Saturday, May 2, 2009

May 09 - Play nicely

The special digital issue of this magazine a few months back would have introduced several marketers to the power of blogs and other forms social media.

In fact during the week the magazine came out I received several new followers on my Twitter feed. Many of them contacted me directly to say that my column covering Twitter had tempted them to dip a toe in the water. Which was nice!

Based on the interactions online that I have since had with these people, I’d say that they’re slowly starting to realise just how useful (and fun) Twitter can be.

Hopefully they will continue to feel that way, because I have noticed a change in the social media vibe of late and I have to say I don’t like it.

If anything, you could say that there is a definite anti-social element to social media. Which shouldn’t really come as a surprise to be honest, as there will always be some element of dissent in any gathering of people.

What I’m talking about though, is more like grandstanding than dissent. A small group of perfectly ordinary people who take on the personality traits of the schoolyard bully when they go online.

At the heart of this anti-social behaviour lies, I think, nothing more than ego. These are ordinary people who started a blog, built up an audience, then proclaimed themselves as oracles and experts.

Arbiters of what is, and isn’t, the correct way to do things (especially marketing) in the apparently mysterious world of social media.

Adland watchers and regular visitors to the blogospere will be aware, I’m sure, of the ridiculous anger and spiteful name calling that surrounded the Witchery girl-in-the-jacket video developed by the agency Naked earlier this year.

Once the dust had settled on the Witchery stunt, Adam Ferrier from Naked took the anti-socialites to task in a post on his blog;

“Some of the online social networkers I've met online appear to be extremely opinionated, hostile, judgmental, and very black and white.

If they displayed such characteristics in the offline world they would find it very difficult to form long term stable relationships with others.”

Of course regular social media users would argue that Ferrier would say that, but he is registered with the NSW Psychologists Board, and is a member of the Australian Psychological Society, so I’d like to hope he has some idea of what he’s talking about.

Recently he took part in a well attended event in Melbourne, talking with an industry journalist. I had booked tickets to this event and was very much looking forward to it. Yet I didn’t attend.


Because in the days preceding the event I saw a series of tweets talking up how Ferrier and his agency had abused social media. How they had no understanding of it.

It sounds silly, I know, but I really couldn’t be bothered watching people childishly heckle him. Especially for reasons that to me seemed kind of trivial.

Given the amount of media coverage Naked generate for themselves and their clients, this kind of antagonistic feeling may well be par for the course for Ferrier.

What really annoyed me though, was that the bigoted and blinkered opinions being voiced were coming from people with a lot more opinion than experience.

When I say experience, what I mean is experience in some form of marketing or advertising or any other brand related communication.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these people’s opinions aren’t valid. I’m merely pointing out that self-proclaimed experts aren’t always right. Especially when their opinions are based primarily on their own lives and circumstances.

Here’s what the much maligned but actually damn smart Adam Ferrier recommends these people spreading negative vibes online do. It’s pretty good advice I think.

“Have a look at all the posts and comments you've written - what do they say about you? If you are active online - then treat each other well. Practice pro-social behavior. Be good to each other and supportive, not grumpy, judgmental, and mean spirited.


Adam Ferrier


James Duthie said...

Couldn't agree more. Wrote something along the same line of thinking at my blog recently and it seems many others feel the same way.

lauren said...

i remember the same thing happening in discussion groups in the early 90s, so unsurprising that it happens in 2.0. and a lovely response to it by mr ferrier.

Tim Burrowes - Mumbrella said...

Hi Stan,

I'm not sure if we're talking about the same event as you mention Melbourne, but when Adam Ferrier attended the Social Media Club Sydney get-together (which I did the Q&A for), in person the response was less hostile than the blogosphere reaction had been.

He took some tough questions, but won a fair few people over. At the very least they gave him respect for coming out and putting his case.

Your column may well have gone to press before the event, but the tweetstream on the night was, if not 100% agreeing with him, at the very least civil in tone.

Perhaps when people tweet in the same space as each other, the tone tends to stay slightly more polite as it's easier to remember that we're talking to real people.


Tim - Mumbrella

Stan Lee said...

Thanks for your thoughts Tim. As you guessed, my article was written over 2 months ago to meet a print deadline.

My piece was not about Adam per-se, more about ego and attitude from a bunch of not particularly well informed/qualified blogging types.

Adam Ferrier said...

Agree with your comments Stan. I'm guessing as blogging matures it will become more pro-social. The online environment will hopefully operate on the same principles as the offline environment - people enjoy the company of nice, interesting people - and avoid dickheads.