In 2013 the concept of social media etiquette emerged. Following the unbridled enjoyment frequent users have had access to, certain activities are now being considered unacceptable. Released this week, Cloak is an app which addresses such concerns head on. It dubs itself, “Incognito mode for real life” by monitoring social media formats and alerting the user if someone they don’t like is nearby. As co-creator Chris Baker told The Washington Post, “Things like Twitter and Facebook are packed elevators where we’re all crammed in together. I think anti-social stuff is on the rise. You’ll be seeing more and more of these types of projects.”
The implication from this rise is 2014 will see a turning point in acceptable social media behaviour. It’s an awkward dilemma many companies could face, but it’s one they must adhere to. What exactly can the business world expect?
The Online Behaviour Which Prompted Change
The grumblings of social media discontent became evident in 2013. Selfies are now considered the height of narcissism, and other online behaviour is under scrutiny (such as “trolling”, and social media addiction). In late 2013 Lauren McCarthy and Kyle McDonald released Us+, an app for Google+’s Hangout service. It “analyzes speech and facial expression to improve conversation” and, as you talk, hints are provided on how to be a more compelling conversationalist. If you become too self-absorbed the software will turn off your microphone.
Us+ is one of a number of new social media etiquette formats, and there is an increasing desire to respect online privacy. Cloak‘s co-creator Baker previously made software such as “unbaby.me”, which removes pictures of babies adoring new mothers have a habit of uploading. Other apps, such as Snapchat, are based around fleeting messages which immediately disappear from history. This new software is concise, unobtrusive, and assists in removing potential irritations.
It appears to be arriving at an appropriate time, as the increasing strain of social media has been telling for some, with one particularly notable example. Flappy Bird’s creator, Dong Nguyen, was inundated with messages when his mobile game became a smash hit in February 2014. Following death threats and privacy invasions through social media, he became dismayed by the onslaught, removed the game from iTunes (despite it earning over $50,000 a day), and retreated into solitude. With similar stories, and even arrests, made through Twitter and other formats, businesses need to be ever aware of the demands of the technology.
A Business Perspective
Businesses haven’t been impervious to social media criticism. Given the sheer volume of online marketing campaigns, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see an app analogous to Cloak aimed at stifling marketing. It seems pertinent to consider any company’s position, as now a specially designed app has the ability to tarnish hard earned reputations.
Unfortunately, the increasing prevalence of social media in the business world has led to many disaster stories. Social media “meltdowns”, embarrassing gaffs, bizarre mistakes, and hackings have been commonplace. There have been many successful attempts, but, as companies experiment and attempt to outdo each other, the ability to gravitate towards popular activities lessens.
It’s easier for small businesses to deal with these demands, simply as customer interaction is to a far lesser extent than international firms. Essentially, major companies can make mistakes (and there have been many – particularly from McDonald’s) for the rest of the world to learn from. Others, such as Domino’s of Australia, have been plagued with criticism. In such circumstances, remaining pragmatic is a must.
Based on the experiences I’ve had with managing a small business’ social media endeavours, it’s clear the best way to avoid the wrath of your customer base is to be engagingly restrained. Inundating a news feed with constant updates, no matter how ingenious, can flood people’s accounts (particularly on Facebook). Occasional and engaging posts are perfectly acceptable, whilst bouts of innovation should be a key focus point. For instance, implementing fun new software, such as Jelly or Snapchat, to engage with followers.
It seems inevitable there would be a backlash to the hedonistic demands of social media – it is all still in relative infancy. It evolves rapidly and expectations of its possibilities constantly change. For now, businesses can maintain a wary eye on the burgeoning “anti-social network” movement and learn from the continuous developments. In many ways, it’s a trial and error phase with no clear answer. For now, the best bet, as Cloak demands, is to avoid being annoying.