Oscar, Africa, social media and schadenfreude

The tragic Oscar Pistorius issue aside, I’m tired of the inference that the “wealthy” in South Africa are all hiding behind walls, when the truth is, we are ALL hiding behind walls. The more we earn, the higher the walls. I have been robbed several times – twice in my “wealthy, gated community” in one of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs (it’s an apartment block with walls, like many, many others in South Africa) . Once by Annanias Mathe, then the most wanted criminal in South Africa, a murderer and rapist. Once, years before, I fired a shot (yes, from a gun I owned back then when women were being hijacked and take to places where they were gang raped etc) at two men who had robbed my house and were coming out of my house and towards me as I arrived home. My OWN home. Where I should be entitled to feel safe. Fortunately for me, I didn’t kill anyone. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t raped or murdered either.

To understand how each and every one of us is living “inside”, we have to understand that the “fight or flight” response (already fixed when people still refer to us a “foetuses”) is tested every minute of every day in South Africa. Stop at a light and you don’t know if the person who appears at your car window has an avocado pear for sale or an AK47. Our society, as a whole, is NOT normal. You discover this when you go to civilised places like Toronto and walk the dog at 11pm without getting murdered.

Whether I think Oscar is guilty or not, it would benefit all of us to look at how WE are . . . how quickly someone is an “asshole” on the road; how much sheer hatred (with little action taken) is generated by our opinions on the Middle East or the horse meat issue or any number of other things we hear and see on Facebook and in other “news”. Where does that anger/hatred go, once generated?

The Oscar tragedy has brought out some interesting and disturbing reactions – blood baying, disregarding his right to a fair trial before finding him guilty, massive jealousy about wealthy young people . . . and yet I haven’t seen as much outrage about the crowds around the taxi driver being dragged to his death. HIS death, yes – but the people standing around CHEERING the police on?? THAT is what our nation has become . . . But we’ll find something to blame that heinous, cheering behaviour on – laws, history, poverty etc etc – when what should really terrify us is our collective propensity toward violent and vicious thoughts ourselves.

Rant almost over – here is one of the best pieces I have read on the Oscar killing, by the reasonable and thoughtful Justice Malala  – note this piece:

“The truth, however, is that South Africa is a country of violence. We have often been labelled the “crime capital of the world”, and many like Pistorius own firearms, supposedly to protect themselves from burglars and robbers. Last week, the country was in mourning after a 17-year-old girl died after being gang-raped. It is who we are. Perhaps that is why we struggled to accept that “one of us” might have pulled the trigger – with tragic consequences.”

It’s time each of us turns our energy towards looking at ourselves, rather than at others every time a heinous crime is committed in South Africa. In fact, it’s time we all stop and look at how quickly we “take sides” before knowing all the facts; how we continually pass on “the bad news” in social media; how few times a day any of us reads any good news at all (or makes a decision based all three sides of a story), let alone passes it on.

Schadenfreude – pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others – creates sick societies. And “slacktivism” – the idea that you may do some good from behind your keyboard by “making people aware” on social media rather than actually taking some action – is schadenfreude’s first cousin.

Damages: When social media managers lose it . . .

Somebody recently mentioned that “Mercury is in retrograde”. I had no idea what they meant, but I’m beginning to suspect that it’s a Latin term for “social media managers in South Africa have lost the plot”.

Over the past week or so, several incidents confirm that there are still too many companies that believe social media to be something less than brand and reputation management and the most incredible way to engage clients on a one-to-one basis.

The first occurred with a site I imagined to be a tourism site (of sorts), given its name. The (I can only imagine young) men who run the Facebook page posted a picture of a woman almost wearing underwear, though I’m not sure what it had to do with events in Cape Town at all. A couple of people found it offensive and one said so. The party started round about there . . . The “social media manager” told her to unlike his page; she suggested that wasn’t really the way to deal with issues on social media; the young SMM called in the troops . . . and the woman was slagged off, mocked, degraded and lambasted – on Facebook and Twitter – for hours.

I tried to reason with the young SMM, suggesting that whether one found the pictures (yes, there are more of them; some entirely inappropriate for a site that doesn’t warn parents not to let their youngsters go there) offensive or not, it doesn’t make sense marketing-wise to treat people badly online. My comments went unnoticed and the attack continued. I had no idea South Africans could be that vicious. Don’t these blokes have a mountain they could climb to get rid of that kind of pent up anger??

The second incident was the now-famous SANRAL comment to someone who complained to the organisation on Twitter. The SMM found it necessary in that case to immediately attack the man’s looks. Not nice, not clever and not a secret anymore that SANRAL’s social media accounts may just be managed by someone with little online experience and even less people skills. SANRAL deleted the comment a short while later but – too late . . . screenshots of the exchange were all over Facebook, out of the SMM’s control. Silly, silly thing to do.

