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Wednesday wraparound: the perils of prejudice, and the limits of social media

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1961 was, as all Bordeaux lovers know, one of those “vintages of the century” when nearly all the chateaux produced rich, ageworthy wines. However, one chateau, La Lagune, a Third Growth of the Médoc that has had a stellar reputation, apparently didn’t fare so well among critics. Eddie Penning-Rowsell, in The Wines of Bordeaux, wrote that the winery “probably over-sugared the [1961] wine, as it has struck me as excessively sweet.” Michael Broadbent, in The Great Vintage Wine Book, chose not to review it in depth at all, and merely listed it, along with several dozen others, as not tasted recently. Oz Clarke, in his New Encyclopedia of French Wines, wrote that “the experts say that 1961 wasn’t a success at La Lagune,” although he himself, tasting it decades later, liked it enough to buy 8-1/2 cases.

Then there was Harry Waugh who, in his 1970 diary, Pick of the Bunch, referred to his visit to Chateau Bouscaut, in the Graves, where the proprietor opened a 1962 La Lagune. “With my recollection of the, shall I say, ‘curious’ 1961 vintage of that Chateau, I was reluctant to try it,” Harry wrote, delicately; he must have reviewed it in one of his diaries I do not own, but it cannot have been a good review. Most likely, if we are to believe Penning-Rowsell, if the wine indeed had been over-chaptalised, Harry, who liked his Bordeaux classically dry, would not have cared for it.

Harry did, however, drink that ’62 La Lagune and found it “both charming and delicious…”. He concluded: I “had to eat my words…The prejudices one can form are really frightening!”

It is those “prejudices” I wish to write about today. Harry had formed a prejudice against La Lagune that rose up in his mind as soon as he saw the bottle of 1962. Fortunately, Harry was a fair enough taster that he was able to overcome that prejudice and appreciate the beauty of the ’62. But can we say that of all professional tasters? Indeed, “frightening” is not too strong a word to describe the attitudes of some of them, whose condemnation of certain wines, based on their presuppositions, is all the more pernicious due to their influence.

* * *

Good friend Adam Japko, from Digital Sherpa, sent me this link to an article on CEOs using social media “to drive business results.” Adam is, of course, very high on social media and a passionate explicator of it. The article profiles 5 CEOs who use social media a lot; it goes on to explain in each case how that use “helps drive business results.”

I suspect Adam sent me the link because he (like some others who know me) thinks I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to social media and ROI. Notice I said “ROI” rather than “driving business results,” because I think the two are vastly different. We all understand what ROI means because it’s about money and can be measured. Unfortunately the article doesn’t define the meaning of “driving business results,” so we really have no way of knowing if, say, Doug Conant’s 24,000 Twitter followers are having any impact on Avon’s bottom line: are his tweets selling more cosmetics, jewelry, watches? Maybe yes, maybe no; it’s hard for me, at any rate, to make that leap. The article suggests, logically, that Conant’s commitment to social media “is passed on to executives and all [Avon] employees” by dint of his leadership position, but again, just how that translates into increased sales isn’t entirely clear. If we actually knew what “driving business results” meant, we might, however, be able to come to a definitive conclusion!

As I’ve said before, I too encourage all professionals to use social media, as often as feels comfortable. It can’t hurt; it can only help. I myself use it all the time. And my new employer, Jackson Family Wines, is a firm believer in social media; in fact, part of my job is to write for their blogs. I suppose they feel that, given the success I’ve made of steveheimoff.com, I know a thing or two! (And so do they. Remember “A Really Goode Job“? That made social media history.)

If, as Fortune Magazine reports, “70% of Fortune 500 CEOs aren’t using social media,” that’s pretty shocking to me: they should be. But you have to ask yourself why they’re not; after all, these are not stupid men and women. It may be that these CEOs have determined that all the commotion about social media is overblown. On the other hand, they may actually be missing the bus—so overwhelmed by their own sense of genius that they think social media is a ridiculous hobby for only the “little people” who have too much time on their hands. Or—a third possibility—maybe they feel they can just hire employees to do the social media thing, and they don’t have to do it themselves.

