What’s A Hashtag? Social Media Just Isn’t That Cool Anymore.

Steve McKee of McKee Wallwork Cleveland, and author of the book When Growth Stalls, recently attended “a confab of senior-level executives who oversee online and digital activities at a variety of leading corporations.” He found, much to his surprise, that these execs didn’t give a rat’s ass about social media.

As I milled around the conference I began asking these online elite about their dearth of social media activity. The feedback I generally received was (in so many words), “been there, done that, not interested.” I was stunned. It’s one thing for a random person stopped on the street (or even other members of corporate management) to not get it, but these were the digital glitterati. It just didn’t make sense.
Upon reflection, however, it does. The Great Curiosity about social media is coming to an end. By now everyone who’s anyone in the digital world has attended the breakout sessions, read the you-ought-to-be-doing-this blogs and given social media a shot. Perhaps not surprisingly, many have found it wanting on their personal relevance meter. Some just didn’t give it the time or attention to really understand how it works.

McKee goes on to explain that social media is important in his integrated marketing shop and working well for his clients. But let’s run with his premise that the senior-level executives in charge of digital marketing are “over it,” particularly as it relates to personal, not corporate, usage.
First, I think we need to consider the audience. McKee doesn’t name names, but senior-level executives are a privileged lot who see little value in sharing for free what their customers pay top dollar for. This group wants to hold on to information, not let it go freely floating through these tubes. One agency head I know asked me why he would ever want to “give up his Rolodex” on LinkedIn. There are plenty of good answers to this, but I share the story to reveal the mindset.
I also think there’s another important creative culture consideration here. To make something like a TV spot or a print campaign–which these execs probably did at one time–often takes weeks and sometimes months, depending on the complexity of the project and the size of the client’s budget. But the social Web is a fast moving stream where unfiltered thoughts flicker past in a hurry. Hence, old world advertising people and the new media crew are literally operating in different universes. They may share a roof over their heads, but that’s about all they share. The Web, particularly the social Web, has no production values, little respect for authority and small budgets, so what good is it?
Again I wonder who McKee is talking about and I wonder who major brands and big time agencies have running their digital practices. How many digital natives were at the conference in question? And how many digital natives run digital profit centers for large corporations?
I’d love to hear your response to the ideas in this post in our comments.
Are you no longer interested in social media? Are you on to the next shiny new object?



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.