Why don’t they just throw up their hands and give up? Honestly, if the Horizon Realty fiasco (Can a tweet cost you $50k? Maybe, if you get sued like this woman: http://bit.ly/4A60v (via @ColonelTribune)) is any indication, big business will never get social media. They’re still working on the old assumption that a market is profitable only when it’s controllable, but social media is something quite different. It is open source technology in action where people are the code that connects and creates a new reality, no matter what input or large infrastructure is already in place.
It’s Kind Of Funny To Watch…
I admit it, I was immensely amused by Horizon Realty’s online debacle. Who wasn’t? A big company sues a little Twitterer with at most 20 followers for an off-the-cuff remark about some moldy apartments. What’s in the suit? A claim for $50,000 dollars in damages for one tweet with an exposure of 20 people on an inactive account, no less. Regardless of whether the defendant “started it” as Horizon Realty suggest by wanting to sue over the issue first, the point is that social media is about the dissemination of information, whether accurate or not. You can’t target one Twitterer in the hopes of controlling information on the Internet, it has a tendency to highlight these offensive attempts as “censorship” and they get widespread attention by way of “The Streisand Effect.” What would have led to 20 people being told now has become a case of instant Twitter stardom with Horizon Realty placing number four on trending topics on July 28, 2009. Unfortunately, what they got with that stardom is permanent association with the company’s spokesman’s quote: “We’re a sue first, ask questions later type of organization.”
I’d Be Running Scared Too, Right About Now…
Big business is trying very hard to control places like Facebook, Twitter, and any type of social media that is taking the profit out of their pockets. The newspaper and magazine industry is collapsing because of the ease of information access via the Internet. Iran is having trouble squelching rebellions because of one pic tweeted across the globe of a girl named Neda. The establishment has lost control of the framework by which it tells us what it wants us to believe and how it shapes public opinion. What’s next? Are we going to demand that industry create jobs, products, and services that actually create value in society, instead of exploit it? What will happen to the profits then?
That’s Okay, They Have A Solution
And, that solution is to join up with what they can’t control, and infiltrate the new “system” so that at some point they have a handle on it. That’s why people who were previously canned for saying nasty things about their companies online are now being courted as social media gurus with an audience that can be harnessed for good publicity, not just bad. Now, they actually want people who are on Twitter and Facebook and the larger the audience, the better, even if on the surface it appears very hypocritical. They want to know how many Twitter followers you have on your resume because that’s just the type of person they want to hire, right? Once you’re on their payroll, they have control of that voice and they have a bigger share of that market to create profit, and not losses. They’re going to control the Internet, not by controlling the technology (which they clearly can’t do), but by controlling the voices that access the technology. That’s the thinking, anyways, and it’s completely misguided. They still don’t get it and they aren’t meant to get it. Social media isn’t for big business, as it stands now. It’s for the individual, and they should just get out of the way and let us do our thing before they get run over. In order for big business to truly get it, they have to revamp their companies from the bottom rung to the topmost CEO, and that’s just not going to happen by grabbing a few Twitterers or Facebook stars on their side and putting them on the payroll. Every voice is just as powerful, whether it has 1000 followers or 20 followers, as the Horizon Realty example clearly shows. That’s the concept they clearly don’t get, and that they aren’t going to get any time soon.