It would be nice to have a time machine and see how all this shakes out by, say, 2025. In all my life, I’ve never seen a societal trend whose future, with all its consequences, is as hard to predict, as that of social media. Sometimes when I fantasize about it, all I can think of is humans getting hard-wired with computer chips in our brains, connected all the time to the Matrix.

MatrixMan

  1. I can’t imagine anyone would argue with your premise re prejudice, but I am curious why you aren’t more specific? Is it wrong to call out critics who are dogmatic? More trouble than it is worth?

  2. Sherman says:

    I would imagine that the CEOs who are not using social media are old farts like me ;) and thus not on board with Tweety Book and Facey Pages. And, as you have suggested, they most likely hire others to perform that function for them, as they have been convinced that *somebody* in the company should be doing the social media function.

    However, most CEOs are also bottom-line oriented folks and they still haven’t seen the hard numbers to justify the time and expense of social media as a tool to move product, i.e., ROI. They will toss some small change at social media but most haven’t been convinced that it’s on a par with traditional means of reaching their customer base.

    Perhaps this will change as us old fossils die off and move out of the business — only time will tell, eh?

  3. Bob Henry says:

    Steve,

    This “reply” is going to be long. I mean really l-o-n-g.

    With your indulgence . . .

    ~~ Bob

    “MIT Sloan B-School: Can You Measure the ROI of Your Social Media Marketing?”

    Link: http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/can-you-measure-the-roi-of-your-social-media-marketing/

    (Case study: “Harvard Business Review: Increasing the ROI of Social Media Marketing”

    Link: http://hbr.org/product/increasing-the-roi-of-social-media-marketing/an/SMR431-PDF-ENG)

    “Harvard Business Review: Social Media — What Most Companies Don’t Know”

    Link: http://hbr.org/web/slideshows/social-media-what-most-companies-dont-know/4-slide

    (Here is the link to the full social media study from Harvard Business Review: http://www.sas.com/resources/whitepaper/wp_23348.pdf )

    An excerpt from a summary “Why Social Media ROI Can’t Be Measured” [Link: http://marketingland.com/why-social-media-roi-cant-be-measured-and-why-thats-ok-25279 of this The Atlantic article titled “Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong”:

    There are still things we know we don’t know, and things we don’t even know we’re missing in terms of social media measurement.

    For proof, look no further than The Atlantic, which shook the social media realm recently with its expose of “dark social” – the idea that the channels we fret over measuring like Facebook and Twitter represent only a small fraction of the social activity that’s really going on.

    The article shares evidence that reveals that the vast majority of sharing is still done through channels like email and IM that are nearly impossible to measure (and thus, dark).

    An excerpt from The Atlantic article itself:

    [Link: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/print/2012/10/dark-social-we-have-the-whole-history-of-the-web-wrong/263523/ ]

    On the first day I saw it, this is how big of an impact dark social was having on The Atlantic.

    [MISSING: pie chart graph. See online article for reproduction. — Bob]

    Just look at that graph. On the one hand, you have all the social networks that you know. They’re about 43.5 percent of our social traffic.

    On the other, you have this previously unmeasured darknet that’s delivering 56.5 percent of people to individual stories.

    This is not a niche phenomenon! It’s more than 2.5X Facebook’s impact on the site.

    Day after day, this continues to be true . . . dark social is nearly always our top referral source.

    The majority of the interpersonal communication and “sharing” is via e-mail and Instant Messaging . . . outside of the sphere of influence of Facebook or MySpace or Twitter or LinkedIn.

    Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” Section
    (January 31, 2013, Page B8):

    “Which Social Media Work?”

    [Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323926104578273683427129660.html

    By Emily Maltby and Shiva Ovide
    Staff Reporters

    Six out of 10 small-business owners say they believe social-media tools are valuable to their company’s growth — but most aren’t impressed by Twitter Inc.

    Just 3% of 835 business owners surveyed earlier this month by The Wall Street Journal and Vistage International said Twitter had the most potential to help their companies.

    Professional-networking service LinkedIn Corp. topped the survey, with 41% of respondents singling it out as potentially beneficial to their company. Sixteen percent picked YouTube, the video service owned by Google Inc., and 14% chose social network Facebook Inc.

