The Darker Side of Social Media

The Darker Side of Social Media

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Social Media – the last frontier, a place where free speech is still possible. Where people still dare to be brave.

A lot of people still think social media is a waste of time, and therefore, a waste of productivity. Many companies still don’t allow Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram etc. during office hours as a result.

On the surface of things, these people are right. There is a lot of flippant, insignificant chatter across the social networks. We don’t really need to know where people are going, what they are doing or what they’re having for lunch. Or do we?

What we are just scratching the surface of, is that social media is a veritable wealth of personal information, across all psychographics, demographics and target markets.

The iceberg that sunk the Titanic

You see, people treat social media in a very personal way. They refer to ‘my Facebook’, ‘my twitter’, ‘my page’ etc. Due to a perceived anonymity, they tend to be more truthful, let more out, be more themselves. Vast studies around the world are revealing some surprising statistics.

The one which impacted me the most, was finding out that when it comes to major purchasing decisions like motor vehicles, more people trust their ‘friends’ on social media, whom they have never met, than members of their own families. This, amongst other factors, makes social media a global game-changer.

 

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Don’t like change? You’ll like irrelevance even less

I would be so bold as to say that if you and your company aren’t comfortable with social media and using it correctly in the next five years, you will be badly left behind. Some companies have recognised this and have started to get involved.

Unfortunately, a lot of them fall prey to the opportunists. A flock of ‘social media gurus’ have entered the scene, advocating competitions for Facebook ‘likes’, giveaways and prizes for followers on Twitter and more.

This simply indicates that there is still, to a large degree, no real understanding of the fact that social media is intensely personal to people, a medium for the people – and companies arriving to sell are quickly ignored, discarded, un-liked and blocked.

So, how do you sell, without selling?

Enter the dark passenger

Like everything else in life, social media has become tainted. Remember in Spiderman 3, where the dark virus/alien infected our superhero, making him something else entirely? It’s my feeling that this is what’s happening – a rise of false social media.

Let’s take Facebook as an example. At first, Facebook was a place to connect and keep in touch with people you know personally. Over time, people naturally started using Facebook as a platform to network, sell and promote. So Facebook adapted, and the ‘business page’ was invented.

The popularity of the site continued to grow and soon Google started to measure the popularity of your company website, by how popular, or how many ‘likes’ your page on Facebook has.

This is where it all went pear-shaped.  There are a myriad of companies selling ‘likes’, which companies or individuals buy, making their page appear to be more popular than it really is, in order to get their website to rise in the rankings of Google searches by potential customers.

Buying ‘likes’ on Facebook is now commonplace. So now we have no idea how popular something really is, or how your search for the right product or service is being manipulated.

Twitter is the same. Faster, more accessible and in real time, your popularity is measured by how many followers you have. People or companies with large numbers of followers are the ‘go-to’ people within their respective industries – the gurus of their game, so to speak.

I personally know of at least three individuals who have succeeded in their own businesses by tweeting a lot and having large numbers of followers. They are considered top of their game, even though their credentials and experience don’t match.

On top of which, paid-for, or sponsored, tweeting and blogging is quite accepted, and once again a social platform, where free speech is truly still possible, becomes manipulated and tainted.

Linkedin , which is very structured, all about business and very corporate, seems at first impenetrable by schemes and manipulation, but the members themselves have found a way to detract from the credibility of the site.

Have you noticed how many endorsements and recommendations you’ve been getting lately, from people you’ve never met?

Now pause for a moment. Consider the co-ordinated attacks against several targets in three UK cities, on the same night, at the same time. The authorities say the entire terrorist attacked was communicated and run through Twitter.

I think that’s just a small taste of the power of social media, and way, way bigger things are on the horizon.

I just hope that power is used to achieve good things. The question is, will man’s nature lead us into darker places?

Mick Blore
Mick Blore is a founding partner of Original Forever, a creative agency that specializes in big ideas born of extraordinary creative strategy. For more information visit www.originalforever.co.za
  • Issa Kabudula

    YES man’s nature can and has been leading us to darker places since log, if it is not a promise of lie then its a destructive idea.