UPDATE 9/3/08: Added an interview with Chris Brogan, so we can hear the other side of this debate.
UPDATE 8/28/08: Clearly, this post about @amandachapel hit a nerve. My blog traffic is insane today. If we can get the level of rigor about Social Media to match the level of passion about Social Media there’s real hope. For people who are scandalized by @amandachapel, I’ll offer this piece of advice from Mae West: “Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.”
Twitter is a gathering place for a lot of interesting people.
Among the most interesting is an acid-tongued critic of Social Media evangelists who goes by the pen name @amandachapel. The photo here certainly isn’t “her”. And if you believe this bio (“I am 5′ 4″ tall, athletic, Pantene shoulder-length black hair, perfect perky boobs.”) I have a fantastic bridge I’d like to sell you.
But, then something happened. The questions got tougher and more pointed. Many were very basic and jugular. The replies got angrier, but — even from some obviously smart people — they didn’t get more substantive.
I’ve come around to the POV that @amandachapel is exactly the sort of “DE-vangelist” that marketers should listen to closely before investing time and effort in a social media program.
In fact, the venom @amanda is spewing may be exactly the tonic Social Media needs if it hopes to grow.
For the record, I’m curious about SM and think it may have some smart applications. I’m not against Social Media. I’m against doing it (or anything else) blindly, just because it’s “hot”.
Below is an exclusive email interview given by @amandachapel with iCPG. So, let’s get to it.
@tjcnyc: You’re one of the few voices on Twitter that actively questions the value of social media programs. What made you decide to do this?
@amandachapel: I am motivated by outrage! The movement is 99% hype, and bad hype at that!
Regrettably, social media was/is about wildly questionable empowerment first. It gave/gives any knucklehead with a computer and web access an instant global stage and the ability to flood business communications with bogus opinion and faux credentials.
In the face of that wave, a few of us (from Strumpette.com) gave voice to reason. Variously, some of us continue to repeat some pretty basic questions: What am I using the tool for? How much does it cost? What do I expect in return? What are the risks and potential downsides? Is it ethical and aligned with the greater good of my marketplace long term?
Bottom line: I think we’ve been successful. We’ve made a difference. Even the movement is now scrambling for real business cases and rationale.
@tjcnyc: How would you define Social Media?
@amandachapel: Social media is the widely-celebrated fad that has elevated idle chitchat to quasi religion. It is the abandonment of commonsense business that was once ruled by presentation and meritocracy. It is a stage for a cult of amateurs empowered to act out Lord of the Flies. It is the great Cluetrain wreck.
@tjcnyc: Some people find your comments very combative and personal in nature. Are you actually angry, or is this Amanda Chapel persona something you have adopted for entertainment value?
@amandachapel: Couple things: I am absolutely aggressive and competitive. So is business. I play hard. I play to win. With regard to being personal, I do heckle now and again. It’s strategic. It takes opponents out of their game. I admit that also makes the game kinda fun.
That said, most importantly, I go after issues. It just so happens that underneath those issues, especially in social media, there is always a huckster whistling on his/her way to the bank. At Strumpette.com, we considered that collateral damage.
@tjcnyc: You seem to have put some fairly well-known Social media people squarely in your crosshairs. Who do you tend to target, and why?
@amandachapel: I target the “A-Listers.” To a person they are evangelists each with an agenda. Not coincidentally, the faux gospel they preach is also the snake oil they sell.
@tjcnyc: What value, if any, do you assign to social media? Is there anyone who’s doing it well today?
@amandachapel: Value is mostly TBD. Funny, a number of evangelists have now bastardized ROI to be Return on Interaction. Subsequently, I coined ROP, i.e. Return on Prayer. That’s far more accurate.
With that in mind, let’s put this all in perspective. The technology is inevitable. Sure some could argue that there have been technologies that humans ultimately decided they couldn’t manage. I think we will learn to harness social media.
But the only way to do that is to first understand the model and how it behaves. It’s not a 2-dimensional channel. It’s not a hyper telephone. It is a platform that essentially hyperlinks “like minds” to form instant virtual churches. Its power is based on the human attraction to codependency. Its byproducts include the safety and luxury of favoritism, as well as the abject human thrill of being able to freely express bigotry.
Fundamentally, these groups behave predictably: they like to trespass; they like to circumvent authoritative decision making; they also like to circumvent the idea of a meritocracy.
What’s troubling is that contradicts what our system is based on. Having just witnessed the French Revolution, the authors of our Constitution were terrified of this very kind of populism and tyranny of the mass.
So… the question is: does a company or organization have a role in that system and if so where?
@tjcnyc: If you had a marketer friend who was actively considering a Social Media program, what are the five things you’d warn them about?
- Beware of social media cancers. Know that by participating in social media you invariably expose yourself to and empower the virulent haters of your company or organization;
- Beware of the demagogues. People and competitors are just waiting for you to make a move for them to leverage;
- Beware of the SEC. Talk to an expert in SEC law to understand the long-term implications of “open communications;”
- Beware of market pressure to relinquish control of your brand. Once it’s gone, you ain’t getting it back;
- Beware of hucksters. I’d warn them about ROP (see above). You can and should predetermine precisely your expected real Return on Investment.
@tjcnyc: What’s the story with the panty-flash Twitter icon?
@amandachapel: It’s the leftover artwork from an ad we were going to do for a line of merchandise, Strumpette Couture. In the context of Twitter, it is a subtle protest to “Naked Conversations.” We thought it demonstrated the power and importance of “seduction”.
I’m hoping this will spark some good conversation. What’s your opinion?
If you’re a social media true believer, can you offer data that explains your passion? I’m hungry for more than anecdotal stories, and for programs that influenced millions rather than hundreds of people.
If you’re a social media non-believer, do you think @amandachapel’s “politics of outrage” approach works?
All comments are welcome. After all, this IS social media 🙂