I’m not sure if it’s just the people I follow, or if it’s indicative of a wider movement, but I’m receiving less ‘tactical tweets’ and more that are downright fun and interesting. By way of explanation, allow me to backtrack…

When I joined Twitter a few years ago, I quickly amassed a group of people to follow who I thought represented my interests, such as advertising, social media and popular culture. Still, I was skeptical, well aware of the criticism that Twitter was a pedestal for people who had little to say. All around me nonbelievers chided Twitter as a forum for the mundane: “I’m wearing all pink today!” or “My goldfish died ☹” Those people certainly existed. They still do.

But I quickly discovered another type of Tweeter, and while he was the antithesis of mindless chatterbox, unfortunately he was also a bore, just as self-involved as the cat and sweater people. This guy liked links (to case studies, marketing essays, gurus, wonks and even himself) and he liked lists. “Improve your blog in 5 easy steps!” Or: “Top ten reasons your digital strategy will fail.” And so on. For a while, it seemed like everyone on Twitter was trying to be Seth Godin.

At first I assumed this was Twitter, where users were either idiots or gurus. Obviously, I aspired to be the latter, and I began pushing people to those same links, lists and case studies.

Thankfully, with a little help from friends and followers, I stopped doing that. And now it seems so have a lot of people. On any given hour, my Twitter makes me laugh, provides me with valuable information and takes me places I genuinely want to go. Is Twitter right sizing and we along with it? Or is this just a lull between yet another slew of soul crushing SEO links?

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

Listening to sports radio the other day, one of the commentators noted how social media played an alarming role in the national bashing of Chicago Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler after he left the game in a losing effort to the Green Bay Packers. As everyone knows, NFL players from around the league tweeted about his departure –in real time- creating a firestorm that still blazes. Among other things, he was called a “wussie” and warned not to shower at the same time as his fellow teammates. Ouch.

The radio analyst held Twitter and the Tweeters in contempt. Ordinarily, such nasty opinions would never have been voiced until well after the game and only if a journalist would have asked for them. That seems unlikely as the offending players were not involved in the game and, in fact, were out of the tournament.

I, myself, had tweeted that the Twitter component was at least as fascinating as the removal of Jay Cutler from the game. Indeed, this was the first time in history real athletes offered real opinions in real time on real events. Really!

Whether Twitter should be held in contempt is debatable but the unprecedented circumstances do point out a contemptible side of social media, one that is only now coming to the fore. Twitter eliminates ‘time’ from the equation. Social media removes the common sense practice of waiting before one speaks. We see the results everyday in the comments portion below the millions of stories we read online, if not in the stories themselves.

Communications used to involve strategy. Not anymore. While I salute the disintegration of public relations and all its spin, I lament the proliferation of gossip, vitriol and just plain stupidity.

All three were on display during the coronation and hasty decimation of the Internet sensation, Ted “Golden Voice” Williams. A viral video and a ba-zillion Twitter supporters (I being one of them) made the hobo a media sensation, landing him voiceover gigs on national television and more. Days later he was arrested in a hotel room fight with a family member, owned up to lying about his sobriety, entered rehab and disappeared, presumably back into the streets where he was found. To say that social media had nothing to do with this would be short sighted…and dangerous.

Yes, You Tube and Twitter can make people famous but it can and does do the opposite as well. Reputations can be unfairly tarnished. Lives ruined. Jay Cutler and Ted Williams are the two latest big examples; they did not deserve the attention that they got and would not have gotten it without social media. And, more frightening really, what of all the average people made less average whether they like it or not? As I write, anonymous bullies are terrorizing colleagues, classmates and family members via social media and there is nothing anyone can do about it other than get used to it.

I’m a blogger. I get my news from other bloggers. I use countless social media platforms to communicate. Up until very recently I helped create them for clients. I adore Twitter and Facebook. This truly is the new frontier, for marketers, for all of us. But there are rattlesnakes out there… and worse. Be mindful.

Let’s do the naughty ones first!

This time of year everyone is making lists: Who’s in and out? What’s hot and not? Winning and losing streaks. Brett Favre. Pop culture is a Petri dish of lists. Given that it’s December, let’s start with the penultimate list: who’s naughty or nice? Forget Santa, it is we who gush over this list. That most of us want to be on the nice list is a given. But yet we are obsessed by the naughty list, aren’t we? For without the naughty there is no line for which to measure the nice.

Judging from all the visitors and comments on my last post I should be making lists 24/7. There I chose my top advertising campaign for 2010: Leo Burnett’s “Mayhem” campaign for Allstate. Many of you liked the choice. Some of you didn’t. It’s terrific work and I stand by it. The point I’d like to make here is that by making a choice I was being provocative. And provocation is part of a writer’s job, is it not?

I’m pretty sure some aspect of list-mania is thriving in most ad copy. If it isn’t the ad probably sucks. I’m damn sure the dynamic is driving social media. Brands covet “followers” and “fans.” They want “likes” and as many as they can get. What is crowd sourcing if it’s not a compilation of choices? And is not Groupon the quintessential aggregator? Mom’s shopping list has been conceptualized and monetized. What about dad’s to-do list? Or junior’s wish list? Herein lies the opportunity.

