A Friendly Reminder That People Are Terrible
Social media analytics are a very useful tool for peering inside the minds of the general public, albeit often with terrifying results. Before the age of social media, this sort of information was acquired through surveys and opinion polls, which, while able to give the researcher a good general idea of where the public stands on an issue, are inundated with bias by nature. No question is free of bias, which means surveys and opinion polls are, more often than not, going to slightly misrepresent public opinion.
With the advent of social media, the public doesn’t need to be asked first to voice their opinion, now they just put whatever ridiculous ideas are floating around in their head online for the entire world to see. While this does offer a somewhat better “big picture” of what public opinion is on a specific issue, it turns out people in general have some pretty awful things to say. This, for the most part, is not a big issue. You can just choose not to seek out and/or ignore the kind of people posting heinous things. However, once analytics gets involved, we get an idea of how widespread certain opinions are, and oh boy there are some widespread opinions.
For example, in 2014, P.K. Subban, captain of the Montreal Canadiens, scored the game-winning goal in a double overtime period against the Boston Bruins. While in the past such an event might have been greeted with some vaguely racist mumblings from Boston fans, social media allowed these comments to enter the spotlight. What would have at one time been a few isolated incidences of hate caused by a man putting a small disc of rubber between two metal posts using a wooden stick became a massive issue and a mark of shame the Boston Bruins may have to carry with them for several years to come.
This is not to say that social media analytics are bad, I just believe that there are a large number of people with awful, uninformed, hateful opinions and these people now have a platform with which to express them. Social media analytics are useful in PR because they allow you to see who is saying what about a specific topic at almost any given time. George Orwell would probably have been disgusted by the amount of information we willingly put online, it would probably upset him a lot. Thankfully he died of tuberculosis before such an awful fate could befall him.
From a PR standpoint, social media analytics are an incredibly useful tool for businesses to see how they are perceived and discussed online. From a consumer standpoint, it almost seems a little invasive. Obviously you can just censor yourself and the things you put on the Internet, but if you don’t, you and your posts will become a statistic in a much broader look at the online public.
Be careful what you put online, tuberculosis is now treatable and you might not be as lucky as Mr. Orwell was to escape the dystopia he predicted so long ago.