the REAL reason why brands screw up on social media

[I drew this cartoon back in New York, 1998. Backstory here.]

Mark Earls, one of the greatest marketing minds on the planet, is bored of social media. Or at least, the conversation about social media.

So let’s try to get at least this thing really straight:

Social networks are not channels for advertisers or for the adverts/memes you, your clients or any of your so-called “influentials” create, social networks are for all of the people who participate in the network.

Being a social creature means you spend your life in social networks; being part of a social network gives each individual a number of benefits – shared protection, shared resources and most importantly shared learning. Our ability to learn from each other (the appropriately-named Social Learning) is one of our all-too-mutual species‘ most characteristic capabilties and the engine by which stuff gets pulled through populations (from technologies to health habits).

In other words, social media (and the brands that want to be part of it) are at their most powerful when they offer two things:

Shared learning.

Shared teaching.

Great art teaches. Great artists teach. What do you teach? What does your business teach? What is actually learned, imparted? Not just the practical stuff, but the deep, messy stuff about ourselves?

Just thought I’d ask…

[UPDATE] Darren left a great comment:

I frequently talk to people and companies who are looking to take their first stab at social media presence specifically for the purpose of advertising their product or service. No! No! No! Its about engaging your audience in meaningful conversation. Inevitably, they push forward, create a Facebook page and Twitter account, post for a few weeks. They have almost no fans or followers and wonder why their 27 posts with 10% coupon codes brought no increase in revenue!

Because their 27 posts and 10% coupon code played no part in shared learning or shared teaching, that’s why.

[#smarterconversations]

Comments

  1. Great short on social media! I frequently talk to people and companies who are looking to take their first stab at social media presence specifically for the purpose of advertising their product or service. No! No! No! Its about engaging your audience in meaningful conversation. Inevitably, they push forward, create a Facebook page and Twitter account, post for a few weeks.They have almost no fans or followers and wonder why their 27 posts with 10% coupon codes brought no increase in revenue!

  2. I’d go as far as saying that Social Media is dead. in fact, I have… :-)

    http://www.mediainfluencer.net/2010/03/social-media-is-dead/

  3. GREAT cartoon ! sooo real –
    but the text on socmed we see as a bit less tantalizing. ‘Shared teaching’, ‘Engaging you audience in meaningfull conversations’ isn’t that a bit over the top? Most commercial digital conversations are being handled by professional customer-care agencies following scripts. The agency that handles the Coca Cola Twitter and Facebook-accounts is also handling the accounts for Pepsi. So even when marketeers subscribe to be real, sincere and meaningful, day-to-day-praxis makes that pretty difficult.

    We maybe must face the fact that social media like Twitter and Facebook are actually not doing very well as marketing instruments for big brands. Every teenager knows how to get 100′s of followers & friends overnight on Twitter & Facebook. Against that background 149.367 followers for Coke is not a very impressive number.

    Bright minds, please step in the conversation.

    10communications . jutien van der steen

  4. So true! Wish more companies would realize that. I have seen it happen so many times with clients… Thanks for the great post and the cool cartoon.

  5. Social media should really be more about sharing your learnings but let us not eradicate the idea that often people use the internet because they believe that it is still a venue to advertise.

  6. As far as I am concerned. I get to social media for shared learning. I often pick up a lot of things from Social Media which are not in the newspapers or the TV.

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  1. [...] prospective and existing customers by reading this post.  And then go ahead and read cartoonist Hugh MacLeod’s view of this issue over on his Gaping Void [...]

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