Less Grumpy About Vine, Google Plus & Social Business (But Still Grumpy)

I like being a curmudgeon. How much? This much:


When new ideas, phrases, and tools come out in the social media world, I am not normally the first to jump aboard. In fact, the more people who get out their pompons and cheer the latest unproven tool or idea, the grumpier I get. That doesn’t mean I think the latest hot thing will fail. I’m happy to be wrong, but I’m also very sensitive to “too early.” That attitude is stamped all over this blog, certainly. I currently think of three (ok four) things that presently catch me at various stages of curmudgeonliness:

Vine (and Instagram): This past week, Twitter announced a product resulting from an acquisition: Vine allows people to make six second videos that loop in playback. Sounds like an animated GIF? Why yes, yes it does (I can’t stand animated GIFs). It’s also, for me, a little harder to get the hang of. Here is my review of Vine on Vine. I don’t quite squeeze it all in:

Wait, there are no visible embed links?

Creative people are doing fun things with it of course (see if you can get lucky on Vinepeek.com), but I can’t get on the “second coming of whatever this is supposed to be the second coming of” train for several reasons:

  • It’s iOS (iPhone, iPod, iPad) only: an app can hardly be called universal if it’s not on Android as well as iPhone. That was one of my big beefs with Instagram. I did come around once that app became available on Android; I’m sure Vine will also
  • It’s a “point tool”: Vine is on one level a silly toy: a video trick once can emulate with any basic editor, and also put on Twitter and Facebook, as you can with Vine, so what’s the point?
  • Is there a community? That could happen, but not yet. Community is what makes Instagram stand out: if I post a picture, more people “ike” it there than on Twitter or Facebook. You can’t underestimate that, and if a community pops up in Vine (the fact that it is part of Twitter is not enough), then all bets are off. Similarly, if a brand finds a good use for it, they should go for it. A stupid tool is not necessarily a useless tool.

Google Plus: As with Instagram, the occasional scorn I heaped on the Google Plus social network was based more on too much hype than not enough merit. Google Plus is actually quite good, but I’m not joining the hype train until I see what I can define for myself as a “tipping point” into Facebook-worthy relevance. Google itself has touted an “active user” base that now places it second only to Facebook. I remain a little skeptical of what construes an “active user” in a platform that builds its user base on the slavery of forced enrollment (if you signed up for a Google product like GMail, you are on Google Plus whether you know it or not), but their own post gives an indication of real activity. Regardless of what the numbers are, what they signify is growth, and that alone is worth paying attention to – at least a little more than before.

Was I grumpy about Google Plus when it first came up? Absolutely. Did that mean I thought it would fail? No.

Social Enterprise (or Social Business): I have been cautious about the use of the term “Social Business,” but organizations I respect (IBM and The Community Roundtable, to name two) have kept it above parody, at least for me. Still, the idea of social pervading the enterprise (in the face of “social business” having a well-established prior meaning having to do with social good) is a tough uphill climb. Brian Proffitt expressed such grumpy cynicism in his recent ReadWriteWeb article, “Social Enterprise is Not Living Up to Its Promise.” Just as I sniff at the bandwagoning of the latest Vine or other shiny object, I also am skeptical when people dismiss an idea outright before it has time to percolate. Pour hate on the hype, but allow things time to breathe.

Noting succeeds in an instant. Keep a healthy skepticism, but balance that with an open mind. Or not; slay me in the comments if you like.

Photo credit: Todd Van Hoosear, I’m pretty sure

The Internet of Flings: Taking Care With Buzzwords

Buzz in BallstonHaving been in PR and social media for many years now, I have witnessed up close the love/hate relationship my profession has with buzzwords. I define “love” in this instance as “laziness,” of course. In my tech PR days, among the most reviled buzzwords were “solution,” “scalable” and “robust.”

Here’s the thing about buzzwords: They originally had meaning. If used properly and sparingly, they can retain their meaning.

