Are Social Media becoming dirty words?

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For all the seemingly unstoppable rise of the big social media networks, and their influence on business life, there have been many high-profile critics of the new media giants. We have all heard about the grooming of young Facebook members by predatory adults, and the vicious Twitter ‘trolling’ by undesirables who use their tweets to make victims’ lives miserable.

It is easy to think of these as examples of the disturbed fringe of humanity at work: whenever you create a new virtual society, you open yourself up to a number of people who you would ordinarily cross the street to avoid. But whereas the murky personal cases can be largely ignored by advertisers, especially in the B2B sector, there are also some business issues that should give those of us in the social media industry pause for thought.

Social Media Management

One such has just come to mass media attention, initially in the New York Post and thence around the world: hacker Martin Grunin (22) seemingly duped Facebook into giving him $40k of advertising space to sell bogus goods, under the alias of working for real advertiser Thinkmodo. He persuaded consumers that his made-up goods had celebrity endorsement.

But not content with this scam, he then apparently repeated the process and incredibly, persuaded Facebook to give him a $300,000 + line of credit, which he used fraudulently to persuade people to view sites that were paying him referral fees.

 As you can imagine, Facebook will have mixed emotions about the publicity that this generates – for although they need to crack down on such abuse and they have accordingly filed suit against Grunin, it potentially tarnishes the listed company’s image as a major media mogul.

Doing Due Diligence

What it suggests is that the marketing people at the social networks need to do some good old-fashioned due diligence on the people they are letting onto their advertising hoardings.

In just the same way, whether using social media for business or private purposes, it behoves us all to take sensible precautions before clicking on anything from a previously unknown source, or even an unusual communication from a previously trusted company. To quote the old Hill Street Blues sergeant, “let’s be careful out there, people…”

You are probably like me, in that my inbox and spam filter are clogged with bogus messages seemingly from my business bank, alerts to my firm that a courier company is trying to make a delivery and needs a reply, notices of a court action and Ebay/PayPal messages about transactions I never made or the need to verify my account. And those are just the cleaner and more convincing ones. They used to be confined to email, but they have spread like a virus to all of the social platforms.

So if you are a business buyer, or a marketer researching a new article or a marketplace, check out the results of your search. When you are led into an ill-designed site that requires your registration to proceed, check out the bona fides of the publisher if you are in any doubt. But don’t let these simple precautions divert you from the fact that there is a plethora of good, solid data and opinion to be found in the Social Net.

social media

‘It’s the Internet Economy, stupid…’

Some suggest that ‘social media’ will disappear as a stock term, and it will just become seen as a title that has lost its relevance as it gets sucked into the mainstream of ‘the internet’ as a whole. Maybe – but I never pay a lot of attention to titles anyway.

The key, inescapable point is that what we now call social media is about a new way of doing business – a new Internet Economy that is fundamentally different to just putting up a website as a brochure or shop, and selling as you always did. Some B2C brands can actually get away with that. In fact it is an under-recognised fact that B2B companies have to transform themselves far more fundamentally. They have to –

  • re-imagine their whole sales operation
  • integrate the way they share (or currently don’t) their information flows across silos
  • take on board new ways to identify and approach marketing prospects
  • hire new talent
  • reward innovation and risk-taking

– and much, much more.

And it must be done cleanly and ethically. That is the way to impress your potential audience. Fall short, and you can taint your brand – for example, the CEO of super-ethical US organic retail chain Whole Foods got caught out tweeting and otherwise boosting his brand using pseudonyms. The company has had to do a lot of corporate PR rescue work as a result.

Social Media Marketing

Where is your audience within the social networks? Well, it is certainly out there, but if you are desperate to appear in the Top 100 of Twitter accounts, dream on – 99 out of 100 of them are pop stars, celebs, sportspeople and other individuals. Only 1 brand makes the list. It’s a messy, often dirty business at the ‘pop’ end of the spectrum and it is not worth trying for mass appeal on that scale. Set your sights on the niche sectors in which your business operates, and the social media can work for you.

(Related Article: Is ‘social media’ too fluffy for business?)

It is something of a jungle out there, one that doesn’t come with a built-in GPS. Talk to us at Hannon Digital for good, clean no-nonsense advice on the digital transformation of your business.