Entities like Twitter and Groupon do it with aplomb. Advertisers are getting there. Crispin’s “Whopper Sacrifice” for Burger King is a great example: List ten friends you would ding from your Facebook and get a sandwich. There’s no coupon. Nor were they trying to build the brand. “Whopper Sacrifice” provoked people by allowing them to make a naughty list. That’s it.

Bubbling beneath the surface of their infamous Dominoes “Oh yes we did” campaign is a provocation to consumers to list what they hated about bad pizza. That drama is what fires the campaign. Without it the company would just be defending its crappy pizza.

Maybe that’s the big truth about SO-ME. Lists, for lack of a better word, fire us up. Therefore, the big question for all of us in marketing communications is how do we harness this human desire to ‘list’ in order to provoke consumers on behalf of our clients?

Impatience or forward thinking?

As some of you know, I am a connoisseur of horror. It is a popular genre (and one of Hollywood’s biggest moneymakers) but, of course, much of it is gut fill –if you pardon the expression. For every quality productions like The Walking Dead there are ten like Saw 3D.

Below the mainstream, literally hundreds of new films and books come out every year. I troll these depths looking for gems. The French, for example, are making some exquisite horror: Mutants and The Horde come to mind. From the UK, there’s Colin, a compassionate film about a young zombie, reportedly made for $75 dollars. It’s quite good.

Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly), the vast majority of what lurks below is crap. Stuff like Brain Dead, from Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Films. Don’t worry, Gentle Reader, I’m not going to review or discuss the film. This isn’t the blog for that. And that isn’t the film.

Easy to digest quickly…

I want to talk about Brain Dead in the context of the way I watched it, speaking to how we process content in the age of new media and streaming video. Once I established the film was going to suck (which usually takes less than 2 minutes), I watched the rest of it entirely in fast-forward, only stopping for the over-the-top gore and the occasional naked lady. Basically, I watched an hour and a half film in less than eight minutes.

Here’s the kicker. I got the narrative and actually could write a balanced review of the movie if I had to. Obviously, I have a better than average working knowledge of the genre so I could fill in the blanks. Once my brain got the formula for Brain Dead, I was then able to absorb the plot in hyper speed. This is more than rushing through to get to the good parts.

I really could watch the movie.

I believe many of you could do the same thing, providing the variables were right. For example, if you dig chick flicks (no comment) I bet you could FF Maid to Order and get it completely.

This ability is more than just a function of rote filmmaking, although no question that’s a factor. I think as a species we’ve adapted to a world of streaming content and chew through it faster and faster. More channels. More screens. More friends. More, more, more!

Some of the reasons are as follows and I think fascinating from an anthropological perspective:

1. Highlight reels. ESPN and others condense content like crazy. 4- hour ball games are shortened into 45 seconds of big plays and scores.
2. Pornography. Zooming to the money shots. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you’re a better man than I am, or lying.
3. The Internet. So much. So little time.
4. Twitter. 140 characters. ‘Nuff said.
5. Email and text. Who needs to beat around the bush? We get to the point. Do you really need (or ever read) anyone’s email after the first paragraph?
6. Globalization. The world does not go to bed when we do. Things are happening around the world around the clock. You snooze you lose.

More of a road runner?

Ironically, advertising was a major precursors to all this. Having to manage narrative and selling strategy in 30 seconds or less, we all became conditioned to making and receiving short-form content.

Implied in all this is the notion that we are no longer doing a good job at listening and learning. On the other hand, maybe we’re doing a terrific job. Remember the Evelyn Wood School of Speed-Reading. Zipping through pages was considered a great gift, almost magical.

I’ve written about “content zombies” several times. Judging from the amount of views and comments, it’s a popular topic: Content Zombies! Endless Choices/No Time

We’re gonna need a bigger bowl!

“Angler Raphael Biagini got the surprise of his life when he landed this gigantic koi carp on a fishing trip to France. At 30lb it’s thought to be the largest of its kind ever caught in the wild. It took Raphael Biagini ten minutes to reel the creature out of a lake in the south of France – moments after fellow anglers told him they had spent six years trying to snare the legendary ‘giant goldfish’.” –Daily Mail, U.K. World News

Raphael and his golden prize have been shared all over the world, becoming one of those things that cause everyone to stop and say: Holy crap. Would you look at that!

Including me. I’m an avid fisherman as well as an aquarist so they had me at giant goldfish. But even if I wasn’t a fish guy, I’d still be amazed. That’s why I’m posting it here, for no other reason than to get you to smile and to marvel at the world we live in.

Isn’t that the promise of the Internet: delivering our world? Sometimes we (myself included) forget that. For example, of the 500 or so people I follow on Twitter, most of whom are active, most of their posts are always about business, usually attaching a link to some new story about new media. That’s great. That’s why I follow them. But sometimes it’s overkill. How many “Top Ten Reasons agencies fail at Social Media” stories do we need to write and read and share?

Sometimes you just want to see a 30-pound goldfish.


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