People are such a***holes on Twitter. I mean seriously, what happens to people? – they become poison-tongued vipers or sanctimonious “Saints”.
On the one hand there are the small tribe of people with “saintly” twitter personas who judging by their tweets and RTs you would think were single-handedly out there saving the world from poverty, disease and any nastier side-effects of capitalism. These people were seemingly leading marches against Middle East dictators… from their under-floor heated PR offices in Croydon. But better to be a pseudo-Saint than a “viper”. The “vipers” are the ones to watch…
Pre-Twitter if you didn’t like a point in a lecture or presentation being given by a brand manager or social media specialists, you wouldn’t shout-out from the audience:
This is a lot of tosh, he’s waffling, they’ve really lost the plot!
Shouting that out would make you an impolite, disrespectful a***hole. Yet, now people (the “vipers”) are doing just those type of “shout-outs” on their twitter feeds, using hashtags, during lectures and presentations from their peers.
Just yesterday, Phd created a video predicting the next 20 years in media consumption, with the findings voiced by child actors. A great idea, that in execution just jarred slightly. However, from the Twitter-bitching you would think Phd had just kidnapped and murdered the children in the video, airing their executions online.
Integrity, respect, kindness, admiration… are these sublimated by Twitter to two poles of communication: “pseudo-saintliness”; or unpleasant bad-mouthing to try and demonstrate superiority. Even this morning Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer) made a rather innocuous comment saying he wished he didn’t have to do Jury duty and a “viper” immediately responded with “Sounds like a spoiled brat who thinks he’s too special to do his duty, so unfollowing now”. In fairness, the person, later apologised to Scoble; but, would he ever have dreamed of calling him a “spoiled brat” were it not for the shield of a Twitter interface.
I acknowledge people often partition their Twitter persona from their real-world persona, with Perez Hilton once saying he’d want to die on the spot if he thought people conflated his real-life personality with his comic bitchy Twitter persona. However, what has really struck me about the increased amount of nasty (or overly frank) real-time tweeting during lectures and about work others have put out there, is the fundamental hypocracy of it. The people tweeting aren’t the ones actually putting their balls on the line and creating and presenting.
Some of the people I most admire in the marketing industry are the first to take their hats off to others work and where they have criticisms to make them behind-closed doors, not broadcast it. The likes of Mike Mathieson, Jim Dowling, Asad Rehman, Dan Leach, Jon Silk (and others) don’t spend their time bitching on Twitter because they’re too busy creating rather than criticizing; and they haven’t been sublimated by Twitter into anything less than the well-rounded well mannered humans beings they are. What else these people all have in common is they are enthusiasts rather than critics.
To brands I say, do not overly panic about engaging on Twitter because of the points made above. Just because people are often nastier and more outspoken on Twitter than in real-life, doesn’t mean you should bury your head in the sands to what is being said. Simply take a measured approach and realise that even if you’re the Red Cross or Care Bears, because of the span of social media, someone somewhere will have something bitchy that they want to say about you by @tweeting your Twitter feed. If as a brand you can listen with a cool head and respond with appropriate speed, equanimity and thoughtfulness you’ve come off the better for having engaged, even with the professional “vipers”.