‘Chronicles of a Head of Digital’ – 14

In a week of all sorts on many fronts one main theme has struck me, on a work level at least. And that sparks the age-old question:

Is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery?

To explore, let’s look at two ‘safe for work’ examples.

Case 1:

Instagram introducing Stories… Now I know nothing is really original these days, but still it does seem to be, from my perspective at least, an exact copy of Snapchat stories. I really do find it hard to see the difference. Other than the network it’s on. I’m a fan of both, I mean who doesn’t dig a face swap or having a dog nose and ears whilst displaying the speed they are walking down the street?

In a work sense, it creates a new debate. When I’m suggesting clients take up the Snapchat, there’s still that uphill conversation, as there was a couple of years back with Instagram. Now Instagram is imitating the functionality of Snapchat does this create an easier in for pictorial storytelling for brands? Only time will tell if that pans out and whether or not it survives or becomes another Facebook phail in diversification.

How often does a social channel evolvement and copy actually work? Channels, like people, generally revert to form and that immediacy of mechanic that is so intrinsic of each has thus far only really worked on the native channel.

Flattery? Me thinks not, it seems to be far more a case of desperation in growth and retention tactics… Facebook sees how Snapchat is growing, and taking over the likes of Twitter in actual volumes of users posting and thinks “I’d best have some of that”.

Case 2:

We are now in a post-Gavin era (our old IT Manager), and currently living through our interim solution – of me. You see as I work in digital, I’m basically an IT dude, yeah? It’s always been the way. Back in the ’90s when I started this game, web, as it was called, was split between IT and marketing, and here we are all these years later and it’s still the same. Well TBH, like most of my ilk I suspect, I’m no IT guru.

So with our 3 or 4 day hiatus in official IT support it’s Uncle Dave to the rescue… well I have been boosting my LinkedIn skills at least: IT management, archiving and so forth, but still me imitating an IT Manager? To IT Managers the world over, sincerely I do not want to be doing this and it is not flattery. You guys have a skill set I do not have. Full stack? Yeah, right. As an interim, a Caretaker IT Manager and Infrastructure Director it’s fine for a few days, but hands-on? Me? Really?

New IT is on stream from Wednesday so it is just a caretaker role. But, as it’s the second imitation game of the week, it’s struck a cord.

So is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery?

Well, this week I fear not. Both speak of the wrong reasons to me, if we are talking sincere flattery that is. One is desperation and one is interim measures.

So this time, no, it’s not.

Time will tell if Instagram’s imitation game will work for them or not. No doubt it will hang in there, but following their recent shake up in algorithms and display it seems to be a way of reverting to old, to an extent, in terms of user content grouping. This time allowing the user to be able to self-group their own content. Create a story. Surely a marketeer’s (SP) dream… Or is that just the cynic in me thinking they are aiming for the money of marketing? Will it really work alongside the traditional moment’s ethos?

Simplicity of function wins out for me in channel. Instagram’s USP is the moment as it happens. Twitter’s are currency and projection. Facebook’s are dwell and relationships. Snapchat’s is its sheer irrelevancy. All great for what they are, but never cross the streams as someone wise once told me.

So the blog business message to sign off with? Well, it’s gotta be specialise in what you do well. And use experts or channels for what they do, not what you want them to do.