A few weeks ago my in-laws were in town and we had to watch “her” Blackhawks play.

Watching the game (the Blackhawks won by the way) made me think that social media is similar.

Fast moving, requires a lot of thinking/talent, can be rough.

People play hockey to win.

People play at social media to win (show folks how good they are).

Social media folks love to score (count their followers, fans, retweeters) to prove their value and watch the other guy/gal get beat up.

Admit it; you love to watch the fights during hockey games as long as you’re not out there on the ice.

When someone gets in a social media fight, you can’t take your eyes off the screen (whichever one you’re watching).

In both the one who strikes the first blow usually wins because the second person is defending him/herself.

Take the recent GDC (Game Developers Conference) social media run-in.

Vibrant Industry

This year’s GDC looked like a real industry tipping point:

- Record attendance of over 20,000 creative folks from around the globe

- Mind- boggling list of interesting educational, informational sessions

- Lots of indies gathered to find out how they could make a living doing what they liked without having to assign their creative efforts over to large studios and earn only a small portion of the cash flow

- Female developers were there in record numbers and it looked like they were well on their way to being equals

It seemed like everyone was posting, tweeting about how great the event was, how they were learning/enjoying everything and how indies were going to make life better for … everyone.

It was so successful IGDA (Independent Game Developers Assn) held a party for the attendees.

Great except…

Brenda Romero, a well known and highly respected independent developer, tweeted a complaint about the party, included a picture and said it was all the fault of IGDA and one of the exhibitors, YetiZen.

The issue was the female dancers at the party.

The president of YetiZen (Sana Choudary) responded they hired avid gamers who happened to be models and “clarified other points raised.”

I’m not condoning or condemning the “entertainment.” Fortunately, most of the shows we go to have become more grown-up, more serious over the years. And I do think it’s a lot better than if you go to E3 or Comicon (two other “boys club” events).

Hey, who knows they may be ardent gamers and models!

Reinforcement vs. Facts

The “discussion” was on the Internet, which means it is now everywhere and it only reinforced the industry’s image:

- Development people are guys who make no money, are chained to their desk and drink nothing but Redbull, eat Oreos (Twinkies are gone for now)

- Games are addictive like cocaine and the hooked play for 20 hours plus straight with no bathroom breaks or food/water

- Young boys play the games and think sex, drugs, murder is normal, cool

- Our youth act out their game play in the real world harming themselves, others

The truth about the industry:

- 65 per cent of American households play computer, video games

- The average game player is 35 years old, not a lusting, killing focused, acne-ridden kid

- One out of four gamers is over the age of 50

- Nearly 50 per cent of the gaming population are women, 18 and older

- 30 per cent of players of violent games are women

So who won?

It doesn’t really matter, game developers and the industry lost.

What it did prove is that social media is an open playground that can go from being a whole lot of fun to an ugly name-calling event or brawl in less than 140 characters.

When it happens, all you remember is “he/she beats his/her significant other” or in this instance “there were scantily dressed, hot dancers at the party.”

It doesn’t matter if the story is true or false, right or wrong.

What matters is how well and how quickly and thoroughly the complaint, issue was addressed.

The problem is most publicists are only capable of one-sided pitches. You know, lobbing out neat messages to folks.

Don’t agree?

PR Shortcomings

According to Flurry, more than 50 percent of the people who respond to an outreach or request information/assistance using social media – Facebook, Twitter, Printerest, LinkedIn, you name it — never get a response.

The problem is (obviously) anyone can be an expert.

And if you want to be in – really in – you need to say you’re a social media expert.

By definition, the key to social media is a two-way conversation.

That’s okay until something goes wrong because there are no private conversations – especially with things like Twitter.

Twitter isn’t like email – one person to one or more individuals – instead it’s more like a phone conversation on a party line … a really big party line.

People forget it’s not as simple conversation but organized eavesdropping where anyone can add his/her two-cents or caustic response … and they do!

And it’s there–forever (do a little online search and you can read the complaints and responses to the GDC “incident”).

In this on-ice brawl there were no winners.

The most the professional can do is quickly, clearly address the points and then encourage the individual to help you solve/resolve the problem offline.

In this instance, anti-video gamers – especially the more violent games – are saying the incident only reinforced all that is bad with games.

People interested in games sat in the arena and cheered as the battle of words played itself out.

Social media experts probably didn’t think twice about it because they were too but getting Likes and Twitter followers.

They probably don’t think twice about hitting the send key and taking their best shot.

But it’s important to know that when you’re on the ice; someone, some time is going to take a swing and how you respond reflects not just on you but your company, your brand.

If you’re going to simply duck the blows … get off the ice and into the stands.

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