Twitter Trending Activities: A Poor Show by Social Media Agencies

Two of today’s trending topics are obviously manufactured social media Trending topics 19May13campaigns. I clicked through not because the tags engaged me but because I’m seeing so many of these, I feel I need to say something. Both use the same shoddy style that people who call themselves professionals, need to reconsider.

Right off the bat, both #LoveAtFirstSniff and #IFeelRoyalWhen put me off because of their sheer length. 140 characters is so little, every single one counts. A hashtag that takes up too space, gives people less space to say what they want. On social media, that means they will not care and hence not participate.

My experience with social media professionals tells me that many of them do not even think about this. The common refrain is that ‘it has to carry the brand’s message’. Well, social media is not advertising. Imposing a brand’s agenda onto communication channels works against the brand, by generating resentment instead of participation.

I also do not see why social media needs to follow traditional communication’s norms. What’s wrong with abbreviations? The language of social media, especially short-form content requires it. The concern appears to be, ‘How will people know what it is about?’ Simple, they’ll know what it’s about, if the tweets using that hashtag explain it adequately. This requires more thought being put into the content of the tweets than just 140-character shortened general marketing messages.

Neither hashtag was particularly engaging. That’s not very friendly, and on a medium that is by its very name, social. All interest on such activities is generated by offering goodies or contest wins. Why would you need to bribe people to participate in a conversation? If you’re interesting enough, people will want to participate. The wonder of social media is that it makes numbers possible not by bribing but simply understanding, relating and engaging with real people.

Both these hashtags smack of brand agenda as well as an indifference to what people want. On social media, who cares what a brand wants? Other social media users who are the people who make a topic trend, are not marketing channels for the brand. They have no interest in what a brand wants. If a brand is smart, it will understand what these people want and create a conversation that they’ll be drawn to, and aim for that mental association with a consumer requirement. #LoveAtFirstSniff and #IFeelRoyalWhen are both examples of what I call ‘brand-outward’ rather than ‘audience-inward’ communication.

Due to patchy understanding of the medium as well as a need to quantify business actions, most clients either want or are appeased by social media agencies proposing ‘trending activities’. In reality, after the activity is agreed upon, a small group of people spend their efforts pushing out tweets onto the hashtag in an effort to make the numbers required for the tag to trend. What business value does this serve?

The hashtag appears on the ‘trending topics’. If you’re looking for visibility, that’s not particularly relevant visibility since the average Twitter user does not care about a topic that is not relevant to him/her. Participation by a few social media executives and their immediate circle that is being begged, cajoled and bribed to push out tweets isn’t engagement either. In what way does this benefit the brand except to be able to boast that it spent money making noise that nobody listened to or cared about?

If you are a marketing manager, think twice about wasting your budget on activities that do not add any real value. If you are a social media agency, such activities make you come across as an outfit that’s just conning its clients into forking out marketing money for no real value.  As professionals, the onus is on you to understand what role communication plays in your client’s business and how it can best be used & managed on the social media.

How Social Content is Different and What This Means

Social Media signals a brave, new world of communication and interaction. Correspondingly the content on it pushes the boundaries of power, of ownership, of usage and of consumption. In my latest Social Samosa article, I take a look at what this means.

“Think of content on traditional media as a stone that you’re about to throw. Science allows us to determine its speed, direction, trajectory and eventually its destination. In contrast, Social Content is like a drop of water in the sky. It might fall as rain or collect on a leaf as a dewdrop. Or along the way, it might transform into a hailstone or even a snowflake. Each of these possibilities lead to numerous others. A snowflake might get trampled upon, slapped onto a snowman or shaped into a snowball. From here, it might get smashed on a surface or roll on the ground, pick up more material and momentum and building speed, go hurtling on to an unknown destination. The last is the phenomenon of going viral, that wet dream of every social media agencyperson.”

Read ‘How Social Content is Different and What This Means‘ on Social Samosa.

* Image via Master isolated images on FreeDigitalPhotos.

