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Heresy: Debunking New Media Utopianism

Posted on Feb 19, 2009 by billsimmon in Digital Culture, Joss Whedon, social media, TV, VCAM | 3 Comments

Okay, I admit that the title of this post, while technically relevant to the material I’m about to present, is probably a bit more dramatic than necessary, but I’m hoping to draw some clicks from my Twitter followers and I needed the auto-tweet to sound compelling — and nothing compels the tweeps like some new-media-hating. It’s crack cocaine to the web dev/social media types. If I’m talking about you, please retweet the link! Sucker. :-)

First up, TV by the Numbers explains why being the number one download on iTunes doesn’t matter in the decision about whether or not Fox cancels Dollhouse. The fact is, the internets don’t make much of a difference to broadcast networks, math-wise.

If 25,000 downloaded a show from iTunes at $2.00 per download, that’s $50,000 in total revenue. Or one half of what the show would make for a single thirty second spot even at only 5 million viewers. And that assumes that all of the money goes back to the network, which of course isn’t the case — iTunes (Apple) gets a cut. Again, I’ve deliberately ignored many nuances and disclaimers here just for the purposes of keeping it simple. Adding all of that discussion and explanation back in just confuses things and doesn’t change the end result much. And the end result right now is simple. Watching television on television makes a lot more money — and I mean a lot more money — than Internet viewing of those same shows.

And Business Week debunks six “myths” about social media. This advice is right from the perspective of a reasonably large, corporate, for-profit business that’s populated by a bunch of business men and women who don’t operate in the online milieu daily already, but I think it’s ass backwards for small businesses and non-profits run by people with just a little bit of technical acumen, and whose goal is not necessarily to be the next Zappos.

2. Anyone can do it. A surfeit of whiz kids and more experienced marketers are claiming to be social media experts and even social media gurus. Search the bios of Robert Scoble’s 56,838 Twitter followers using Tweepsearch (www.tweepsearch.com), an index of the bios of Twitter users, and you’ll find:

• 4,273 Internet marketers

• 1,652 social media marketers

• 513 social media consultants

• 272 social media strategists

• 180 social media experts

• 98 social media gurus

• 58 Internet marketing gurus

How many of them have actually created a successful campaign for clients using social media tools? I bet you’d be hard-pressed to find half a dozen with real track records.

This is an uncompelling argument. Define “real track record.” What’s the business’ goal? VCAM has spent relatively little time and no money (beyond a few staff hours) reaching out via our blog, facebook, twitter and other social media and we’ve had great success reaching people in our community and furthering our mission. We don’t sell anything, so we can’t measure how effective the campaign has been in terms of “sales,” but our most recent orientation session was one of the largest we’ve had in recent months and I think that’s largely due to the social networking outreach that  Seth has been engaging in of late. And Seth would be the first to admit that he was hardly a social media guru going in. It’s not rocket science. You don’t need to be able to understand CSS and PHP to add value to your company via social media.

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  1. An even more telling statement in the Business Week article is the bit that equates success as “created a successful campaign for clients.”

    Using an old media campaign model for success of online initiatives skips over business goals that involve customer service, reputation management, market research, etc.

    Judging the value of the social media based strictly on campaign success is sort of like judging the value of your telephone service based strictly on the performance of your telemarketing.

    “ROI on our recent telemarketing campaign was not up to snuff so we’ll be removing all the company phone lines and going back to direct mail campaigns.”

    Similarly, I think that there probably isn’t a lot of room in the world for Telephone Experts and Telephone Gurus. So that knife cuts both ways.

    From a strategy point of view, I did a recent post on some Harvard Business Review articles that I’d like to crunch down into a “social media is a part of a major infrastructure shift which will be ongoing” theme. But haven’t worked it all out yet.

  2. On February 19, 2009, billsimmon said:

    Great telephone analogy.

  3. “How many of them have actually created a successful campaign?” he says of Robert Scoble’s 56,000+ followers, seemingly dismissively, to suggest they’re not gurus or experts at all.

    Point 1: If Twitter/microblogging is huge in 10 years, ask him again if they’re experts. Today’s early adopter is tomorrow’s guru.

    Point 2: I’d say at least 1 of those people has created a successful campaign: Robert Scoble. He’s got 56,000 people dialed in to what he’s saying. Any marketer, guru or not, will tell you there’s value in that.

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