Most recently, the phrase that has struggled with “buzzword” status is “social business.” The first problem with the use of this phrase, which a number of people (most notably IBM and The Community Roundtable) use to mean businesses adopting social media as part of their organizational DNA (my version of the definition), is that “social business” has long been used to mean something entirely different. Originally the phrase was associated with businesses aligning themselves for social good. It was fairly popular  enough to warrant its own brief Wikipedia entry. The second is that as the new definition gained traction, largely due to IBM’s credibility, it got repeated to the point that it has been threatened with meaninglessness. I have said elsewhere that I don’t think that battle has been completely lost, but I am wary whenever my fellow social media professionals fall too much in love with a term (rather than, say, accomplishments or case studies). Further, I find it harder to tell who is using the term with true intellect and thought, and who is full of it. To their credit, my friends at The Community Roundtable have acknowledged the uncertainty of using the term.

The next term undergoing this trial by buzz-fire is “The Internet of Things.” For over a decade associated with the RFID technology leaders at MIT’s Auto-ID Center, the Internet of Things recently popped up as a potential buzzword victim at the Le Web conference. Will the original meaning be distorted, or simply ignored as it falls through to less sure hands? As with social business, I don’t know. But I am afraid. Already, the focus of the Internet of Things seems to be on wearable devices; I’m not sure that was the original intent at all. Perhaps it is an evolution of the concept. Perhaps it is a platform from which some marketers launch snake oil and bad books.

We shall see. All I can hope for is that at least the debate will be interesting.

Photo credit: Buzz in Ballston by alykat, on Flickr

What is an Agency? Social Media and Corporate Voice

"Secret Agent", 1936For the last 15 years, I have spent most of my working time with agencies (PR, social media, communications). While in the PR world it was expressly the job, or so I believed, to stay in the background and “make the client famous,” the agency/client relationship has been more than that.

Let me back up a bit: the thing I, and I believe many others in my place, have struggled with over the years is the true definition of “agency.” The most important “feeling out” bit in agency life is figuring out where your authority as an external agent to act on the behalf of the client ends, and where the internal client needs to take over. In my early PR agency days, that tended to take the shape of setting up a relationship with a reporter, then fading back in the role of facilitator. Being an actual spokesperson was not only rare, but being quoted in a publication on behalf of a client was high on the list of work nightmares.

Social media comes along, bringing the role of the agency into question once again – how far to go in being an actual “agent?”  The early fights were over “ghost-blogging” which, put simply, was hiring someone to write blog posts for you , in your voice, just as you would hire a speechwriter. Much of the disapproval was misplaced, as the crimes in these instances were not in actually doing it but doing it poorly. No matter who puts finger to keyboard, the voice has to be accurate. This was true back in my journalism career; a bullpen of producers would write copy for anchors to read and the copy had damn well better be in the voice of that day’s anchor (heaven help you if you wrote the word “particularly” for Steve or used too folksy a style for Bob). In other words, yes you can write words on behalf of someone else.

As social media platforms took various forms, managing the content for companies has become an industry. People expect companies to be “human” now and respond, or at least communicate, one-to-one and in real time (that expectation could be its own topic). That raises the stakes of the conundrum; when you speak to a company online, to whom are you really speaking. Of course, that’s where things get complicated – and is the source of the Twitter conversation captured below.

My take; an agency can certainly help perform the voice of the client when it comes to executing a social media program. The idea of agency as counsel is important and vital – helping a client define and express its voice, instructing it how to use it – but many still need help delivering on that promise. And with the strict proviso that it is done within parameters and mistake-free, then the public shouldn’t care where the social media “voice” they are talking to on a particular day is drawing their paycheck from.

One last thing: The Merriam-Webster definition of agent, as applied here, is thus: “One who is authorized to act for or in the place of another.” This is a great reminder of the fact that an agency’s role isn’t merely counsel, as important as that is. The role of an agent is based on trust to act on the client’s behalf. If you have that trust, there are a lot of things you can do.

Here is the conversation referenced above. Chris’ issue is a valid one; if the person representing the company is not doing their job, then it is a bad experience all around, and his impressions are probably common to many average “consumers.” However, the person doing their job poorly could just as easily be an internal person as an agency rep: and the lack of results could be the result of a larger problem: a poor business and communications philosophy.


