News from the conference room: this is a series of blog posts in which blogging experts briefly review key Tech4Africa 2010 talks and panels from Day 1 and 2.
Many, if not most, large brands, especially non-consumer brands, should stay the hell away from Twitter and Facebook. In fact, says corporate digital guru Andy Hadfield, even commodity consumer brands like banks and cellphone companies should consider _not_ ‘joining the conversation’ on Facebook or Twitter. Because it’s not really a conversation. Conversations are between a person and a person, not between a person and an abstract organisational construct.
We’re clearly in a trough of disillusionment, those many of us in the social media industry who spent the past few years being very excited about the immense possibilities and unknowable future impact. We’re now stepping back, aghast at the monster we have created that is racing off in lots of directions: many pointless, some actively harmful to the online community we have a loyalty to.
Today, World+Dog is doing social media. It’s not that hard to set up social media sites, and the business of providing ‘social media solutions’ has exploded. R15k to set up a Facebook page for some sucker^h^h^h^h innovative and authentic company.
Those who’ve been doing it for a long time are putting up red flags. How about NOT doing it, they say?
Having a Facebook page is a panacea for nothing, commented Alistair Fairweather from M&G.
The bottom line is that people don’t love brands. They may love the product that a brand produces. They may simply use a brand’s product because the brand hasn’t pissed them off enough yet to move to a competitor.
The nub of the matter for the panel, after half an hour of fairly intense discussion and even argumentative tub-thumping, is that there is a fundamental contradiction that cannot be resolved as long as the marketing department is the start and the end of corporates involvement in social media. Mostly, so-called conversations online have little bearing on the product, on the customer support, on the supply chain, on the real world.
Basically, most of the top social media people in SA are honest, realistic, and well-intentioned. They are struggling to look a customer in the eye, knowing that the company makes a crap product and delivers half-baked service, but that wants to be ‘authentic and engaged’ online.
Social media is about conversations that people honestly care about. No care, no conversation. No honesty, no conversation.
Is this the SA social media industry putting the brakes on the hype, looking to inject some realism before too many brands do too many ill-considered, expensive and futile online campaigns? Before brand managers get so burned that it wreaks major damage the industry that is trying to sell them the snake oil?
Let’s hope so.