Social media consultants used to talk about the difference between “broadcasting” and “listening”. You don’t hear that so much any more. One of the reasons Twitter isn’t the fun it used to be is the reversion to broadcast across so many profiles. (Combined with the rise of trolling – which makes Twitter like a party full of bores and bullies. And who wants that?)
One reason brands broadcast is because they can’t actually “listen”. Not in the true sense of the word. You can have all the monitoring systems you want, all the data gathering, all the analytics, but you can still completely miss the point.
Like puzzled parents trying to chime in with their kids’ conversations, or the proverbial dad on the dancefloor, many brands may need to face up to the harsh reality that they can never really be cool. At least, not that cool. Not achingly hip, blink and it’s over, cool.
The whole project looks like a great metaphor for organisations doing “social” badly: by externally “rebranding” Africa, L’Uomo Vogue manages to demean a whole continent while also continuing to assert a kind of outdated colonialism in proposing its own ill-informed solutions to complex issues such as Nigerian economic inequality (build a Rodeo Drive, apparently) and devoting full-page spreads to people like Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s oil minister, widely considered to be one of Africa’s most corrupt politicians.
The “Rebranding Africa” issue of L’Uomo Vogue has not surprisingly upset a whole load of people. The irony is that the editors can’t see what all the fuss is about: they are “listening”, right? They are “paying attention”, surely? They are even “engaging” (see the response of Franca Sozzani, Vogue Italia’s editor-in-chief, to a blog comment, below).