Social media on the offensive

Favourite Fight l
I’ve mentioned before my ongoing adoration professional appreciation of Brass Tack Thinking (formally Altitude Branding) blogger Amber Naslund and she’s nailed it again in her recent blog, 4 reasons the social media industry has a credibility problem. An interesting discussion has kicked off in the comments section which has me thinking.

There is one area, which I would like to dig in a little deeper on, hopefully you can shed some light on it. It has to do with “debating issues and ideas, leaving personal attacks out of it.” In the world of product, whether a physical good, consumable, or a piece of software, the conversation is more straightforward. When the product is a service, or an idea by an individual the ability (capability) of disagreeing (no matter how nicely you do it) is more complex.

This seems especially true in the Social space. What people talk about, blog about, think about, talk about are their ideas. Many who are in this space are extremely passionate, after all many are in PR, Marketing, Sales, etc.,… If you debate a topic, as much as people try to disagree with the concept, it comes out personal, or it is perceived as personal. The gray area between “your idea is…” and “you are…” is very small – and even when the prior is stated, the latter is heard.

Mitch Lieberman

Amber replied to the comment:

Part of that is just a human nature problem. If you disagree with my ideas even if you take great care to not offend me, we are emotionally attached to our philosophies. Our “unique” perspective is part of the fabric of who we are, so disagreeing with my ideals must mean you’re rejecting me as a person.

To be able to have ideological debate without devolving into mudslinging is a very grown-up thing to do. And I imagine it’s not just SM that has this problem, that’s just the perspective I see most. But it’s personal accountability on both sides. Sensitivity and tact on the part of the disagree-er, and the maturity and open mindedness to separate the point at hand from a personal criticism on the part of the other.

Amber Naslund

I think this is also a great explanation of why some agencies and clients can’t help but indulge in some astroturfing, particularly in industry blogs/publications. We’re often executing work with a very personal connection, whether it’s ideas, insights or creative and communication styles. When the unforgiving commentators opine over the public or assumed aspects of the campaign, it’s tough to sit by and watch without jumping in to defend or clarify (especially if you agree but lost the battle in the planning process!).

Astroturfers aside, I’ve always found the subjectivity in arts and communication to be a cause for discussion. At school the curriculum weighted maths and science subjects higher over humanities; then at uni we were expected to produce 3 years of work that would earn the approval of 4 lecturers. My education was founded on the fact that I could lose marks simply for the fact that I didn’t connect personally with those teaching me. Much like the sales industry, I wonder if we end up with an industry personality stereotype because it takes a certain kind of person to field what are perceived to be personal attacks?

Would love your thoughts.

Photo credit: gxdoyle

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~ by mandi bateson on September 30, 2010.

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