Antisocial media

As important as iPods, mobile phones and cloud computing are for the march of progress, perhaps it’s time to stop seeing innovation and technology as universal forces of good.

While one man may gain kudos from embracing the latest gadget or techno-tool, another may appear like a buffoon for expressing the same zeal. The latter was demonstrated perfectly by the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg at the Lib-Dem conference, excitedly playing on a games console as his party falls into disarray.

The simplistic fever around technology is partly artificial, driven by advertising as companies seek to promote their phones and laptops and web-based software and hosting services. When it comes to social media, the pressure to engage and show awareness borders on adolescent bullying.

‘What, you mean to tell me you don’t use Twitter?’


‘How can you not be on Facebook?’

It’s like living in a latter-day Technocracy: Thou shall Not Criticise Social Media.

In reality, not everything is always fine and dandy on the web. The openness of social media can create compromising situations as can be seen by the rash comments posted on Twitter by cricketers and footballers about managerial decisions.

For companies it can be particularly hard to engage in digital media, especially if some idiot with a malevolent streak decides to hijack a forum or comments page. Fundamentally, it takes effort and skill to engage with people who may or may not be genuine customers or clients. There aren’t many companies who have the resources to get this interaction right.

But let’s go back to the aforementioned archetypal ‘idiot’. The web, by its very nature, is largely populated by users who like to browse and skip between websites, but it’s also plagued by those who have nothing better to do than cause irritation and waste time. Social media sites have more than their fair share of time wasters.

This is not to sound like a grumpy old man, dismissing ‘that social media nonsense’ as a ‘load of rubbish’. It’s not. But chatting with friends and keeping in touch with people you know just isn’t the same as conducting a business transaction or forging a professional relationship.

The latest poll asked whether the users of the site had utilised social media to win new business. Of the 181 respondents, 38 per cent says ‘yes’, 29 per cent answers ‘no’ while an additional 19 per cent describes social media as ‘overrated’.

It confirms how difficult it can be to send out the right message when promoting your company through the web. Although, for the fortunate 5 per cent of respondents who have used social media effectively, sales have apparently ‘soared’.

So it can be done.

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