Monday, February 15, 2010

OK, Gurus, They Did What You Said. Now What?

Last night I heard a phrase that catches my ear every time I hear it used in advertising, "Log on to our..." It irks me because we don't "log-on to" anything unless it's secure and requires a user name and password. We simply "go" to your website, we don't log onto it.

Anyway, that's a minor and debatable point. This time the ad said "Log-on to our Facebook page." The ad was for a group of regional medical centers, but everything else in the ad was lost to me, as I wasn't listening until the Facebook part. I'm sure it had to do with the chain of hospitals' commitment to "quality care, innovation and helping our community," three bullets that took the internal CMO and his committees 18 months to agree on.

And now they're on Facebook, just like the big boys. They're using Social Media! Just like they've been reading about in every magazine, probably including a very interesting piece in Hospital Marketing Monthly titled something like "Opening the Conversation: 10 Ways to Engage your Patients and Prospective Patients using Social Media." Just like a bunch of consultants told them they should. Just like their incompetent marketing agency pretended to know all about. It probably took them forever to get it all approved and there is probably a rigorous process of checks and edits before anything gets posted on their Facebook page, but they're finally there. And I'm sure someone in HR or Communications sent out a notice, or wrote a nice story in the company's employee newsletter, announcing that "We are Moving into Social Media!" and urged all hospital employees to friend, fan or follow their employer, thus instantly creating the illusion of popularity.

I'm sure they're patting themselves on the back at this point, delighted that they finally did what they've been hearing about for so long. And now they will sit and wait. And then they will start to wonder, "Was the only reason we did this so that we can post press releases and photos of employee events?" Then the CMO will say to his team(s), "I'm hearing a lot about this Twitter thing. I think we should create a committee to study a Twitter strategy and then recommend some initiatives." And in about six months they might set up a Twitter account, and within it they will post links to their Facebook photos and generic, mundane press releases. They might even hire a consultant who is an expert in Twitter Strategies, who will show them a presentation saying as much.

Everyone's on Facebook now, gurus. And they all have a Twitter account. Are you going to now recommend they be on Google Buzz? You used to tell them they needed a blog, and so they started a blog. Then they abandoned that because it quickly proved to be a pointless exercise in self-promotion that no one ever read, much less commented on. (Hell, even the new media agencies that used to advocate blogs don't bother to update their own blogs anymore.) And the YouTube channel you insisted they create isn't getting any views. And their MySpace page is dormant. (Yeah, you recommended a MySpace "presence," remember?) In their ignorance, they accidentally but wisely declined your urging to open up a shop in Second Life.

At some point, the game is going to be up. The doors are starting to close as everyone tells you, "We already have someone working on that," or "We took that in-house last year." And even you can't fool the laundromat, the local pack-and-ship place or that quirky-cool restaurant you found downtown that they need to hire a Social Media Expert. Perhaps after the speaking gigs dry up and your vast knowledge of how to navigate this "crazy new frontier" is just plain old common knowledge, you will close up shop and start looking for a real job. Maybe the hospital chain will hire you as their New Media Strategist, and you can sit in a cubicle and update the Facebook page and monitor talk of your company on Twitter, where you will be pasting pre-approved 140-character responses to angry customers in between linking to photos of the employees at their recent 5K run.

But you and I know an intern can do that.

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  • If I still had an account or gave a shit about twitter, I'd pass this along. One of your best posts to date.

    By Blogger sara, at February 15, 2010 at 3:41 PM  

  • I'm going to retweet this post! Seriously, I think I will, cause it seems like I have dozens of followers who are "social media experts" or (my personal favorite) "gurus" (I'm thinking a better title would be "out of work marketing guy who wants to freelance")and I always wonder if they ever feel just a little bit silly for endlessly defending social media as the future of all marketing. Nice post.

    By Anonymous Brice, at February 15, 2010 at 3:54 PM  

  • Dave - well said. I'm in telecommunications - and I follow a couple of resellers that have spent large amounts of time and money to attract followers. One has exactly 32 followers on Facebook. You nail it 100% - the holiday party pictures, the ski trip, the cheesy proclamations (How to Sell Ethernet!) etc. They would be better off to pick up a phone and make a cold call to a qualified lead list, but someone sold them the You Must Be in Social Media snake oil.

    By Blogger Matt, at February 15, 2010 at 4:36 PM  

  • The concept is stupid. The idea of being "friend" or "follower" of a shop drives me crazy.

    By Blogger dcs, at February 15, 2010 at 7:21 PM  

  • Sheer brilliance. If only the myriad inept narcissists I've worked for were capable of any self-insight, I'd pass this along.

    By Blogger Heather, at February 22, 2010 at 4:23 PM  

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