“People power” in social is fleeting and with little impact

Post script: 12th December 2012

The latest radio survey results again show Alan Jones has seen an 0.9% increase in ratings, winning the results in NSW! Not only that, but the “Sack Alan Jones” Facebook page has decided to call it quits. They call themselves victorious, claiming that Jones’ apparent power has now been removed. They claim Jones’ is not the voice of a majority, only represents a specific demographic and does not swing votes- I believe these are things people who can think for themselves already knew.
In a similar fashion, Destroy the Joint changed their mission a while ago, from simply targeting Alan Jones, to targeting all forms of sexism, racism, abuse et al.

The mob has dissipated and watch this space. It’s only a matter of time before it’s business as usual for 2GB!

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Post script: 31st October 2012

Well the latest radio survey results are out and Alan Jones has seen an increase in ratings! Jones’ program  increased its lead by 0.5 points to a 17.3% share. I’m sure the small rise is as a result of the controversy and I doubt that in the next survey the ratings will drop below previous levels.

The people who listen to Jones are not subjected to the Destroy the Joint group and listen to Jones because they choose to. Destroy the Joint’s aims are ultimately pointless -

  • People will continue to listen to Jones. They are a different demographic to Destroy the Joint.
  • Listeners of Jones’ program are around the 150,000 mark, outnumbering the 20,000 members of Destroy the Joint- where the less impassioned members lose interest every day.
  • Targeting advertisers with the intent to halt Jones’ revenue stream is strategically unsound if people still continue to listen to Jones. Advertisers find it hard to reach their targets and if they have a guaranteed hit, they’ll struggle to break away. That’s why the impact of this campaign is fleeting- yes advertisers feel the pinch when in the eye of the storm, but once it passes, reputation is intact and things are back in business.

NRMA is already back advertising on Alan Jones’ program, the other big advertisers which copped flak for previously advertising on Jones’ show may wait till the dust settles, but they will return in time.  Jones does appear to be out of the woods.

Now, Alan Jones 3, Trolling Community 1.

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Post script: 8th October 2012

Over the weekend, Macquarie Radio Network issued an official statement that all advertising within Alan Jones’ radio show would be suspended.

A smart stance by the radio station to take back control, removing choice from advertisers and consequently helping to reduce backlash and attack on advertisers.

It is most likely that the supporters of Alan Jones’ demise will run out of steam, however Macquarie may need to suspend advertising for at least 6 months to a year. To reinstate advertising too soon may reopen the wound, whipping the mob into another frenzy.

So it seems that the community achieved their goal of removing all advertising from Alan Jones’ show, even if it appears a temporary action. 2GB has been smarter to take that control back and lessen the steam in the trolling community’s engine.

Both have come out winners here, Alan Jones 2, Trolling Community 1.

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Post script: 3rd October 2012

As Alan Jones continues with his public lynching it is interesting to see how the brands who advertise on his radio station have reacted to their own scrutiny (source). Many have offered statements that they have pulled their advertising and do not support his statements. A couple have added that they do not currently advertise, leading to further backlash from the public that these are wishy washy stances.

Alan Jones did say something entirely inappropriate but there is still a sizable audience that listens to his program and station. The advertisers will return.

And for those people who claim they will boycott the brands that advertise with 2GB, this is futile. In a couple weeks this will be forgotten and there will be something else. I imagine it would also be a hard effort to monitor 2GB to boycott the advertisers.

Alan Jones 1, Trolling Community 0.

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Social network behaviour is always shifting. As people use the tools and discover the nuances of the platforms they drop old behaviours and adopt new ones.

The sharp rise in community trolling to attack brands has been an obvious and interesting development in these changing behaviours. Company transparency coupled with slacktivism and the cause of the individual has seen backlash in fleeting and an often irrational manner.

The fleeting part is the major flaw. These trolling communities run out of steam fast. For the less passionate the participant, their job is done once they’ve offered a comment or a like. The rest leave as soon as the next brand comes under attack.

The community doesn’t worry about the authenticity or the real facts behind a complaint. Not too long ago a grieving mother attacked Channel 7’s Facebook page for covering her daughter’s death when WIN was the station behind the coverage. Mediawatch revealed the truth but exposure did little to change the riotous Facebook mob’s perception of Channel 7’s transgression. Does it even matter?

Slactivist participants have little emotional investment in these causes and outside of liking or commenting on posts, will add little more to the protest. People are only moved to change if the uproar reveals an unsavoury business practice which ultimately affects the individual, or a competitor offers an equally appealing alternative with a low barrier to change.

A few examples:

Incident Status to sales
When Channel 9 is boring, people will flick to Channel 7 to see what’s on. Not affected
A Taco Bell shuts down and a health inspector resigns when a video demonstrates the restaurant’s rat infestation. It’s a no brainer that people decide not to eat there anymore (source). Affected
People still shop at Target for plenty of other merchandise and even other ranges of girls’ clothing despite outrage on the sexiness of young girls’ clothing (source). Not affected
Progressive Insurance reveals bad business practice by failing to pay a particular claim. It is revealed that this company often avoids paying justified claims which impact current and future customers who have seen this particular incident (source). Affected
Qantas attacked for their #qantasluxury hashtag on Twitter. The general public will always fly whatever airline is cheapest and with the flights most appropriate to their plans, regardless of any gaffe (source). Not affected
Cleo magazine’s airbrushing scandal could force readers to buy the nearest competitor, Cosmo. The publications are fairly identical and there is a low barrier to change with a monthly purchase (source). Affected

The people (the community managers) behind the Facebook page and Twitter accounts need to understand one vital insight. They are the only people reading every single comment about the issue at hand. Individuals involved in the complaints will not read 300 comments, 250 comments, 100 or even 50. Brands feel the abuse much harder because of internal meltdown and a sense of panic with over exposure to bitchy ranting.

This is a game and people are playing, they have little concern for the outcome. Brands should ride through these storms with the realisation that they will blow over in a matter of days. Of course individual issues and real cries for help need to be responded to and resolved so that fans/followers feel heard and a brand’s perception stays at one that is engaged with their customers.

These larger blow ups, that are often inflated with media coverage, are a symptom of current social media behaviours with virtually no impact to brands and should be dealt with without panic, knowing trolls are just trolls.