    The findings illustrate the challenges facing Twitter in demonstrating to small-business owners the benefits of using the short-messaging service to reach customers. Twitter says it is just beginning to court small businesses, which make up the bulk of U.S. companies, and are an important revenue source for many tech giants, including Google.

    . . .

    Write to Emily Maltby at emily.maltby@wsj.com and Shira Ovide at shira.ovide@wsj.com

    Accompanying exhibits:

    Attracting Small Firms:
    Social-media companies have free and paid tools for small-businesses. Here’s a snapshot of what’s available.

    TWITTER: For about the past year, Twitter has hand-picked thousands of smaller businesses to test paid Twitter messages. The advertisements charge businesses to circulate their tweets more prominently to Twitter users, or to recommend Twitter users with compatible interests follow the small business. Companies pay Twitter only when people click on an ad message. Costs vary, but may run a few dollars each time a business adds a new “follower” as a result of an ad.

    FACEBOOK: The social network said in December that it has more than 13 million small businesses logging into their firm’s Facebook page at least once a month. Facebook has a simplified online tool for small businesses to buy ads. On Wednesday, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said the number of local business pages that advertised on Facebook nearly doubled from the beginning of 2012.

    LINKEDIN: Since 2008, the professional network has let small-and-medium-sized businesses create free company pages. LinkedIn said about 2.6 million organizations have an active LinkedIn profile, though the company doesn’t disclose how many of these are large corporations or small businesses. LinkedIn also has a staffer working with an online group of small business owners who swap tips for using LinkedIn.

    Link to this interactive exhibit:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323926104578273683427129660.html#project%3DVISTAGE_2_CHARTS12%26articleTabs%3Dinteractive

    BOB’S NON-RHETORICAL QUESTION: And how much time each month do professionals spend on LinkedIn?

    Would you believe . . . about 15 minutes (or 30 seconds per day) on average?

    Read on . . .

    Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” Section
    (December 29, 2009, Page Unknown):

    “LinkedIn Wants Users to Connect More”

    [Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704905704574622191027266548.html

    By Scott Morrson
    Staff Reporter

    If LinkedIn Corp. wants to avoid being swamped by social-networking giant Facebook Inc., it will have to convince users . . . to log in more often they do now.

    . . .

    It is up to LinkedIn’s chief executive, Jeff Weiner, to give people . . . reasons to spend more time on LinkedIn, which is mostly used by professionals to post their resumes and by corporate recruiters looking for talent.

    Mr. Weiner, 39, a former senior executive at Yahoo Inc., took over LinkedIn a year ago with a mandate to reinvigorate the six-year-old business. While LinkedIn’s membership has continued to surge, reaching 53.6 million at the end of November from 31.5 million a year ago, it has been dwarfed by Facebook, which has surpassed 350 million members.

    More importantly, the amount of time people devote to LinkedIn is a fraction of the time people spend on some other social sites. Visitors spent about 13 MINUTES ON AVERAGE AT LINKEDIN during October, while Facebook users logged about 213 minutes and MySpace users spent 87 minutes, according to research firm comScore, which measured the behavior of global users 15 years and older.

    [CAPITALIZATION used for emphasis. ~~ Bob]

    LinkedIn is “not really a community as much as a collection” of names, said Brigantine Advisors analyst Colin Gillis. “They are definitely in danger of losing the business-networking market.”

    . . .

    ONE YEAR LATER, AN UPDATE . . .

    Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal “Money & Investing” Section
    (November 30, 2011, Page C16):

    “The $100 Billion Question That Looms for Facebook Fans”

    [Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204262304577068750841177844.html#printMode

    By Rolfe Winkler
    “Heard on the Street” Column

    . . .

    According to comScore, 92 million unique visitors hit LinkedIn’s site world-wide in October and spent AN AVERAGE OF 15 MINUTES [PER MONTH] on the site. Facebook had 790 million unique visitors who spent more than six hours [per month] on the social network. Google had more visitors, about 1.1 billion, but they spent less than four hours [per month] on its site.

    [CAPITALIZATION used for emphasis. ~~ Bob]

    . . .

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