Social Media Marketers may not like this post. There’s been a disturbing trend lately in the growth of social media marketing and that is the movement towards the destruction of the individual. The big corporations have realized the power of peer pressure and have embraced it. Now they want to turn us all into zombies!
Remember the old style media campaigns? They would flash you a commercial and show you why you might want to buy something. Maybe they’ll highlight some selling points and the affordability of the item, if you just sign up for their easy financing plan.
Out with the old school, in with the new.
Now, everyone has realized that this individual style marketing is not as effective as social media marketing. So, now the media campaigns want to star you and tell you how all your friends love some item and so you should too.
A Social Media World
Recently, I read an article that talked about a social media universe. This is a universe that we could be living in now. The article created a fictional character who lives in a social media world. It went something like this…
Jack starts his day waking up to his insignia infocast device playing music chosen by a friend that he had sent a “wake me up” invite on over facebook. He doesn’t necessarily like the song, but is stuck with that wake up call as his friend picked it.
He then gets up and weighs himself on his Withings Wifi Scale, which tweets his current weight to his facebook and twitter account. Of course, having the world know his weight gives him some extra incentive to workout and stay fit.
So, he grabs his fitbit device, which tracks all his daily activities and uploads it to the web, and heads off for his exercise routing.
He then goes into the kitchen and starts up Twettle, his Wi-fi enabled kettle to fix himself a cup of coffee. While he waits for the tweet that his coffee is ready, he logs on to Lending Club, his social lending investment account.
After his morning coffee, he hops in his car and activates his hands free audio Facebook updates on his way to the office.
At the office, he gets a message that his friend has sent him a pepsi from the new social vending machine in the office. So he stops by the machine and punches in the code, receiving his can of pepsi.
At the end of the day, he heads home and decides to log into Bakespace to ask the community for a recipe for his mishmash of ingredients that he has at home. He quickly gets a recommendation and cooks his dinner.
He whips out his iphone and takes a quick picture with the Meal Snap app, which automatically posts his latest creation to facebook.
He then spends an evening watching the recommendations on his Google TV before turning in.
If Everyone Else Jumped off a Bridge…
Remember that old rhetorical question? If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?
We used to ask that question as a teaching tool. It would demonstrate that you should make individual choices, instead of being lead by peer pressure.
Of course, social media marketers don’t want you to ask that question. They want you zombified!
Look at that story above, Jack is intricately linked to the social media world. He is listening to the music that his friends recommend, working towards the socially acceptable weight goal, eating the foods that the community suggests, and sending out his meals in picture form to the world.
All of this is leading towards one outcome, which is to tell consumers that they want to buy what their friends are buying.
If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you? I dunno, let’s see what they’re all doing on facebook… maybe it’s the in thing to jump off bridges… right?
With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility
Social Media Marketing is a broad term. It can encompass all areas of using one’s social network to convince you to do something. Making a sales pitch to your social network.
It is leveraging the power of peer pressure.
Now, that power can be abused.
Take the concept of “cyber-bullying” for example. We may not think of them as social media marketers, because bullying is such an archaic concept, but that’s what it is.
The entire process of cyber-bullying is a sales pitch to the picked upon individual, right? The cyber-bully is leveraging a social network to convince you through peer pressure that you need to feel back about yourself.
They are selling a negative self image through your social network.
In some cases, this leads to disastrous results.
For example, the suicide of Megan Meier. If you don’t know the story, this is a teenager who fell in love with a boy she met on myspace. This boy had a good looking picture on his profile. They messaged and chatted on Myspace together and then the boy began to tell her things such as “I heard you aren’t very nice to your friends.” Then posting her messages publicly. The nasty messages led to Megan Meier commiting suicide.
What does this have to do with Social Media Marketing?
Well, the boy she met on Myspace was made up. He was a fictional character designed by a cyber-bully, in this case the mother of a friend of Megan’s. The entire purpose of this fictional boy was to make a negative sales pitch to Megan through social media. It was a strategic social media marketing campaign design to embarass, humiliate, and bully Megan. And eventually kill her…
Now, this isn’t a crime, and I’m not sure it should be. It’s a question of morality and ethics, not a question of criminality.
You can’t create positive result by simply criminalizing mean words or bad behavior.
But you can create a positive result in teaching and emphasizing the responsibility that comes with being able to influence a social network.
The Positive Power of Social Media Marketing
It’s not all doom and gloom.
There are many positive outcomes to social media and there are many responsible social media marketers.
Take for example the It Gets Better Project. This is a positive social media marketing campaign designed to build up the confidence of young gay and lesbians, or anyone who may feel like an outsider. It spreads the simple message that life gets better by allowing people to post positive video messages. It is a message of hope.
The It Gets Better Project is actively using social media marketing to save lives.
But even in smaller ways a positive social media network can improve our lives and helps us out.
In many cases, a social media network can help you cut out the middle man. Take a peer to peer lending program such as Lending Club. They cut out the middle man of big banks (did you know that banks make money by lending out your money?) and giving you a larger percentage of the interest on the loan amount.
The new startup getaround is a peer to peer car rental service. This saves you from having to pay the more expensive fees at a large car rental company and rent a car directly from an individual owner. At the same time, the owner of the car can generate his own rental income.
No More Zombies!
In the end, Social Media Marketing is just a tool. It can be used positively or negatively.
However, we need to keep in mind to still be mindful of the power of peer pressure. We can blindly turn into zombies and start jumping off bridges.
Afterall, social media marketers are simply spreading a message using this new tool. While they have a responsibility to use their power for good, they also have an incentive to encourage you to act on peer pressure. Some social media marketers will cave to that pressure.
We have a dual responsibility to stand against this new impetus to follow peer pressure and also teach individual thought. Learn to distinguish between the good social media marketers and the bad.
Social Media can lead to positive outcomes, but we must all practice social media marketing responsibly and also keep in mind not to be led blindly by social media.