Markets are conversations. Then Marketers shout. Thus Marketers screw up conversations.
The logic is overwhelming.
10 years ago, a nice book called The Cluetrain Manifesto was published. It changed everything.
That needs rephrasing.
10 years ago, a nice book called The Cluetrain Manifesto was published. Some of us thought it would change everything. (In my case it was the first Marketing book I ever read, back in 2000 -in English and while I studied music and worked for a construction company).
The book, in case you live in a cave, starts with 95 theses. The first one reads:
Markets are conversations.
What a revelation! So obvious. In the era of Facebook and Twitter, the time of "online friends", now that the blogs raised and died it is apparently so true.
True, but wrong.
(Yes, I love contradictions)
Marketers have invaded spaces where people lurk (it is the means to the end, right?). They have done so ever since the advent of mass media. When radio become popular advertising surged as almost natural. Then came TV.
Of course those types of media inherently go in one direction; so if someone did not like the presence of publicity there wasn't much they could do.
Then came the internet.
And something seemed to be different. The advent of the social web brought a promise of a different type of Marketing. One that would listen. One that would talk looking into the customer's eye. One that would be a conversation, much like Cluetrain proposed.
And then us (marketers) screwed it up. Conversations didn't quite have the impact we were used to with mass media. We needed more bang for the buck. We wanted more. We started shouting again. We went back from conversation to publicity.
But Marketers are not the only ones to be blamed, the recipients share part of the shame. Both in an active and a passive way.
The public is to blame because it allows their spaces to be invaded by vacuous marketing messaging. The most bluntly example of this becomes apparent with the usage of client-generated content to power marketing campaigns. This would be more acceptable if consent were not tacit but deliberate, but that is usually not the case. Maybe letting advertisements into our own private spaces is a price too high to pay to use many services.
The audience is also to blame because many have tried to take advantage of the few marketers that actually tried to do things differently, of the couple of crazy dudes that actually tried to talk. When I read news that state that a mommy blogger tried to bribe George Smith (Online Marketer) for a pair of crocs at BlogHer I feel saddened.
Thus when a Marketer tries to have a conversation this comes out as the result.
Yet that is deserved. Seth Godin's phrase "all marketers are liars" still applies. Or should I say: Applies today more than ever before.
In the mass media reign days lies were openly displayed and people "bought" them somewhat knowingly. Today things have become more dense, obscure and mangled. Most marketers have a discourse that says that they are part of the conversation, ("hey we even have a corporate blog!"), they find alternative ways to let the customers know about products and services ("we just placed a banner on facebook and MSN!") and have youth and massive appeal with lower than average investment ("we have this viral video you'll love") .
It is all lies. At least on most cases.
Viral videos are pushed to front pages using fake accounts and bots. Advertising, even on the internet, is just that: friggin advertising, not a "new way to deliver the message". Yes, even if you publish your Ad on a social network, it is still an ad. Most corporate blogs delete anything resembling negative comments; so much for open conversation. Not to mention the shallowness of the content and the fact that PR firms handle that instead of the actual, flesh and bone employees.
Metrics are inflated on a daily basis. Results are overrated. Everything is false.
Phony Social Network users, fake fans, non-existing facts and figures, pay-per-post. So much for transparency. So much for conversation.
I don't know about you, but when I talk I don't shout. Shouting defeats the purpose.
The marketers excuse for such type of behaviors is that, amidst so much noise, if they don't go above the mean murmur they would pass by inadvertently. If that is the case maybe what you are saying is not that interesting. Screaming about it is not going to make it any more appealing (or true, or conversational).
But then again, coming up with relevant content and doing thinks that can go "viral" just due to to their own weight and creativity requires thinking, inspiration and hard work. Those things are not readily available.
Thus it is Mediocre (social) Marketers and irresponsible customers who have killed conversation for the rest of us.
Thanks, much appreciated.
Now, lets cut the crap and lets all just say what we are really doing.
