“The dark side of social media”

darkLast night, a sextet of speakers lined up to warn of the dangers lurking in the world of blogging, Facebook etc. This was a gently animated seminar held in the basement of a London pub.

Being crap at reporting back on these things (and expecting other, more conscientious bloggers to report on it) , I’m only going to recount the points that interested me.

Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads described “sock puppets” – people creating false blog IDs for the primary purpose of cyber bullying; and “astroturfing” – creating a false grass roots movement i.e. a few people pretending to be a larger group in order to push an otherwise obscure or unpopular agenda. The latter concept is a new one to me, but I’ve seen some very odd commenting behaviour on some blogs that might suggest some “sock-puppeting”.

A question from the floor about brand presence in social networks drew what I consider to be the wrong response from the panel, who were no doubt influenced by the blogging / MySpace / Google AdSense advertising models of banners, intrusive links, and brand characters with profile pages. I think it’s too easy for advertisers to think “let’s do banners and websites”, because most marketing directors aren’t going to be au fait with the culture of social networks.

Social networks should not be used as an advertising medium, but as a means of conversation. For example, find a way to get people on the networks to spread a message by word-of-mouth. My 30-seconds-because-I’m-in-a-hurry-idea (that’s certainly been thought of already) would be to emulate the model used by advertisers at music festivals by promoting free beer / food / showers etc. for people who join an advertiser-created Facebook group which will have a pay-off at Glastonbury.

Hell, there must be better ideas than that out there (I’m sure I could find some in Contagious Magazine), but brands that try the same, tired old routines in social media really will get lost in the dark.


2 Responses to ““The dark side of social media””

  1. 1 Amelia Torode June 20, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    I have to say that I found last night a bit of a let down. This should have been an incredibly interesting topic to discuss, but my mind wondered throughout the evening. This is a huge topic – about the nature of privavcy, about assining friends different “layers of friendship”, about stalking and bullying but somehow the conversation never quite got there. Shame that the NSPCC woman was cut off at the end, think that she would have been the most informed person there.

  2. 2 oldvic June 25, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    It wasn’t as bad as that – it was reassuring to have one’s suppositions about the negative side of social media confirmed. It would have been good to have more of a marketing / brand spin to it though.

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Self-important bit

I’m Victor Houghton, a, er... something or other in one of the UK’s largest advertising agencies. My job title has a comma in it, which is embarrassing. I’m the chief finder-things-outer with a splash of trends who is lucky to work with all the major functions of the agency, even though I am most closely associated with strategic planning. Everything in this blog has most probably been stolen from other, infinitely more talented people, although the opinions are most definitely my own and not those of the agency.

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