On myth-busting, not getting it wrong, why facts matter, and more
Since the earliest days of the Internet, Douglas Rushkoff has distinguished himself as one of the most insightful critics of society and technology in the new millennium. His latest book, Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, looks at how both companies and individuals can thrive in these forever switched-on times.
We caught up with the always outspoken and engaging Rushkoff---who’s frequently hired to consult both agencies and brands---at the recent PivotCon conference, where he was the grand finale. In the following Q&A, he tells us why the Internet is biased toward facts, not myths; how brands can actually make social media work; and why:
Yahoo! Advertising Blog: You were the grand finale at the PivotCon conference, and yet you’re often critical of the advertising industry. What’s your take on marketing in the digital age?
Douglas Rushkoff: The majority of advertisers are just learning some vocabulary words they can say at a meeting and hope to retain a client who sees that they’re not getting the results they’re being promised. And what people are calling social media---and what I used to just call “the Internet”---is still little understood, and has mystery and activity and big numbers with millions of people, so it holds up the promise for creative and sexy deliverables.
Facebook and Twitter are restoring some of the basic functionality of the early ’90s Internet, so now people are going, “Wow, people can share things in a peer-to-peer way, and there must be a way for highly branded, centralized corporations to exploit that, right?” But the trick is that it’s really hard, because if this is a peer-to-peer technology revolution, then it necessarily reduces our dependence on highly centralized brands for meaning and supply.
YAB: What don’t marketers “get” about social media?
DR: Trying to get millennials to tweet about brand myths to drive customer loyalty is like trying to resurrect the techniques of 1950s television advertising onto the Internet. And the fact that they’re calling it social is even funnier to me.
YAB: Because the Internet has always been social…
DR: Right, it was originally about people having discussions. But a lot of people were introduced to the ’net via the World Wide Web interface and through sites like Amazon and eBay, concluding that the Internet is a place to buy stuff. Then when the dot-com bubble burst, all these things came up that were more “Internety,” like blogs and chats and Facebook.
YAB: What’s your take on Facebook?
DR: I understand there’s a great desire for people to connect online, I just don’t know if the way to do it is through a giant, centralized technology run by a company whose sole purpose is to figure out how to monetize relationships.
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