Today marks my first international “Social Social” interview. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to talk with Åsk who is a very well known and respected figure in the advertising industry. All the way from Stockholm, I give you Åsk “Dabitch” Wäppling. Pay attention as she takes no prisoners.
Globetrotting viking currently busy bagging seven continents. Åsk stems from a long line of engineers, and is driven by the need to pick things apart to see how they work, and the want of making everything useful pretty too. Her first social media handle was the email email@example.com back in the 90s.
Adland is the worlds oldest ad blog the largest commercial archive in the world.
Insomnia, shallow thinking, and the smartphone as our witness
What was your first experience with social media?
“This may put all my answers in a different light, since I feel that the Internet itself is ‘social media.’ I have a mailing list (a discussion list) that has been going since 1997, with the first members still on it, checking in there daily is like saying hi to everyone at the office in the morning. I began ranting about ads in a proto-blog online in 1996, and before that I was a heavy Usenet user and I spent too much time in IRC chat rooms.”
“When Facebook came along I sneered at it for being a ‘copy’ of SixDegrees, which I found tremendously annoying as it seemed ‘meatspace’ (aka ‘real life’) friends simply had to hook up there, while I always enjoyed finding new friends on the internet, whom I might never meet in meatspace. People whom I connected with over a common interest, a game, a topic, a common sense of humor – and not people whom I knew because random geography put me in their class in grade school. It wasn’t until Twitter showed up that I felt we took a step forward, all those wee scripts geeks were using to mass-SMS groups of friends turned into an app that anyone could use – this meant even my mom would join in. I got my first smartphone two years after I made my personal Twitter account.”
What do you like about social media?
“As an insomniac, I always have someone to talk to. As a perpetually curious person with friends all over the world, I can watch events unfold in realtime as if I was there (but then, I did that back when Princess Diana died too, in a chatroom). The smart phone is our witness everywhere, from seminars to revolutions.”
What do you dislike about social media?
“I dislike the shallow thinking it leads to. There’s a tendency to share sarcastic quips, jokes and surface only. People will only read the headlines of an article, and be done with it.”
“People worry about narcissism, I worry about stalking. People pass on ‘missing children taken by their mother’ alerts on Facebook without thinking, and have revealed battered women’s hiding places. Screen dumps of embarrassing images from Snapchat follow teenagers around until they kill themselves. Every upload of every sunset and dinner and pretty bike at beach that you share from your personal life is becoming a bit of data that reveals your geographical location, preferences and income bracket to the lean mean digital marketing machine. Privacy is something that we will lose if we keep giving it away. I’m very good at dodging cameras at events. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult as now even the local coffee-shop has ten ‘iPhotographers’ being arty. I bet they tag faces in photos, too. Our children’s faces will be automatically tagged, as by that time the worldwide computers will already know them so well.”
What impact do you think social media has had on advertising?
“In a way, it’s leveled the playing field for small businesses and local shops more than the Web already has. People online are actively seeking out their interests, and geographical area on social media. The small Mom & Pop café in ‘LittleTown’ can establish their brand & personality with a few well chosen keystrokes, say by sharing the über-local news about found dogs, cars that left their lights on, and today we have Mom’s Apple Pie free with every lunch. Becoming useful, like Duracell and Budweiser did, to the local clients. Or with a niché business, such as special organically dyed knitting yarn, joining and engaging with all the knitters out there who are collecting into Pinterest groups with yarn inspiration and Web pages with tips. Your local diner used to only have that chalk-board outside, but these days you can reach people who might want to drive for half an hour to get that free pie – it’s given local and niché clients a much larger reach. It is allowing Mom & Pop to battle a little against the Starbucks next door, without having spent the same bucks.”
“There are two kinds of ‘local,’ the geographical and the niché. Both of these types of businesses should be online and in social media.”
“Not all of us will go viral, and most of us don’t need to. But a tip to that café is to write funny things on the chalkboard and hope a photo of that gets shared on Reddit. However, going viral is like fame. It doesn’t equal sales, just like fame doesn’t equal riches.”
What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?
“You might as well strand me on a deserted island for six months. I’ve done most if not all of my work over the wires for many years. I might be able to write a book or paint a massive chapel ceiling, but I’d be very lonely and I assume I’d be talking to my cats more often than I do now. Uh-oh, the cat just gave me shifty eyes. You scared her. Take it back.”
If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?
“Immediate. Chaotic. Intrusive.”
Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?
“Few do, but I think as a general rule of thumb the brands who are ‘being themselves’ (being the brand) in social media, are not the ones who are hiring a comedian to write their tweets. Now, I realize that Oreo is the first social media brand that comes to peoples’ minds, as they have made it their thing to use very topical timely images as comments on the current events. What you’re seeing is the old fashioned poster or print campaign, put on Facebook. Back in the mid 90s, the line ‘Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach’ was used in a topical manner, commenting on current events. With social media, this approach can be far more current, as we don’t need to wait for anything to print. Will it run for 30 years like the Heineken campaign? Probably not, so enjoy it while it lasts.”
“Budweiser is all about being the all-American beer. When Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, Budweiser filled cans with drinking water and took to the streets of New York City with their trucks. They used social media to alert people to where the water truck was.”
“Duracell took trucks to NYC too. They were recharging stations. And their Facebook pages and Twitter account told people where they were so that people could recharge their phones. They were ‘useful’ and they used the immediacy of social media to reach people.”
Red Bull, who are the extreme anything drink, are also the extreme social media brand. They made a scavenger hunt on their Facebook timeline. They had a live jump from the edge of space on their YouTube channel. I can’t even remember the last time I saw Red Bull in traditional media, yet I seem to run into them every day. If there’s a cutting edge sport, they’re there. If there’s a cutting edge social media thing going on, they’ve already planted a flag in it. This is very onbrand.
I want to thank Åsk for taking the time to talk with me about her opinions on, and experience with, social media.
These are also her names on any give social media site, including ones that don’t exist yet.