Are we going silly over social networks?

twitterbird2Are we going silly over social networks? That’s the question we ask in the latest edition of Campaign Middle East.

The exploding popularity of sites such as Twitter and Facebook have generated a massive amount of interest.

On the plus side, these social networking sites offer immediate sharing of information, news and opinions. Abha Malpani, a former professional blogger and now a new media consultant at  Asda’a PR, is a keen advocate. “What I get out of Twitter is the instant connectivity with people that you wouldn’t get otherwise,” she says.

But there fears that sites such as Twitter, with its limit of 140 characters per post, are dumbing us down by encouraging shallow thinking, short attention spans, selfishness and gossip. In situations such as the vastly exaggerated Melbourne aeroplane incident, rumours on Twitter take flight and are accepted as reality when there’s no substance. This introduces more serious concerns about the spread of misinformation and the possibility of stolen identity.

Francis Matthew, editor at large of Gulf News, says: “There is a disturbing trend that you get a lot of personal impressions.  It’s very ‘me, me, me’ and there is not enough fact and authoritative third-party reporting. That’s a real danger.”

Then you throw brands into the mix. Marketers are getting involved in social networking – either reactively, to defend their reputations and answer complaints online, or proactively, by using these sites as a new way of  engaging with consumers.

But this is a difficult path to tread, says Mohamed Elzubeir of analysis agency Mediastow, as many web users react against what they see as corporate intrusion. “Very few brands have spokespeople who can connect with the public at such an intimate level,” he says.

So what do you think? Are sites like a Twitter a useful tool or are they turning us into dribbling, ignorant dummies?

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4 Responses to Are we going silly over social networks?

  1. Sarah says:

    I think there is a definite place for social networking sites, I personally subscribe to both Twitter and Facebook, but have always felt that they can stump active sociability if taken too far. It worries me that some people would rather sit online and chat rather than physically engage with people face to face.

  2. N says:

    I think it’s a double-edged sword: you do get people on services like Twitter and Facebook with the whole ‘look at me! look at me!’ thing going on, but at the same time it’s a new way for people to network, opening a lot of doors and getting access to information you wouldn’t otherwise consider.

    An example of putting social media to good use is Al Jazeera’s coverage of the violence on Gaza through Twitter (@AJGaza) by posting a quick update followed by a link to the full report. Then again, like you mentioned, you have the whole Melbourne incident spread around with no substance. But if someone is stupid enough to take rumors posted on social sites as facts, would you really blame the social site?

    At the end of the day, it all comes down to how you use social media and why. Having said that, a word for marketers: you really need to ‘get’ social media before you use it.

  3. nickcampaignme says:

    Good point N. There are numerous examples of marketers getting it horribly wrong, one of the most recent being the Skittles fiacso… http://twitclicks.com/y31f

    Having said that, maybe they should be applauded for at least trying something new. And in a bizarre way, the resulting furore must have generated a huge amount of traffic towards the Skittles site.

  4. Print_is_Dying says:

    Editor at large of a print publication calling social networks ‘real danger’…Shocker…Not!

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