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I read with great interest that the 2010 National Stationery Show has succumbed and, indeed, embraced social networking to promote interest in the National Stationery Show scheduled for May 16 through the 19th at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC.  According to Patti Stracher, the NSS Manager.  ”Social media sites are becoming increasingly important for impromptu business discussion, in a world that has become accustomed to instant feedback and news.  Websites such as Twitter, Facebook and others are helping us to communicate quickly and concisely in a way that works for busy professionals on the go.”

Last year, as an April Fools joke, I published a Blog article suggesting that the National Stationery Show would be digital by 2012.   The latest announcement by Ms. Stracher suggests that there was, perhaps more truth than humor in my “prediction.”    While one naturally assumes that “social networking” makes great sense to promote the National Stationery Show, I always ask:  “Who benefits?”   For instance, would you use the Kindle to market the National Book Show or Skype to promote a long-distance calling plan?    While I have no regrets in using every available marketing tool (particularly if they are free) to market my business, Ms. Stracher and other organizers should think carefully how these promotional tools will be used.   As far as I am concerned, empowering social networkers to promote the National Stationery Show is akin to giving the keys to the Jedi spaceship to Darth Vader.

Twitter is a social network based on the simple concept that friends and followers are actually interested in what you are doing.   I realize that any sane person could care less what I am doing.  Furthermore, I firmly resolve not to encroach on your privacy even if you are inclined to be a contestant on a reality TV show.   In other words, “Thank you for not sharing.”   I don’t mean to go Andy Rooney on you, but if you are genuinely interested in what I am doing 24/7 you probably have a pretty sad life.

While Twitter may have started out as a social phenomena for people desperately trying to “connect” or “follow” someone with lives less shallow than their own, its “social” function has been taken over by big business and media manipulators.   Like most of my fellow stationers who attend the National Stationery Show, I don’t plan on texting.    While I do carry a cell phone, it is not text enabled and, to be honest, I have found little to call about, let alone text at the National Stationery Show.  If stationers are not texting or tweeting, who is?    This brings us back to the central questions:  “Who benefits?”

Texting and tweeting is big business.  Professionals and paid free-lancers will be busy using the NSS social and their own platform to promote their brands, websites and anything else which attracts “eyeballs” or visitors to their booth (assuming they are even registered as an exhibitor).  In fact, I am quite confident that as I write this blog,  paid mercenaries are busily crafting scores of 140 character tweets in anticipation of the event to promote their own brand.   It works something like this: 

  • BrandX Company plans to launch a new line of wedding invitations called “Cloud 9″ at the May show
  • BrandX  Company’s marketing department contracts Indian and Philippine copywriters to write thousands of 140 character “text” messages promoting “Cloud 9″, “wedding invitations” or “BrandX wedding invitations” within the context of the NSS show product launch (at $1 to $2 an hour,  you can generate a lot of messages cheaply and you don’t even have to spell too well)
  • Many thousands of messages have been created around the product launch (coordinated with article and PR releases) that will then be timed to be released around the time of the show
  • The artificial “buzz” is self-generated by BrandX and will quickly be picked up the search engines and those who track key words (i.e. wedding invitations) on the social networks.

The end result of this manipulated social  “marketing campaign” is that consumer has been played.    I realize that there is an old adage that says “Let the buyer beware.”  Nevertheless, for NSS organizers to blindly jump on the social bandwagon without evaluating the consequences is, in my opinion, most disheartening.  The organizers at the National Stationery Show must should ask themselves:  ”Does social networking  lead to a stronger industry, better craftsmanship and a more-informed consumer?”  I think not.

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

Tags: Facebook, National Stationery Show, nss, NSS 2010, Patti Stracher, twitter

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