A situation arose on Twitter yesterday which didn’t quite sit right with me, and from the tweets still popping up in my stream it’s continued through to this morning.
In light of the revelation that the News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone, a storm of – not misplaced – moral outrage has swept across the media, blogs and Twitter.
On the social media front, incensed tweeters have been listing the Twitter accounts of the companies who advertise in NotW, and in some cases directly asking them if they’ll be re-thinking their advertising spend with the paper. But here’s the thing – they’re doing it blindly.
Social media is a powerful tool for advancing change on a social and corporate level, but it has to be used properly. The research has to be done before scores of angry tweets are unleashed upon unsuspecting social media and comms officers.
At least one of the accounts on the receiving end of the tweeting public’s ire is a spoof. @PCWorld_UK is not the official account of the computing retail giant everyone is aiming at. If the legions of moral crusaders had bothered to read the tweets from that account (or, in fact, just read the bio!) they would know this.
But no…Twitter is angry, so Twitter will roar!
I don’t know how many other accounts are spoofs and have been flooded with anti-NotW tweets, there might not be any others, but whether it’s one or 100 the point stands. People and organisations cannot just be taken at face value online, you need to check them out.
Without knowing you’ve got the right target for your campaign you’re not a moral crusade, you’re an angry lynch mob.
Whoever runs that spoof PC World account will probably feel like shutting it down now (hopefully not, it’s quite funny), and the real PC World Twitter account carries on oblivious. In that situation all you’ve done there is do a favour for the guys you were trying to picket in the first place.
By blindly re-tweeting and hitting the wrong account these people have shown that while Twitter has undeniably done a lot of good in the world, it shouldn’t be the first port of call for campaigns like this. It’s lazy mob-justice. An email campaign, telephone calls to PC World HQ or good old fashioned pen ‘n’ ink letters would have required the minimum research of finding an email address, phone number or postal address.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m behind the campaign in principle and what NotW did was an outrage. They’ll be taken to task over it, I’m sure, and there will certainly be fallout where their advertisers are concerned.
In the grand scheme of things this example of Twitter getting it wrong is mostly harmless, but there was a similar situation in Glasgow recently when the wrong guy was identified via Facebook as being one of the guys who threatened Celtic manager, Neil Lennon; fortunately that was rectified quickly, but it had the potential to be very dangerous.
Justice may be blind. Social media can’t be.