Angela Natividad is a strategist, copywriter and blogger based in Paris. She writes MarketingProfs’ #SocialSkim, is a frequent guest on the marketing podcast The Beancast, and co-writes the AdVerveBlog.
The rise and fall of Friendster, local is global, and unfocused gurus.
What was your first experience with social media?
“The first experience that really comes to mind, and that I’ll never forget, was starting my first blog. I was in college and the platform was Xanga.com — a project that Biz Stone would readily like to forget! I remember sitting in front of that empty screen, staring at the cursor, with shaking hands. They were actually shaking. I have no idea why. I felt like my life was going to change.”
What do you like about social media?
“That’s such a broad question! I’ve liked watching social media evolve from those early days when platforms were turning over so fast. We used to watch the rise and fall of Friendster, noting what other platforms took from its model, followed by the rise and (arguable) fall of MySpace. We used to debate how long Facebook would exist — none of us could see it lasting past a handful of years — and what new incarnation of model would rise out of its ashes. It didn’t seem like anything could last in a fixed form, but that everything was making a contribution to something bigger and more general.”
“In a way I guess it’s still that way. But what I like about social media, and where we are now, is this: In the early days of print advertising, before the industrial revolution, ads looked a lot like classifieds. And, it didn’t matter because you knew who all these guys were. Maybe Colgate lived down the street from you. But once the industrial revolution happened and people began to spread, brands became less familiar and needed a pitch that worked with the immediacy of a local reputation (but wasn’t). That’s when you started to see really emotive, artistic work, led by artists like Cappiello. Since then, brands have spent generations contriving emotions around products and services that don’t necessarily belong there. Now people are finally in a position to ask, ‘Why should I feel that way? Who are you, really?'”
“Social media serves as checks and balances on those bigger messages that used to fly over our heads and exist like a fact of life. It’s brought us back to the beginning: once again, a local reputation really is everything. Except that sense of ‘local’ is global. We’re now in an era where everything you do risks being judged against an increasingly potent metric of global human values. It’s terrifying but also very moving.”
What do you dislike about social media?
“Unfocused gurus who look good on paper and are always preaching to brands about ‘transparency’ as if it’s a single intuitive thing that they must just ‘get’, otherwise they’re totally clueless. Transparency is very complicated. You’re not the same kind of transparent with your mother that you are with your best friend; you’re a different kind of transparent with a group of acquaintances than you are with a lover. These different faces don’t make people less sincere or real. It’s unfair and insane to ask brands to blow holes through themselves for anyone and everyone, “starting now”. The development of trust is a process of well-timed revelations, a respect for your own timing and for the other person’s. Creating the right conditions for this takes time, education, a scary kind of risk-taking and trust, and of course some hand-holding. Any guy who tells you otherwise — to rip open your shirt and let the crowd take you — should be confined to a dark box for six years.”
What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?
“I don’t know; I feel like I compulsively exist there now in a way that’s just as real as my actual existence. The nice thing about living in Western Europe, though, is that it’s not as all-in about social as Americans are. There’s still a big emphasis on face-to-face time and actually sitting down with somebody and bearing not having your phone in front of you for four hours. I feel like my time here has made me less dependent on compulsive responses to tiny, meaningless red alerts. I guess the most worrying thing about disconnecting from social for six months is how normal and fine it would start to feel. Returning to it would be the real challenge; so much changes online, and so quickly. It would be like trying to scale a mountain.”
“A friend from high school did something a little silly shortly after we all graduated and consequently spent the next four years in jail. When we heard he was getting out, I remember feeling terrified for him. It was like ‘Oh no, the world has changed! Facebook happened! HOW WILL HE SURVIVE?!’ But you know, now that guy is out living his life, building his Facebook page just like everybody else. Maybe that learning curve isn’t so scary; you may not know the whole history of social, but you know about what’s left that remains relevant.”
If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?
“I’m not that imaginative. Gossipmongers on horseback?”
Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?
Oreo utterly dominating Twitter, the Super Bowl and anything real-time. Advertising Age
IKEA’s powerful use of Facebook mechanics — and anything it does, really. Viral Blog
Monsters University’s Tumblr page, launched in secret by a “student.” Pixar Times
Intel/Toshiba finding a potent and really lovely way to incorporate UGC — which can often be so clumsy and diluting — into a story that managed to be universally potent. FastCoCreate
A lot of this was knowing how to use creative constraints effectively; it makes all the difference. To illustrate the point I have to toss a client in here (sorry), but I really admire what they do: social TV agency Darewin is young and limber and tries to see how current memes or trends fit into the lives of TV show watchers. For the launch of Walking Dead in France they did the Twitter-based zombie attack; for Real Housewives they did show recaps using only GIFs. It isn’t always stuff that gets attention but that passion for the social space, and those little tics and exploitable obsessions that just trigger a wave of people, make the difference between something that gets hosed out there (then consequently lost) and something that people clutch onto tight and must compulsively share—their contribution to the life of whatever this was that, in one second, told their neurons this matters, it’s precious.
That’s what we work for, right?
I want to thank Angela for taking the time to talk with me about her opinions on, and experience with, social media.
You can find Angela on Twitter at: @luckthelady
You can find Angela on Facebook at: angela.natividad