The real problem with social media awards is when they are not awarded socially.
I've got a problem with the Austin American Statesman's Social Media Awards. Aside from my gripes with NSFW-tweeter @omarg being one of the judges, I have some ideas of why this "award" has never caught on. WHY, even when scheduled in the middle of SXSW interactive, the "awards" received an anemic 126 nominees this year. I think there is a fatal flaw in their awarding process. Are you listening? AAS, Are you social?
What started with such promise five years ago, has now withered into a window dressing, "yes, we cover social media" effort by Austin's major print and interactive media company. What's the rub?
1. The awards are not social at all.
2. The criteria is not provided up front.
3. The judges decide.
Again, let's go back five years to the first annual, I think they were calling it the Texas Social Media Awards back then. Ah yes, a glorious time.
If I got it correctly, the idea was to have non-Statesman citizens submit nominees for the award. And then the community would weigh in with goods, bads, wins, and fails of these nominees. It was pretty risky. That first year, a number of nominees were hammered for their lack of transparency, their gaminess, their BS factor. It was a real wild-west shoot'em up, social media style. And it was fun.
And in social media "award" fashion, people solicited comments and praise from their colleagues and friends. And the race was on to see who was "the best" at doing what we do.
Problem: The winner was simply PICKED by the judges and NOT the community. The social media award was "awarded" based on subjective opinion and personal agendas rather than the voting of the community at large. And to be fair, Michelle Greer won that year, and she was a great "choice." But the process was hardly social, and the methods and criteria more hearsay and committee-speak than social.
She was a PICK by the editors and staff of the Austin American Statesman. And things have continued now for FIVE LONG YEARS. And this year, from 126 nominees, in a city FULL OF SOCIAL MEDIA AGENCIES, on the eve of the largest social media conference in the world… 126 nominees? SRSLY? There are 126 social media agencies in downtown Austin. [I apologize for my repetition, that stat stuns me. But I think this post explains why.]
Let's take a look at all 5 WINNERS and see if we learn anything about the PICKS of Mr. Gallaga, Ms. Broyles, (2009 – 2013) and the other members of the JUDGING COMMITTEE.
2009: Michelle Greer – community manager at Infochimps (125 nominees)
2010: Josh Williams founder of Gowalla that was quickly bought and buried by FB (150 nominees)
2011: @wholefoods (tweeter: Michael Bepko, the social media specialist for Whole Foods) (# of nominees not announced)
2012: Austin Grand Prix // Kerri and Kevin Olsen // (the F1 news and promotion site) (more than 200 nominees)
2013: Texas Parks and Wildlife (126 nominees)
Well, they have done an interesting switch, as they said they would, from a person-focused award to a business-focused award. With the winner this week, they don't even have to name a person. It's a team!
And let's look back at the statements of what the awards represented both at the time of nomination and once the judges had decided.
Friend and fellow social worker in Austin, Aaron Strout had this to say about being selected as a finalist back at the dawn of the awards. "“Wow!” is all I have to say. I started in a pool of 125 REALLY smart, clever, funny people that put a lot of blood sweat and tears into their work and I’ve now gone to “Hollywood” and moved on to the final group of 25 award winners." (ref: Citizen Marketer 2.1)
In 2010 here was the winner's post statement about the awards: "The second annual awards ceremony on March 14 will recognize their work in a world that begins with, but is not limited to, online tools such as Facebook and Twitter." (ref: AAS 2010)
And in 2011 it's organizations that are "winning" the award: ""What's different this year is that organizations are winning, said American-Statesman social media editor Robert Quigley. "Organizations are becoming adopters." (ref: AAS 2011)
And somehow, this year, the committee-mind has moved the focus completely off individuals and onto businesses: "One of the biggest trends this year, judges said, was the businesses and agencies stepping up the social media game. While individuals still made the list, it was the businesses that were leading and innovating in their use of social media." (ref: AAS 2012) REALLY? And the people behind those efforts? The Linchpin as it were, of social media within those organizations?
Here is Mr. Gallaga telling why business is the new social force, ""It used to be that it was more individuals that were making an impact, and now we're seeing more companies and nonprofits and independent groups and startups making a difference and really standing out," Gallaga said." (ref: AAS 2012) Again my question, who is the PERSON behind these successes?
One phrase they keep repeating in each AWARD WINNERS post is, "the landscape has changed drastically." (ref: AAS 2011)
The real problem is, the JUDGING HAS NOT CHANGED.
Let's see the entire list of WINNERS this year. Congratulations to all the winners. But, do you see any problems here?
- @365Bastrop (following 177/ followers 141)
- @drafthouse (following 435/ followers 37142)
- @AustinRecovery (following 492/ followers 439)
- @thecraftblog (following 770 / followers 2368)
- @FridayFanstand (following 1147/followers 6467)
- @JacquelinesLife (following 1688 / followers 4022)
- @jennifersinski (following 1326 / followers 1857)
- @SafePlace_ATX (following 747 / followers 2784 )
- @TPWDparks (following 1392/ followers 7091)
- @tslac (following 314 /followers 690)
Dear Austin American Statesman, Please make your Social Media Awards more real, more transparent, and more relevant. Let the SOCIAL MEDIA COMMUNITY DECIDE, not YOUR team (Omar Gallaga, and Addie Broyles, et. al.) no matter how qualified you think your staff is. A simple switch to VOTING by the people for the people would probably unlock what you so desperately want to be a HIT.
My comments are always open.
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