There were a lot of great SMW events all around NYC last week, including an awesome DigitalFlash panel at Grind on Thursday.
At the Digital Flash event I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the panelists, Tom Chernaik, CEO of CMP.LY. Among other things, he told me to watch last week's inredible Frontline episode all about Social Media :
The episode gave an in-depth and insightful view of the way social media pervades the lives of young people. It also perfectly illustrates just how powerful (and lucrative) a tool social media can be for savvy brands. Some thoughts:
- I was intrigued by the scenes with teenagers sitting around a table, all on tablets, laptops and phones, talking and laughing with each other in realspace as they liked and commented online. These are powerful tools--they open up new possibilities and fundamentally change how we interact.
- Frontline added a sinister tone to the product spots in music videos made by The Audience, and generally seemed uncomfortable with how brands inserted themselves into culture. Yet I don't see a big difference between brand sponsorship of music or video and the patronage of rich nobles and merchants of artists in the past. You could argue that it's "distasteful" compared to "pure" art, but the fact that it is giving young artists a chance to perform their craft is certainly a worthwhile benefit.
- One the other hand, I fear we may lose some small slice of humanity as we edge ever closer into an amalgamation of marketing statistics. We're just reaching the tipping point of social media's potential to radically change how we relate to brands and to each other. There are right ways and wrong ways to go forward. At the very least, transparency, clarity, and consent mechanisms are the key. We need strong standards, including, at a minimum:
- Comprehensive privacy policies that are actually enforced*
- Opt-in procedures for sharing of all types of data (with a bonus added for granularity of opt-ins)
- I'd like to see more on the effects of social media on young people. They can't all win the popularity contest. I worry about what happens if some kids don't get enough likes or retweets, and may be excluded from social groups.
* Dr. Benjamin Edelman of the Harvard Business School found in January 2006 that sites with TRUSTe certification were 50% more likely to violate privacy policies than uncertified sites. (Source: Wikipedia)