#FailingAgenda: Social Media Lessons From– a Social Media Screwup*

As a Twitter user, I have never been a huge fan of promoted hashtags. I get that it is a way to buy exposure and discussion around a topic or a brand, and I certainly get that Twitter deserves to try to make money, but I always found the anchor Tweet pinned to the top of any search for a hashtag obnoxious. I recall trying to follow Twitter chatter at a Radian 6 user conference last year, only to have my search page topped by a paid-for Tweet every time. It did not make me think that company was very likable (though I hope I was wrong).

I really don’t want to hate the idea around these sponsored placements, and I don’t think I do. What I have recognized is that one must be careful employing them. In the case of the user conference, it was probably unnecessary when there are several substantive ways to get the ear and confidence of the audience; in fact, it probably would have been cheaper for a flight, hotel and event ticket, though I don’t know that for sure.  Being careful means trying to think ahead what might happen when you sponsor a hashtag- will you annoy people? Or even worse, will the people fight back by using the hashtag against you with their own Tweets? We have certainly seen this quite a bit in the corporate world, with varying results.

This came to mind during this week of the Democratic National Convention. Americans For Prosperity, the American SuperPAC (when will we have UltraPACs?), purchased the “#FailingAgenda” hashtag to try to promote the Republican agenda during the Democrats’ marquee event. Why not keep a voice present while the other side is getting the major attention, right?

Wrong. The one thing AFP needed to think of but apparently didn’t is that people Tweet- and, according to my friend Tom Webster at Edison Research, a plurality of Tweeters are Democrats. So, the opposition came out with guns loaded and firing away. Every time I looked at this supposedly conservative media buy, I saw it getting successfully trolled.

Later, I saw that the Obama administration, through @BarackObama, had purchased the hashtag for itself, while AFP purchased a new one, “#16TrillionFail,” which was getting similarly trolled, as the screenshot below shows:

So, what happened here? Granted, there may have been other goals, such as driving people to AFP’s site and requesting other actions there, that may have been successful- maybe it’s not even a “screwup” based on the goals AFP may have had. But from a public relations standpoint, it’s a reminder that spending money on a medium you can’t control very well is risky even in the best of times, and extremely dangerous if you represent a controversial organization or topic.

I’m not going to call this a complete fail without knowing all the facts (and I hoped I kept political bias out of this), but it was certainly interesting to watch.

(Side note: why does Twitter recommend “@taylorhicks” as a related search term? Yes, he performed at the Republican Convention last week, but… slightly better than random is all I can say).

*Yes, I really hate the “Social Media Lessons from…” blog posts. What a tired, link-baiting concept. Not everything has a “social media” lesson. I’d rather be boring than trite.


Bonus content: Word of the day: “discoutrage” – to discourage outrageous behavior

The Busy Trap Trap, Productivity and Distractions. Solved

Cyril the squirrel up for a challenge 15:54:50I decided I would refuse to be “too busy” to write this blog post…

For a while, I have seen friends and others struggle with the Productivity Question: are they too distracted by email, Facebook, Twitter et al to actually get something done? As someone who likes to have 27 things going on at once (and usually does just fine, thank you), I say – usually – no. You are as distracted as you allow yourself to be.

Now comes a New York Times column about the “Busy Trap” – how we keep ourselves busy in order to…gah, I don’t know. Read it here. I eventually did, though I was kind of…busy. There was something about the author’s tone that galled me, that being “busy” was a bad thing. That not being able to drop everything to put your invitation on my calendar RIGHT NOW somehow means I’m deficient in my personal organization (as opposed to simply not preferring your company, you pompous person). The example in the column suggests an invitation was during work hours. Don’t flatter yourself, bub.

I’m less troubled by some folks’ criticisms that the article did not consider the feelings of people who need to work long, hard hours to support their families or simply eat. He covers it in the beginning of the article, I finally noticed on my third or fourth scan.

Something else I noticed on a later read – the author’s name, Tim Kreider. I’m usually too busy to read bylines. If your writing stands out, I’ll come back and remember who you are eventually.

I’m more troubled by the breathless linking to this article by people who (like me) may or may not have paused long enough to read the whole thing, let alone understand it. This is not some new way of living (like the 4-hour work week, another bad idea that seems to have worked for one person).

