I think it was around 2004 and it was a family party. My brother was working at Nokia at the time and at that point they were the leading mobile phone manufacturer – how times have changed. He presented me with a phone concept he was working on and said, “What do you think of this?”. I asked him what the difference was between the phone in my hand and my trusty 6310. “It’s got a camera in it” he replied. “A camera? Why would you put a camera in a phone?” I enquired. “It’s the future bruv” he responded. I put my arm around my brother (who is five years my senior) and warned him that he was on a one-way ticket to the Job Centre if he continued to pursue these stupid ideas. “Get your head down and just make good phones” I told him. “No one want’s a camera on their phone!”
So, it turns out they do want cameras on their phones and good ones at that. Maybe that is why my brother is flying high and I am sat here writing this… Needless to say he is not a Nokia anymore!
And so it is that I hold my brother personally responsible for the birth of Social Media – after all, something had to be the catalyst for it and I figure that the ability to photograph everything, all day, every day and share it with the world is probably it.
Today, you can connect with ‘friends’ anywhere in the world (by friends I mean men pretending to be 10 year old girls and let’s not forget all the people you happily walked out on at the end of your school years vowing never to speak to). You can share your opinions on women as Messrs Neville and Young did just before they were given high profile role model jobs. Hell, you can even run the USA using Twitter. And when you’re done upsetting people, you can hand over all your personal data to a load of speccy propeller heads who will in turn sell it to Russians plotting the outcome of the next democratic election.
It is also an amazing platform upon which you can give the world the benefit of your uninformed views on a range of matters that no one really cares about. It’s interesting really, you wouldn’t drive down the road and knock randomly on the door of a house just to tell the owners you object to the architectural style of their property. You may think it to yourself and keep driving/walking. But not on social media, no. On social media you MUST share your opinion and criticise other people for having opinions – and not in a sensible, grown up and civilised manner, but typically by being offensive – because you can, because you don’t know them, and you think you can remain anonymous.
What’s all this got to do with marketing I hear you ask? I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t mean this is just a rant, I mean I still don’t know what possible benefit Social Media can bring to business or the world. I think the bubble is bursting. I think everyone rushed to Social Media because it was set to be the next big thing, but gradually they are all coming to the same conclusion as me – it adds NOTHING.
I am yet to find a company that has been able to monetise it. Yes, I know there are lots of digital advertising agencies and Social Media consultants that make money out of businesses trying to make money out of social media, but there are, in my opinion, no companies that actually make money directly from it – except Twitter, etc. Unlike many other aspects of marketing, it just appears to be another thing to do, with little or no tangible return. Yes, yes, I hear the marketing purists shouting, ‘brand awareness’ and ‘background activity’, but surely there are better ways to get your name out there…?
I also fear for the impact social media has on our young people. When not ranting about marketing matters, I am a school Governor and the pressure social media adds to their lives is ridiculous. Back in my day (cue sepia footage and chalkboards) bullying took place in school and then stopped for the afternoon because not even the worst bully would risk the wrath of their parents opening a higher than average phone bill, resulting from hours of remote abuse. But today, these kids are never ‘off’, never safe and the impact on their mental health is devastating.
As more people learn the hard way about sharing their opinions and data online and we begin to value our time again and resent the need to keep up with our timelines, I firmly believe that there will be a social media exodus – and not to the next platform or shiny new thing but underneath rocks.
I fear social media has broken society.