Social media has made the democracy of “vote with your dollars” capitalism even better. Platforms like Twitter keep every person and corporation in check. Sure, they can help overthrow governments but they can also turn any Jack or Jill into a covert whistle blower helping illuminate everything from unethical business practices to napping transit employees. I know it’s not perfect but you have to admit that social media is pretty authentic. And real. And totally fair. If you have something to say, go for it. It’s one of the only places on the planet where everyone is (kinda) treated equally.
That is, until marketers screw it up.
Which is exactly what happened to Twitter last night.
Over the past couple of years, Twitter has made watching live TV enjoyable again. Social TV was born when viewers around the world started sharing unedited comments about the shows they were virtually watching together.
Remember the London closing ceremonies? Which was better: Watching the Spice Girls reunite on top of a bunch of taxis or reading bitchy tweets about Mel C’s cankles? I know… riiiiiight? Dialing into a hashtag was like joining a telephone party line in the ‘70s. Unfiltered and open airwaves. No hierarchy. No status. And corporations were completely welcome, too. They just had to get in line with everyone else where one tweet to a hashtag simply followed another.
Until Sunday night.
I was late for the Emmys broadcast so I did what most modern people who forget to set the PVR do. I searched “#Emmys” on Twitter.
What I expected to see in the hashtag were humourous ramblings from a thousand disciples of Suri’s Burn Book. What I got was a conversation that had been hi-jacked by HBO, Vanity Fair and Chris Kattan. Yes. THAT Chris Kattan. When I compared the stream directly through Twitter with the one through Hootsuite, they were rather different, even after selecting “View all tweets”.
The Emmy’s didn’t just brand the hashtag. They kidnapped the conversation and replaced it with select tweets from Entertainment Tonight, People Magazine, Wolfgang Puck, and Jessica Alba. While the rest of us users froze outside in line waiting, the Emmys gave priority access to partners, media companies, insiders and celebrities who have a vested interest in the telecast. Shouldn’t users be the default stream with an option for “See all biased tweets”?
Did I really need this tweet to have priority?
Do we want to live in a world where Chris Kattan has been judged to be more important than @TanyaRM who has 36 subscribers to her YouTube channel? If you’re not sure, let me give you a hint using 5 little words: “A Night at the Roxbury”.
In the quest for quality content, the Emmys killed the (better) content that was already being generated. For free.
Forget looking a gift horse in the mouth, they sucked the life out of the very thing that gave their telecast a new one. They sucker punched the person who administered CPR. (How many metaphors can I cram in there? )
But more than that, they bought a conversation. And that’s not only wrong, it’s bad business.
Their customers don’t include Vanity Fair. Or People Magazine. Or Jessica Alba. Their customers are you and me. People who have a cable bill. People who have an iTines or Netflix account. People who pay for the right to to tune into (and out of) whatever they want. Most importantly, people who want to share honest and open feedback on the shows and celebrities they financially support.
It still amazes me when brands want to own conversations instead of owning the process to make better products to help improve the conversation.
Done correctly and it’s a win-win.
Done poorly and it’s just another performance of Mango.
Is the brief age of transparency over? I hope not.