Social Media: It’s a Moral Imperative

socialmediamarketing2For more than a millennium, the underlying relationship between consumers and business has overwhelmingly been defined by the term  caveat emptor (buyer beware).  However, over the past few years the easy to use mass communication tools we’ve dubbed “social media” has been subtly shifting  the balance of power in the relationship between buyers and sellers.

Social Media is shifting the balance of power in the relationship between consumers and the businesses that serve them from caveat emptor (buyer beware) to caveat venditor (seller beware)  and the easy to use mass communication tool known as social media is the sole reason for this shift.

The Power of Social Media Connection

The real driving force which is powering the social media explosion are the gossamer threads of human connection.  The unseen, unmeasured force which seems to drive us to connect with other human beings.

This was illustrated clearly a few nights ago when my family watched an absolutely HORRID movie at home.  It was one of cases where the movie’s marketing had caught our attention,  but we never found the time to see it in theaters.  I  popped a bag of popcorn and we settled in to watch a movie which had been heavily marketed as a “comedy”.

We suffered through almost 2 hours of  graphic sexual content and  intense violence (such as gun shots to the head and a death by ax bludgeoning) delivered by a cast of recognizable actors playing one dimensional characters under the guise of “comedy” .

When the final credits rolled – my oldest son jumped up and ran to his computer.

“What are you doing?”  I asked.  After all, it was shortly after midnight and I was heading upstairs to bed.

“I’m a member on IMDB.  This is what we IMDB members DO!”

Ah, the gossamer threads of social media literally pulled him to his computer to share his experience.

This is what social media looks like from ground zero.

Seth Godin refers to this kind of behavior as “tribal” and I think it’s a good description.  My son actually felt a MORAL OBLIGATION to spare others in his “tribe” the “agony” of watching this painfully un-funny comedic romp through hell.

It’s important to note that part of our extreme disappointment with this movie was the fact that the marketing for this movie had painted it to be a “comedy”.  I personally don’t find death by ax bludgeoning or gunshot wounds to the head to be even mildly amusing.    Obviously from someone’s marketing perspective – these gruesome scenes are real side splitters.

The expectations set by the marketing played a huge role in my disappointment with the flick.  We had all been duped.   Had my son not jumped from his seat as if he were called to a 3 alarm fire – this blog post would have been all about how important it is to create realistic expectations in your marketing messages.

However, my son’s actions illuminated a deeper truth to social media.

People are smart.  They’re smart enough  to realize when they’ve been promised something that wasn’t delivered.  When that happens, they get angry.  They want to TAKE ACTION!!! That combination of emotion and easy access to mass communication tools is like spraying a gasoline mist into a cylinder.

The resulting social media explosion can be positive – or negative.

When it’s positive – it’s called viral marketing.

When it’s negative – well, it can cause a social media shit storm.

Social media makes communication easy, fun but most importantly PERMANENT!

There was a time – when your advertising and other marketing messages didn’t live forever, easily accessed by the search engines.

That was then – this is now.

Disappoint customers today and they’ll take to the tools of social media to share their experience with others.   Those disparaging remarks will live on – and if you’re not on top of your online reputation’s SERPS – those customer complaints may end up being featured front and center.

The consequences of disappointing your customers can be more severe than just a negative rating on a single website.  Disappointed customers who feel  strongly can now easily, post a Tweet,  create a video – create a Facebook Fan Pages – or worse yet – blog about your current customer service.

It’s becoming obvious that this type of sharing is one of the moral obligations of social media.   Caveat venditor!!!


  1. I once heard it said that people will trust you until you give them a reason not to. While we don’t yet know how all the social media behavior is going to play out, this is a great indication of where it’s headed. Psychologists have long known that people were meant to live in tribes. We function better as part of a community – a very powerful force, now empowered by social media!

