Are Social Media Rules Defined By Transgression?

It feels like every week we see another company or organization launch itself into social media, only to get beaten down by the blogosphere. Last week it was Skittles; this week it’s Facebook redesigning its site (again).

But where do rules to which we hold these companies come from?

Listening to an old episode of CBC’s Spark podcast today, I noticed Mitch Joel posed an excellent question:

Do we define social media rules by their transgression?

How many of these “rules” exist before someone breaks them, and how many are made up once people decide they don’t like companies’ actions?

Sometimes it’s obvious.

But what about others? What about the rules that aren’t as clear, and that only become apparent when people get upset about others contravening them (even though they don’t exist yet)?

What about Burger King’s Facebook app that offered a whopper to users who sacrificed a few long-lost high-school friends for a whopper? Where were the rules about that written? What about companies who use humour in their online campaigns (Motrin, for example) and get crucified when others find it offensive rather than funny?

These are two examples; rather than focus on those I want to look at the bigger picture.

Does the blogosphere takes people and companies to task for breaking rules that don’t yet exist?

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.