Friday, October 3, 2008

A Demonstration of the real Power of Citizen Journalism..

Consumers are becoming increasingly more powerful through the social media. Even the most powerful of organisations can be affected by the acts of a single citizen journalist. The attached article recognises a recent report raised on CNN's iReport. The article concerned, which has since been removed from the site, details reports of Apple CEO Steve Jobs suffering a heart attack. The effects of the article? Apple's stock reportedly dropped ten points. This is a major hit; particularly when considering that the article was eventually disproven.

The ability of a single consumer to create a ten point drop in an organisation's stock value is very real. The individual responsible may have created the article as a means of exploring her 'consumer power'. Conversely, she may have experienced service failings in the past that led to her become suitably dissatisfied with the brand to warrant such action. Although the reasons for the 'attack' are unclear, one thing is certain; organisations must wake up to the threat that consumers pose in an increasingly connected society. If Apple is susceptible to damage through user generated content, then other smaller organisations are equally vulenerable to citizen marketer brand attacks.

I am dubious as to whether the report achieved increased credibility because of its position on CNN, as was suggested in the article. It is my opinion that the location of such information is likely to prove trivial in gauging the credibility of report content. More often than not, the electronic communities of such social platforms as Digg and Twitter represent a collection of the greatest investigative minds on the net. Any stories that contain factual inaccuracies will invariably be identified by the community and exposed as fraudulent.

In any case, the report illustrates a clear power shift. The organisation must recognise that control of the brand is no longer in their hands. Remember, a brand is what the consumer makes of it. As we become increasingly more connected, consumers represent those brand which they interact with on a daily basis.

The organisation had better make sure it keeps the consumer on its side.

read more digg story

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  1. What this also showed was the need for proper regulation of the new media sources.

    Sure, the citizen reporter was wrong for running the story in the first place without any kind of fact-checking, yet CNN were just as guilty for publishing it without substantiated proof it was true.

    Despite their attempts to condone this by using the excuse "they don't want to hold their citizen reporters back", it seems a highly flimsy and unprofessional thing for them to come out with.

    I wonder if they would have been so forgiving had it been the CEO of CNN as the story, and saw their share prices wiped out?

  2. The problem with regulation is that it may deter people from content generating. Remember, for every blog that attacks the brand online, there is another blog defending it, so discouraging user generated content may be equally detrimental to the organisation.

    If regulations are imposed, it is difficult to suggest how the content could be adequately regulated. Although I agree with monitoring the social media for exclusion of obscenities etc, the task of excluding libelous content is likely to prove significantly more difficult. Even if regulations are imposed, stories like this are still likely to appear in the social media. As this article demonstrates, the content only needs to be out there for a short period of time to cause potentially huge organisational damage. If the content is removed, then the organisation cannot respond to the comments and allegations contained therein, eliminating their ability to offer their opinion on an otherwise one sided 'conversation'.

    In this instance, I believe that the article in question should have been left up. Removing it offers no benefit to anyone. I honestly believed that this could have been turned to Apple's benefit. For example, if Steve Jobs had responded to the report in question, the results may have shown Apple as being in touch with their target market, instead of fearful of it.

    The importance of the conversation is paramount, and should not be one-sided. I think that what's needed is a shift in mentality; organisations need to to open up and act more transparently. By doing so, the organisation can appear more human in the eyes of the consumer, and benefit from the opportunities this affords.

    Thanks for your comment, Danny.