I was actually going to let this one slide. Every social media strategist and PR consultant in the Western world has given their tuppence worth on the #askBG Twitter Q&A – I was going to sit this one out. But then it occurred to me that there are some more general points regarding the microblogging platform that need to be made, which are now abundantly clear as a result of this latest how-not-to-use-social-media gaff, if anyone was ever in any doubt.
So, was it a good idea? Well, no not really. Not in the circumstances. Twitter is not the forum for that particular Q&A.
You see, Twitter is an unruly child. Even though in reality, he’s much older, I like to think of him as forever in the ‘terrible 2s’, to speak the language of many a parent friend of mine. He cannot be tamed. Twitter is the Wild West and a law unto itself and anyone who uses it should know that.
If you were the corporate PR advisor to British Gas, would you be ok with sending the head of customer service into the Wild West, where the likelihood of attack by ruthless ‘Indian’ savages (who’ve just learned they may well starve or freeze this Winter) was such that it was near as damnit absolutely certain?
There are no limits to the praise or punishment that can be bestowed by the people on Twitter. It is the ultimate digital incarnation of the mob. But in the physical world, even if you gathered all of Twitter’s 500 million users into a single space (were they to fit), the limitless opportunity to express opinions that permeates the Twitterspere would not, I put to you, translate absolutely. Because in reality, the consequences of expressing those opinions have to be faced without the protection of a keyboard and screen.
And this is why trolls exist.
But it’s for this very reason also that Twitter is the promised land, where everyone has a voice and everyone’s view counts. As well as being the mob, Twitter is the ultimate expression of free speech & democracy. If a point is made on Twitter, it needn’t necessarily be acted upon. Just because the mob says something, it doesn’t mean that the decision makers will listen or even care. But, as with political satire, it’s important in a free society merely that these points were able to be made.
Sometimes, the power of the people is such to effect change. And sometimes, it’s just enough to throw rotten vegetables at a public figure in the stocks.
So sorry BG, you should have seen this one coming.