So, how do I get from this to productivity? I think they’re related. People like me crave constant stimulation, and when we are being good to ourselves we turn it off to concentrate for short periods. Banning things like Facebook (even via self-imposed ban), Twitter or email will not prevent one from inventing other distractions – they are just gimmicks to try to trick you into doing things you don’t want to do – e.g., work. If you want to work, you’ll get it done, no matter what’s going on around you.

Further, I’d argue we need the distractions. For one thing, many of us have jobs where we need to zip from task to task or monitor multiple things. All of us simply need breaks to free our minds to solve problems (to his credit, Kreider mentions something like this in his column). Walking away – and taking a walk – is sometimes the best  productivity tool. My best micro-example of this: whenever I lose something, I almost always find it right after I stop looking. Let’s stop trying so hard.

The article on the other end of this strained logical rope is n article on “Winnowing Windows” by Clive Thompson in the most recent print version of Wired. Yes, I think it’s cool to read print sometimes. Yes, I think it’s dumb that the articles aren’t online anyway. No link for you, sorry. Thompson talked about one feature of the upcoming Windows 8, called Metro, which limits the number of screens on the desktop. The idea? Focus your attention. Thompson’s conclusion? Hated it. I would too. I have at least 6 windows open as I write this (but lovingly focusing on this one at the moment for your benefit, dear reader). Praising this feature as “Good” reminds me of the people who say they prefer working with monotasking tablets because they can focus on one task at a time. I don’t believe that for a second, especially if there are squirrels outside your office window (squirrels…!).

Yeah, and this cartoon. Hah, hah. True, but not really true. If my boss put this up in the office, I’d tell him to expect me not to read any of his emails.

Ok, so I didn’t really solve anything here. But let’s stop blaming the distractions and just teach ourselves to use the stimuli for good. Your results may vary, do what works for you.

Photo credit: exfordy on Twitter

The Facebook Password Conundrum, or Why I Shouldn’t be an Eagle Scout

There's No Place To Go But Up! - Boy Scout LawI have been reading lately about employers asking for job prospects’ (or even employees’) Facebook passwords as a part of the interview process. I’m not going to try to judge the legalities or ethical implications of all this, but I will put myself into the position of someone being asked to do so. What would I do? I want this job, I want to work for this employer, and I get asked this. Would I do it?

Turns out this whole thing reminds me of something that happened when I was 17 and 18 years old. I shouldn’t be an Eagle Scout, but the way things went down, I am.

When an older friend in my Scout Troop went for his Eagle Scout Board of Review (the Troop and local Council representatives interview the prospective Eagle Scout upon completion of merit badges and other requirements), he reported back that they asked him the following question: “since part of the “Scout Law” is “A Scout is Reverent,” should a Scout who doesn’t believe in God- an atheist- be allowed to be an Eagle Scout? His natural answer was to say “of course,” but a well-placed kick under the table from a well-meaning parent got him to change his answer to the BSA-accepted “no.”

I couldn’t believe this. I determined “reverent” to mean not only “respectful of your own beliefs” but also respectful of others.” Apparently some folks thought the Powers that Be in the Boy Scouts of America begged to differ. I swore that if I were asked the same question at my Board of Review, I would answer it my way, even if it meant giving up the Eagle award. I could live with that.

I steeled myself for my review a year or so later, and… they never asked the question. Or any other question I was uncomfortable with. Damn you, Boy Scouts, for robbing me of the chance to take a moral stand. I shouldn’t be an Eagle Scout- by the standard set forth in that question- but I am. Just as well, I would make more nuanced decisions as an adult, weighing my disgust of the BSA’s ban on homosexuals with setting a more practical example for local youth. Everything’s a choice.

But back to the point- what would you do if an employer demanded access to your social networking passwords?

Photo Credit: StarrGazr (thanks Tracy!)

