I had to write about this after Helen twittered it - I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read it. It's a pretty PDF produced by a large digital agency who have noticed that people are blogging and using MySpace, and seem to find this all a bit new.

Whilst the temptation to give it a good fisking was pretty strong, I've managed to restrain myself. But the overall impression I take away is of an aging incumbent slowly realising that it's not the bright new thing any more, and desperately trying to recapture some of its past glory. Some hints:

  1. The idea that it's somehow new or strange that "consumers turn to each other for... conversation". Nope, it's just a generation that grew up with the net using it instinctively as an extension of their analogue lives instead of viewing it as something shiny and separate.
  2. The revelation that only 8% of the population upload content. I thought it was an established rule of thumb (going back decades) that in communities about 10% contribute and 90% consume?
  3. The idea that an agency supposedly at the cutting edge of digital communication took its "first look into who is driving the social media phenomenon" in 2007!
  4. The notion that "buzz around buzz" is new; traditional ad agencies, the drunken uncles of todays digital monoliths, were investigating viral marketing and the like well before the end of the 20th century (a guy who worked with me around 1998/9 went off to Ogilvy to do some of the first viral marketing research for them then). This is nothing new.
  5. Thinking that you need to get in quantitative specialists, digital ethnographers and video production partners to recognise and notice this stuff. No disrespect to the companies involved, I'm sure they did a fine job... but I see no insights in this document (aside from some percentages wafted around without enough explanation of their basis or supporting data) that couldn't have been reached by watching how anyone under the age of 30 behaves online.

The study seems to conclude that people who talk about stuff recommend things; people who talk more are more social; people who contribute to communities spend more time in those communities; and that brands ought to talk to these people.