Recent news about changes on Facebook's ToS have spread like wildfire. To make the legal mambo-jumbo short: users renounce to all their content's rights and hand them to facebook (depending on the privacy setting).
Since controversy did not wait long, Mark Zuckerberg decided to post at Facebook's blog to try and clarify things a little bit.
While witnessing the entire soap opera and especially while ruminating Mark's reply it is quite evident that the never seriously addressed problem of an ever-outdating legislation is at the core of the entire thing:
When a person shares information on Facebook, they first need to grant Facebook a license to use that information so that we can show it to the other people they've asked us to share it with. Without this license, we couldn't help people share that information.
Facebook's argument is that users need to entitle the social network with usage right to enable sharing with other users. And, truth must be said, with the current state of the law-technology relationship that point is valid.
I will not discuss if I buy or don't Facebook's possition of "you need to trust us", since it is irrelevant for this post.
Am I the only one that thinks that the fact that a user needs to recede his content rights in favor of facebook so that that same user is enabled to share stuff with his/her friends is inappropriate?
The whole thing reminded me of Lawrence Lessig's introduction to his book "Free Culture". In it Lawrence retells the story of the early days of flight. Before airplanes existed the legislation granted land-owners right of the airspace above their piece of land.
This was bound to be a major source of trouble as flight became more of a commonplace. Mr. Lessig describes what happened when things went to congress in a wonderful fashion:
But Justice Douglas had no patience for ancient doctrine. In a single paragraph, hundreds of years of property law were erased. As he wrote for the Court,
[The] doctrine has no place in the modern world. The air is a public highway, as Congress has declared. Were that not true, every transcontinental flight would subject the operator to countless trespass suits. Common sense revolts at the idea. To recognize such private claims to the airspace would clog these highways, seriously interfere with their control and development in the public interest, and transfer into private ownership that to which only the public has a just claim.
"Common sense revolts at the idea."
This is how the law usually works. Not often this abruptly or impatiently, but eventually, this is how it works. It was Douglas's style not to dither. Other justices would have blathered on for pages to reach the conclusion that Douglas holds in a single line: "Common sense revolts at the idea." But whether it takes pages or a few words, it is the special genius of a common law system, as ours is, that the law adjusts to the technologies of the time. And as it adjusts, it changes. Ideas that were as solid as rock in one age crumble in another.
Or at least, this is how things happen when there's no one powerful on the other side of the change. The Causbys were just farmers.
Sounds awfully familiar, right?
The law around Copyright is outdated and obstrusive. It does not apply to the current state of affairs. At the time most of the Copyright legislation was put in place infromation and content could not flow (and be transformed) the way they do so nowadays.
To over-simplify here's the scenario: technology moves much faster than legislation. There are two main reasons for this: 1. the way the legislative process works and 2. pressure groups with interest in keeping things as they are until they can find a way to profit under the new scenario.
This needs to change. We can no longer afford remaining in the dark ages in terms of the laws by which we try to do things. Copyright is just one of the areas where outdated laws cause problems. Under the current circumstances the highest risk is that everything might turn into a black market of sorts.
Back to the Facebook problem: under the current law facebook must act as if it were a content publisher. It is not, and there is no legal place for services such as Facebook, YouTube or Flickr.
Things such as Creative Commons help. A lot. But they fall short, and are initiatives that are -not at all coincidentally- started by users and consumers, not by law makers. Things such as this yield the innevitable question: if law makers fail to do what they are supposed to do, wont people start to question their validity? The result posts a serious threat to the order of things.
One more thing catches my attention in a powerfu way: How Social Media Marketers and luminaries as a collective fail to address such a central issue.
Let me be clear here: Social Media is all about content. What happens to that content (and the way it is distributed) should be on the top on the priority list for anyone that makes a living out of social media.
I guess I can understand people trying to keep away from such a hairy issue. Yet the time has come to become responsible and start acting up.
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