In the wake of the horrific mosque attacks in Christchurch, it occurred to me that had social media not been such a prolific part of our everyday lives, there would not have existed an outlet for Brendan Tarrant to air this most heinous of acts. Also, without social media platforms Tarrant would not have had access to the disgraceful racist bombast of Anders Breivik, a Norwegian right-wing terrorist who massacred 77 people in 2011, and who ostensibly greatly influenced Tarrant to carry out his contemptible actions.
Juxtaposed against the posts made by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern on various platforms, subsequent to the attacks, Ardern has made use of social media to unite not only her own far-flung nation but the global community in its entirety. Social media has thrust Ardern into the spotlight, as an example of outstanding leadership and statesmanship. Without social media, this would not have been possible as quickly and as effectively as it was.
It bears mentioning that the various social media organisations should have been far quicker off the mark in terms of removing the video of the attacks. At the very least, this may be a wake-up call for Mark Zuckerberg et al to put measures in place to address this dangerous issue.
Which led me to question, as digital marketers, how do we ensure that we remain responsible, and honest, in our use of social media on behalf of our clients.
Given the plethora of digital agencies in South Africa, it seems that there exist many fly-by-night “specialists” purporting to be “experts” in the field of digital marketing. These supposed professionals, with very little in the way of proven experience, deliver sub-standard work certainly not in keeping with current best-practice trends, failing to honestly educate and inform the very people whose brand reputations are entrusted to them. Failing to accurately report on growth and the like, or to in fact, deliver any kind of tangible results. It appears to be more of a box-ticking exercise than anything based on bottom-line outcomes. All of which has the unfortunate fall-out of jaded clients, wary of investing in social media, considering great financial investment with limited, if any, return.
The marketing and communications industry needs to self-regulate, in order to maintain the highest of ethics that seek to treat clients as partners in the social media journey, instead of mere short-term cash-cows. We need to give our clients the FULL picture, even if it is at risk of making ourselves look bad when a campaign has not achieved the desired results. We need to guide our clients in the responsible use of social media, that doesn’t malign competitors even if this would result in a short-term “win”.
As an example, in union with one of our clients involved in the clean energy sector, we have elected NOT to take the easy route of “Eskom-bashing” in order to encourage consumers to move to alternative energy sources. Instead we have chosen to rather persuade potential customers to switch to green energy based on its kindness to the planet, and ultimately its long-term affordability. The merits of this approach far outweigh immediate attainment of sales targets. Rather, we have successfully positioned the organisation as a corporate citizen that has a vested interest in the greater good of both Mother Nature and South Africa as a whole.
In conclusion, on the face of it, social media can be used as a force for both good and evil. We choose to take the higher ground. With this said, our efforts will always be rooted in the correct, upstanding, ethical stance.
We take this opportunity to wish strength and comfort to the citizens of New Zealand on this tragic event.
About the author: Leon Marinus is a visionary, self-made entrepreneur with twelve-years’ experience in this ever-changing environment. A revered public speaker, not to mention Roodepoort Chamber of Commerce & Industry Vice-President and winner of the 2017 Certificate of Excellence & Thanks Business of the Year 2018 award Leon Marinus is invested in the continued betterment of the marketing and communications industries.