Social Media: Fighting Fire with Fire

By Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate, Buzzwords Manchester

In the wake of recent riots, social media has received a bad press. The government claims social media “fuelled” riots and helped orchestrate organised vandalism and looting. Unlike the government, GMP (Greater Manchester Police) have embraced social media as a tool to prosecute, and publicise the prosecutions, of those involved with the recent riots.

GMP also used social media as a live platform during the riots to quash rumours and deter potential rioters. Greater Manchester Police’s early adoption of social media has demonstrated the trust social media can create with publics in times of crisis.

The Internet age has made winning and losing trust more complicated, faster and measurable than ever. This was demonstrated last week by the rioters, who were able to organise and publicise the riots quickly and on a mass scale. The digital revolution has enabled more people to have a voice. Anyone can publish their views and share them instantly.

This ability to publish instantly, combined with increased social networking sites creates a powerful tool that influences the views of people we trust (our friends). Communications has been turned on its head; the public now create the conversations and messages, putting marketers in the back seat.

Throughout the rioting in Manchester last week, GMP were engaging with the public and collecting evidence through the Twitter community by listening to conversations. This strategy can also be applied to business. Listening and engaging with your public through social media is vital, as the right kinds of conversations can inform sceptics and encourage new business. The wrong kinds of conversations can be monitored, evidence can be collected and companies can change.

In the end, building trust through social media is quite simple; it’s all about having more conversations with more people, about the things they care about. Many people (and the government) forget that social media is “social” and listening is at the heart of it.

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