Techcrunch recently did an interesting story on Press Releases - suggesting 10 words that should be banned from them. The point was that every vendor seems to think they are a "leader" or "Leading provider" and that their products or services are "innovative" and/or "revolutionary"; etc., etc.
I think that is what is making Social Media so important. Real people using real words.
When I look at book reviews at Amazon, I usually jump to what the real people are saying and skip over the "book reviews" section. I love that you can actually rate the ratings.
When I get a press release from a telecom firm - about their "next generation" product or service - It takes a while to get a good feel for exactly what they are talking about. Before I even read it, I know it is "next generation" and basically the cure to all evils. Because of all this puffery - it takes way too much time and patience to just get a grip on what the heck the product/service does.
More and more, I find myself relying on sites like this one to cut through the crap. Just tell me what it does, why it is different and let's move on. A great example is the Avaya Aura Suite. This product was announced at Voicecon MCO. Try this this release and separate out what it does from all of its benefits (also great for a short game of Telecom Bingo).
Anyyay, the point: Press releases won't change. That role is well understood and ingrained. But I beleive the role of the web, interactive online commentators, is very different than that of the prior printed media. I submit that paper vs. online is not just the medium, its the message. New media is real.
Tell me I am wrong.
When it comes to social media, I believe the best way to describe its output is, "you get what you pay for".
Don’t get me wrong, like you, I am sick and tired of manufacturers making blatantly false claims, let alone spewing endless gobs of puffery. And worse yet are the self proclaimed analysts/experts whose only strategy seems to be go along to get along -- not that I blame them. After all, when you depend on the people you critique to earn a living, how harsh can you really afford to be? So it would seem, as you pointed out, that the only people you can turn to for the truth are actual end-users. The question then becomes, are you actually getting truthful opinions?
I personally question the motives and self-proclaimed expertise of many LinkedIns, Tweeters, and Facebook-ians. For example, someone on LinkedIn floated a survey asking if businesses really still use fax as a method of communication. The respondents overwhelmingly said no, which puzzled me greatly. After all, anyone that knows anything about the business processes of larger companies or who deals with companies in Latin America or on the Pacific Rim knows that the most mission critical processes continue to rely on faxing for the interchange of paper-based documents, in most cases because of its legal nature. So I began looking at the profiles of the respondents and found that most were small-time consultants that typically dealt solely with SMB’s -- that is if they actually had clients at all. So in this case, social media failed wildly to produce the truth.
The fact is that thanks to the plethora of social media outlets, any nut-job can render an opinion (look I'm doing it now). Since you only need a PC and an internet connection to start blogging or tweeting, this begs the question, how do you vet these people? Take the case of George Sodini, the guy in LA who for years blogged about going into his health club and blowing a bunch of women away. And the Columbine kids left a digital trail a mile long leading up to their killing spree. So if these nutters didn’t have a problem "socializing their psychoses", how can you trust anyone on these sites?
Also, keep in mind that most social media websites do not demand proof of identity, allowing you can assume any identity you wish. As such, when you read a harsh review of a product, how can you be sure that the author doesn’t have an ulterior motive? Maybe they work for a competitor? Maybe they were just fired from that company? Perhaps they had an incompetent reseller botch their install (I’ve heard plenty of those stories), yet they rail against the manufacturer anyway. Maybe they are malicious 12 year-old kids with nothing better to do then mess with "old dudes". The problem is that in most cases, you just don’t know. It is undeniable that within the general population there exist certain people who should not be let within 10 miles of a soapbox (to stand on). Unfortunately, thanks to social media, there is no way to stop them.
Now here is the punch line; despite all of my cynicism towards social media, like you, I will still lend more credibility to a reviewer that paid for a product than to a manufacturer’s marketing claims or an analyst that gets paid by the manufacturer to say nice things about them and their offerings. So I guess I am not, as you asked, telling you you’re wrong. I am just saying that you might have found the least of all evils.
Dave: As a "leading" analyst focusing on "next generation" technologies, I would have to agree with you (please note the tongue in cheek comment).
While social media/networking sites are great for getting advice and opinions, as Dan pointed out, you don't always know who's behind the comments made on these sites. I tend to trust sites like TripAdvisor, but you never know when a competitor from a hotel across the street is submitting a negative comment, or if the owner's son is writing a glorious review.
This is why UCStrategies is initiating the idea of private forums - where everyone who participates would have to include their real name and company email address (not a personal address or a yahoo, gmail domain) - so they can't hide behind a phony name and hide their identity. Sounds like there's a real need for this sort of thing - so let's get working on it.
I just got this email - I have no idea what these guys do. I am so sick of this stuff... (I removed company name with COMPANYX to protect the guilty).
This was a cold email designed to get me interested in their company - what do you do?
David, COMPANYX is looking for resellers and solution providers who are looking for greater revenue and wish to differentiate themselves by enhancing their solution portfolio with a pervasive customer promise; to further increase their customer’s productivity and decrease their customer's operational costs.
Our program structure is designed to build strong partnerships through incentives and rewards for companies who invest time and effort in the sale and promotion of our products.
All of our North American partners can expect:
Am I really supposed to research this company just to figure out what they even do?
Do reputable companies actually look for partners this way? I would have concerns about both the company and the partners they attract. Have you ever signed up with a company through non-personal solicitation? Maybe that's why some channel partners are having problems these days.
Believe it or not Blaire, they do. I get the same types of e-mails almost daily. And is seems like no matter how many times you opt out, they just keep coming. The problem with e-mail marketing, just like any other social media campaign, is that it is free. As such, executives like Dave who get 100+ e-mails directly related to his company/position get just as many of these goofy e-mails as well. And although I have not data to back it up, I would bet that a 1 in 1,000 response rate to an e-mail campaign such as this is considered a great result! But again, remember the cost of doing such a blast. And don't think for one second that a corporate spam filter will rid you of these either.
What I would like to see is a survey of executives asking just how much time they waste foraging through junk e-mails just to get to those in need of attention. My own experience finds me wasting somewhere between 30 to 45 minutes a day on junk e-mail. And if other folks have the same experience, just think of the cumulative man-hours wasted each year and its effect of that on the overall economy. Unfortunately, it took congress forever to pass junk fax laws, and they proved to be relatively toothless. So my question is, how on earth are they going to pass effective junk e-mail, twitter, etc. laws that will actually be enforceable?
I hate to be a doomsayer, but I think we are all in for a long, painful experience when it comes to dealing with free, electronic communications.