Un Social Network

In a world where every company and famous name is using social media to increase brand awareness, with the recent BA and Nestle on-line faux pas hitting the headlines, is it a case that social media is a two way street too far?

When I was a lad.

For years companies have used traditional media to manage it appearance to its customers. And by using traditional broadcast and media techniques, ad agencies have been very successful in offering real values to their clients.

Both TV and magazine advertising has always been expert in presenting a ‘snapshot’ of the lifestyle a product offers and with only their voice to be heard for the 30 seconds between programmes. Companies have always loved the idea of a warm captive audience receptive to the advertising massage being broadcast.

With the advent of the internet and the popularity of certain websites it was not long before advertisers saw the benefit of having an on-line budget.

First wave
Even with the promise of broadband for everyone, banner advertising is very popular. With the promise of audience engaging Flash applications, up until recently on-line advertising followed the traditional advertising broadcast route. Companies still controlled the message, audiences were still captured, everyone was happy.

With the introduction of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, for the first time, it was users generating the content, users creating the bias, and in a few cases, non professionals having high and powerful media empires.

This did not go un-noticed for long, and websites like Facebook were quick to promote the idea that companies could harness the power of their network for a price. But allowing advertising it help supported the cost of running Facebook, started the trend to push Social networks in the different direction where advertisers finally were able to leverage the entire social network.

Why pay for free
The smart brands did not only pay for ad space, but created applications and pages where ‘fan’ of the product could come together and be part of the family.

Companies loved the idea of fan, the ultimate social viral marketers. After all if the fans liked the product then they would spread the word, and for free.

Companies now spend thousands employing professionals for this very job. For many companies, this connection to its users is very important, not only because of the cost, but feedback from users makes for a better product, and a better product makes for better profits.

Buying into a brand
With users actively contributing to the social network of a brand, there has been an unexpected and unwelcome twist. People are actually speaking their mind….

Nestle chocolate has always been popular with consumers and it has only been recently that how the chocolate has been made has come up scrutiny. Like many confectionery companies Nestle use Palm Oil in the product, and groups like Greenpeace have started targeting companies like Nestle due to how their Palm Oil is collected.

It was not long before Nestle was to come into conflict with green activists, and this was the case on Facebook where one of its ‘fans’ changed the wording on a KitKat bar to read ‘Killer’.

Nestles response was to protect its band by removing the offending post.

Mob Rule
Many would have seen Nestles action as reasonable, but for the Social Network crowd this is seen as an affront to Freedom of speech, and it was not long before not only did it get out of hand, but Nestle had to apologise for protecting itself.

Social Networks like Facebook offer freedom of speech and the ability to speak to millions of like minded people, but if you are responsible for actively promoting a company do you really want freedom of Speech?

Speed of change especially in technology is constantly increasing but its worth remembering, quite often things may seem to change but quite often they actually stay the same.

In even two years time, social network will have seemed to change beyond belief, but companies will still use conventional advertising and product placement to get their message across because in advertising there isn’t and there will never be democracy.

If you have the money, you have the power.