Shit brands say about Social Media

If you don’t recognize the reference to the ‘Shit XYZ say about ABC’, you’ve probably not been online this year. I loved the concept of this viral because it picked out those silly things that people say & think but don’t actually realize that they believe.

I’m using that reference to bring out some of the common misconceptions that brands (and the people who represent them) carry about social media. In my first article of the month for Social Samosa titled ‘Shit brands say about Social Media’, I address myths (and corresponding truths) about social media platforms, SM users, key influencers and social content.

Here’s the first:

Myth: Social Media is an advertising platform

Truth: Social Media is a collective of conversations.

Social MediaAn advertising medium allows single direction transmission of a message. The message does not get added to or edited along the way. It is created, directed and owned by the sender. The sender also controls the medium because they pay for it.

Social media does not allow unidirectional transmissions. Every user in the medium, is an active participant in the creation and transmission of the message. Hence a message can and will get changed, diluted, contorted and transformed as it passes on.

The smart way to be on this medium is to treat it like an open forum rather than an advertising platform. A brand cannot force a message across on social media by implanting it in content that users are consuming, the way it is done in print or television. The best bet is to get involved in conversations where the message is a natural fit.

Bottomline: Learn to converse, and not just talk.

Read the full article on Social Samosa.

April 2012 ‘Unboggle The Blog’ – Workshop on Social Content

We started our series of web writing workshops with ‘Unboggle the Blog‘ in February. The workshop got such a good response that we conducted the workshop again in March. Both occasions have been greatly fun as well as informative, for us and for the participants.

Encouraged by this, we plan to make this a monthly feature. We start with an ‘Unboggle the Blog‘ workshop on Sunday, 8th April 2012. Here are some of the things that participants can look forward to:

  • How to create engaging & sustainable conversations
  • How to manage responses
  • How to initiate and drive conversations
  • How to build communities

We are Ramya Pandyan (Ideasmith), writer/blogger and Payal Shah Karwa (The Word Jockey), an independent communications consultant. Both of us have been keen users and observers of this space, since its inception. We each have a corporate background as well as writing experience across different media including social media. Come, explore this new medium with us!

The workshop details are as follows:

Unboggle The Blog: Workshop on Social Content

As with other media like magazines, newspapers, radio & television, the social media has its own unique personality. A tweet, a status update, a blogpost, an email, a comment or even a shared link have their own code and language. This workshop will look at blog creation & viralling, microblogging, managing conversations and community building.

Date: Sunday, 8th April 2012
Time: 10.00a.m. – 5.00 p.m.
Location: Bandra West, Mumbai
Number of seats: 20
Fee: Single: Rs.2300 ; Group of three: Rs.6000.
Registration will be confirmed on full payment. Entry to the workshop will be on presentation of receipt.

To register, email us with ‘REGISTER FOR UNBOGGLE’ in the subject line at:

Ramya Pandyan: ideasmithy@gmail.com
Payal Shah Karwa: thewordjockey@gmail.com

You can also call us at 9870964781.

Connect

Find Write Click on Facebook.
We’re on Twitter as @ideasmithy and @thewordjockey.
Follow the hash tag on #unboggleblog.

The BarCamp Mumbai 8 Round-Up

I spent yesterday at Barcamp Mumbai 8. This has been my first unconference in nearly 2 years. My last Barcamp was over 4years ago, overrun by techie discussions and only drew me because it had a teensy segment for bloggers. BlogCamp evolved as an offshoot of that.

Yesterday was a pleasant return. For one, the event that usually struggles on time, breezed through the multiple sessions, speakers and classrooms easily. There were 4 classrooms in the ultra-posh Mukesh Patel ….. The wiki was flowing with colourful post-its even at 10:15 a.m., which is when I got there. And most delightfully, the subjects spanned a diverse range of intellectual tools, hobbies & interests & scientific applications in fun real life ways. One had to be truly ruthless to pick sessions to attend since there were so many good ones, several happening simultaneously.

