There’s been a lot of discussion lately on whether or not social media is helping the customer control the brand. My overall opinion is no, it is not. What it is doing is creating digital chaperones. And it didn’t start with social media, it’s just the latest incarnation of civic chaperones. There was a time when you knew everybody around you, your tribe for lack of a better description. And, more importantly, they knew you – they knew your parents, etc. Society as it was had a sense of accountability built in – and it was 360°. You could not escape the accountability, and you also had everyone else being accountable to you – it was quite symbiotic.
As time passed and our society changed we came to be in a position of not knowing our neighbours – whether it be at work, play or at home. We have far more people in our lives, our days are filled with myriad activities and we are bombarded with massive amounts of information. It’s no wonder we have lost that sense of connection with the people around us.
Hello social media
And by social media I mean all the new stuff – YouTube, Twitter, Facebook. Media and being social has been around for a while – even cave paintings are a social media of sorts. But, today’s social media has the added new features of immediacy, engagement and reach. This means that viral videos can reach a million views in hours. Social media turned communication into a two-way conversation again – maybe not equal, but a two-way conversation none-the-less.
An interesting side effect
I think the one thing that people didn’t count on with social media was the resurrection (to a degree) of accountability.
Even more fascinating is that I believe that it is a two-way accountability – not unlike being in tribes. Yes, we have all heard of United break guitar, Papa Johns Pizza, Dominos Pizza, etc. – any situation that had the David, the consumer, holding Goliath accountable. It’s social media that has allowed this to really play out – mainly because David is no longer in the battle alone.
But, I don’t see this as the only accountability aspect. I see that we, as a tribe, have the opportunity to make accountability ubiquitous. How many people during the recent Riots in Vancouver and London were revealed because of social media. A promising water polo player for Canada was exposed and subsequently removed from the national team because he was caught on a cell phone camera. Now, that’s not to say that people didn’t do stuff like that before – they did, they’re just being held to answer for it more often.
With this also comes the the trait of being an enabler – a side-effect of accountability. To enable in this use of the word – is to not stop, or make know your position known. It’s the equivalent of walking past and letting someone else deal with it. Whether it be litter, a fight or whatever else can be enabled. One of the biggest culprits – Facebook. I have a niece that has posted pictures online of her and her friends drinking. They’ve posted countless photos from parties, basements, all showing the group doing shots, drinking beer, etc. These photos have been making their way online for about two, maybe three years – she’s 18. Eighteen, and has been posted photos of underage drinking for quite a while. How do I know this – because my Wife is friends with our niece on Facebook – that’s how.
So, as we sit and do nothing – we enable – we make accountability a none factor. Should we stand up and point these things out – or are we to let these traits and behaviours blossom. That is always a tough call. But deep down, maybe we need to enact accountability for people we love as much as brands we hate (or at least feel slighted by).
Has social media changed how you see events unfold?