Is instant feedback a bad thing? In the Twittersphere the rush to stand out from the crowd and the ‘prestige’ of providing instant news coverage may slake our thirst for quickly accessible reports, but if it means that nothing is ever done that’s not reactive, then does it really benefit us? And could access to such instantaneous feedback be considered unfavourable? As the lava was flowing down Pompeii high street and the Barbarians were at the gate, were the Romans too busy fiddling with their microblog feedback?
Twitter is a hub of specialist press, and is a portal to niche blogs and websites. What may seem boring to the mass market will still captivate certain groups with particular interests. It is a platform which allows users to engage quickly with like-minded people and route out interesting online communities. This, of course, places more pressure on newspapers. Everything falling under the imprint of one publication with one personality suddenly feels rather out-dated. Twitter is, essentially, a level playing field; any user can be a journalist and feel endorsed (to an extent) by retweets.
Now for the down side…
The cult of instant feedback has pervaded even modern politics; current political discourse is all about this sort of real-time-focus-grouping. The more instant the choices we have does not signify an enriched democratic process; on Twitter, the cyber-tribe that shouts loudest, wins. For this reason, ironically (as a platform for public discussion), Twitter is an unreliable gauge by which to measure democracy in action. The more instantaneous the output of views and choices of a select few noisy Twitter users quickly sets the precedent for sheep to, well, follow. Why bother voting! It cultivates ‘headline journalism’ in its crudest form.
The politics of reaction dilutes statesmanlike qualities and marks a passing of the era of conviction politicians. On a small scale, dangerously, instant feedback could construct or dismantle political agenda and politicians could become slaves to their own levels of popularity. On a larger scale, does social media reputation deflect attention away from substance? A 2012 study, reported on by USA Today, determined that 70% of President Obama’s followers… don’t really exist. Image is everything. At its worst, Twitter is fertile ground for intolerant know-it-alls or Justin Bieber screamers; either way, it is unlikely to drive political action – merely level-out as a soap-box for partisan opportunists.
In itself, the concept of immediate feedback is positive. It can be informative and garner useful results… when applied to a business. Businesses use Twitter for a variety of marketing-based reasons, but a big benefit for consumers is the direct access to make complaints. This business-consumer relationship is symbiotic in that companies can boost their own approval rating by re-invigorating the consumer experience, simply by composing a personal and direct response to individual users. The public nature of the medium, in turn, freely exhibits the company’s personal touch on a wide scale.
Putting social media to good use can quickly advance business objectives either by gathering product feedback, conducting polls or simply providing a direct route to customer support. In politics, spinmeisters that use such social media instant feedback to shape strategy are reactionary and somewhat unprincipled. Regarding online marketing, marketers are alert and resourceful to manage immediate feedback to their advantage.