The sad part about all this is that so many companies know they should have a social media presence, but fear negative publicity. Issues like those mentioned here just confirm their fears, when the real problem is who they hand their brands over to: I’ve heard many a decision maker suggest “Jason in IT – he’ll handle it AND he’s got LOTS of Facebook friends”; or “Meredith can do it in her spare time”; or even better, “Let’s hire a college student – they’re cheap”.

If you’re about to hire any of the above, ask yourself this: “Am I willing to put my brand’s (and my own) reputation in the hands of Jason, Meredith or Cheap? What does my brand’s value mean to us as a company, and to current and potential clients?”

Social media is not about how many Facebook friends someone has, or even the number of “likes” a page gets. It is an opportunity to keep your brand top-of-mind and to be proactive when someone has had a bad or a good experience with it. Would you employ a call centre manager who slammed the phone down on people or told them their complaint wasn’t valid because their hair looks shoddy? I imagine you wouldn’t. So, here’s what a good social media manager looks like:

  • Even tempered and able to detach personally from criticism
  • Good people skills and the ability to make people feel as though they have been heard
  • Genuinely has your brand and your customers at heart
  • Marketing skills – they beat technical skills hands down in this arena . . . you’re building brand loyalty, not websites
  • Good writing skills, thus avoiding having to use Grade 5 text-speak on Twitter and posts of naked women on Facebook on slow news days
  • A good knowledge of your products and/or core focus, as well as your image . . . and a dedication to protect that at all costs – even when there’s this, like, RAD pic of a chick in a bikini just waiting to be posted, Dude . . .

Incidents like these two (and there were others, but you get the general idea) serve only to damage the social media arena and the reputation of both brands and people. Especially the SMM people who don’t have the social skills required to deal with the opportunity to address customer’s concerns in a positive and pleasant manner – which is exactly what CAN be done on social media, with millions of people watching.

Choose your staff with care – and remind them that slander and defamation are offences for which they (and you) may be sued, online as quickly as off. (And, in case anyone was wondering, this was not written with the “social media managers should be under 25” article in mind – but the “managers” in this case probably are.)

Dianne Bayley is a freelance writer, former editor of Marketingweb and the founder of infORM Reputation Management, a company that specialises in setting up and monitoring your social media initiatives. This blog was originally published on Letsema Communications’ publicrelationspnderings blog.

Playing nice on Facebook

By Dianne Bayley

If you’re reading this, you’re online. It’s a fabulous place to be and the single biggest communications event of our lifetime. Like any playground, it has rules. Chief among these is “play nice”.

  • You know how when you post something on Facebook that reads, “I am OUTRAGED at this politician/store/product” . . . and some arb Facebook friend writes underneath it, “Hey– haven’t seen you for years! How are you?” Don’t be that person! It’s one thing to divert the thread of a conversation with something similar, but another thing entirely when you use a post to write something that should have been a “hello” between the two of you on the person’s page. Continue reading

Why WiFi in the sky shouldn’t happen

By Dianne Bayley

So last week one of South Africa’s domestic airlines – called Mango, even if it doesn’t count as one of your five daily fruits and veggies – became the first local airline to offer in-flight WiFi on a promo flight filled with journalists. Continue reading

Measuring ROI of word of mouth – really?

By Dianne Bayley

Just as I’ve never understood how anyone can assure an advertiser that his billboard has been seen by X number of people – rather than just cars driving past, if they’re counted – I’m finding it difficult to believe the number of companies claiming to be able to give you the ROI on social media exposure.

No matter how many “matrix”, “metrics” amd “measurement” terms you use, it’s virtually impossible to give an exact return on investment from a Facebook page or Twitter account. Ask yourself this: “How do I measure word of mouth advertising?” When you find the answer to that question, let me know. I, for example, have installed a handy little program that prevents me from being counted by the plethora of “analytics” programs running on every page I visit. In fact, I can see exactly which ones can no longer count me every time I visit a new site online. Continue reading

Anonymous online abuse: it’s all about crabs

I wrote this a few months back. With every second social media post now slamming “the wealthy” (whatever we individually percieve “wealth” to be, it may be appropriate to publish it again here . . .

Many years ago I heard a story about why fishermen never need to put a lid on a barrel of crabs. Apparently, when one crab climbs up the barrel and heads toward freedom, the rest pull him back into the barrel.

Now, this is only a good story if you’ve come across crabs, not those of the fisherman or even those that require medical attention, but those that populate the very places you think you’re going to find delight, and perhaps, someone to share it with you.

Continue reading