Siemens PLM Does Not Get Social Media

Yesterday’s post titled “Siemens PLM Offers CAD on the Cloud – Part 1” was part of the best April Fool’s pranks that I have ever been part of. In a post titled “Best April Fool’s Day joke wiped from InterWeb by CAD giant’s complaint” Ralph Grabowski documents the horror story explaining how the prank went sour. Blake Courter, co-founder of SpaceClaim left a comment that started with “That’s terrible” to which I replied:

Yes, this whole thing could and should have ended differently. What I find odd is that CAD vendors talk about social networking and social media and how they are embracing it in different forms. What Mark tried to do was exactly that. He got some of us to blog, others to tweet, irrespective of our affiliations, so that this prank (which is exactly what it is) would look as real as possible. I did my part. Too bad Siemens does not get what social networking and social media is actually all about.

This is something that pisses me off to no end. The moment someone writes something containing the words “social media” in it, just about every PR and marketing person in just about every CAD software company starts to tweet and re-tweet about it. These articles usually have a title like “5 things to you need to know about Social Media” or “10 points to remember about Social Media” and similar sounding crap. Here is one titled “50 Ways Marketers Can use Social Media to Improve Their Marketing“. 50? Wow!! I am pretty sure this one must have been re-tweeted a million times.

The only thing that some of these PR and marketing people get about social media is the word “media”. I get the feeling that they don’t get the “social” part at all. They just cannot seem to figure out that traditional media differs from social media due to that exact word – social. Traditional media is more or less a one way street. Someone writes something and others read it. In social media someone simply starts something and others join in. There is a big difference here. And that is precisely what this whole CADVille prank was all about. Starting something and getting people to talk about it.

The whole point of social media is that the author does not do all the talking. He only starts it and others chip in. That’s the “social” part which some people just don’t get. Social media is not starting a blog and adding marketing crap to it. Social media is putting something out there and then letting others add to the content. You just cannot do that in traditional media. Take this blog for example. A recent article titled “Quick and Accurate Sketching” starting a discussion which resulted in 42 comments. Please click the link in the previous sentence and scroll right down (don’t read if you don’t have the time) just to get a sense of the point that I am trying to make. I believe reader generated content is the best content that a blog can ever have. It not only shows that people are reading what the author is writing, but it also goes to show that the content is interesting enough for readers to contribute back. It’s the readers that make a blog, not the author.

Social media is not creating a Twitter account and then re-tweeting just about every tweet you come across that contains the name of your company or product. Doing things like that is a sure shot way of getting yourself unfollowed and proclaiming to the world that you just don’t get it. Things like Twitter and Facebook are best used in PR and marketing in connecting with other people on a personal level. There is a reason why Twitter and Facebook have a “reply” feature. Because just like blogs they are a two way street.

Coming back the CADVille fiasco, lets see what some other CAD vendors did on April Fool’s day. Scott Sweeney from Kubotek USA posted an article titled “Monkey Trained to Create 3D Designs Using KeyCreator 3D Direct CAD” on the Kubotek blog. Autodesk even issued a press release on a new product called Love Maker 2011. SpaceClaim has actually (sort of) implemented my ridiculous idea of sending a tweet to @CADVilleModeler. The whole point of all this is the “social” part which some just don’t get.

The whole idea behind social media is to get people to talk about you and not for you to talk about yourself. The traditional media is good enough for that. In fact, it specializes in it. Social media is a two way street with much better traffic coming from the other side. If you find whatever it is that you are doing in your social media experiment is generating one way traffic then you are doing something horribly wrong, irrespective of whether you have been following the instructions written by the people writing the “5 or 10 or 50 things about social media” articles that you keep reading, tweeting and re-tweeting about.

The Siemens employee who started the CADVille prank was trying to do exactly that – get people to talk about his company, which is precisely what I and other bloggers did and some others tweeted in order to keep the idea of CADVille floating for as long as possible. And this was not even a marketing exercise. This was a simple and innocent April Fool’s prank, something that the whole world does and enjoys doing. Everything about CADVille was “social” in the purest form. I am badly in need for someone to explain to me why the heavens would fall down on Siemens PLM if they had let the prank run it course. Unless someone wise guy figured that the company would benefit more from all the negative publicity they are are now getting.

If there is anything that this CADVille fiasco shows, it is the fact that Siemens PLM just does not get social media. I took down my post on CADVille to save the Siemens’ employee some heat that he has been getting from his company. This post is going to stay exactly where it is.


Dora Smith from Siemens PLM had to cut short her vacation to do some damage control (see comment). For whatever it’s worth, I have put my CADVille post back online. Here is the link to Mark Burhop’s post.