Synopsis: Billboards and bus shelter ads appeared in Brisbane showing two gay men, one of which was holding a condom. Pretty quickly the outdoor advertisement company, adShel, started receiving complaint phone calls about the ads from members of the public.
At the same time, Brisbane City Council also started receiving complaints from members of the public, as did the Advertising Standards Authority.
adShel, sensitive to local cultures, took the step to remove the adverts. This act prompted a storm of protest in the Twittersphere and on Facebook where one of the models in the original adverts set up a campaign to get the adverts reinstated. (Tim Mumbrella makes some good points.)
But then the truth came out: the phone calls were not from Bruce and Kylie Public, but were in fact part of an orchestrated campaign run by the Australian Christian Lobby up in Brisbane. So adShel put the posters back up. What is not clear is what role social media had to play in adShel’s decision, if any. Just because there was a large amount of noise in the echo chamber doesn’t mean that adShel listened to it.
Now, take that train of thought and apply it to the recent Burson-Marsteller cock-up (Neville Hobson has great coverage, and the Daily Beast also makes for interesting reading). B-M’s facebook page at the time of being ‘outed’ was full of spleen-venting from those outside of the company. B-M have now pushed those ventings down the timeline and out of sight by creating a lot of status updates announcing job vacancies in its various US offices. They have moved the conversation on.
For a while things were ugly on their wall, but through their own efforts it has largely moved off the front page (but not off of Google’s yet).
So here’s my thoughts (two of them):
1. Having a Facebook Page where you allow comments from others opens you up to potential criticism (as it equally opens you up to having evangelists and fans coming unrequested to your aid, as they did for B-M and have done in countless previous instances for other organisations);
2. By adShel not having a place where the conversation could be taken to, the conversation happened on other people’s turf, BUT FACEBOOK SCRAPED THEM UP ANYWAY. Below is an auto-generated Facebook Page about adShel; you will note how Facebook has scraped people’s comments about it. In the screen grab you will also note that the Page is created from the comments and status updates of friends of mine. Therefore what you would see if you typed in ‘adShel’ into your Facebook search bar would differ, but still reflect what your friends are saying; and friends, as any psychologist will tell you, are your principle source of your opinions.
The conclusion? Whether you like it or not, the conversations are happening around you. Whether you choose to participate or not is entirely up to you and your communications strategy (and yes, I have come back to the view that n0t all companies need to be on Facebook), but I still maintain that if you want to reserve your digital space and influence the conversation, you should be social mediarising. Probably on Facebook.