First published 21st June 2010
All publicity is good publicity, so the saying goes. But in a rapidly changing media environment we must ask if this applies to everything. Social media has changed the rules for the media industry, businesses and individuals alike, but should we treat its use the same way as the rest of the media?
Over the weekend fashion blogger, Blair told people via her Twitter feed her feminist thoughts regarding an ‘Inside Men’s Minds Special’ of More! Magazine, a publication she makes clear she is not a fan of (see Twitter feed). I completely agree with Blair on her thoughts of the magazine. What could have been a respectable fashion magazine, competing with the big name monthlies presents itself as a cheap celebrity gossip magazine, with no idea how women like to be addressed, not the self-respecting type who don’t need articles on how to ensure their men stay faithful, anyway. Her view of the magazine is one thing, her choice of how to express these feelings is another, and something else I agree with.
After reading the magazine and filling up with anger whilst doing so, Blair took to Twitter to vent her feelings. A perfectly acceptable medium to do so: she used her personal Twitter account, not linked to her work place. The next move in the social media game board is the one that needs questioning however. More! magazine picked up on Blair’s tweets, and instead of responding to them in a professional and private manner. A quick email, or DM to ask what More! could do to please readers like Blair would have been perfectly appropriate, but not only did they not address Blair directly, they retweeted her thoughts to over 11,000 of their own followers, spreading the bad press further.
So what is it that made More! think this was a good idea? Could it have been bad communications knowledge? Specific lack of social media knowledge? Or maybe just the lack of care surrounding what readers, and potential future readers think? Whichever of these the retweeting was a case of, it immediately held a remarkable likeness to childish primary school bickering. One person insults another, and instead of addressing the insult, they simply repeated the insult in a patronizing, squeaky voice. To thousands of readers. The same readers they depend on each week to buy their magazine. I don’t think retweeting insults is particularly a bad thing, but the choice to do so does depend on your Twitter account. More!’s account is supposed to hold a professional representation of the publication. Individuals on the other hand have a lot more freedom. Comedian and actor, Alan Davies springs to mind, known for retweeting anyone who insults him on the social media site, though his retweets produce an image of him laughing to himself, rather than immaturely repeating what others are saying in a mocking fashion.
This is a brilliant story to back up my view that we don’t yet know how to use Twitter properly (as discussed on James Hogarth’s BBC Radio Humberside a couple of weeks ago). As a relatively new tool people are still making costly business mistakes. Keeping a profile personal and allowing yourself to say what you like is fine in my opinion, as long as it is kept separate from professional profiling and can’t be used against you when it comes to your career. Businesses must not take the medium for granted nor use it as the fun online tool it presents itself as. Figure out if you’re tweeting as an individual or professional, and make sure you don’t catch yourself out and land in the same PR disaster as More!.