Yellow Journalism of Social Media

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As a marketing consultant for a design firm I was at my wits end trying to get the audience to engage in our social media efforts. Designers and clients alike refused to interact, give opinions or even share their experience. We gave accolades to winners of crowdsourcing contests, we gave tutorial tips. Nothing garnered the slightest comment.

So, like any professional marketer I decided to conduct an experiment. I browsed through the client design list and picked some great logo designs and displayed them on Facebook as a part of the research. I did not see much activity.

However, when I began to give negative comments to some of the less attractive designs, I saw more engagement culminating in a comment that had my client’s administrative teams scrambling for answers.

Only one person: HA McKenzie had a reaction to the various negative comments I posted and I would term her comments as being ethical, and substantially professional. The comment was: Who is writing these posts for your company? Do you realize that you are publicly humiliating the designers and dissing the clients that paid you. Whether you think it is a good choice or not it is bad business to do what you are doing.

So kudos to you HA Mackenzie for standing up for all the others and taking me up on my negative sensationalist content.

A recent post in Huffington Post focused on the subject We’re all Journalists Nowwith the writer suggesting that ‘…it’s time for everyone to reflect on their responsibility in the dissemination of information.’

I agree with that position per se but am cynic enough to also perceive it as a very idealistic statement. With an academic background in Mass Communications I remember reading about the initial stages of journalism where the term ‘Yellow Journalism’ became popular. Yellow Journalism began when two newspaper moguls William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer II began a content war increasing sales by adding sensational drawings and articles to their papers. There was little truth to it but a lot of bite. In one famous telegram Hearst told one of his reporters, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

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The ethical foundation of that comment is self-evident, and the irony of relating the truth in journalism emerges from the fact that the highest prized award for journalists is the “Pulitzer” –named after one of the media moguls in the Yellow Journalism war- Joseph Pulitzer II.

Yellow Journalism

Social media is in its infancy and like Yellow Journalism, the actors and the audience are all after sensational news. The article in Huffington Post was correct in expecting social media users to be responsible however, realistically it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

Sensational Content for Visibility Online

The problem is that there is a scramble to be ‘visible’ online by companies, businesses and individuals alike. There is a lot of interaction and engagement in the ‘big name’ forums and yet, smaller legitimate brands trying to establish themselves, flounder for some form of feedback. Audience does not want to leave comments since they do not think it is worth their while. This inequality creates a vacuum that is filled by sensational content, created in an attempt by the invisible brands to become more ‘visible’.

Google is doing its best to focus on featuring the websites that offer authoritative content but as a commercial organization it too looks at the bottom line. The automated algorithm makes obvious errors and the search results reflect the less than pristine websites that emerge on top. The fact is the big brands win by sheer numbers. The smaller brands may rival the content in terms of in-depth information but the algorithm in social media and search engines, is numerical and hence fails the ‘authority’ test in terms of value.

In the end what we see in search results and social media ‘viral’ campaigns are a hit and miss strategy for the smaller brands while the big global brands get the recognition.

Social Marketing Apathy or Ignorance?

As a design firm has a substantial following and yet, the distance between the marketers, clients and designers is huge. Like any business the design firm has created forums for stakeholder interaction and yet, there is no specific direction because neither of the two main stakeholders; the client and the designer- are willing to be initiators of a conversation no one may ever read.

However, in the spectrum of social media the reality is that only a fraction of the posts will ever see the light of the ‘viral’ messages. Most posts will be seen by the audience of the corporation and the stakeholders and that should be enough. The point of using social media for professional means is to create a support system which is ‘crowd’ based. The term crowdsourcing is not new to digital workers and yet, most seem afraid to take advantage of it to create their own identity.

Taking my experiment as an example, if a designer is ‘dissed’ (as the one commenter put it) shouldn’t the designer be confident enough to support their design? Maybe the client should provide an argument for the choice? I may be wrong but unless someone speaks out, I will have created a negative stream of marketing which, would leave footprints in the digital world.

So sometime in the future if the business who accepted the logo actually makes it into the market, a client may find my analysis online and decide the business is less worthwhile. Alternatively, a potential client may see the analysis and decide the designer is not the right candidate for their business.

In the design industry (and any other industry) marketers like myself, are able to literally cut designers and clients to bits without any reaction from the majority. Is that simple apathy towards professional reputation online or ignorance of the impact of digital data?

What will make the difference in allowing this communication dissonance to be reduced?

Is there a way to make social media responsible?

From my perspective the only way Yellow Journalism in social media can evolve into a more ethically responsible forum is if the users begin to take responsibility for the posts being shared and there is active engagement taking place. HA Mackenzie called me out on my negative and unprofessional content.

If more people took the time to ask social media users to engage responsibly simply by asking them to justify their comments in a public forum, maybe, just maybe, the evolution of social media will take place faster. However, sad as it is humans are by nature predators and another’s failure makes for better news than one’s success.

Until social media becomes more sophisticated in terms of content and its users overcome their indifference to baseless comments, it will remain a cut throat sensationalist forum of use with the boundaries of truth more a game of trickery, gimmicks and straight out lies.

Unscientific Research on Facebook conducted for

– Positive Logo # 1:

How much would you pay for this logo?
Our designer got $200.

Positive Logo 1

Statistics: 613 people saw the post (only paid post) -1 comment (there was no other engagement).

– Positive Logo # 2:

What would you pay for this logo?
My fav. Logo of the Day designed by AlviStudio this logo is worth 400$.

Positive Logo 2

Statistics: 83 people saw the post-no engagement.

– Positive Logo # 3:

This one definitely grabs your attention right?
Redlight Boutique: A logo by Aerey worth $325-one of LDG’s winners yesterday.

Positive Logo 3

Statistics: 53 people saw the post-1 like.

– Negative Logo # 1:

The Ugh Factor.
It’s a Monday morning and since I had nothing upbeat to share…I thought I’d ask: What do you think of this logo? Created by Jinxx it passed muster by the client but really? What made it the winner…for me its just…ugh?

Negative Logo 1

Statistics: 56 people saw the post-2 likes.

– Negative Logo # 2:

Don’t you think some logo images are just overdone?
This was a $250 winner by Imahegrafix…but really there has to be a more creative way to depict real estate!

Negative Logo 2

Statistics: 55 people saw the post-2 like.

– Negative Logo # 3:

A logo worth $500 won by Noeen. I seriously would not pay $5.
Do you think clients should be educated to learn about logo designs so that they can determine whether the logo will actually work in print and online designs?

Negative Logo 3

Statistics: 57 people saw the post and we got one comment.

HA McKenzie Who is writing these posts for your company? Do you realize that you are publicly humiliating the designers and dissing the clients that paid you. Whether you think it is a good choice or not it is bad business to do what you are doing.

I am a digital marketing consultant with a focus on small and mid-sized enterprises. I believe the focus of every business should be on creating a consistent brand identity online and offline.

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