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