Forget porn. Try a kiss. And go for it.

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We live in a world of extremes. Bigger is better, faster is greater, more is needed and extremes pay off. Filmmaker Lars Von Trier pushed Charlotte Gainsbourg and some other actresses over the limits of porn-acting in his recent movie Aphrodisiac. Push red to add drama won international awards for over the top (inter) action.

Fashion models are starved, paint brushed, photo shopped and altered. Rap singers become gold chain swinging Lamborghini driving caricatures of themselves.

In an endless quest to please, lips are blown up with silicon, wrinkles ironed out with Botox, fat gets hovered out, breasts molded into gravity defying shapes. The poor youngsters that get confronted with internet porn (I’ve been told that can occasionally happen ;-)) get nervous seeing how double muscled supersized males with the stamina of a steam train go on for the better part of 120 minutes.  Not good for the self-image.

That’s why I was so taken aback by the instant internet hit of amateur filmmaker Tatia Pilieva. She captured, in crude black and white, a magic moment: the first kiss between two human beings.  It’s heartwarming to see how total strangers, adult and assertive people turn into hesitating youngsters in the blink of an eye. The nerve wrecking tension, the nervous laughter, and the I-do-not-know-what-to-do-with my hands: it’s all there.

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The tension is so tender, so spontaneous, it’s almost erotic.

And then: the cold shower: all this is a set-up, a sophisticated lie. Most of the participants are actors or models in a clever try to boost the clothing sales for Wren Studio.

But the magic happened. Tons of students, housewives, journalists, bloggers, even the Playboy bunnies have posted their own versions of the first kiss. A multitude of first kisses are kept for eternity. Watching them will put countless tender smiles on lots of faces.

There might be hope, after all ;-).

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Entirely made of stock and clichés… nice one.

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Social Media : ROI or RIP, yes, but by measuring what?

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The question still pops up: what is the ROI of Social Media? It gives me slight nausea, tingling toes and a mighty nagging headache. Because the question is so wrong. What is the ROI of the internet? Of TV? Of electricity? Of reading a book? Meeting someone at a network event?  Gary Vaynerchuk  puts it even more direct and in context: – What is the ROI of your mother?

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Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not believe in the New Age full Zen attitude of some die-hard social media ninja’s that murmur esoteric kabala citations and mellow truths à la it’s about the value of relationships: we all agree that is way too vague.

The question is wrong – The question should be: How will Social Media contribute my brand in achieving X. And X does not have to be sales by default and definition. It can be sales –absolutely- , but also shift of perception, education, creating conversation, gathering consumer input and insights, delivering costumer service, offering correct information within context, a call to action, shift of tone of voice, etc etc …

The starting point is wrong – Doing Social Media, and then start to wonder what the ROI will be, is a path to certain disaster.  The starting point should be linked to the direct DNA and core of your business, and to your business strategy: What is it you want to achieve: Sell more? Educate? Shift perception? Build alliances to influence? Interact with a fan base? If your social media endeavors do not mirror or contribute to your business strategy, there is no point in measuring your ROI: there will be none.  

The set-up is wrong – If you talk about social media, and social media teams, you are on the verge of an abyss of failure… social media should never stand by itself, nor be operated by an isolated team. It should be part of an overall business, marketing, communications and connections strategy. If Social Media is not woven throughout your marketing and communications organization, it is doomed to fail. Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder) wrote an excellent book on Social Media ROI where he sketches the importance of weaving your social media strategy within the larger organizational and business strategy.

The expectations are wrong – Often, expectations are that within weeks thousands of fans will deliver the miracle that will save the quarterly results. Because, social goes viral, for free, and will double the business, no?. *deep sigh* Social Media is an interactive way of communicating that builds its return on investment in the middle to long run.  It’s not a miracle medicine to satisfy your shareholders.

The metrics are wrong – If you try to shift perception, measuring reach and eyeballs will simply not do the trick. However, in the media industry, the standard set up of measurement highlights GRP’s, touch points, eyeballs, and connection points.  To measure the ROI, we will have to walk the dog back by the tail, and provide measurement that measures what we intended to achieve: Did we change the perception? Did we sell more? Are people using or sharing our content? Does our engagement index go up? Did we move people to our event? One-size-fits-all data sets will simply fall short of measuring.

Social media is still great – But to give it full credit, it will require more work in defining exactly what we want it to do… and where it fits in our business strategy, and to accept that it is – by default- meant to be interactive.  

Fast Company phrases it nicely: “If you get bored with Social Media, it’s because you are trying to get more value than you create”.

Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” was a big failure.

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Remember Oreo’s brilliant Dunk in the Dark Super Bowl viral tweet? Generally acclaimed as one of the most brilliant examples of real time marketing done right, and good for a gazillion retweets, mentions, award entries and global praise, it was still a big failure. Bonin Bough, Oreo’s VP of global media and consumer engagement, is not tender when he makes the testament of the Dunk in the Dark: “I see it as the failing of social marketing. We’ve been had by the limits of singular channel trapping.”

Bough does not believe in a specific social strategy (and not in any social roles) in the future, as the existing silos between on- and offline need to be broken down, and social, real time and interactive marketing need to be thought throughout the complete ecosystem. “Can you imagine if we would have been so clever to connect that tweet and Facebook update with the complete broader media ecosystem? That the moment the dark happened we would have been ready to capitalize that across the complete online universe, the new digital out of home, and on television? Fencing it on twitter and Facebook was a huge failure.

Bough has the data to back it up: “When we analyze our marketing mix models, we see the effectiveness of the message double when we run social content in conjunction with TV. Twice the effectiveness. Count your beans! Imagine if you could make 90% of your media money work twice as hard simply by looking at the evidence, and being clever. You need to measure how the channels are working together, and forget about the old way of working. ” Bough claims that the more integrated organizational changes (integrating mobile) he introduced after the Oreo tweet now deliver  more than 10% of overall  sales in the US.

Hybrid content centered media ecosystems. I would buy that.

Bruce Sterling: “the future is cities full of old people who are scared of the sky”

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Trying to fly back from SxSWi to Brussels proved very difficult, as some creepy snowstorm over the Midwest obliged us to stay in (sunny) Austin for an extra day.  As I picked up my bags, laptop, and some bone tired colleagues and went back to the car rental, I looked up and wondered how some silly clouds could ground me, a modern connected man.

And then, it struck me: Bruce Sterling was so right during his closing remarks to the SXSW Interactive festival . Sterling, a notorious science fiction writer, futurologist, and visionary in residence at the Pasadena University, predicted the world of the future yet again in a simple and concise sentence: “it will be old people in big cities afraid of the sky”.

This simple sentence combines three major human shaking trends in one sad statement.  We all know our population is aging, rapidly, and the speed at which we are able to live longer is still increasing. Populations get older, in a world that is still built for the young and quick. Secondly, people flee rural communities, resulting in a clear tendency of people flocking into high dense urban environments.  This tendency is even truer for the older generation that uses a part of their savings to live in a town, where services and amenities for the elderly are better and a broader cultural offer is at hand. Thirdly, global warming is triggering bizarre and catastrophic weather events planet wide. While countries as the USA, France and the UK can assimilate such catastrophes at a rate of one or two every decade, the pace is quickening. The impact on our ability to continue civilization as it is will be mindboggling unless we are able to reverse these effects quickly, and prepare in earnest for the cataclysm of angry skies, foaming waves and hellish wind.

Earlier, Sterling pointed out two clear communications channels into scared and hesitating audiences to me: “you can try to explain what is happening. Or you can take away their fear. “

Bruce is a smart man…