As it’s only Dec. 7, I’m beginning to feel as though Top 10 lists, along with Christmas decorations in the mall, are going up more and more prematurely. How else to explain that this week has seen a bumper crop of Top 10 lists, ranging from the top Twitter hashtags, to Facebook’s top -- well, 20 -- shared stories, to TIME magazine’s list of 54 different Top 10s?
In other words, woe be to the trending topic that hits stride on or about Dec. 10.
But, even if these Top 10 lists really only cover about 11 months, they still provide perspective; and for those in the marketing business, the big takeaway is that, try as we might to be part of the conversation, we are usually only can do so when we borrow interest.
You won’t find anything related to advertising on most of these lists. No Promoted Tweet has made it to top 10 status, not when there are earthquakes and hurricanes, and the death of Steve Jobs, to talk about. Nor will you find that a Facebook Sponsored Story has turned into a viral sensation; certainly not when Amy Chua is tapping into every Western parent’s secret fear that Chinese mothers really are better, or when Ryan Dunn of “Jackass” fame is meeting his maker, by way of, predictably, a car crash.
In fact, even the category where marketing should fare pretty well is surprisingly ad-free. The one commercial to make TIME’s Top 10 Viral Videos list was the Volkswagen Darth Vader spot, “The Force,” created by Deutsch for the Super Bowl way back in January. I’ve never really gotten why that ad proved so popular – it’s a cute idea, yes, but nothing more than a one-off –- but even it relies heavily on borrowed interest. Without the “Star Wars”franchise, and the super-expensive seeding strategy of paying $3 million to air the ad on the Super Bowl, it wouldn’t have ranked so high.
At this point, as an aside, you may wonder why Old Spice Man didn’t make any of the lists I’ve checked out so far. I’ve wondered about that too, and am guessing it’s due to the very nature of what made it, to me, the viral commercial sensation of the year. Rather than being a one-off, Old Spice Man starred in a plethora of more targeted videos, thus blunting the impact of having done just one. Apparently, there’s not yet a top 10 list that takes into account this way of fragmenting media messages.
But back to our theme: marketing just isn’t all that important to the people on the social networks we’re endlessly trying to figure out. That doesn’t mean marketing in social media is a failure. It’s just that for most people, most of the time, what we do is tangential to the conversation. I realize that, to some extent, what I’m saying here is simplistic: Reach like what you used to get on broadcast TV isn’t always the objective of social marketing.
Still, looking at the year’s Top 10 lists is a wake-up call to any company who thinks that its social marketing initiative can be as popular as those twin babies having an animated, word-free, conversation, or Princess Beatrice’s fascinator, which sits high up on the list of top memes. It’s somehow fitting that the only commercial that inspired a Top 10 meme is this one starring Ojai Valley, Calif. taxidermist Chuck Testa, who makes the compelling promise: “I specialize in the most life-like dead animals anywhere. Period.”
You can’t make this stuff up. Or make it go viral. But I know we’ll keep trying, anyway.
(Editor’s Note: The agenda for January’s Social Media Insider Summit, in Key Largo, Fla., is up. Check it out here.)