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September 2010

WE are not your child's parents - is social media child friendly?

1110355317_f849d5b1b5_o Increasingly, as I get together with friends and family, we seem to be having the same conversation over and over again.  Namely, is the internet a safe place for your children?  And more particularly, is social media safe for kids, tween and/or teens?


It seems a local private school sent out a notice to parents in advance of the school year demanding that all internet enabled computers in the home must have more than just a filtering program, but a big brother program as well.  The thinking is that if the entire family knows that someone out there can see every site they visit, they are less likely to engage in nefarious activities.  Much of the parent body is obviously upset at this intrusion into their personal lives and local drama ensues.

The Key Question

However, as we spoke about whether or not this policy was sensible, enforcable or rational, an interesting topic came up: is digital social media child-safe? 

Social Media is not safe for kids

One group of parents were vehimently opposed to social media overall. 

  1. I don't want my kid handing out with those kids.  The web gives our impressionable kids (teens included) easy access to all of their friends, friends, friends.  While in real life, we have a clue where are children are and can impact who they socialize with, on the web they have far greater ability to be a part of a far bigger crowd.  This wasn't really about child predators, it was really about minimizing the amount of time kids spend chatting with the worst ellements in school.
  2. Google doesn't share my sensitivity.  YouTube doesn't allow pornography, but in a household where the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition is considered offensive (at least around kids), is YouTube any better? 
  3. Can I trust the collective?  Can I really trust the unknown community to filter content for my impressionable kids?
  4. There are dangerous people out there.  How many stories do we hear of horrible things happening due to child predators stalking seemingly safe social environments online? 
  5. Is this even neccesary?  Walking down the street is a right.  Reading a newspaper is productive.  Do kids really need Facebook or Twitter?
  6. Is this the right choice my kid's online footprint?  Is it responsable for me, as a parent, to allow my child to create their online persona at 16?  This will stay with him/her for the rest of his/her life!  Don't they have a right to make this judgement call when they are mature enough to understand the enormity of this decision?  Would you let them get a tatoo at 16?
  7. Everybody loves to hate porn.  I'm not going to go into it but pornography seems to be an issue in any discussion around kids on the web.  It's damaging.  Teens can easily stay away from the domains that look like porn and feel safe to a parent.
  8. Everything is evil.  I won't even go into the many misconceptions people have about the media, digital media and UGC.  This last set of arguements typically come from well meaning parents who just don't understand the nature of the platforms.

There's nothing new, and really nothing wrong

  1. Kids already have access to bad friends.  A kid who wants to find bad friends will find them.  In school, on the bus, on Facebook... there's no use hiding from it.
  2. How bad can it be?  Facebook and YouTube don't allow porn and do filter content.  Most of the things they will see in social are generally not that much more extreme than what they will see on the street. 
  3. My kids know better than to talk to strangers.
  4. If all of my kid's friends are on Facebook, can I say no?  Isn't this just encouraging them to create a fake account under a different name or find another way to access Facebook?  I'd rather the devil I know.
  5. I know my kids and I trust them.  I've educated them, talk to them regularly and give them the freedom to make the right decisions.

My Conclusion

The web is representative of everything that we are as humanity, not just who we are as a society or a neighborhood.  If you wouldn't trust your kid to head off to Europe on his or her own, don't leave them on the web without first teaching them how to be safe.  Just like the real world, at the right time, it is important to give them their space and teach them how to make the right decisions.  You won't be with them their entire lives.  Within reason. 

Social media is not just about your son or daughter's circle of friends.  The entire world is out there.  If you wouldn't let them head out into the night with a group of friends you don't know, think about how you can impact the way they interact with other's online. Just like you can't control them in school or follow them on their first date, you can't overstep your boundaries online. Within reason.

I don't know the answer, but I know it's something we aren't going to solve without carefull and thoughtfull discussion and collaboration.  What do you think?


Campaigns And Shiny Objects Are Kosher Again

KosherTime to mythbust: Those passionate presentations we all heard 12 months ago about the death of the campaign in a social world?  Busted.

Campaigns aren't dead.  Shiny objects aren't dead. Strategy isn't dead.  There's room for everyone.


While it's true that your brand remains bigger than the individual campaign, campaigns showcase elements of the brand that ignite and inspire social.  Social is part of the mix, ideally the marketing mix not just the communications mix.  However, as a member of the marketing and communications world, social is subject to campaigns. 

The New Social-Campaign Golden Rule: Communities are built for brands, campaigns are built for communities. 

When communities are built around brands the community will live across campaigns.  Engagement within the community is subject to the mutual interest of the brand and their constituents.  The brand would be remiss to not engage the community around the campaign.

Shiny Objects

While viral videos aren't a good idea or a marketing strategy, there's nothing wrong with a good old fashioned shiny technology or fun promotion.  As a matter of fact, there's a lot to be said for testing and succeeding even if there isn't yet a long term plan.  Promotions are a great way to drive a lower funnel business objective or build a sizable audience in a short time-span.  Just make sure you're attracting the right buyers and the right audience by carefully shaping your promotion.

Social, mobile, gaming, location, heck, marketing at all in today's world... this is all new.  Nobody has all the answers. It's more than ok to test your way in.  Just don't test your way into a committed relationship if you aren't ready to reciprocate.

Evil or Genius?

Here's the model:

  1. Build a community site where people can rate, review or otherwise rant about brands.
  2. Prepopulate the site with popular brands, particularly those with customer service challenges or those that already engage in social customer service.  This will drive people and brand engagement.
  3. Recruit people to rant on your site via targeted media, pr and outreach to bloggers.
  4. When people complain, reach out to brands to request their engagement.  The community demands it!
  5. As brands offer service, position yourself as the platform where brands actually engage.  What a selling point to potential users!
  6. Offer brands premium options like tracking dashboards, featured comments and reviews, technology to integrate into the brand website, or license content and the platform for digital media (showcasing great comments).

It's Evil

These schemes/companies force brands to do what they are probably already doing elsewhere in social media: engage and provide customer service.  With a number of these sites popping up at once, brands are faced with resource challenges.  Staffing allocations, coordination models and technologies to track and engage with all of these environments become increasingly complex and expensive.  The resources to meet these new sites don't exist, and it's not fair to expect brands to keep investing.

The brand is already participating in the dialogue on Twitter and Facebook and their blog, and others blogs etc. At a certain point, isn't is incumbent on the general public to at least meet the brand halfway?  And who does this newcomer think they are to demand all this of the brand?  They are building their business on the brand's dime!  People are far more likely to complain than compliment.  It's extortion!

It's Genius

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. People have a right to great customer service, and without fifty thousand followers on Twitter many are still being ignored by the brand.  This levels the playing field.  If the brand has a great reputation, they will do well.  If they don't, it is incumbent on them to fix it by engaging openly and honestly.  Don't blame the messenger.  Would you blame Twitter?  Don't blame me!  We are providing a public service.

What do you think?

If you were a brand, what would you do when confronted with one of these startups?