Get Shouty

Guest Post: Peter Bray
March 3, 2009, 2:49 pm
Filed under: Digital Strategy

I love a bit of fist shaking shoutyness.


I’m taking a week off and stepping down from my soapbox, but I’m happy to share and introduce you all to Peter Bray, who has  been in the digital industry for around 13 years, is a Director of CHOICE (the Australian Consumers’ Association) and the NSW President of AIMIA (the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association):


I am starting to feel a bit numb about social media. I thought I knew what it was, and how to use it, but now I am confused. Really confused. More so than usual.

Recently there have been people redefining what social media is, defining rules of engagement, and generally trying to one up each other in a public display of ego driven “rankings.” Lists of top bloggers, top twitterers, top facebookers and top brands that use social media are deluging down my connection like an empirical tsunami. And a lot of people seem to be riding the wave, while others, like me, are simply feeling a little swamped.

When did it all get out of hand?

Please, please, to all the digerati out there, perhaps it is time for a bit of quiet, humble success rather than screaming from rooftops at every possible moment. It is a long way to fall, especially if you position yourself at the top of the ladder.

It all used to seem so fun, this whole social media caper. It just doesn’t feel the same any more. Social media is in danger of killing the digital star; metrics are undecided; pundits are confused with professionals; flaming is out of control – why is it that social media has all these growing pains?

Perhaps it is something to do with the personality types that are attracted to social media. Could social media provide a way for people who are otherwise socially inept to finally quantitatively prove that they understand relationships? Are the social media experts in fact introverts who are now, through the bright lights of their computer screens, able to tell people how they should behave? Is a pre qualification for being a social media expert the attainment of level 12 in Dungeons and Dragons (sorry for the out of date reference, but I don’t know the World of Warcraft equivalent?)

My point is (if I have one), that social media should not be positioned as the “next big thing” for brands, simply because not only has it already arrived, but the effectiveness when it comes to marketing is very questionable. Social media has some wonderful uses, however given then number of brands that have invested in social media, there is a striking lack of successful case studies when it comes to brand marketing.

We know social media is out there, we are just not sure how to identify and tag it, let alone breed it in captivity. So it seems that people are firing pot-shots, trying to define what social media is and the rules for engagement, instead of simply letting it run wild for the time being.

Social media needs a lot of time to develop and grow, since it is still in the awkward teenager phase. If we are not careful, by creating so many arbitrary rules and restrictions, social media will never mature and achieve its potential. People need to stop acting like overprotective parents. No one owns the social media space, no one is an expert above others, and such activity will inevitably stunt innovation and experimentation in the social media space. Anyone remember Second Life?

I advocate not enforcing any rules when it comes to social media, apart from one simple guideline, that applies not only to brands and consumers, but social media practitioners as well: TRY NOT TO DO DUMB THINGS, BECAUSE EVERYONE IS ALWAYS LOOKING.

Oh, and play nice.


Peter can be found on Twitter 

I won’t be found in Sydney town until Ad-tech next week. I’m on the  panel about social media measurement and I’m bringing my boxing gloves. See you there!


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Aye it is the era of keeping it real.

If you are interested in the measurement of social media it’s worth keeping an eye on these guys in the UK who are trying to work out just that: (or google measurement camp)

Comment by Phil Herborn

Well put Peter! Good to read a voice of reason in the industry.

Comment by James

I believe that social media has 2 sets of rules. The first is determined by the people who develop the sites and applications. They write the code and develop the interface and for the most part, this constrains/shapes how we use it. The other set of rules is user defined; we, the users, play with it as we want to.

Social media is a beautiful thing, but try to shape and constrain it and it will turn ugly.

Comment by Simon Harris

Thank you Peter,

my feeling is that with any new space, those who have missed the boat before are suddenly clambering to guide the ship. Dangerous waters indeed!

Comment by Michelle

Michelle I’d counter your boat comment by saying the one everyone has jumped on is the wrong one, or is at least heading in the wrong direction.

Peter you make a good point on the relative youth of social media. In this post I make a similar point, likening the development of the web to “the Talkies” era of the motion picture. Yes it is all new and a bit exciting, but it’s a moment in the web’s evolution, nothing more; the exciting thing is what people are saying with the platforms they’ve been given to speak with, not the platforms themselves.

As for the whole “rules” thing, they were laid out in Cluetrain a decade ago and can be summed up with “Don’t be an ass-hat.” The issue brands have with social media is it requires a conversation which is not only hard to measure (as you point out) but most brands don’t have more to say than a 30-second spot allows.

That is going to be the real trick for most.

Comment by David Gillespie

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