A couple of weeks ago I wrote about The Children’s Place PR bump in the road when the company was lambasted for its Best Subject T-shirts, reinforcing the stereotype that girls were not interested in math.
In that post I highlighted the backlash by TCP’s supporters against the company buckling to their vocal social media detractors, and wondered if the masses had reached a tipping point of exasperation with the primarily anonymous mob of social media vigilantes out there policing brands for their ‘bad behavior.’
If you read this series, you know the drill:
- – Brand makes a mistake
- – Social critics light up the brand’s Facebook & Twitter pages
- a) Brand blows the handling of crisis and it gains steam, or
- b) Brand apologizes, possibly changing policy
- – Mob finds a new victim
Frankly, it becomes exhausting, especially when the ‘uproar’ is often about something a brand had no control over; a rogue employee or a simple mistake. The level of anger directed at some of these ‘social media fiasco’s’ can be mind boggling when compared to issues going on in the real world.
The Issues That Should Matter on Social Media
On Wednesday, we published Hessie Jones’ outstanding post on social media Cyberbullying, and the networks seemingly complete abdication of any responsibility to the targets of the bullies.
The post was widely shared and the comment section is full of intelligent and necessary discussion about the very serious issues covered. Many of us have witnessed, or know first hand, a victim of cyber bullying; it has become so widespread that it has touched most of us involved in social networks.
Cut to Friday morning when one of the most talked about topics on Facebook was the ‘tragedy’ swirling around Ben Affleck being chosen as the next Batman.
That’s right – the streams of conversation were focused on the choice of the next Batman when anywhere from 130 to thousands of people are dying from chemical weapons unleashed by Syria on its own citizens.
The juxtaposition of the two topics, and the lack of attention focused on the latter by the vast majority of social users, exposes what appears to be the great failure of the social networks – platforms that rose in prominence because they gave everyday Joes & Janes a megaphone that had never existed and access to information from around the globe, are being used for pathetically meaningless discussions about Hollywood and the fluff that has come to dominate our field of vision.
When Brands Join in on the Inanity
There have been endless posts written about brands that cleverly capitalize on of-the-moment events; Oreo is STILL garnering praise for it’s handling of the Super Bowl blackout.
There is, however, a stark difference between being clever and being asinine.
This week the car company Lexus joined in the Affleck bashing , with the company tweeting
It appears that the ill advised tweet has been taken down, but one wonders: was spontaneity so important that the company would alienate Ben Affleck, his fans and the producers of the film?
What did the Community Manager at Lexus think the brand would gain by piling on Affleck along with the social mob?
Or perhaps, the questions I have should be self directed: why would I expect anything different based on what the Social Networks have become?
One Steady Stream of Entertainment, Gossip, and Anger
Social Media provides a tremendous amount of information, possibility and opportunity.
Having spent my early years on a small farm in a very rural part of Northeastern Pennsylvania, I know what true and utter isolation is. As a child I thirsted for knowledge and experiences that were far beyond my reach; in the 70’s and 80’s when I was growing up, the television and the library were the only opportunities to discover life outside of my small, cocooned world.
As soon as I graduated from high school I got on a plane and spent years exploring places I had dreamed of as a child. First the web, and then Social Media, extended this ability to explore and learn and meet people from the other ends of the earth; like millions of others, I became a heavy social media user fairly quickly.
Professionally, as I assisted businesses market and grow their business, the power of social media to ‘get the word out’ and communicate directly with customers was trans-formative, and of course, still is.
But there is a phenomena that is souring many social users on its withering potential. On Friday night and over the past few days, I have seen many of the marketing pros I admire lamenting the focus of so many social media’s users on irrelevant, petty topics.
In addition to the cyber-bullying concerns Hessie Jones so poignantly outlined, Facebook and Twitter can appear much more Maury Povich than educational and uplifting communities.
The steady stream of celebrity news trending on Twitter and dominating Instagram are clear examples of what social media users are focused on in droves.
Social Media as a News and Communication Vehicle
Of course, the ‘real news’ is there if you look for it; one of the ‘gifts’ of social media is that information is readily available from a myriad of sources, including foreign voices with varying viewpoints.
For anyone with an interest in what is happening to the citizens of Syria or Iraq, or any other place in the world, there are many excellent blogs and online news publications available with a simple search.
In the UK, The Guardian has done a superb job of reporting on important issues of the day, from breaking the Snowden/NSA stories, to diligently covering crimes against humanity occurring in Syria.
And there are countless businesses of all sizes that do not engage in the immature and trifling banter Lexus chose to participate in.
There are many companies that understand social media’s real benefits, and realize they are not derived from one viral moment of clever or shocking statements, but in the ability to communicate with and better understand the needs of customers and prospects.
Too often, those companies fly under our radar as we choose to focus instead on the latest ‘makeover’ or legal troubles of some star or athlete, or the mindless pic posted by an immature employee.
Social Media is What We Make of It
I realize that this post may come across as preachy and self righteous; the truth is that none of us are forced to join in on the current, meaningless trending topics in Social Media.
None of us have to read or engage in meaningless or pathetic discussions that lower our level of self respect.
There are pockets of intelligence and meaningful discussion of the important issues of our day, and thought provoking forums for professional development. There are ‘communities’ that rise above the garbage streaming through social media if we choose to seek them out.
So forgive me my soap box; this Sunday morning I just couldn’t get riled up about Ben Affleck, or Batman, or the latest fast food employee pulling a prank and inflaming the social mob.
Today I wanted to think about how we can take the power of social media and make the world a little bit less inane.