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Roger Warner, friend of Velocity and all-round PR guru, has flung open the doors to the Museum of Social Media. Before you all start planning an office field trip to see it, it’s actually online – you can visit it here (and no, it doesn’t have a gift shop).

Conceived as a repository for the good, the bad, and the just plain baffling, it charts the meandering and sometimes hiccupping progress of social media marketing.

Take, for example, the bizarre decision to promote Skittles by posting a load of ker-razy videos and ask people to share them. Unlike their previous Twitter-based campaign, this was a campaign that deserved to have a loud raspberry blown at it. So, there it is in a virtual glass case, preserved for posterity.

We decided to interview the esteemed Professor Warner, to see if he had any pearls of wisdom to impart about the development of social media marketing.

Where did you get the idea for the museum? Why did you start gathering the stories together?

It’s a ‘keeping perspective’ thing. What’s going on today is very similar to what happened 10 years ago… Social Media, like the first promise of the Interweb, has become near-mythical. Having lived through round one, I’m keen to keep a scrapbook this time. When I look back, discussions about bricks vs clicks were almost irrelevant. The real winners were the ones who rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in – and we need to remember this right now.

Grand concepts and frameworks didn’t work well (e.g. Boo.com); whilst more randomly organised, iterative services did (eBay, Flickr, etc…). This is very close to my heart. I run a new(ish) Social/Online agency and I’m building a services business around doing pragmatic stuff now. So having a museum means I can put the futurology that bugs me (and also all the great stuff) into a box and keep it close by for future reference. As such, it’s a pet project.

Why do you think even big brands with such a lot of marketing clout get it wrong?

Often they’re taken in by the glamour of it all and get blinded. A common request is ‘I’d like to do a Twitter campaign.’ This is bit mad. Brands have to ask themselves ‘why?’. If they don’t have a very concrete answer then they should have a lie down and/or read up a bit on some history.

In other words, it should never be about the Social Media-ness of it all. My feeling is some brands get so lathered up that they lose context. They just get strung out on the *possibilities* and the *concepts*.

Today, the world needs to understand that just because YouTube lets us upload video, this doesn’t mean a million people want to create mini feature films for brands in exchange for a gong.

Social-for-Social’s-sake campaigns fail because they ignore the basics. And it’s not Social’s fault… it’s more to do with human nature and the way we use things. We *really* need to remember the lessons of the past and to keep reading our little blue book of effective marketing. The psychology of DM still applies. Good old content is even more critical. And Google is still huge, huge, huge.

Social Media changes *how* these things are important… but they certainly don’t go away. Also, a little research never hurt anyone. We should all do more of it before we get excited.

Do you think we’re now entering a more egalitarian age of marketing, where the consumers can get involved?

We ought to be asking: can Social fulfill the promise of a mega conversation with all of the marketplace? Probably not, unless more Twitter-friendly sales people are employed. There’s a fundamental tension that we need to figure out. Generally, marketing is about NOT TALKING TO PEOPLE in the physical sense. Talking is the job of sales. Good marketing reduces the amount spent on sales people and processes. In this context, the promise of Social gets a little messy…

We need to de-focus on the promises, concepts and the channels and start thinking about the core value of it all. Right now, lots of marketing departments see Social as a must-have. Near term this may not be the case – unless they can prove that it helps marketing to do better marketing.

Marketing has changed for good I think. Today, the campaigns and content that work best aren’t Marketing with a capital ‘M.’ They’re conversational pieces, support things, widgets and whatnot. Gone are the days of Ridley Scott TV spot blockbusters. Brands need to be helpful, memorable and available and figure out how their customers are using Facebook, YouTube, Google, etc in this context.

Any particular favourites?

I love Converse’s domination campaign. It’s not particularly Social, but it’s so pragmatic and smart it hurts. I wish we’d done it.

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