I’ve a confession to make. As I’m confident my Mom is one of the more regular readers of this blog (so says Google Analytics) rest assured it has nothing to do with the real story behind missing goldfish or dogs with singed tails. Nothing quite so profound I’m afraid.

Here goes…I DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER

Yes, friends and family, I Hilton Robert Barbour do not know. I’m not sure. I certainly don’t have the answer at my fingertips and, I’m quite confident, I won’t necessarily be able to get it out on the big bad interwebual device via my old friends Google and Bing.

For those readers who know me, this is likely to cause concern about my mental well-being, the percentage of alcohol in my bloodstream or how close I was to the industrial strength glue applied to the garden shed. Fret not. Step away from your mobile. I am still me. The difference now, is that the “new” me can say, with increasing confidence, I don’t know.

 What brought about this acceptance of ignorance? Quite simply, a delightful article by Hadji Williams in AdAge this week. Entitled “Gurus Should Spend Less time Talking, More Time Listening”, Hadji makes the wonderful point that our industry is drowning in supposed experts, awash in a sea of podcasts, e-books, webcasts – all thankfully at a price lower than $20 a pop – and industry conferences where the presentation titles all look remarkably the same. “Twitter to build your small business”, “Cracking Social Media for the Entrepreneur” “Get Social, Get Business: 5 Tips to Boost Your Bottomline”. Okay so I made those titles up, but I’m sure 5 minutes on Google and you’ll find something remarkably similar pop up in your search.

Here’s the reality, social media is evolving and changing at a speed unlike anything we’ve seen in the industry before. There have some fantastic successes but again, because no-one seems quite sure how to accurately measure the true bottom-line impact on a business (unless you’re Dell Outlet) claiming to have “cracked” social media is a little bit of a leap. Sure, you read hundreds of “case studies” talking about the speed with which people became fans, the number of entrants via Facebook, MySpace or Beebo or the number of retweets from your article (nudge, nudge). But real, bona-fide business impact?

Anyway those goalposts are moving every day. I can remember when this Canadian campaign for Halo was seen as the dogs bollocks, then it was this Heineken masterpiece from our soccer mad cousins in Italy, or a recent favourite of mine, this Chilean gem which takes engagement and participation to a whole new level. It is also somewhat ironic to me that one of the earliest pioneers in this space Nine Inch Nails singer Trent Reznor decided over a year ago that social media was the domain of idiots and bailed out. I suppose we should be thankful Aston Kutchner was waiting in the wings.

My point?

Simply that pontificating from your agency/consultancy/basement that you have the answers, have cracked the code, read the tea leaves and KNOW where this is all going is total BS. You don’t. No-one does.

Sure we all have opinions, conjecture and gut but that is not the same as knowing. Knowing has authority and, ideally, a track record of success. A history to back up the conviction in your slide deck. A series of case studies that show real, quantifiable, bona-fide business results that make CEO’s and CFO’s sit up, not just the good folks in Marketing.

So, when asked I will firmly declare that “I do not know” Because that is the truth. I don’t but I do promise that I will keep my ear to the ground. I will listen actively (remember that old chestnut?). I will read voraciously and, likely edit or discard those articles, in equal measure. I will form opinions and points-of-view – and probably throw those away just as quickly as I formulated them. But I will not pretend to KNOW what happens next.

Do you know what I mean?

Talk to me people.

Tags: ,