Social Media Top 5; Pinterest Copyright, PR Defined, More Infographic Atrocity

babauPinterest and the Copyright Bogeyman

Pinterest has captured the hearts and minds of social media shiny-object navel-gazers. It’s great, it’s simple, it’s visual.. but back in January, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were copyright issues. Boy howdy were there. While I now wonder if the current hysteria over copyright protection on Pinterest is a bit overblown, it is worth considering for both individual and corporate users.

Individuals now worry about being sued, and even being responsible for legal fees incurred by Pinterest (according to their Terms of Service). Companies need to worry not only about inappropriate use of their trademarks in sharing images, but in being liable themselves (and being bigger targets for suits) even if they merely “repin” something a fan put on the site.

A bigger issue- will companies see Pinterest “pinning” as flattery, fans liking their things and even linking back to their sites and shops, or as a violation of their marks? There will be cases for both all over. The question for Pinterest is, will this scare off users? Not sure about that.

For now, the real force behind copyright issues seems to be photographers, who are historically aggressive over their online intellectual property rights- hence Flickr introducing Pinterest-disabling code. It will be interesting to see if this gets hotter or melts away.

Defining PR- Pinch Me, Am I Dreaming?

I have had a complicated relationship over my career with industry associations. Hence my ambivalence towards the entire process of trying to define public relations. The attempt to “crowdsource”  a new definition for the industry skirted the fine line between listening and letting the inmates run the asylum. Further, it’s not really clear it was an open process more than it was a “mad-libs” exercise, as some friends have described it. Whatever the faults or favors, here is the new, unveiled definition:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

I am…whelmed. It’s vague, pretty, and hopeful. Everything a guy could want in a sweetheart. To be honest, I’m not sure PR needs a definition. We need to do better work to prevent being defined by our worst actors: the apologists for ethical villains, the liars and loudmouths. I’m not going to knock this definition, but I’m not celebrating in the streets either. Back to work, people.

Zynga Tries to Show it Can Breathe without Facebook Life Support 

I hate Farmville, and all Zynga games are prohibited from loitering on my Facebook lawn (dagnabit), but I thought it was refreshing to see Zynga launch its own independent platform. The doubters that didn’t see a long-term value in a Facebook-bound platform (or any company dependent on a third party platform for sustenance) are right. And investors should be happy that Zynga has been smart enough to realize it. I’m assuming this has been in their thinking for a long time. So, here’s to long-term thinking.

Infographic Naughtiness: I Think You Meant “Exhausting”

With all due respect to my friends at Hubspot, who do a lot of great things, this infographic made me cry. Forget whether or not this is truly an “exhaustive history of marketing,” I’m not going to get into factual accuracy or point of view. As a visual, is this comprehensible? Do you get the entire thesis at a glance? Are the minute details optional, or better yet, elsewhere? This is the sort of indigestible infographic that makes it rain dead kittens even on a sunny day. I sized it to fit on this page, just to the right. Tell me what you think:


Grammar Nit of the Week

Saw someone use the phrase “good common sense.” I could only think, “what’s bad common sense?” What would that look lke? I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.


Image credit: “babau” by skesis on Flickr


Why Aren’t We Experimenting More?

omsi volcano experimentIf you bother to check out my blog regularly (thank you), you’ll notice a couple of odd posts recently. The first was in some ways an accident. Being a smartass, I decided to react to some random subscriptions to both of my Posterous blogs with a post telling people not to subscribe there. There’s no point. Of course, my hope was that some people would subscribe anyway, despite the complete lack of any benefit- in fact, the explicit promise of no benefit at all. Why? Because it would amuse me. What surprised me was that the post all of a sudden showed up in my RSS feed; for this blog. I forgot I had set up automatic cross-posting, but was reminded of my penchant for experimentation.

The more recent post was a Storify experiment that I decided to demonstrate live in front of colleagues as an easy way to post to your blog. By George, it was in fact quite easy!

I feel that someone doing social media for a living should experiment. Often. Most of us who do this (come on, admit it) have blogs and other social media channels that are not meant to be polished business honey pots, but are repositories for our thoughts which are brilliant at best, a strange hash of trails at most times, and only a failure when it lies empty. Too many of us either do very little in social media because we either don’t want to be public (there are ways around that), or feel too much pressure to make our blogs look professional all the time, because, damn it, we are potential book authors or professionals.

