Sometimes I long for the good old days. You know, Twitter five years ago. When social media was actually social. Not just another broadcast media channel. Remember Tony Hsieh actually having public conversations with Zappos customers or perhaps tweeting that he was in an airport and inviting anyone interested to join him in the bar for a beer? That was social.
Or when Dell built an entire cross platform service offering where users could help other users via Twitter and forums?
Or even how Albion Cafe in the UK used to tweet when fresh rolls, croissants and other delights came out of its oven?
Or when Nordstrom’s would actually send me photos of new Robert Graham shirts via TwitPic and then accept a credit card number via DM?
Or when Best Buy tried bringing customer service to users vie Twelp Force?
But now, at least as far as brands and marketers are concerned, the emphasis is less on social, more on media. Twitter and other social platforms have simply become means by which brands can push out messages. In some ways you could argue that Oreo’s blackout tweet was the worst thing that ever happened to Twitter and how brands use it. It got so much attention — a free ad that went viral — that all of the ad industry’s social media focus has turned into a quest for equally attention getting ad-like objects.
Perhaps the epitome of message based, sales pitch advertising trying to take over social media are the ways in which brands are mandating that celebrities under endorsement contracts post tweets mandated by the brand. Sign an athlete and not only does he agree to wear your product, stand in front of a camera and pitch it, he also agrees to give you a pre-determined number of promotional tweets per day.
Yes it’s boring when brands do nothing more than ask dumb questions on Facebook and think they’re being social. And granted a perfectly delivered real time creative concept on Twitter can be entertaining. But with all the creative minds in advertising, PR and social media, can’t we come up with something better?
Perhaps we can get the kind folks at NewCastle to write us a playbook. Then again, maybe I’ll just hire some celebrity to tweet about this post. It might get me more traffic than trying to be social.
I’m Edward Boches, Professor of the Practice of Advertising at Boston University’s College of Communications where I teach advertising creativity with an emphasis on emerging and digital media. I am also the part-time Chief Innovation Officer (formerly Chief Creative Officer and Chief Social Media Officer) at Mullen, an Ad Age A-List agency I’ve helped build and lead for nearly 30 …