Have you heard the one about the chatty English book shop and the unspontaneous French cheese maker?
One has 50,000 followers on Twitter and from their smartphone give a slightly idiosyncratic view from Waterstones in Oxford Street, London. It shows how trusting staff can work.
The other President Cheese has 153 followers and employs a company with a team of 13 in a Star Trek-style ‘war room’ that takes up to 43 days to draw-up a tweet in a highly planned campaign.
But for me nothing I’ve come across better illustrates how being human on social media runs rings around the scripted, over agonised and contrived.
Here are a few quick examples:
Don’t be confused. It is a Bank Holiday tomorrow. You can still be awake. There is no work. BOOKS. There is still time. Read BOOKS.
— WaterstonesOxfordSt (@WstonesOxfordSt) May 4, 2014
Who is going to go first? pic.twitter.com/DhYH6yKhfo
— Herdwick Shepherd (@herdyshepherd1) May 25, 2014
— Dave Brookes (@BaggieDab) May 17, 2014
This right here is the culture clash that I come across talking to the traditional comms person who doesn’t want to let go of the reigns, agonises over and wants to measure everything.
I’m not against scheduling some content. Honest, I’m not. The 3am tweet from the NHS to reach the person suffering from stress and unable to sleep is inspired.
I’m not even against measuring things. What people did as the result of some digital content is far more interesting than the size of the audience.
I quite like the 80-20 split that many good social profiles have. The 80 per cent conversation and the 20 per cent things you’d like people to know. The pics of bees posted along with a rescued bat in Walsall Council countryside ranger Morgan Bowers’ work to build an audience. The occasional update about basket weaving gets people along to her sessions.
But the professionalising of conversation just leaves me feeling uneasy and reminds me of a conversation I had with Birmingham blogger Pete Ashton who did much to build the social landscape in the West Midlands. He said he deliberately moved away from the ‘professional social media’ because he hated what it was becoming in the wrong hands.
If you need to outsource your conversation and take 45 days over 140 characters then, Holy Cheddar, you are struggling.
Acknowledgements: Simon Whitehouse who flagged up the original 45-day case study and Chris Ellis for spotting that the cheese account has 153 followers.