Sylvester Chauke Opinion: The miseducation of Twitter-ville

Sylvester Chauke is an award-winning entrepreneur and cascader of the Stand Against Bland movement in marketing amongst other fun things. He is founder and Chief Architect of DNA Brand Architects, sits on the Advisory council for WEF Global Shapers and is a Board Member of the South African State Theatre.

There I was, frantically scrawling down my timeline getting a sense of what’s happening in the world… or should I say, in the world of people I follow on Twitter.

I love the snappy consumption of news, as it allows me to absorb a lot of detail in a very short period of time. Let’s be honest, with soooo many distributed conversations happening on every corner of the network, you need be selective as to who you listen to and where you focus your attention.

I really appreciate the shortcut version of absorbing my news. If I had to read every newspaper article, I would probably need to spend 4 hours of the day tucked away feeding myself with what the curators of news agents and people that I follow deem as news for the day – so Twitter keeps me up to date in byte sizes and I quite like that.

But this is where the problem is… you see, not everything that is trending deserves to, nor is it interesting for me. The idea that what is trending is what the entire nation is thinking is far from the truth. Twitter is not always the sentiment of the country at large… it is the sentiment perhaps, of the 300 or 3000 people that you follow or the result of the algorithm that pointed out at a time of your tweet, you managed to drive engagement.

Like Rosallia would say… “and then what?.... That’s where experience comes in handy. You have to know what to take and what to discard because if not, you stand a chance of spending a lot of time mis-educating yourself… because truth is…. a lot of the conversations are just attention seekers that are not based on any fact whatsoever.

How can we forget that MiWay saga with a false racist e-mail? Remember how we were all up in arms about it, many people cancelled their policies, many people called the call centre in extreme levels of anger. We were all in it and we ploughed lots of energy on a non-story! Then we were left feeling like fools afterwards when it turned out that the mail has a swindle. Not cool, right?!!

Far too often I get contacted by companies and brands that are frantic about a negative mention on a tweet. They are sometimes even prepared to change direction on their strategy based on 2 or 3 tweets. I adore marketers who are nimble – they make the world of brand building fun – however, I have to remind them that in every single project, you WILL have a selection of consumers who will not like what you do – AND THAT IS OKAY! You do however need to ensure that MOST people are liking your work - but we should not be shaken that some people do not like it, especially those that are not the targeted audience!!

So as we consume news and entertainment, let’s remember that not every tweet is actually worthy of our energy. I am advocating for and ask that we are cautious before we jump into ploughing energy on empty tweets! Remember dear Marketer, your twitter feed is not a representation of the entire Republic of South Africa and not everyone is going to lurve what you do – and it’s okay! Happy scrawling BUT be careful!


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