Tuesday, February 09, 2010
"I’m starting to wonder if pop culture is in its dying days, because everyone is able to customize their own lives with the images they want to see and the words they want to read and the music they listen to. You don’t have the broader trends like you used to...Now, everyone basically is their own microculture, their own nanoculture, their own generation."- from a recent Douglas Coupland interview
Yesterday morning, Google released the "buzz". Its latest attempt at digging into the social media phenom, and forcing its way into your life even more-so than knowing everything you do.
Google wants to know who you do with it too, and with all signs pointing to social searches and curating as the next big step in online social media evolution, it would make sense that our favorite search engine would, in their attempts to keep it all so very real and do no harm, want to dip into the nourishing, feel-good pond of social media.
Why is it, in less than 24hrs, being considered the "Meh" heard around the world when earlier posts were referring to it as "Facebook Killer" and "the next step"? Suddenly the web is largely in agreement that "Buzz" is a stillborn endeavor. Bloggers who were screaming and shouting in excitement at the launch are now ashamedly admitting that there's not that much to Buzz about. The excitement from the announcement is now turned to red faced embarrassment.
Social media is young. Very young. The power is not fully tapped,and many if not most people are not fully connected. In fact, the major players in SM are still learning the basics. Is anything more painful than watching Facebook's growing pains?
Those of us who have found a niche in the world of SM can be swept away by the amazing connections we can make with each other, the elegant beauty of finding our brothers and sisters can be mesmerizing. Yet, to our horror, we can find horribly tacky or worse, easily manipulated trending topics on Twitter. I'm still repulsed by every "For every person that posts this on their profile, so and so will donate whatnot to blah blah." that i see posted on a FB status. The much loathed "Post this to receive a free Mac (It really works, really!)" still makes an appearance, and I can only assume that Nigerians are still at the scheming because it still works from time to time, and so we must look at ourselves as the first generation of Social and Online Media Pros and accept our limits.
Yes, this is no longer the community that ruined MySpace by friending every bot and spammer out there, yes we are a wiser more careful audience with potential. However, the biggest obstacle to Social Media is not so much unlocking its potential which continues to astound and evolve almost daily, but rather the breaking of bad habits.
One one end, we see the astounding shortsightedness of Music Labels and their continuing and losing fight against file sharing / their illogical sense of ownership to their music, and on the other end of the spectrum we see the bizarre and dare I say, delusional, example of "Ronna and Beverly". I've never seen Ronna and Beverly, so I'll reserve judgment on the quality of the show itself, but rather heap thunderous, Olympian, judgment on the blogosphere and SM pros who got caught up in the excitement once more.
The story is a pretty common one in Hollywood. A pilot gets made, everyone involved loves it. For reasons unknown (Most likely it tested poorly with audiences), the network doesn't allow it to see the light of day or fills in some empty air time and that's the end of it. In certain situations, producers will shop the product elsewhere, and in more extreme situations there will be a public whine about the show. Long ago, an ad on Variety would do the trick. Now, social media is the stage. The writer of Weeds / Ronna and Beverly, along with some of the producers, decide to harness the power of Teh Webz. So, with the help of high profile Twitter users like The Office's Rainn Wilson they generated a mild buzz. Buzz enough to get the attention of blogs like the WSJ article linked above, and enough buzz to get a modest number of sycophants and hangers on to do their bidding, show unseen. The result? Well, what result? Showtime has been quiet on the subject, and the sudden flurry of attention about a grass roots online movement being able to change programming seems to have been like excitement over the iPad, and Google Buzz, premature. Showing the true Achilles heel of social media is its susceptibility to influence by MSM and corporations.
The majority of us, bloggers, SM pros, and users alike, are still very tapped in to the corporate mindset. For every Mac Air, there has been 2 amazing innovations, so its easy for us to hope and want to believe that Mac has some magical trinket that will transform our lives up its sleeve. Who isn't a fan of the Office? When Rainn Wilson tells me to support something, maybe he'll give me props. So goes the mindset of every generation, till now.
Those of us who grew up with the influence of corporate America in our after school and Saturday morning cartoons, in our toys and lunches, must be more vigilant than those kids who are now growing up with the added influence of the web, with the far more powerful influence of peers, family, and personalities.
The most powerful connections, the lifelong connections, for SM professionals and corporate accounts, are those made at a personal level with the consumer.
NBC may have made the decision to keep Jay Leno over Conan O Brien based on hard numbers, but they fail to consider the generation that will remember "I'm with Coco" over who was the successor to Carson. NBC is not investing in its future, rather it is allowing the conversation to be had without its active participation. It will take NBC years to recover from its decision to be so unfeeling towards the sincere expressions of love towards "Coco", as will it take Google some time to recover from the stupid "Buzz" release and even less time for Apple to recover from the iPad.
We must be weary of manufactured hype and emotions. They are the fossilized remains of insincere and manipulative marketing tactics that are slowly fading away to a true connection to the consumer. Tomorrow's consumer will be able to spot those a mile away, and they'll reward your help and sincerity tenfold. We best be getting used to it. In the meantime remember: