23 May 2010

The Professor Is Having An "Andy Rooney" Social Media Moment So Bear With Him

I seem lately to be having a lot of time to think about Social Media. Lord knows – I don’t really have time to think about much these days as I continue to drink from the firehose. But sitting on a lot of planes lately has made me think a bit.

I remember about 2 years ago that Andy Rooney did a piece on Computers and Bill Gates (Like many things you can find it on YouTube) ... which itself is I suppose "Social Media". With some Squillion Page Views a day it’s a scary site.

In my thoughts I have been trying to compare Social Media with – well regular media and our consumption of it. And in doing so I have been trying to get a sense of how they compare for use and advertising. I used to be an Ad man (think Mad Money!) and worked in London, California and New York at some great advertising agencies. I worked in a variety of roles but mostly in Media Planning and Account Management. Long before they had electronic spreadsheets I used paper ones to calculate ad effectiveness. Ah those were the days. But I always found one thing troubling until over one meeting at a local watering hole, one of the people I would call a mentor used an expression that has stuck with me. He described advertising that “worked” as being dependent on “effective media consumption”. And lately that is where my mind seems to wander. With all this social distraction (oops I mean media) how effectively do we consume it? We seem to have so many ways to metric how we can know just about everything. But I still don’t know how effective it is.

Today Facebook tells me that is has a load of people – more than 400 million - on its pages. Man that is a lot of interaction. But what of the quality? And why does it seem that your friends always have more friends than you do? Actually this is an easy one. Based on original research by Scott L Feld and updated by Satoshi Kanazawa. I bring you this piece so now you don’t have to feel inadequate.

In my continuous search of this perplexing question, I tried everything from experimentation to observation to straight research. But the core question is still troubling me. One of the more interesting pieces I read (other than large amounts of tomes that tried to explain the situation in words that no one will understand) is this piece. Here Cameron Marlow describes the difference between an active and a passive relationship. Ah so we are segmenting our relationships. Perhaps we always did. Are you “in” or not. This might explain the stalker mentality for all of us. The Ashton Kutcher Tweets…. There is no way Mr AK can keep up. He now has 4.9 million people following him. For what? Are we that sad? For most people the actual number of “real” close friends that you can maintain is probably about 5. (Its no accident that the show “Friends” was actually 6 people.) Windows Phone (Mobile or whatever they are calling it) has an ad campaign going for its new Kin phone. In this they paid for a girl named Rosa to go and actually visit all the people in her social network.

So here’s the thing, Social Media is not really that – it is not terribly social but it is media. And it is a media business. The effective consumption of Social Media has in my humble opinion already reached its inflection point where we can’t absorb any more. I am not talking about the untapped markets of Asia, Latin America or Africa – I am talking about the mature markets where we physically don’t have enough actual time available to consumer any more. According to the US Dept of Labour’s latest statistics http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.t08.htm – there is no such category as “doing nothing”. So the time available for the consumption of this Social Media has to come from somewhere. Check out Nielsen’s rating, and see how we spend our time… wasting away….

So this is why I hate all the overt and less than subtle exhortations to “follow me on Twitter” “be my friend on Facebook” why the heck would I want to do this. It has become de-rigeur that if you do not ask someone then you are not cool. What I hate is that the onus is on me to opt out. I have to READ the section where it tells me whether I have to opt in or out. No wonder people sign contracts that are so inspirationally stupid. Just ask yourself one question. How many times a day do you interact with an entity that you have a contractual obligation to and that you have signed away all your rights to??? Contrast that with years ago. People I am drowning in too much information. OK – Rant over – I feel better now.

But you get my point. We have too much "stuff" to consume. Alan Greenspan’s “Conspicuous Consumption” in the 90s can now be replaced by “Profligate Consumption of Social Media of little worth”. And the number of people pushing stuff at you has reached epic proportions.

From my side – barstool research – I actually counted the number of times I was asked if I wanted to engage in Social Media during one week The week of May 16th 2010. It was a staggering 167 times. (Emails, Tweets, Linked in, Plaxo, Facebook requests, invoices and other forms of communication). And this included 12 personal requests when I actually spoke to someone either in person or on the phone.

Now can you understand why I am having that Andy Rooney moment….


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