Are either of you types of folks kidding? This is the place to experiment, to go out and  figure out the possibilities of tools and of raw content. What types of posts/topics/titles/words/calls to action, for example, get people to respond to your blog over other types? We should be doing more, not less, shouldn’t we? Why are some of us polishing our blogs into tepidity (though I do understand that some folks are in business for themselves and use them to show their polished, professional sides), and others letting their blogs and other channels lie empty?

Empty, you say? In 2011, I published about half as often here (42 posts) as I did in 2010 (85 posts). That disappoints me.

My publishing on this blog has been less frequent for a number of reasons:

  • Work keeps me busy. Though I absolutely hate the “I don’t work on my personal brand because I’m doing billable client work” excuse- it is true from a “note enough hours in the day” standpoint.
  • My most interesting thoughts are too closely attached to current client work, and there’s no way I’m going to reveal the inner workings of things, especially when that would require permission (and might better reside on the Voce Nation blog anyway)
  • I write for other blogs (primarily Voce Nation), but not really that much. That’s pretty weak.
  • I can’t write the same opinions about the same social media topics as everyone else. That’s kind of weak too, but I do get topic fatigue and have no desire to be a “me too” social media marketing blogger any more.
  • I can’t write the abstract “advice” or “state of mind” posts about strategy and how to live your life or think or blog or whatever. At this stage in my life they come off as the blatherings of someone trying be sound smart or inspirational, rather than actually just being smart (and it looks like that in all the other blogs I read- is that mean? Too bad). Also, admit it; the title of this blog post made you throw up in your mouth.
  • I took part more voraciously in private discussion groups rather than publishing longer, more one-sided screeds like this.
Wow. That’s a lot of excuses not to be writing more often.

So, why not more experimentation on this blog rather than feeling a need to be controversial, relevant, brilliant, or topical every time out, or failing to do so because I don’t want to tread water in my writing?

Why not indeed. Far from a promise to do things, it’s a thought I would like to follow up on. I may need a few more kickses in the pantses.

Or should I just pile on and write about whatever, like I used to? Feel free to yell at me in comments. 2012 is a new year.

Photo Credit: Mavis (Flickr)


Is “Social Business” Just a Buzzword? Oh, I Hope Not

My “Buzzword Radar” is oversensitive, honed over years in the PR profession, where the temptation to go the lazy route “”leading provider of robust, scalable solutions” was often too great (or driven by inexperienced managers and less sensitive clients) to resist. This is a great example of a web site from the 1st Internet bubble that had many PR pros- and most all media hacks- nodding in agreement at the same time they were burying their foreheads in their palms.

I’m a fan of plain speaking, and most of the gibberish I lay out is in the spirit of absurdist wordplay.

When people in my industry started plastering the word “social business” everywhere they could over the last several years, my buzz-dar went nuts. What could that term possibly mean? Sure, it’s two simple words put together that could have a simple explanation, but my instinct was to run far away.

However, I saw that organizations and people I trusted were latching on to “social business,” so either it had gained a respectable definition or it was simply too late. Being a cynic and a pessimist, I chose the predictable path at first.

In the past week I attended two events that referenced “Social Business” heavily. The first was the annual Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) Symposium, in a room filled with people whose intelligence I respect. I expressed my differing feelings on Twitter and got more smart responses.

From Hillary Boucher, what I dubbed an “elevator pitch:”

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/hillaryboucher/status/132115289121886208″]

From my friend Rachel Happe of The Community Roundtable:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/rhappe/status/132159963425538049″]

Rachel’s longer definition lives here: http://www.informationweek.com/thebrainyard/news/229401355/social-business-requires-socialized-processes

smcboston Andrew Carusone

Lowe's Andrew Carusone at Social Media Club

Later, I attended the Social Media Club Boston chapter meeting where the subject was, you guessed it, “Social Business.” IBM, the host, has actually co-opted the term (defining a social business as one that has engagement, transparency and speed), meaning social business has either achieved legitimacy or been consigned to the big-time corporate buzzword dustbin.

