I started this blog around the same time that I was compiling two years’ worth of readings, research, and interviews into what would be my graduate thesis.
There’s a basic rule to be a successful grad student. Write…a lot. So I started this as exercise. I got three posts deep before the demands of working on Gethuman.com and my thesis assured me that my weekly writing output would need no assistance from a blog.
But the most important change is that I’ve left the academy and have fully joined the “working world”. Well, at least I’m trying. I’ve been on a two month, non-freelance job hunt that is about as uplifting as using Taxi Driver as white noise to fall asleep to.
It’s an exciting and frustrating time to be seeking work in the media fields.
After undergrad I started working at a PR firm. I’d spent four years studying the economics, culture and psychology around media consumption. I was also from a generation that grew up with platforms like Napster and Facebook and thought about these systems often. When I left college I really thought that these networks were going to reshape how organizations functioned. But when it came to the firms weekly de-10 no one was interested in having any real conversation about integrated brand communication (at least no one in Rhode Island).
I was convinced I had deluded myself into thinking organizations actually cared about how people used things like Facebook, or World of Warcraft . It seemed the only logical place to pursue my passions was back in academia.
Of course the great irony was that I no sooner became a student that the masses caught the social media bug. That puts me in an interesting place. In 2002* I had written a paper on user-generated marketplaces in (now defunct) There.com, but as far as most interviewers and HR people see it I’ve been “on the side line” for a while.
I don’t regret this. Grad school allowed me to develop some concrete thoughts about an immaterial world.
One of these insights – There is a tremendous amount of collective corporate anxiety around social media, technology, and all of these gadgets that flash, buzz and tweet at us all day. On a few interviews organizations seemed disappointed I could offer no one stop solution. Clearly they were hunting for the “magic bullet” or some authority on how to operate in this field. If your one of those people, well..uhmm.. I don’t think you get it.
Advertising/marketing has never had a “cure-all”. Even more important, on the societal level I think we’re beyond the point of having authority figures. Anyone and everyone with an internet connection can gather information, edit and publish it with a few clicks-turning themselves into a temporary “experts”. That’s not a judgment call, just a stated fact. The pieces are the same (people) it’s just the technology is different.
The last time I was at an agency this stuff was being called “new media”, with a little too much emphasis on the “new”. I understand why it was used, but that concept was simple. Social media is just as much caught up in the micro/macro flows of history as everything else. Especially since the most intrinsic aspect of it, sociability of people, is so predictably irrational.
Agencies that employee successful social media work will be no different than the success stories of the past. They’ll be the agencies that pay attention to culture. Their internal culture and the culture that surrounds the brands they help represent. They will be the agencies that help retain relationships between brands and consumers, all the while helping to authenticate the narrative consumers tell themselves.
That might sound like gobbledegook, but I’m hoping to use this space to explain exactly what I mean and get back in the habit of writing… a lot
* In no way am I suggesting that in 2002 this idea was ahead of it’s time. But when I told people about it there was certainly a lot of “your doing what? Why?” responses