Social media is everybody's


Friday, January 12, 2018

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It's just the beginning of the year, and there have already been a slew of public relations issues for businesses that have either started, played out or been sustained on social media. However, each cause — whether local or international — only goes to show the power of social media as a tool to build and destroy careers and businesses no matter how big or small. Today, I'll examine two international examples.


The first incident is about Logan Paul, an American digital star and vlogger. At just 22 years old Paul has built an empire and amassed great wealth, thanks to his online presence. With more than 15 million followers on Youtube, a clothing line birthed from it, a home hat he bought worth US$6.55 million and a US$250,000 Mercedes Benz, amongst other things, Logan was at the pinnacle of the online media mountain.

However, recently he became the centre of what was one of the first, and most intense, social media debacles for the year.

As part of his show, he along with friends, went into the Japanese “suicide forest”, a location where people go to take their lives. Paul stumbled upon an actual body hanging in the forest, which he then filmed and uploaded to his Youtube channel. The video quickly hit over six million views in under 24 hours.

Immediately Logan started getting negative feedback and criticism for his attitude towards and lack of respect for, the dead man, and also for what some are considering to be his insensitivity towards an important topic such as mental health and suicide.

Not to mention the fact that Paul's largest audience tends to be primary school-aged children and teenagers. He soon removed the video.

Amidst the fallout have been calls by other famous YouTubers and content creators, that Paul should be penalised by YouTube. Some even called for his channel to be shut down.

Paul soon made a sombre one-minute and forty-five second apology video, in which he admitted to having “made a severe and continuous lapse in my judgement”, and said “I want to apologise to the internet. I want to apologise to anyone who has seen the video.”

Through social media Paul has made the Forbes Top Influencers list, as a digital star and vlogger. According to the site, he makes US$150,000 per Facebook post and US$80,000 for sponsored content on Instagram and has appeared in commercials for brands like HBO and Hanes. His net worth is reported to currently be about US$15 million.

However, now, all of this is at stake. He has not made any videos since the incident and has even had to shore up security in the midst of the very negative feedback.

Outside of being banned, YouTube could also demonetise his YouTube account — meaning that he would lose the opportunity to make money from ads shown on his videos. He also risks losing some of the endorsement deals he may have with big brands like HBO, Disney and Pepsi.

Some members of the public have even started a petition to get him to close his channel. They have already surpassed their goal of 150,000 signatures and are approaching their new goal of 500,000.

Logan Paul has in fact now been penalised by YouTube and heavily so. His channel has been removed from Google Preferred programme, which is a designation that offers brand advertisers the ability to place ads into the most popular YouTube channels of US 18- to 34-year-olds. It is also meant to be a symbol of trust that these YouTubers produce high-quality content. This removal will mean a significant reduction in his ad revenue for each video created going forward. He has also been removed from season four of a web series he was to be a part of, and the YouTube Red movie, The Thinning, that he appeared in, and which was slated for release later this year, has been put on hold. and YouTube has since cut some of its business ties with the vlogger.

Initially, YouTube gave Logan only a “Community guidelines strike”. Which if three are received in a three month period, that channel will be blocked from YouTube. However, Youtube received negative feedback for what was perceived as a light punishment. They then took the more severe action outlined above.


The second and most recent incident is that of fashion retailer H&M which fell in hot water after posting a picture of a black boy on its website in the UK wearing a shirt titled “Coolest monkey in the jungle”. The Internet immediately responded with outrage, and questioned H&M advertisers' creative judgement. Many have claimed that the image was racist in nature, especially, as two white children were also depicted in clothing from the line, but with totally different messages.

The image was quickly removed, and a short apology posted, but the product without the boy, remained on the site. A longer statement was released after and the product was “removed from our channels and the garment from our product offering globally”.

The kickback online from other users has been intense, with people promising and urging others to boycott the company.

The Weekend, the well-known R&B singer and rapper, even tweeted out that he would be cutting ties with the brand: “Woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. i'm deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore…” . He had collaborated on two collections with the company last year.

Some argued that it could have been a simple cultural misunderstanding by the Swedish company, as it might have been unaware that at the term “monkey” is considered racially loaded.

“Cultural disconnect vs ill intent. Swedish company, probably not a lot of diversity, racial or cultural, in places of decision making,” argued Dina Fierro, global director, digital, Christian Louboutin on Twitter.

However, this was put in question when another white child was also depicted in clothing from the line, but with the message instead being “…Mangrove Jungle Survival Expert”.

H&M had already been considering closing some stores after an unprecedented dip in sales last year, so this is not an ideal time for such a crisis.

This comes as numerous brands have been under fire on social media for various advertising and social media posts faux pas. For instance, Dove last year.

What does it all mean?

These two incidents lay a great foundation at the start of the year, showing the business of social media confronting the power of social media. Content marketing and social media are powerful tools.

In the business of social media opinion is the currency. People's opinions, likes and approval can build a person, business or brand immensely. It offers social proof and proves that your brand or product is accepted and desired by the masses. However, it is also these very opinions which can just as easily destroy a brand. Social media notoriety is fast, but fickle. It must be handled with great care.

Brands and businesses should be meticulous in ensuring that their brand messages not only please, but as best as possible, do not offend (too much). They must stay away from disenfranchised groups and groups that are currently at the mercy of the public (black people, members of the LGBTQ community and women). Advertisers and content creators must instead remain sensitive to their cause. Content creators must ensure that their message is sensitive to the cultural and political environment, as well as issues currently at play in the media and around the world. They need to be aware of everything, up to date with everything, and considerate of everything — all the while remaining creative, edgy and innovative, pushing the boundaries, but knowing which ones to push, whose boundaries to push and how far to push them.…

In essence, in today's information age, in which the consumer, also has the power to not only consume content, but to react, applaud, and criticise it instantaneously, the content creator and the social media manager of a brand are two of the most influential and powerful people in a company. They hold the company's image and entire financial future in their hands. The third most powerful is in fact the consumers themselves.

Social media is no longer a game. Social media is now… everybody's business.




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