Every time you say “social media” someone somewhere drowns a kitten.
I said this during a presentation at the Social Media Academy‘s “Social Media In Scotland” conference a few weeks ago.
I said it with the best intentions.
I was trying to make the point that lazy language can be insidious and lead not just to bad attitudes but also to bad strategic decisions.
“Social media” is lazy language of the most insidious kind. In fact it sucks. (If you click and read that Forrester blog link, it says most of what I’m about to say, only better, by the way.)
To be more precise it’s the “media” in social media that sucks. Social is unequivocally good.
- Media = something you pay for.
- Media = paying for eyeballs allows you to control your message.
- Media = one way and one-to-many broadcast.
- Media = event-based content with long lead times.
Most of the brand marketers who now have responsibility for social strategy decisions are what would, until recently, have been called “advertisers.”
And it’s very difficult for any advertiser to drop the advertising mindset whenever the word “media” is used.
“Social media” is a very convenient industry shorthand but it can lead to anti-social behaviours.
- Social = something that you don’t pay for (that at least is the big attraction for most “advertisers”).
- Social = not just accepting loss of control, but planning for and embracing it.
- Social = dropping the “on-message” mindset.
- Social = two way, one-to-one, many-to-many and personal.
- Social = continual, rapid, real time interactions with very short, if not non-existent, lead times.
So, in just about every way imaginable, “social” is the antithesis of “media”.
“Social Media” is an insidiously convenient oxymoron.
And the drowning kittens reference was just intended to get people to think a little each time the insidiously convenient phrase left their lips.
What I hadn’t really thought through is that I was on just before lunch at a “social media” (meow) conference.
Meaning that the speakers after me mostly had to apologise in advance of their talks for the havoc they were about to wreak on the world kitten population. Even then they were met with frequent audience sniggers at every mention.
But it works.
It works in the same way that asking yourself whether it would be acceptable to play with a Rubik Cube in the same situation whenever you check your mobile device in company makes you think twice about doing so.
Every time you see a tweet that mentions “social media”, retweet it with a #drownedkitten hashtag.
(Liking myself slightly less for including “kittens” as one of the tags for this post.)