August 18, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Twitter: Just like Family

Twitter: Just like Family

First up, (probably) the last I’ll say on the Motrin Morass

I really think that too much virtual ink has already been spilled on this minor issue, but since people are beginning to hold this “case” up as an example of how a big brand got knocked to its knees by Twitter (nonsense), I’m going to comment one more time.

  1. This wasn’t a “crisis,” not by a long shot. A crisis would have been something that impacted the health, safety, or welfare of the public—not offending a subset of your target audience. Just as calling social media connections “relationships” is inaccurate at best, calling this a crisis defines that term down to near meaninglessness. Twitter did one thing here: it amplified the voice of a group—and not in an entirely flattering way, I might add. There seems to be a feeling that since Motrin’s advertising struck a wrong note with these moms that the brand was obligated to pull the ad—so…next point:
  2. You do not have the right to never be offended. There are plenty of ads that annoy and offend me, from a variety of standpoints—but I have better things to do, and more important things to worry about—than the way advertisers choose to portray life, products, and people. If you are feeling incensed about something, take the time-honored way of managing stress, go for a walk, read a book, and sleep on it overnight. If you’re still angry, then voice your opinion in a rational way. Lashing out en masse will be the undoing of social media, in my opinion.
  3. That Twitter has the capacity to over-represent the feelings of a set of people reduces its value. In a way it is similar to excluding outliers on a survey. Not only are there a small number of users relative to the general population, or even relative to other social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, once you take out the corporate accounts, inactive users, and obvious spammers, it’s even smaller. Extrapolating data about the general public or even a targeted group by assessing what’s being said on Twitter is like taking a survey of two dozen people in a suburban Target parking lot and using that to determine average consumer consumption—the user base isn’t large enough or random enough.

I would argue that this case, and some of the more thoughtful and objective analysis of it (such as the Ad Age piece “Crashing Motrin-gate,”) actually makes it easier for brands to write off such flash mobs on Twitter. And for those who are ready to excoriate me for saying this, think for a second about a group to which you are adamantly opposed—take your pick—if it was that group who had rushed to jump on and criticize an advertisement, would you be so quick to defend them? My guess, and Twitexperience, says no—that it would simply have caused a pile-on in the other direction, which ultimately is what happened here.

This case didn’t bring a brand to its knees; it simply reinforced the notion that the blogosphere/Twittersphere is filled with overly passionate and quick to react (overreact?) individuals.

So, second up, what’s the deal, do I hate Twitter?

Do I think Twitter is useless: not at all. I love Twitter, when it is used to exchange ideas and information—especially in a thoughtful, reasoned manner. I also think that the remarkable ability to provide information on the fly—as was done with the #Mumbai terrorist attacks—is valuable, with the ever-present caveat that eyewitness accounts are often inaccurate. Reading tweets from those in Mumbai, experiencing the attacks, is riveting reporting and makes what we can see happening on the TV screen that much more real, in a way.

And, the multi-channel approach is interesting to monitor: watching news unfold via Twitter and television provides news junkies with varying coverage; when TV becomes repetitious, watch the Twitter feed and get a completely different sense of the events. Or, combining the two, as news networks are some of my favorite Twitter handles to follow; I’ve frequently wished that I could have a separate Twitter folder to put only news network channels in, so that I could jump in and see just what media outlets are reporting at any given point.

Twitter, then, is something like family—you have to bear with the occasional irrational outbursts—which you do because the benefits are substantial.

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for just over 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR work, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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