With Social Media as a Soapbox, Everyone’s a Critic

I am old enough to remember a time when the only critics of your brand were people who had first-hand experience with it or professionals paid to publish formal reviews.   Now, with Social Media, everyone is a critic.

It was reported that 3,600 people blogged about the Super Bowl commercials this year.  These weren’t blogs about the Super Bowl or the halftime show; they were only about the commercials.  Look at the discussion threads for some of the more controversial spots (Audi “Green Police”, Focus on the Family’s “Tebow” spot), and it is apparent that some of the posts are coming from people who didn’t even see the spots.

Similarly, my Facebook news feed is littered with rants, raves and follow-up comments across a wide range of issues.  I’ve witnessed a fairly comprehensive review of the service at major auto repair facilities.  I’ve formed impressions of restaurants and the food they serve based on the photos friends have posted.  I’ve even been privy to heated debate about political candidates in states where I can’t even vote.   In many of these cases, my overall impressions are formed not just from the initial posting, but the replies of people who jumped on the Social Media soapbox and offered a point of view even if it wasn’t based on first-hand experience.

So, will Social Media become the primary tool by which are brands will be evaluated in the future – regardless of the whether the critic has personal experience with it or not?  According to Edelman’s recently released Trust Barometer, probably not.  It reports that only 25% of us consider our peers credible sources of information and that we must hear the same message from 4-5 different sources before it is considered trustworthy.

However, it would be naïve to categorically dismiss Social Media generated criticism as a hot trend that provides a self-absorbed generation their 15 minutes of fame.

It is more likely that Social Media’s critical commentary will establish itself as one of those 4-5 points of influence, challenging marketers to further refine their tracking, analysis and response to address the many levels of experience it represents.

— Pam Alvord, Chief Strategist

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Filed under Ad Agencies, Social Media

4 responses to “With Social Media as a Soapbox, Everyone’s a Critic

  1. I completely agree, Pam. And while I love the fact that social media democratizes the conversation so that everyone has an equal (or close to equal) stake in the game, the other edge of the sword is that not all voices are equally well informed. It’s possible — or even probable — that at least a percentage of those who offer an opinion do so without firsthand experience as you point out.

    Thanks for sharing the stats to confirm my hope…that readers will consider the source before paying heed to rants that may be motivated by a number of irrelevant factors.

    • Pam Alvord

      Thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, it is likely that readers who agree with a specific point of view will heed it more than those who disagree — regardless of the qualifications of the source.

      • Absolutely…I agree with your view because I am a social media geek that pay close attention to the remarks I get on all of my social media connections. And at times the comments aren’t relative and really make no sense. So it does take more that 2 responses to quantify the results of your campaign. Thanks for the info.

  2. Sky

    Marketers and sociologists should view social media commentary as a gift, because it reflects what has risen to the forefront in our current “Age of Attention”; that’s the phrase I use to describe our move beyond the Information Age which I believe has happened.

    The Trust Barometer’s observation about corroborating 4-5 sources shows the emerging fractal nature of signals in the presence of noise, which in my opinion is more about the physics of wide-open channels than the integrity or ethics of any given source.

    Fundamentally we’ve always averaged signals in noise, whether through surveys of randomly sampled populations, or focus groups considering perhaps a dozen studied opinions. Now, it’s just that the responsibility for well-designed research has been democratized along with the media itself.

    It would be a lost opportunity to dismiss today’s youth simply as self-absorbed spotlight seekers. Most everyone has always been a critic, hence the old saying about “opinions are like (ahem, you know)”. While it’s true that big media historically has vetted content as a gatekeeper, our society has a long history of not fully trusting big media either, and rightfully so. If anything, our need for measured cynicism has been a long time coming, and we can thank social media for shining a bright light on this.

    Now it would be wonderful if all were equally well-informed, literate and motivated only by integrity. But sadly this is not the case (yet – one can hope), and its repercussions go way beyond journalism.

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