It seems, for now, to be the former. One of the evening’s featured speakers, Andrew Carusone of Lowe’s, spoke with conviction about the company’s efforts to build a “social business” (not necessarily the phrase they use), from the inside out, and the successes they have had so far. I had the chance to speak with him beforehand, and wondered aloud whether “social business” is replacing “Enterprise 2.0” as the catchphrase. I suspect that’s a matter of semantics, as the “experts” on Quora can’t seem to decide either. Carusone himself had been happy with “E20” as late as last year  so the I’m guessing any distinctions will be steamrolled by those not inclined to nuance.

Is “Social Business” a meaningless buzzword? It seems I can’t dismiss it. Don’t any of you all go around ruining it for everyone else. I mean it.


Social Media Top 5: The Ten Deadly Plagues of Google Plus (aka Growing Pains)

Google Plus an Afterthought?

I attended Exploring Social Media Boston last week (ok, Burlington is NOT Boston, but I hope the traveling speakers got a good tour of scenes where Paul Blart Mall Cop were shot). My thoughts on the overall event are here at the Voce Nation blog, but one thing that struck me…

With all the talk about tactics and strategy for social media, Google Plus, the hot shiny new social network, didn’t even get a mention until about 3:30 pm, an hour before the event closed (thanks, Laura Fitton, for ruining the perfect game).

One friend suggested that the lack of focus on tools was to blame for the lack of mentions. That’s fair– strategy before tools, we all say– but I also call BS on that, as Facebook, Twitter, and countless other platforms were mentioned throughout the day. Why would a bunch of social media’s smartest minds fail to mention Google Plus?

Because, when it comes to enacting social media programs, it’s not on our minds.


I still contend that Google Plus will most likely matter. The search engine ties are too strong, Google too big, and the features (and potential features) too rich and simple to use. Facebook killer? It’s silly for anyone to say that, but I won’t say no either. I continue to preach patience.

Locusts and wild flowers

Flickr Photo by Jonathan O'Donnell

As I pick up my own personal use of Google Plus, I am struck by the number of animated GIFs being posted. Animated GIFs? These are only thing more insipid than cat photos (being a cat owner, I’m a bit more forgiving of those). Not just a stream of animated GIFs, not a river– but a plague.

Which made me think: perhaps there are a series of plagues that Google Plus must endure before it matures; ten, maybe?

Perhaps this list is a clue- not exactly frogs, locusts, or death of first-borns, but perhaps more a set of growing pains (but nonetheless listed with the corresponding historic Plagues of Egypt):

  1. Beta invites; the first stage that create a divide between the “ins” and “outs,” which Google managed to screw up in the process, denying entrance to those who had been promised access as a way of controlling the early traffic (Water)
  2. Social Media “gurus” and whatnot declaring that Google + the next big thing before it has even publicly launched- to the extent that “Google + for Dummies” and “Google Plus for Business” are being written before all- or even many- of the real facts are in (Frogs)
  3. Other gurus declaring Google Plus “dead” because they perceive a dip in traffic, whether that dip is real or not- again, before the product is really finished (Mosquitos)
  4. Getting “circle” follows from people they have never met, from halfway around the world. Once Plus opened up to the public, people seemed to randomly follow anyone, willy nilly, confusing folks like me who know very few actual people in, say, India (Flies or Wild Animals)
  5. Animated gifs (and cat photos) (Unhealable Boils)
That’s the first five– what may the remaining plagues be? Here is a guess.
  1. Opening of business accounts; Yes, I know that’s a planned feature, but it also may be akin to the Plague of Locusts to some users. As a consultant to corporate social media programs, I am looking forward to what it may bring (Locusts)
  2. Malignant virus or phishing attacks- that should be a no-brainer (Disease on Livestock)
  3. Over-wrought discussions of Politics and religion, made worse by the invasion of mainstream news media outlets (Hail and Thunder)
  4. A network outage – surely, that is not impossible? (Darkness)
  5. Google will kill off useful and interesting products as they have in the past– will it be in the service of, or despite the success of, Plus? Google Buzz is already out the door (Death of the First-Born)
A bit over the top? Hey, let me have my fun- and tell me in comments  if I got my list right.