Social media, friend or foe

I can’t think of any development in web and online technologies of recent years that has caused as much debate as social media.

Every week I think I meet someone who is divided as to whether it is the greatest thing since sliced bread or a work of evil, and has no place or function in their business.

It’s understandable that many companies are wary about the value of social media with reports of fakery and companies having their fingers burnt testing it’s use to find themselves on the receiving end of criticism due to some simple ‘newbie’ faux pas.

Two years ago, Sony found themselves coming under attack for their campaign site, by trying to convince the world to buy their newly launched PSP hand held console using actors supposedly running a genuine fan-made blog and pretending to be impartial brand advocates.

Sony’s ruse was rumbled by the online public and the company was forced to come clean about the charade. Admittedly, egg on the face was mostly what the company came away with, their reputation and sales not particularly damaged by these events, but it’s still fairly early days yet in the world of social media, who knows what the major players may commission yet that may fall flat, and who knows what the true cost of a campaign more damaging than could be?

On a local level, I don’t think a month goes by that I don’t see some company making their first foray into social media come under fire from more experienced web users regarding tactics they have employed on sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and sometimes their own blog, even. It’s this level of criticism from ‘those in the know’ that often prevents companies and organisations from considering the use of social media as a viable means of marketing communication…

…that and a lack of knowledge regarding it’s relevance.

It’s up to us, the practitioners to shine a light on the benefits of social media. Okay, it’s not for every business, but it certainly stands to benefit many out there, and by rallying against those who are trying to take their first steps into the medium, we’re not helping to promote it’s worthy points, but succeed in putting more people off and preventing uptake of this growing and worthwhile new media.

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