Global advertising behemoth Saatchi & Saatchi is challenging wannabe Don Drapers to sign up to a social media challenge, as part of its annual summer scholarship programme.

Saatchi and Saatchi - social media faceplant?

Graduates interested in working for the firm have been invited to generate as many new Twitter followers and retweets as they can in the next eight weeks. 

Here’s the detail, from the firm’s Facebook summer scholarship group

Create ONE new Twitter page. The objective is to get the highest Twitter rating and social influence as possible before the deadline. 

The top 250 participants will then make it through to the next round. The firm is measuring success on the basis of the number of followers, updates (tweets), retweets and @mentions.

It’s a little arbitrary perhaps, but it’s relevant. Advertisers are now regularly asking agencies to set up new Twitter accounts and Facebook pages to support campaigns. 

Nevertheless, by measuring quantity rather than quality Saatchi & Saatchi might be missing the point of social media, which is really about engaging the right people, rather than simply counting up the numbers. After all, follower numbers on Twitter can be gamed, and I could show any graduate how to win this outright by setting up a few simple autotweet rules (oh wait, actually this is firmly against the rules and may result in disqualification…).

Social media campaigns are often measured on the basis of volume, despite the fact that volume is not the best indicator of reach, much less success. Advertisers need to be better educated on what to look for when measuring the performance of social media campaigns. Saatchi & Saatchi, as one of the world most prestigious ad firms, should be leading the way and helping advertisers to see the light.

So what’s likely to happen? A whole heap of Twitter spam, that’s what. MindShare Director of Emerging Media Ciaran Norris says:

It’s a shame that Saatchi & Saatchi has taken this route. Its heart is obviously in the right place: find people who understand modern communications and know how to use them in the interests of a client (the client here being the applicant).

“But whereas there have been plenty of recent examples of candidates using innovative ways of attracting recruiters, what Saatchis has done is jumped on the nearest passing bandwagon, and probably knocked a load of spam on to Twitter in the process – it’s much like FastCompany’s recent marketing campaign in that it mistakes quantity for quality when it comes to social and influence, rather than really rewarding creativity and connectedness.”

We’ll see how it goes, but one thing’s for sure: the ad agency needs to tidy up its own social media presence, if the Saatchi & Saatchi Facebook group is anything to go by. The group has more than 3,700 members and the admins appear to work at the company, so it looks official. So why is it not being properly moderated? 

The screenshot below shows the Wall, which seems to be the place to go for “fun with Latinas”, or to find out about “Low cost marriage services” and “Naughty women”. 

Saatchi & Saatchi Facebook Wall Fail

Not what you’d expect from a 6,000-strong firm that is challenging graduates to excel at social media. Mind you, it does kinda fit with the firm’s strapline: “The Lovemarks company”. 

[Brilliant faceplant image by felixtsao via Flickr, various rights reserved]