The wife and I were chatting about the Sunburn festival the other day, and I mentioned that I was following Nikhil Chinapa (the main man at Sunburn) on Twitter. He was posting live from the event – interesting little nuggets about how they were putting the show together.
My wife said, “Celebs post such rubbish. It’s all a PR stunt. How do you know it’s even true?”
And that got me thinking.
Isn’t social media actually encouraging brands and personalities to be more honest?
As the wife points out – brands and personalities need to be honest in all media. But the consequences of dishonesty are greater in social media. The medium is such that everybody’s a journo. Anybody can write a blog. Anybody can share it with a thousand friends. And a million strangers. News doesn’t break, it snowballs in social media.
With brands, the need to be honest is rather clear-cut. Follow any brand on Twitter or Facebook, and you’ll see they’ve all got some things in common:
- They’re all trying to be very friendly to their intended consumer. Some of these are the very brands you’d swear never to touch with the long end of a barge pole after a bad experience.
- They’re all trying to build a unique tone of voice. Few are succeeding. I think their social media copywriters need to look at some old VW ads for inspiration…or hire me instead.
- They’re trying to keep their consumers engaged with interesting content. Games, contests, humour, what-have-you.
- Finally, most importantly, they’re all being bloody honest! They’re putting on a human face. They’re replying to consumers. They’re admitting to and apologising for mistakes. And giving customers better service online than in person.
And what are our celebrity friends up to?
- Most celebs on Twitter give their followers a glimpse into their rich, privileged and highly exclusive lives. Like the film director who talks about parties, shoots and media issues. Or the Bollywood Badshah who gained 28000+ followers in one day, for expressing some rather soppy thoughts and feelings.
- They try to be funny too. Like the Swannatron who’s currently stalking the South African batting line-up.
- Some of them talk issues. Or rather, get their volunteers to do it for them.
- Some of them have quit Twitter after rants and racist outbursts. Others post pictures of their wife in scanty underwear.
- But, once again, whatever they say or do on Twitter, there’s a common undercurrent of honesty running through their profiles.
For brands, it’s clear-cut. If you lie, you will get outed. If you cheat, the world will know. If you refuse to accept responsibility, your sales will decline. It takes just one post from a disgruntled ex-employee, a competitor or just about anyone. There are enough reporters out there (social media journalism is fast catching on). Not to mention all the strange people who follow big brands and will cackle gleefully as they type out (or retweet) the tweet that will destroy them. And, most terrifyingly, there’s Google, with its awesome real-time search. What brands must remember is that you won’t need to fix a social media PR crisis if you’re gonna prevent it by being honest.
For celebs…it’s a little more complicated. They could bullshit us – lie about the casting couch, bitch about rivals, talk about parties that never happened…you get the picture. We’d lap it all up. Spread the gossip at parties and at the office water cooler. Thing is, Big Brother is watching them all. Waiting for just one error of judgement to print that headline news story. SRK lies about attending Big B’s birthday bash! It takes just one jealous rival to break Omerta. And cause (in some cases, irreparable) damage to the concerned celeb’s image. So it makes sense for the star’s PR agency to tweet honestly…even if the stories make you wanna puke.
Let not the lesson be lost on us ordinary folk. (Don’t you just love alliteration?)
There’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is social media.