social media without any background research (a simple googling of a term or event*), it’s quite probable that even with Big Data, the picture companies get of us isn’t entirely correct. As Crisis Relief Singapore points out in a poignant ad – liking isn’t helping:

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Deceiving Metrics

And while some companies have figured out that the number of likes isn’t important, here is further case for how much damage all your likes might be causing your brand on Facebook.

And for users of Twitter, a recent article in the New York times shows that the trending metrics might not really be important at all, as what’s trending is either trending with people who already love your brand. Think about any time Apple launches a new product. Or people who either dislike your brand, or are customers you don’t really want. Think about the irrational, anti-Coca Cola tweets after their Super Bowl commercial this year.

Digibabble and the importance of real conversations

For many companies, and yours might be one of them, social media has become pushing mechanism. Deals, sales, and new products and services are highlighted on a continual basis. And when you’re not pushing profit generating products and services you’re chasing likes through often meaningless pictures and banter like “Guess where this picture was taken,” or “Congratulations to So-and-So for winning the Oscar for Film XYZ” both of which have little to do with what you actually do. All of this culminated in a cacophony of meaningless digibabble as Y&R Global CEO David Sable calls it. Furthermore, when fans actually interact with your page, interaction fails. Dialogue requires a flowing exchange of ideas. Questions and answers do not count as dialogues. Read Plato and you have a long discussion, not simply Socrates posing the question “What is justice?” and a simple answer that “Justice means living up to your legal obligations and being honest” and then ten people liking the answer. Often this is not your social media team’s fault, but rather a lack of resources. Know that when you open yourself up to conversations you need to be open to both compliments and ridicule, and you best have answers to questions. This is why Apple Computers doesn’t bother engaging in Social Media. Sure they’ve claimed their sites, but they don’t post anything, because it doesn’t align with their philosophy. If you have a question, a Genius in the Apple Store will gladly help you during your pre-arranged appointment. An example of a company doing it wrong, or showing that a social team needs quick, accurate answers to questions is Lufthansa.

My friend Gerrit has Senator Status with Lufthansa. Recently he wanted to fly from Munich to the US. Arriving at the airport he was told that his reserved seat had been given away. When he asked to speak to someone he received no help, nor did he receive financial compensation for needing to spend another day in Munich. As no one at the airport would help, and he was told to file a complaint in a letter via the post. Not happy with this resolution, he posted a message on Lufthansa’s Facebook page. The answer he received here too was a link to the complaints part of the Lufthansa website where the same information was posted. To say the least he was not happy, and Lufthansa may have lost a loyal customer. Not that social media is to blame, but it didn’t help, and it didn’t help because the company is not set up to deal with customer complaints in real time. Otherwise if you check out the Lufthansa Facebook page, they do a pretty good job of answering questions, but as it’s all in a stream it’s hard for people to follow the information or find it.

Social Media needs to be human

Social media means opening yourself up for a conversation, and in some ways a cross examination. It has the opportunity to create transparency for your company, but if you’re not ready for that, you best stay away.

Companies that have done a good job of using social media so far are small firms let be entrepreneurs and small teams that want to interact with their customers and potential customers. I’m a 50% stakeholder in a small language school in Zurich, and we care what people say and ask, we also try to answer messages and comments within 12 hours and love dialogue with people learning German and English. Dialogue however is rare, as it takes a concerted effort to write a comment and actually engage with a page, “liking” is a simple click, and is why it means almost nothing. Have we received more students from our Facebook and Twitter work? No. Do we push on it? Yes, we push our blog – information for German learners. Do we push sales? No, because people don’t want to be sold to on social media. We also try to share interesting articles and information relevant to our followers and our community. We’re not social media gurus, but we’re human and people get genuine human interaction on our page, and that’s why they like it. If you can give your social media team autonomy and the ability to answer questions, comments, and concerns with authority, and let them interact with users in a friendly and personal way, social media might help you create better connections to your customers and potential customers. If that’s not the case, shut down your social media sites, and stay focused on your product, customer satisfaction, and your other marketing strategy. And equally important, remember how many people you can have a conversation with. I guarantee 100,000 is too many.

*One of my favourites is the picture of the wave height after the tsunami near Japan in 2011, which floats around as the radiation in the ocean.

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The death of TV?

For some years there has been talk of the fall or death of television, and there has been a plethora of reasons from the rise and success of Xbox and Apple TV, to illegal downloads, and YouTube, and companies like Netflix producing shows specifically for the net. While all are good arguments, if television was truly dying it wouldn’t be making record profits. Howard Lindzon makes a great argument about why TV is not dying, by saying that it has become more immersive and ubiquitous – that is straddling everything from the traditional TV set to computers and laptops over tablets and now even mobile phones. You can’t escape TV. The companies that are doing best create and distribute content over many channels.

A box of crap

The sheer amount of channels, though, and all of their media does mean that fewer people are probably sitting in front of their television to witness “historic events”; more likely they will see it on their computing or mobile device than in their living room with family and neighbors crowded around. Television is also evolving and changing, and while the industry continues to push out lazy content like Pop Idle, the Bachelor, and uncountable other shows that lead the economically destitute and those lacking education to believe that they just need a lucky break to get on TV and be famous, and not that the political and social systems have broken down and are not helping lift people into better lives through increased education and level playing fields. Criminal TV shows, which if you look at most Western TV show three different CSI shows that pretty much all tell the same brutal story over and over and over. The subliminal take away being that life is dangerous and that going out at night alone is not safe. What a great deal of TV has become is a box of crap. The intellectual, educated, and clever television that used to be common seems to have disappeared. Watch this clip of Dali on was on the game show “What’s My Line?” in the 1950s.

People want stories

With bad storytelling being done on standard networks, it’s been the cable networks like HBO, USA, AMC, and now Netflix that are telling good stories and gaining viewership in the masses again – there are fan clubs dedicated to Game of Thrones. At last year’s Edinburgh Television Festival, actor Kevin Spacey spoke about the future of television, saying that the medium is irrelevant as long as there is story. Watch the full lecture by clicking on this link, or watch the shorter version embedded in this post. Missing from the shorter version is the great message that Spacey underlines: The core of great television is the creatives, who come up with great content – great stories.

The future

Kevin Spacey also says that creative talent can come from anywhere and anyone. Welcome Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This young man is not just an actor, but also a director, screenwriter, producer, editor and musician. He’s a multi talent, and along with his brother has come up with the future of television, and I believe is launching a revolution aimed at re-engaging people with television to make sure true talent finds its way to a screen and is seen by the world. HITRECORD.TV is a project he launched back in 2005 with his brother. The two quickly saw that there is a world of talent out there. They also realized that the Internet is not just a threat or place to show media, it’s also a great place to source collaboration. From music, to short videos to art and information, HITRECORD.TV covers it all, engages viewers – respects them and highlights talent. Along with great drama driven story Spacey talks about, the open source production of HITRECORD.TV will be the future of television. For anyone wondering, yes, it makes money.

Watch the future here:

(I originally wrote this article for http://www.idezo.ch)