Monday, February 16, 2009

Why Must We Obey Social Media Rules?

Over the last few weeks we have seen some campaigns and actions in the social media space that have pushed the boundaries. You would have to be living under a rock to have missed the whole Witchery and QLD Tourism sagas. Both of these pushed (or broke the boundaries) in terms of what some of us argue are the rules of social media.

Additionally, Julian Cole and Laurel Papworth have both provided some other examples of individuals (not companies) that have pushed the boundaries of social media.

Julian recently wrote about how "Cash for comment is alright in Social Media" and that there is currently a trend amongst Youtube Vloggers (US) that transparency is not a rule of social media. Laurel recently wrote about "Twitter: Bots gone bad" and interruptive ads on Twitter.

Peter Wagstaff, Zac Martin and I also briefly touched on this subject in episode 84 of the Marketing Today Podcast where I wondered whether in the future, brands will set up Twitter profiles and quickly harvest loads of followers with the aim of spamming them. So what if people block them? They can easily set up loads more profiles and repeat the process (especially when people auto-follow).

The argument of "brand reputation" may stand up in regards to large and reputable companies but these are not necessarily the ones who spam anyway. The risk of brand damage certainly doesn't stop us getting spam in our inboxes.

In Lauren's case, she received an apology. But what I am starting to see is a lot more examples of companies breaking the so-called rules and I am not so sure the consequences are all that much of a deterramt. For example, it can go one of three ways.

1. A company breaks the so-called rules and then pleads ignorance but still benefits (QLD Tourism),
2. A company breaks the so-called rules and benefits (Withchery, Vloggers), or
3. A company breaks the so-called rules, gets caught, and just says "sorry" and everyone gets on with it but they still benefit (@wibbler).

I posed the question on Julian's blog that "For a while some of us have been noting that the rules of social media are being defined by those that practice it (by that I mean active bloggers, twitter users etc) in the hope of keeping the corporate/brands from “polluting it” … but maybe the cracks are starting to appear?"

You will note that each of the 3 scenarios still results in a benefit being received by the company/person breaking the so-called rules. So my question is - why would they bother taking much notice of the so-called rules? Can we build stronger defences or should we resign ourselves to these new channels being polluted just like TV, Radio and Newspaper?


Gavin Heaton said...

As you point out, spammers are not after your long term commitment ... and those brands who do engage in similar practices will pay for it in the longer term.

If you are seeing benefit from such campaigns, I would suggest you are looking at the wrong measurements. For example, a search for "witchery man" shows up a page of negative reviews - links to retail stores or websites is well down the list.

Now, if my business was sales driven (and they all are), then I would be wanting my marketing to push me to the top of that search ranking. The last thing I want is a face full of negative stories.

Anonymous said...

Like Gavin, I'd hope that any campaign I worked on resulted in positive sentiment. The Witchery example, no matter how Naked Comms try to spin it, was a disaster by any objective measure in terms of consumer sentiment.

I'm under no illusion that the ways in which social media will be used in campaigns will change over time. I expect it and I hope for it. But I think no campaign will ever really work if it disrespects the consumer/former audience/participants or whatever else we call them these days.

Laurel Papworth said...

I'm a believer that the campaign must follow the "rules" of the community. Or break them resolutely. By "community" I'm talking about being immersed in etiquette and rituals and unspoken laws and social contracts. Once you understand them, then you can break them.

You are right, winging in and hoping that the community will find it funny or be outraged enough to visit your site, is not long term relationship building.

Stan Lee said...

I think it was Mr Leo Burnett who said that if all he wanted to do was get noticed he could simply drop his pants in public.

In a message saturated world like the one we live in today, getting noticed isn't important. Nor is getting talked about.

Sure that might be worthwhile for a short while, but brands don't work that way. To borrow from Kevin Roberts, you can't build a Lovemark by annoying people or doing stunts.

The problem with the social media goldrush is that a bunch of snake-oil salesmen are positioning themselves as experts. And a bunch of people who genuinely believe in the power of social media bitch and moan about how agencies etc don't know how to use it.

95% of advertising is shit. Hence it stands to reason that so called social media campaigns will follow the same rule.

So rather than getting all hot under the collar about the dodgy campaigns, let's celebrate the truly innovative brand building uses of social media.

Morgan Coudray said...

Great topic Daniel! I personally think that this trend will actually diminish over the years with any company looking to establish a brand because Twitter, today is like the gold rush: most companies go in without understanding and evaluating it.

Twitter Etiquette is something that will soon be common knowledge being passed on as opposed to trial-and-error type of decision.

Matt Granfield said...

You don't have to obey the rules, but you'll win a lot more friends if you do. It's just networking #101. The person who has the most friends at the party is the one who talks the loudest. The person who has the most friends at their funeral is the one who made the most people feel loved. The same principle applies to marketing strategy.

Nathan Bush said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathan Bush said...

Are the social media rules really that different to the marketing rules? If you respect your audience, remain relevant to them and act in a way which builds their trust then you win, regardless of rules. No doubt a brand like Virgin Blue would play to different rules on Twitter than the Commonwealth Bank - just like in other mediums. The rules don't matter, the relationship does.

Anonymous said...

In regards to the outcry over the Witchery video, was it mainly marketing people who were negative? How did the general public react to it? (I need to catch up on all the news!)

I personally thought it was a good campaign, until it was exposed. Maybe if they were upfront to start with...but then again, would it have become so viral if they were honest that it was just an advertising ploy?

Anonymous said...

I think the brands that break the rules should be commended and will, in the most part, deliver the greatest returns. This is what marketing is about

The examples given had questionable executional tactics that would have been an issue, if used, in any channel.

Ultimately the consumer community will always have the final say in their response or actions.