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Social media — the good, the bad and the ugly

Posted by Ryan O'Leary on 23rd October 2017

A recent article that gained national press coverage disclosed how a former Facebook engineer believed social media is leading society to a future ‘dystopia’. This engineer, Justin Rosenstein, was on the team that created the ‘Like’ button for the social media giant and is now of the viewpoint that social media notification lure is on the same addiction level as heroin. This view may come across as extreme, but reading the article really resonated with me and made me concentrate on minimising my social media activity considerably.

Being a so-called “millennial”, I’ve been brought up on social media and I would not be out of line if I were to say that as a generation we are obsessed with it. Be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or any of the other platforms out there, each one of us spends a vast amount of time on them.

We all know people who take photos of their food and upload it to their timelines before even having a bite. Or that person constantly checking their phone to see if anyone else has liked their post. I’m as guilty of all of this as much as the next person.

So, whilst this is not a criticism of social media, when high profile figures such as Rosenstein raise the alarm it goes to show that we do have to be careful with how much we invest in social media.

But from a business point of view, surely increased social media activity can’t be a bad thing?

The good  

For businesses, social media gives the platform to gain a large amount of online brand exposure that can help generate new customers and build stronger relationships with existing customers.

Social media allows businesses to communicate in a different manner to other more previously traditional methods of contact. On these social sites companies can be honest, interesting, informal and humorous. All these components have been found to be a successful mix of communication by social media strategy theorists.

The great thing for organisations is that all of the above can be done at low cost without affecting the quality.

Yet social media is not all plain sailing for businesses, as the upcoming examples will show. Sometimes it can be bad and sometimes things can go downright ugly.

The bad

Employees using social media during office hours for activities unrelated to work has become a growing issue in recent years. In fact, there are alarming statistics out there that disclose employers have fired staff for improper social media use at work. From a personal point of view, at a previous job, I worked with a guy who got fired for slagging off the boss on his Facebook, not realising his profile privacy settings weren’t strong enough, our manager could easily view all the lovely things being said about him on there — awkward.

The ugly

Can it get uglier than that? Yes, yes it can. Twitter campaigns have proven to be a very successful marketing tool. But as with all social media it can leave a company susceptible to hackers and that is exactly what happened to a Walkers Crisps campaign. Walkers’ selfie campaign was hacked in extraordinary fashion earlier this year, with the faces of serial killers and disgraced celebrities superimposed on to the board that Gary Lineker was holding up.

To summarise, like everything, moderation is key when it comes to social media. Be careful what you’re using it for, who can view it and when posting always weigh up the risks before they become detrimental to your brands’ messaging.

Ryan O'Leary