Last week was Social Media Week. It was a week of chin stroking, hypothesising, brand bashing, and Olympics scrutiny, not to mention the age-old topic of brands awkwardly ‘jumping in’ to social with a cavalier disregard for strategic thinking, being bandied around. It would seem that some brands are consistently determined to use social media in particularly obnoxious ways, gleefully whacking “join us on Facebook!” onto the backside of all possible marketing. Truth is, we all know that brands need to incorporate social as part of the overall ‘marketing mix’ in order for it to have any relevance, it’s a given, but it appears to be easier said than done. Short term, we’ve got a few more obtuse clangers to come. Long term, we have faith there’s some good stuff on the horizon.
The concept of social censorship however, was a topic that particularly caught our attention throughout the week. We’ve been told time and again that social media is the ultimate platform for freedom of speech, but is this naïve thinking?
+ The Tuesday before last, the Guardian broke the story that broadcast news organization Sky News had sent out new social media guidelines to its staff,
+ Mark Stephens (super legal bod) told us this week that as soon as you hit return on your keyboard you’re a publisher, whether you like it or not,
+ Super injunctions suitably freaked us out about saying anything remotely punchy online for fear of contempt of court,
+ The Twitter Joke Trial (Google it) will certainly get you thinking before you tweet,
+ And we discovered that the US government monitors the tweets of people coming into the country to see if they are suitable citizens. So writing “I’m having a big blow out tonight” for instance on Twitter, could deem you a terrorist threat! (Brilliant).
Suddenly something twigged. Is the fun being sucked out of social? Is there such a thing as idle chitter chatter any more? Are we all publishers with a small ‘p’? Are our personal social media comments actually personal? And is it therefore ok for a company, organization, or brand to give us a wrist slapping for saying something on our own Facebook page that they don’t agree with?
It’s a toughy. Today, many companies, brands, and organisations actively encourage their employees to use social media. It spreads brand awareness, boosts evangelism and morale, and it’s good for recruitment. Sure, we get it, we’re a big fan. But do they then have the right to dictate what’s ok for us to say? If so, it all seems a bit archaic, like the fun sponge has taken away all the joyful innocence of ‘tagging’, ‘liking’, and ‘following’ that social media originally offered us.
Social Media Week has brought us to the realisation that social is not as open a forum as we once believed. Without our help, today’s consumers may be faced with a woeful drip of anodyne tweets to look forward to. It’s a sad state of affairs if so. But for brands, perhaps there is a real opportunity to remind consumers that social is about entertainment, that it is ok to speak freely without fear of scorn. Perhaps with the help of brands, we can put the fun back into social.