Off the top of my head, these are the ones I attended:

Interesting titbits from the day:

I entered Rehab’s session late, having misread the wiki schedule. It was interesting and fun, though occasionally highjacked by someone who claimed that genocide made him happy. Quick tip – if you’re demonstrating or talking without a powerpoint, avoid the big conference room. The larger crowd is harder to maintain & engage. Rehab did a great job though and showed off a mind technique that will help anyone from an artist to an executive stuck in a business dilemma.

Harrish is always entertaining and touching in equal parts. His first talk was about the film AMEN being denied a certificate by the censor board and he did a superb job of bringing out the inconsistencies in their policies. His second talk though, was the one that really had people talking. He was speaking of how gay people are treated in India, when partway through, he was interrupted by a very fervent member of the audience who insisted that,

“According to Hinduism, you can only have sex with your wife, inside a closed room. Only after marriage and only for procreation, not for fun.”

The uproar that followed had to be taken out into the corridor to make way for the next speaker. The episode illustrated one of the reasons that unconferences are a great way to seed ideas, bring out thoughts and get people talking, sometimes about controversial and difficult topics.

My session on ‘Social Content’ happened on the fly. It’s been years since I spoke completely extempore, as I did yesterday and it was a great experience. I was actually hoping to create interest for my upcoming series of blogging workshops, beginning with ‘Unboggle The Blog‘. But instead, I found myself naturally touching on several related but disjointed thoughts about this space. My 20 minute, stream-of-consciousness ramble imitated the way we consume and add to social content, on our Facebook Walls, our Twitter timelines and all out other channels of social media. I touched on the artificiality of traditional media, social media as an extension of normal, human behaviour, how trolls are mirror daily social miscreants experimenting in their own ways and that we’re all creators & consumers of social content. Here’s the talk:

I missed the #TWSS talk by Aditya Sengupta since the room was so packed that even the door couldn’t be opened. From what I hear, it was a tongue-in-geek demonstration of an algorithm used to generate and viral #TWSS (That’s what she said). But the geek in me found a corner in Anubha Bhat’s talk on diagnosing bipolar disorders using algorithms.

I’m not going to dwell on how great it was to catch up with old friends again, since that’s a given in any gathering. Yesterday was more than just friends catching up and people networking. It really was a meeting of minds, a true sharing of ideas. A big thank you to the Barcamp team for pulling off such a great day!

BarCamp Mumbai On 19 Feb @ MPSTE, VileParle West

All of 2011 went by without my being able to be part of a single unconference. Which is why I’m really looking forward to this weekend. Sunday, 19th February 2012, will see the first BarCamp Mumbai of 2012.

Image via Wikipedia

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of unconferences, these are completely democratic gatherings of minds, coming together to share and discuss their ideas on various things. BarCamp in its early days, was an open forum on technology, especially the IT & networking end of it. BlogCamp emerged as a specialized community from within the BarCamp framework. This space has seen much discussion and evolution through the course of various BlogCamps.

I’m going to be attending a BarCamp after nearly 4 years. The agenda has evolved considerably, to keep up with what’s hot and new in thinking minds. A quick look at the sessions list promises that the day will touch on restaurant reviewing, origami, online communities, yoga, urban commuting and graphology among other things. These will continue to be added on, as more participants sign up.

Here are the things you can do at BarCamp:

  • Listen to speakers talk about their pet subjects
  • Interrupt with questions, opposition or related thoughts
  • Juggle between sessions, rooms & speakers, walking in and out whenever you like
  • Hear your favorite temperamental blogger speak
  • Talk about something that you like
  • Connect with other people with similar interests, tastes or opinions
  • Have a lot of fun!

And just in case you missed the bold, underlined hint above, I’m going to be addressing a session on something close to my heart these days – Social Content. :-)

Here are the details:

BarCamp Mumbai February 2012

Date: Sunday, 19 February 2012
Time: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Place: Mukesh Patel School of Technology, Management and Engineering,
Along the Mithibai-NM college road, Vileparle West, Mumbai
Facebook: Confirm your attendance and invite others.
Wiki: Register your session and check out the agenda so far.

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