The most important feature of social media, in my eyes, is the information and points of view you have easy access to, but we have seen many a tricky situation spring up recently.
You can now find out about your favourite brands and people more quickly and easily than you have ever been able to before. You have access to information straight from the horse’s mouth and not from a third-party, as well as being able to see opinion from both sides of the argument.
Although we all know that a lot of the content is still generated by third parties, as a form of word of mouth, (arguably the form of communication most taken notice of) it holds weight when sent straight from the brand or people within it or an individual and not a marketing team. Of course it is better again when somebody perceived to be unconnected to the brand reviews it in a positive light. The effect is even stronger if the unconnected person is a celebrity with a large following on social media – we have all seen the effect of Stephen Fry mentioning a product on twitter.
The tourism/ hospitality sector have both benefitted and fallen foul of word of mouth communications online – tripadvisor is just one website which allows visitors to write what they think. Travellers make, amend and cancel bookings all on the opinions of strangers. Would you normally take notice of the guy on the street who tells you a story about their holiday or would you ask people you know?
We have recentlyalso seen how a company can fall into the trap of asking the public what they think, only to become the subject of ridicule. In my opinion, the Waitrose campaign was no negative thing – we are all still talking about it and they gained some real feedback…but most of the industry think it was a massive fail.
So, there are the positive effects of brand endorsement, access to information which may help with decisions and brands trying to force positive endorsement, there is also plain opinion – we seem to have entered a realm where everyone feels the need to publish their thoughts in a very public arena.
For example, when something happens like the abduction of April Jones or the continuing Saville enquiry everyone immediately has something to say about it.
The person eventually arrested for the abduction of April Jones was the subject of an online trial before any evidence was even collected. The allegations, opinions and ill feeling towards Jimmy Saville who was once held in such high esteem have been aired by a public who have been allowed to voice many thoughts on the situation without all of the information – and some seem to be distressing others with simple observations.
So the question is – should you write what you think? Would you speak your thoughts out loud? What are your thoughts on what people should be allowed to say online?