Social media and responsibility
This is a lesson in social media, the danger of speaking without thinking, and the different ways in which content can get interpreted. (It might also be a lesson about good and bad advertising, but that’s secondary.) I share the story below in hopes that people might learn something. I know that I have.
Sunday afternoon, caught up in the brilliant performance of John Lackey who was pitching a shutout for the Boston Red Sox, I found myself annoyed by Eastern Bank’s frequent, half-second-long, transitional logo blasts. Without really thinking, I posted the following tweet: “ I am closing all accounts at Eastern Bank. Most annoying ad buy in history of sports on NESN Red Sox coverage.”
There are just two problems with this. One, I don’t have any accounts at Eastern Bank. And two, “in the history of sports,” is a pretty sweeping generalization. Hard, if not impossible, to back that one up. In my defense, I was attempting to make a point, throw in some drama, and see if anyone else out there felt the same way. I assumed that most people online aren’t totally literal — see this smart Tech Crunch piece — but I guess I could be found guilty of confusing hyperbole with irony.
Oh, and there’s one more little thing. Eastern Bank used to be a client of Mullen. I harbor no ill feelings of any kind regarding them or the relationship, but in retrospect that should have been disclosed.
Moments later I had second thoughts about my tweet, but as we all know seconds is a long time in an era of instant access and the web. I deleted it, but not before the cat was out of the bag and someone paying attention had sent it off to the marketing department at Eastern.
Yesterday, an executive from the bank sent me an email requesting we talk more about it. I have to give kudos to the bank for both paying attention and for reaching out. Shows they are tuned into the social conversation. I responded with a variation of the above, admitting my haste and arguable faux pas. But never one to hold back, I also suggested the following:
My personal advice would be to find a different way to present your logo and brand to viewers that is more inviting. In a fragmented media world and an era where attention is the new scarcity advertisers may have to take every opportunity to get their brand out there. However, in an age of social media when consumers have the power to opt into or out of a brand’s messages, advertisers also have a responsibility not to annoy. At times it’s a fine line, but if you err on the side of delight rather than harsh interruption you will win out in the long term.
These are trying times for advertisers. On one hand, the media landscape makes it essential that brands be present in as many different places as they possibly can. Compound that with an increasing scarcity of attention and advertisers have little choice but to find new ways to get those messages in front of us, if only for a second or two.
On the other hand, we live in an age of social media. It’s never been easier for consumers and viewers to pipe up, voice their opinion (positive or negative) and even take over the conversation. That means advertisers need both the good sense, if not the actual responsibility, to bring joy and delight to readers and watchers and not simply present self-serving messages that interrupt us.
However, this miniature case study also serves as a reminder that those of us taking advantage of our new-found powers and digital microphones should to use them more judiciously. I plan on trying to do a better of job of that in the future.
So what do you think? Are we entitled to shoot our mouths off? Should advertisers be held accountable for annoying work? Are we both in the wrong?