That Driver Ran Over My Turtle!… and Other (amusing) Social Media Insights

Acclaimed filmmaker, author and marketing guru Herschell Gordon Lewis is a contributing writer for the DMA2012 blog. Here, he offers up his take on some of today’s most absurd social media truths. Blunt and downright hilarious, we’re sure you’ll be nodding along as you read through. Join Herschell at DMA2012 for his Pre-Conference workshop, Fast and Furious Creative, on Saturday, 10/13 and Sunday, 10/14!

They ran over my turtle!

       Two words that can end friendships, raise blood pressures, and generate more self-proclaimed experts than even politics:

Social media.

        Let your memory wander back to those antediluvian days – 2005 will do – when the word “social” actually meant social? Those were gentler, happier times. General Motors, whose Lazarus-like return from the dead wasn’t even on any economist’s Wild Guess List, hadn’t set off a firestorm by defriending Facebook.

            Tweet? Well, old-timers still knew these lyrics: “When my Sugar walks down the street / All the little birdies go tweet, tweet, tweet.” And oh, yes, we had the cartoons in which the bird Tweetie Pie tormented Sylvester Pussycat.

            Oops. We’re not just years beyond but light-years beyond, and to keep pace “When my Sugar” has to be “When my Splenda.” Sylvester Pussycat has a contemporary incarnation as Friendster Pinterest.

            Who qualifies for the corporate position SRM – Social Relationship Manager? Might it be a wedding planner? A Turkish diplomat? The nephew of the company’s CEO? A transplanted Professor of Psychology?

            That some marketers have (or are considering) such a semi-executive appointment may be at variance with the basic purpose of direct response: The purpose of a direct response message is to convince the recipient of the message to perform a predetermined positive act as the direct result of exposure to that message.

            Social media are two-edged swords. (Note, before reading on – “media” is plural; the singular is “medium.”) They’re gate-openers, and any number of gum-chewing louts use them to attack the marketers who have posted even the most innocuous messages. Conventional media, even emails, don’t lift the toilet seat lid as social media do.

The problem is implicit in the word “social.” Misuse results in puzzled agony, paralleling the complaint, “That driver ran over my turtle.”

            Those of us who tread confidently through the response-aware trenches of direct marketing chuckled at a totally obvious report in The Wall Street Journal, which repeated a point we all knew: Facebook’s ad revenue, only big-time investors were told, wasn’t keeping pace with its growth on platforms such as mobile phones, which appear to be less ad-friendly than computers.

            Well, yes. That’s about as surprising as three other bits of news: 1) the sun rises in the east, not the southwest; 2) parts are hard to get for a 1947 DeSoto sedan; 3) Millard Fillmore isn’t running for president this year.

            We long since should be past the point of temporary blindness caused by the glitz and glamor that underlies the cult of “That which is different equals that which is good.” If the cult had validity we all would be drinking Hadacol and driving deLoreans. (Oops – I once had a deLorean.)

            What should matter to the professional direct marketer is that concept we should regard as a truism, stated a few paragraphs back: The purpose of a direct response message is to convince the recipient of the message to perform a predetermined positive act as the direct result of exposure to that message.

            If you were unaware of that truism – and it’s unlikely you’d be reading this if you were unaware – copying it and pasting it above your keyboard can add assurance that your marketing messages have at least enough octane to keep the response-meter operational.

            I’ll add one more notion to further infuriate social aficionados who have added these comments to their “Burn in hell” list:

            Facebook marketers, why should I “like” you? As a shareholder (yes, I picked up fifty shares at the opening price so I could complain legitimately), I don’t like you. As an open-minded potential customer for everything from toothpastes to theme parks, I’d like you if you gave me something of value in exchange for my response, even if that response didn’t include a buy-order.

            Get it? Loyalty programs were bribery programs long before social media appeared. But what matters is the dollars-out versus dollars-in ratio. Social now has been around long enough for all practitioners to acknowledge that a cost factor exists, both from a personnel standpoint and from a quid-pro-quo standpoint.

            A logical test exercise is to assume your organization has $100,000 to spend on a marketing experiment. Where might you place those dollars to maximize a) response and b) lifetime value? No cheating, now, based on your own fascination with the way your thumbs can misspell almost any legend on your mobile device.

            Aaargh. It’s a jungle out there. Webinars and seminars and emails and whatevers fly in almost daily, telling us how this medium or another medium is the Marketing Kingdom of Heaven.

            Raise your right hand. Don’t repeat after me, repeat with me: The purpose of a direct response message is to convince the recipient of the message to perform a predetermined positive act as the direct result of exposure to that message.

            Terrific. Meet you at the bank.

— Herschell Gordon Lewis



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