Since Netflix’s PG13 documentary The Social Dilemma aired, many who have watched it seem to have one word for it: “Scary!”
Why is a PG13 documentary scary? Because the question arises whether we might already be living this scary social reality? Have we already reached the beyond-the-future tipping point where technology is outsmarting humans?
Filmmaker Jeff Orlowski is responsible for this documentary, as well as other ‘disaster–is–looming’ documentaries such as Chasing Ice (a documentary about climate change) and Chasing Coral (a documentary about the erosion of coral reefs). Jeff and the group of original social media creators featuring in the documentary are of opinion that the social dilemma is in line with other significant disasters looming.
Of course, the bottom-line messages of caution and awareness are resonating with us as users of social media. But anyone who is a digital marketer/storyteller, or a brand using its voice on social media to interact with its loyal communities, must have heard a nagging little voice on their shoulder whispering: “Hey, doesn’t that make me part of the problem?”
We know that certain aspects of social media, when not treated responsibly, are hurting society. However, we also know that neither marketing nor social media were developed for evil. But, unfortunately, the combination of the two might potentially have consequences society should not be dealing with.
After the documentary first aired on Netflix, hundreds of articles were released ranging from how scary social media is, to debating its effects on our youth. After the dust has settled, we are seeing a host of deeper thought–provoking articles raising an important question: “But what do we do now that we are aware? What is our solution to this problem?”
A few long–term suggestions were made, such as increasing governmental regulations to hold platforms accountable for their social actions.
Shorter-term suggestions have ranged from advising users to delete their accounts (which is not a viable solution), to turning off notifications and fact-checking what they see on social media.
But how do we as digital marketers look less like the bad guys? Let’s look at ways in which we can take responsibility for the stories we tell on social media:
Promote positive behaviour
Basics. It is essential that we promote healthy, positive social media behaviour. We do so by encouraging our audiences and making them feel valued and appreciated through every post we set out. We remind them through consistent actions and copy that we really do have their best interests at heart.
Always be transparent
There was a line from The Social Dilemma that makes you rethink those broadcast messages you forwarded on WhatsApp groups. You know which one it is. ‘Fake news spreads six times faster than real news does.’
Be a thousand percent sure that the content, news and information you share with your audience is entirely accurate. When your loyal fans know that what we are telling them is valid, authentic and true they will feel safer when reading (and sharing) our content.
Respect their privacy and let them know that you do
Let your followers understand that their privacy is respected and WILL be protected. With society now being more aware of the level of personal information they entrust to brands, let them know that even when brands do have access to it, they can trust the brand to keep it safe.
It is still your brain!
The documentary tells us how marketers make use of human psychology to manipulate society and change their way of thinking with just a few clicks. The everyday man on the street needs to remember that it remains their decision to pick up their phone and click on a link.
Keep third parties on the same page
Communication happens between people, that is why when people communicate with people, it is an intrinsic characteristic of our trade that third parties and other humans are involved in telling the right (and true) story to the right audience. It is our responsibility to make third parties aware of our policies, private information protection policies, and generally our brand truth.
When collaborating with influencers or the media, make sure that they are adequately briefed on brand guidelines and that they know what the brand stands for. The content created in this value chain needs to be something we are all happy to share with society.
So, as social beings, let’s not forget why social media was created in the first place – as a place that brings together like-minded people.
It’s there to help us keep in touch with the people we love when we must physically distance ourselves from them during a global pandemic.
It’s there so we can laugh at funny memes when it is shared.
It’s there to remind us of upcoming birthdays.
It’s there for brands we love to honestly and authentically advise you on something that might just add value to your life.
By Jancke Bouwer, Intern at Hatch Communication