Social Media has been constructive in giving the masses a voice, when once big companies looked to advertise and inform the masses now every public move is open to discussion. In some ways this is excellent for the public and for companies but it has also born an attitude of negativity and hate.
At SEO Creative we work in the online industry which allows us access to companies and we are able to see both sides of the situation a lot of the time, but even without having this insight it is quite clear that social media is being used to spread negativity and in some cases bullying. Social media incorporates platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and other consumer populated sites such as flickr, it also includes profile driven sites like dating sites and forums and the biggest one many forget is blogging and commenting.
The dark side of social media
Social Media Haters
Social media gives people a voice, this is often very good but in some situations it can get out of control and spread ideas that are not fully researched or understood adding confusion. A good example of this was last years riots when Twitter and the blackberry network were used to coordinate riots in the UK’s major cities. Other examples are Facebook groups set up against individuals or companies, last November many people used Facebook to spread the message that the ‘Body Shop’ were not allowing staff to wear poppies, this message was originally spread via a hate filled profile update supporting British troops and criticising the Body shop. This led to a Facebook group being set up against the company and in reality the company had not banned staff from wearing poppies but were still faced with abuse from the public.
We have also seen a rise in nasty comments on peoples blogs, some are pointless and rude, not spam but just very angry people wanting to vent and blogging leaves you open to this.
Social Media Bullies
User generated content is becoming more and more popular but sharing our opinions and having an online presence can make us vulnerable. Facebook is often used to bully or publicly humiliate people; this may not always be intentional and seen as a laugh, but this is cyber bullying and is often more damaging to the recipient than bullying in the workplace or school yard. Forums have an equally bad reputation online especially certain Mums forums where a number of participants gang up on an individual poster. They may not see it that way but if you look through the comment threads you can see some very aggressive language that is there in writing for the poster to read and re-read.
The good side of social media
Improved customer service and feedback
Although social media leaves companies open to criticism, they also allow companies and consumers direct communication. This means bad service can be improved upon much quicker and feedback actually gets seen by the decision makers. Having public comments means brands have to address issues as part of their reputation management. Too many comments online with a bad sentiment can severely effect sales and revenue so addressing these issues should be a priority. Social Media it is not some customer service tele sales person dealing with complaints and putting them in a folder to be addressed eventually, but the bad feedback gets seen by the people who can make changes. This has led to more openness from brands, better communication and more steps to improve products and services.
Lively Debates and discussions
Social media allows people all over the world to share opinions, information and research. This spread of knowledge is beneficial to people who are using this in a good way and also see that not all of the story is necessarily being told (especially in 140 characters). Lively discussions are good, you can constructively criticise and learn from other people, who in turn will learn from you and your experiences. We are not confined to our immediate surroundings when discussing politics or human nature – or just Eastenders or Coronation Street! By getting other peoples opinions it broadens our own knowledge.
Let the good triumph
What we can do to make sure we are using social media for good
Social Media has brought us a lot of opportunities but also caused a lot of hurt and controversy, and we often forget that writing something online usually means it is in the public domain forever (or a very long time). Be mindful of what you write and how it can be construed. We have all written something on a profile page in a moment of anger or happiness that perhaps shouldn’t have been shared with everyone. Here are my tips for making the social media world a nicer place:
- Be constructive -Debates are good but if you have something negative to say try to be constructive
- If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all – this applies to people who are being nasty with no reason, anger spreads quickly so keep your nasty comments to yourself. If you really need to vent try to do it in a constructive way; if you wrote something online think of how it would look to a jury in court, if you think they would not look favorably on you then should you be writing it?
- Be open minded – You may be certain you are right but there is always two sides to a story, so listen to other opinions and be open minded. You may still keep your original view but learn a new perspective on it.
- Remember written word has no tone – If you are being sarcastic or joking then you have to make this clear. Without tone words can be taken literally and even well meaning comments can be taken the wrong way. You could accidentally be upsetting people or open yourself up for abuse. Re-read your comments and if necessary add emotions or amend to make sure your intention is clear.
- Agree to disagree – Be respectful of other peoples opinions, ideas and beliefs if you really don’t agree don’t get into a nasty argument but leave the conversation before it gets out of hand and upsetting, especially on subjects such as religion or politics.
- Remember Social Media is not always a reliable source – If someone tells you something on the internet it doesn’t always mean it is true or the full story. You could not cite Twitter as an accurate reference in a dissertation so check facts before making any decisions off the information.