Social Tool, Tool!


There I was, on the train, on the way into work this morning and I’m listening to a couple of chaps in the next seat talk about plans for a new online marketing strategy…

Yes. That’s right. ON A TRAIN.

So before we even GET to the whole ‘Social’ thing that I’m about to rant about, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the stupidity… or maybe even the complete lack of joined-up thinking that goes hand-in-hand with talking about this kind of stuff on PUBLIC transport…


Done that? Goooooooood.

Anyway – so here they were, these two suits fellas, talking about ‘Social Networking’ and how they ‘really need to get involved’ to make this campaign really work.
Well I say ‘they’ it was more like just the older bloke telling the younger bloke, what he needed to get their new campaign off the ground…
The older chap opens:

“Look, I need you to tell me about what you can do with YouTube?”

“I can upload videos…”

“Yes. I’ve seen that. But what can we do with YouTube?”

“Aside from upload the videos, well…er…”


“We have…er…”

“Listen, we’ve got to hit millions of people! Millions. We won’t do it without YouTube.”

And so the conversation carried on, covering such things like MySpace, Facebook and even Flickr but all the while keeping the same familiar pattern, (I’m actually quite surprised I didn’t hear the classic phrase ‘Right, we need a viral’… I may’ve said something at that point)

Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking. I wrote a post about Mobile Advertising for Mobile Industry Review, (then SMS Text News), a few months back outlining the need for complete alignment when dipping your toe into the mobile ad space.
This one was easy, at least this time round they had some kind of idea as to what they were doing…
These two guys on the 9:53 out of Paddington however? Not a hope.

YouTube, to use the example given, is not something you ‘do’, it’s something you use, (like a tool, see).

The best way for me to illustrate this is with cups.


If your boss turns to you one day and says “I want to do something with YouTube”, what do you say back?

Well look, you’re clearly happy to put anything into the cup as it were; be it lemonade, orange juice, blackcurrant or whatever – But your boss, or whoever’s running the marketing team needs to tell you what that is. The cup is another way of presenting your content. It will speak to different people in different ways. I would not use a cup for anything other than what it is good for… and that is drinking, nay – consuming!

On top of that you also need to ensure that the same blackcurrant you’re using in your cups is being used in the other dispensers that you have at your disposal. I mean, you have other cups right? Right?!
Yeah you do… The banner ads, the traditional print, the skyscrapers, the tv/radio spots etc…
Them. Yeah. They’re cups too.

So when asked, “…like flickr, like YouTube”…etc, they’re just a variation on the cup.

You can help them hold it, you can help others drink from it but what you can’t do is fill it.
Give people some cool stuff inside the cup, don’t just give them the cup.
On it’s own, the cup is nothing.

With planning, time and effort from all parties – the cup can become an integral part of a much larger picnic.

Social Cups, Hugh would be proud.

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Author: James Whatley

Experienced advertising and communications strategist working in brand, games, and entertainment. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x

11 thoughts on “Social Tool, Tool!”

  1. Good post Whatleydude, as you know I work for the Porter Novelli digital team, and just occasionally we get a request along the lines of we need a blog, we need Youtube, or we want to do a viral. The first thing we do is ask why, and then we keep asking until we understand why the the client thinks that they need youtube/blog/viral and then we start the education bit about the difference between a tactic and a strategy and how we need youtube is so not the latter.

    The suits, sorry, fellas will get there eventually, but it will take a while and they will need all our help.

  2. Thanks Kerry, nice one for dropping by.

    Yes – ‘Why?!’ is a great question to KEEP asking.
    I had a conversation with a guy from a recruitment agency a while back, not soon after I’d joined SpinVox actually and he said something along the lines of:

    “Don’t get it mate, didn’t work for us. We set up a MySpace page and it didn’t do anything…”

    What did you expect it to do?!

    Also – was meaning to tweet you earlier actually, I really liked your comment on Chris Brogan’s recent post about ‘This is what I want you to know…’ etc… Echoed some of the recent conversations I’ve been having with Sizemore (you know him?), just how everyone should stop having a go for each other and just get on with it and work together etc…

    But yeah – I agree!
    Nicely put. 🙂

  3. Thanks!

    Sizemore and I follow each on Twitter but haven’t actually met as yet, sure it will happen at some point though.

    And yes, we need to stop whinging about each other and actually be a bit constructive – am majorly into the theory of consequence at the moment, seems to apply very well in this area especially with blogger relations. Actually applies to journalist relations too but bless ’em they just seem to soak up the crap that PR gives them and just vent down the pub, or worst case to your boss.

  4. I like the youtube/cup analogy!
    *thinks* does that make twitter a teaspoon? I can see a whole kitchen full of social networking containers…

  5. Social cups is perfect. Excellent analogy. I will surely steal it, have stolen it. Helps me to remember and not fall into the same trap as the pair on the train. At least you heard a two-way conversation. Much preferred to the one-way (mobile) diatribe on “how this must go viral” as is so prevalent in cities across the states. blah, blah blah. Also love journo slash and burns on social campaigns when they have never created any themselves. more blah, blah, blah.

  6. If I’m honest, I often have conversations like this, just to see if they turn up on blogs.

    WE NEED TO DIVERSIFY, CREATING SYNERGY BETWEEN YOUTU…oh, god – I can’t continue any further. 😉

  7. Great metaphor, here.

    Mind if I use it? We’ve had clients tell us similar things. Always good to hear they might be interested. Problem is, SM is often being considered as a way to save money. Arghh.

    Keep up the great work.


  8. Hey Whatley – great post! Think you really put your finger on the issue and the cups just make it all the more alive. Not sure that that cup picture won’t come into my head next time I’m trying to explain social networking to someone…

  9. @Patrick – Thanks for the great feedback man – You go right ahead and use it anytime! 🙂

    @Gaby – You’re welcome. Cups are the way forward… it all helps, right?

    @Rob – Steal away (but always reference back!) 😉

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