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Is Orwellian Social Media here?

At the excellent Finextra Social Media Day yesterday, panellists representing ‘The Corporates' were discussing the consumer/client benefits of social media and this quickly turned into a marketing and PR fest. It's obvious that many corporates, especially in financial services will see the massive growth in social networks as both a threat and opportunity. Just now it appears the threat is uppermost in the minds of pr and the revenue opportunity in the minds of marketing. All this is from the corporate point of view but what about what the consumer/client wants?

The panellists were generally enthused by the social networking phenomena and keen to extol the benefits of communicating directly with their customers. With one even saying that social networks were able to achieve more than banking branch managers. Incidentally concern was raised over allowing branch managers to use social networks to communicate with customers. Having a central corporate control was felt less risky. But I guess electronic communication via social networks is a step in the right direction against the current hideous system employed by many companies of outsourced customer services. A step forward may be, but is it what customers want?

It seems to me that to date the fantastic growth of social networks has been based on easy access, flexibility, exponential contact growth, information access and flow and unregulated free minded opinion and community togetherness. This is my perspective as a consumer but from discussion at the social media event it appears the flow of information is in danger of falling under corporate control. With the feeding of information and data that you may or may not welcome. It is this corporate control of the consumer that is worrying me. How long before Governments operate like the Corporates?

For social networks to be used mainly for marketing and pr appears to me to be missing the point. Surely the power of social networking is that it is driven by the consumer. The consumer decides and controls access and communication. The door should be open for the consumer to choose to walk through and information gathered through interaction via social networking should not be misused for direct approaches by the corporate, this smacks of spamming! The Corporates clearly recognise the opportunity in social media but is it their role to put locks on the door and decide what information comes in and out?

If the consumer wishes to engage with the corporate it should be their decision. It appears to me that with greater and exponential communication via social media comes great responsibility and it's my concern and fear that Corporates and Governments may be taking a far too prominent and active role in controlling the consumer.

Is this the Orwellian picture where we thought we might be in 1984?


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