Monday, February 07, 2011

The Socialisation of the Internet is Bogus

"The whole web is now socialised..." said Alex Butler in a pharmaphorum interview ("Psoriasis 360: How pharma can do social media").

Alex does NOT mean that socialists have taken over the Internet, although, if you think about it ... hmmm. I digress...

"We live in a post-advertising age where messages no longer resonate without dialogue, and where information is best exchanged through community," said Butler (see "Social media doesn't really exist" and listen to this Pharma Marketing Talk podcast interview of Alex Butler: "Is 'Social Media' a Distinction Without Meaning in Today's World?"). "But although it is tempting to think that contact is now king, in fact high value dynamic content, valued by the consumer, has never been more important...there is little of value on the internet that is not socialised in some form, even if it is just the capacity to comment and share. So how as an industry can we influence the exchange of ideas and information if we are not prepared to be where our audience and communities exist?"

When all is said and done, what Alex is really saying is that commenting, sharing, and all that community stuff really is second fiddle to content. Throughout his comments to pharmaphorum, Alex refers to Facebook, Twitter, etc. as "channels" through which he reaches his audience to deliver valuable content.

Some agencies and consultants are telling their pharma clients that social media is NOT a channel -- it's a different way of interacting with people online. Frankly, I think that is bogus.

First, VERY FEW PEOPLE on the Internet -- and that includes Facebook and Twitter -- are social. I mean VERY FEW are socializing with entities like brands and corporations or even real people from companies, publications, and other corporate entities.

For example, there are about 20,000 individuals that VISIT (and presumably READ) this blog every month. Maybe 12 or so submit comments and perhaps a few dozen tweet (share) the content with their friends online. I suspect the ratios are similar at publications that receive a lot more comments and shares. That is, at least 98% of visitors to blogs, Facebook, or Twitter followers are "lurkers" -- they don't socialize, they read.

Which is just fine with me! I don't have time to socialize with 20,000 visitors to this blog and I'm sure you don't have time for that either! (Which is the #2 reason why the Internet is NOT social. Or is that part of reason #1? Whatever!)


  1. I agree with you John - although some might be a bit surprised.

    I think there's an inherent confusion about the role of "social" on the web.

    What I'd say is on of the biggest is the notion that *brands* need to be social. They can't - brands simply aren't socail.

    Now there are things such as "social objects" and those objects can be taked about and around. But that's pretty much it.

    These media aren't built for marketers to get people to interact with their companies - rather it's to help people interact with each other.

    I'll talk more about this on your upcoming talk.

    Which is very difficult to do.

    Is content king? To some extend - but I'd this;

    Content is King;
    Context is Kingdom
    Process is Power.

    Social is a very tiny part of the process.


  2. I agree phil, I am passionate about the power of social media. When I say it doesn't exist I mean that the web is almost entirely socialised.

    The truth is that without exchanging information through the social web you might as well not bother. If however you think that just turning up to 'engage' people will work you are deluded. Who wants to speak to someone who is vacuous and has nothing to say?

    You are right, content is king, the context has to be in the communities where people already exist and without a robust process this is impossible to achieve.

  3. @Alex

    Yep - I've explained some of this over in "The Weird World of Social Media" - pretty much the same sentiment you raise:

  4. Anonymous2:25 PM

    im trying to follow you on twitter but it can't seem to find you "pharmagay" ... am I doing something wrong>

  5. Ha ha! I will set up that Twitter account right away so you can't use it for yourself!


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