Social media and manufactured consent at #NYCC2013

In both work and play, social media has become a bit of a personal branding exercise – It’s the way we project who we are, how we think and the ideas and passions that keep us up at night. People know and recognise this and as a consequence follow or ignore us, with many guarding their social media profile and passwords fiercely as a result.

It’s no wonder then that that attendees at the recent New York Comic Con 2013 were up in arms about a new feature of the show this year – A social media marketing feature that had attendees singing the praises of the convention to their followers with a series of positive tweets posted on their behalf. Only thing was, they never opted in to do so.

Cue geek furor.

Especially when a number of those who auto-tweeted included editors from some of the web’s biggest gaming and pop culture publications. When your authenticity and opinion is at the core of your professional currency, the gushing praise that organisers has programmed was met with anger and disdain from attendees like Polygon editor Brian Crecente:

As the social wave (and backlash) spread, so too did the disdain for ReedPop’s “manufactured social consent” across social media generating news in “traditional” media outlets including Wired, The Verge, Mashable, Polygon, and mainstream outlets like The Guardian, NY Post and more.

Organisers ReedPop responded promptly in a light and friendly fashion to minimise the negativity surrounding their promotional efforts:

So, how did ReedPop recruit this social army? Attendees who had tweeted for #NYCC had downloaded the official app, which was later found to have included small print that users accepted when they connected their social media accounts to the service.

Could one even suggest, this was manufactured consent?

“Manufacturing consent is related to the understanding that indoctrination is the essence of propaganda. In a “democratic” society indoctrination occurs when the techniques of control of a propaganda model are imposed” (Noam Chomsky – Manufacturing Consent, 2002)

Think “propaganda” might be a little over dramatic? NYCC organisers definitely imposed their own message on an audience in this mis-step; manipulating the perceived “authenticity” of Twitter communications posted by attendees. Watch the video below for discussion not only around the #NYCC incident, but for the commercial implications of an event like this on Twitter’s upcoming IPO. Who holds the keys to trust here – ReedPop or Twitter?

Can Twitter, the social media giant ensure our online identities won’t be compromised in this brave new social media world? Have you had a brand or service tweet or post on your Facebook page without your known permission? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below!

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3 responses to “Social media and manufactured consent at #NYCC2013

  1. We have a little Twitter page for our staff and were using a video app on it called Telly. Telly kept tweeting promotional things off our account because we gave it access to unwittingly! So we cancelled our subscription, so it’s a loss of business on their part!

    By the way Sarah your blog is absolutely incredible, I can’t believe you did this! I have serious blog envy. Is that a thing?

  2. I’ve never heard of Telly, but following your feedback, I’m going to promptly put this on the blacklist of social media tools 😛 Automated tweets are not cool!

    Thanks for the blog kudos – Steep learning curve to figure out the design for the blog, plus plenty of late hours put into developing and writing content. I’m hooked though – Definitely a blogger now!

  3. I’m really surprised who at NYCC thought this was a good idea … hijacking app users’ social media accounts (especially top-tier gaming journalists…)

    I wouldn’t call it propaganda per se (I agree with you), rather something along the lines of fake advertising?

    I personally always check the permissions that an app is requesting before I install it (or while it’s being installed). It’s definitely tedious, but it can potentially save you so much time if your handle/account was hijacked, details changed and started spamming your followers/friends.

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