    Carol Solomons last blog post..How To Handle Stressful Events Without Overeating

  2. Hi Kathy – I love the story about your son. Part of social media is being neighborly – meaning you look out for members of your community just as you would your neighbor’s house or possessions back in the day when people knew all their neighbors and didn’t lock their doors. Resurrecting the sense of responsibility we have to each other is a great thing!

    Betsy Wuebkers last blog post..CHANGE DOESN’T COME FROM THE TOP

  3. I totally agree with the other two comments above. This is why it’s so important for businesses to get it right first time or own up and apologise when they get it wrong.

  4. Kathy,

    WOW. Once again, you’re making my brain cells work hard today:~)

    I have mixed feelings about social media. I know it’s a reality, but I fear that it can be very reactionary, which I think can be dangerous. What your son did makes perfect sense — he warned people about a bad movie.

    What happens if someone gets angry at service or a person and then uses social media to broadcast their anger? I think you did on this post on this.

    Then what happens if they find out they were wrong or regret their action? As you rightly implied, our connections are now global and therefore what we say or do can be permanent.

    This means if someone makes a mistake and broadcasts it via social media, it’s almost impossible to take it back ….it’s out there flying on its own. This scares me!

    Very thought-provoking post, Kathy! Thanks:~)

    Saras last blog post..HAPPY NEWS: Read all about it!

  5. Carol and Betsy – You both point out an important consideration – we are by nature “tribal” beings. Social media is just a new way to express an “old” innate behavior!

    Amelia – great point about “getting it right”. Businesses definitely don’t have the “leeway” they once did.

    Sara- I wholeheartedly agree with your concern. Sure, there are times when people NEED to be warned – but sometimes we’re co-creators of our own poor customer service experience. (GASP! Did I just say that?)

    So I agree with you – yes this is heady stuff – and yes, it’s possible for someone to go on an unjustified social media rampage. Not everyone who can use a computer is mentally stable. 🙂

    Your words do take on a life of their own in this “social media” space. Perhaps it’s because we’re blogging that we recognize this so clearly!

  6. Being in community is so important to being fully authentic and caring for that community is vital. I am glad you son let his community know.

    I would not think that was funny either…good marketing warnings and tips.
    Thank you

    Patricias last blog post..FREEBIES and PARTY FAVORS

  7. Unfortunately, many businesses seem to “forget” that their customers are a part of a community. Also, unfortunately, I’m preaching to the choir here! 🙂

  8. Brisbane chiropractor says:

    Social media marketing must be coupled with social accountability, and in everything especially in trading, caveat emptor applies, so exercise due diligence in your dealings. 🙂

  9. Good stuff. I guess it’s here to stay. Really makes me wonder what Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin could have accomplished with Twitter. Or how much sooner could the Vietnam War have ended with social media?

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Works last blog post..Celebrate Your Strangeness

  10. Welcome Brisbane Chiropractor to the conversation!
    Tom – Interesting observations- definitely food for thought. Twitter has definitely been instrumental in the quest for freedom in Iran … wonder how different our world would be today if we’d had cheap, easy mass communication a generation ago.

  11. Kath, I always love how you bring concrete examples into your posts, always interesting reading here, and with your unique and often sassy voice.

    And Yay, for your son! Taking advantage of this modern technology.

    Seller beware indeed, cool!

    Jannie Funsters last blog post..Yep, Problogger Darren Rowse And Me – We’re Like This. Like This, I Tell Ya.

  12. I like the idea of having more power now as a consumer, although I haven’t used it yet.

    Vered – MomGrinds last blog post..Happily Ever After

  13. Jannie – hearing that I’m sassy from YOU is quite an honor. Wait, let me find my fuzzy golden bra and hiphuggers!

    Vered – you my dear have a literal nuclear arsenal at your disposal. Like a nuclear warhead – it’s both empowering and frightening at the same time.

  14. West Los Angeles Chiropractor says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with your concern. Sure, there are times when people NEED to be warned – but sometimes we’re co-creators of our own poor customer service experience. (GASP! Did I just say that?)


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