Guest Post - Why is the UK not getting social media ?

Three things got me annoyed yesterday:

1) Not being at Web2expo - i'll get over that, i'm trying to get to Berlin ;-)
2) Preparing for a practical workshop on blogging only to realise that 75% of the time is going to be spent explaining what tags are and rss is rather than discussing how they can be of benefit to a business.
3) Control freaks - people who think that a little bit of knowledge think they know it all (won't go into that one!)

In particular, number two got me thinking that as a country, we are woefully under-educated when it comes to social media. Why are we still having conversations about what these tools are rather than what they can do for you?

I'd like to throw a few thoughts into the hat and see what people like Neville, Stephen, Steve, Becky, Will, Dave, Robin, Hugh, Jas, Stuart and maybe even Chris, Brian, Geoff and Pete have to say:

Is online social interaction (the principle of people/customers meeting online to share things and meet each other) SO far beyond people's grasp they just do not get what happens and what people do?

The idea that without your work hat on, "I don't use the internet like that , so why would my customers?"

Does the rate of change/growth of new social media tools scare IT departments or marketing/pr teams that anything they may decide to adopt may be obsolete in a few months? What about the sheer number of tools they could use? Is it realistic to expect a marketeer to keep track of everything that goes on?


Are we  our own worst enemies? Do we like to talk XML, php, css and other jargon too much that we actually alienate the very people we are hoping to adopt the tools we talk about?


This relates nicely in fact, to point number three. People who have traditionally been in total control of their customers (when their customers didn't know any better) are now petrified that they can't control what their customers are saying. Burying their heads in the sand won't work.

Previous tools such as websites, direct mail, press ads and email were great at telling customers what the brand wanted them to hear but now marketeers have to get their heads around the fact that those same recipients are talking back – just that they are telling other customers not them!

Tone of Voice

After decades of talking AT customers, brands are now having to talk TO customers. How do you talk to people you have spent years ignoring what they say? How should you speak to them? Learning THAT takes either a lot of listening, training or plenty of both.

Social Media Tools are "a phase" of internet growth

Several years ago (early 90's), when working for a large mail order company, the whole business began gearing up for this "internet" thing that was coming.

HR were booking training sessions for people like there was no tomorrow , business-wide email was starting to roll-out and you could sense that people knew something big and important was going to happen. 15 years and 1 billion online users later - they were right.

The impression I get of what many of us might call the proverbial "sea-change" in the internet is that social media and its associated tools are nothing more than evolution rather than revolution.

I'll end with some links to a couple of great posts, (from Suw who is organising the blogger outreach for the Berlin Web2 Expo and the legendary BL Ochman)all around exactly what I am talking about above as well as the Chris's 12 reasons why he thinks the UK isn't blogging or adopting social media tools:

1 - You don't understand why you'd want a business blog. Neither does your CEO.

2 - You are the CEO. And you're not going to allow your minions to blog.

3 - You think it is too risky to allow your colleagues to write blog posts.

4 - Your PR agency thinks blogging is a bad move.

5 - You mentioned something to the techies. It is in their development schedule.

6 - You haven't figured out who will contribute to the blog, or what you will write about.

7 - You can't see any benefits whatsoever. It would be a waste of time.

8 - You don't see any return on investment. It would be a loss leader. We don't do loss leaders.

9 - You have no clue about how to set up a blog.

10 - You think blogging is all hype / a passing fad / for kids.

11 - You are happy to ignore blog activity in the US. The US is a totally different environment for this sort of thing.

12 - You think blogging isn't right for your business.

This is a guest post taken from Paul's Blog  Blending the mix, Paul is a Client Services Manager at Digital Marketing Agency KMP. Part of his role is  to understand how best our clients can embrace social networks and blogging.


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Posted by thoughts on September 19, 2008 at 04:04 AM BST #

Good post! In order, my thoughts: -

For those who have not actually used social media AND found it beneficial (I still don't get Bebo at all) the concept is quite alien, and benefits need to be specifically illustrated.

Thsi is definitely a barrier. Only compelling economic arguments can break that down.

In the last few weeks, two twitter clones with a business bias have appeared - and - and it's been pointed out that an installation of with the twirl client can do the same job. What? It's a full time job to keep up, evaluate, and prioritise, never mind recommend be taken up - and because these innovations are from companis nobody has heard of, nobody wants to bet on unknown quantities. There's no IBM, Novell or Microsoft to let us 'get' social media in a convenient shrink-wrapped box.

Social Media is too full of jargon, and it gets in the way of understanding. And the issue of control is also key - because those who do understand social media within 'digital agencies' tend to talk jargon in order to make sure they get paid to explain and manage it for their customers. When your customer does not know any better, you get away with charging them to look at their watch and telling them the time.

Nobody likes to lose it. And by having to acknolwedge social media's power, you also have to acknolwedge that your power as a brand or a PR department head has gone. People love to live in denial in these situations.

Tone of Voice
Actually, I use the phrase - talking WITH your customers. It's a conversation, not a monologue - and that's tough when you're used to just being the only voice in the room.

Social Media Tools are "a phase" of internet growth
I think this is an important point. Nobody can see a killer application or a key move by a major player - it's a continuous stream rather than a towering tidal wave - and it's not clear where the action really is - because it's dispersed as widely as the low barriers to entry allow. There is a role for a new kind of social media maven to filter and explain these things - they need to focus on clarity and brevity, and there's no easy way for HR to offer training courses, because nobody who's capable of providing knows what's worth packaging - they're all struggling to keep up with what's happening too.

Be interesting to see any feedback on this.

Regards, David

Posted by David Petherick on September 19, 2008 at 05:43 AM BST #


As loathed as I am to take traffic from the Sun blog after Stewart republished my post here, there has been a flurry of activity over on my original post:

Posted by Paul Fabretti on September 19, 2008 at 09:01 AM BST #

I agree its talking with customers, seems that one way dialogue is becoming the norm. Which is really sad.

Posted by Stewart Townsend on September 19, 2008 at 10:55 AM BST #

Damn these big tech companies all to heck for stealing traffic from bloggers, they just don't get social media do they? ;)

Posted by Dave Kinsella on September 19, 2008 at 10:59 AM BST #

Guys, I updated the post after being corrected. The sentiment was WITH customers not TO customers - how embarrassing!

Posted by Paul Fabretti on September 19, 2008 at 12:32 PM BST #

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