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Will Social Media Raise the Bar for Offline Experiences?

About a week ago I attended an outdoor concert. The opening band completed their set. Then 30 minutes passed, and then 60…where was the headliner?  I’ve been to many concerts and rock shows in my life and delays are not uncommon, but over an hour between sets is pushing it. Finally, a spokesperson took the stage and informed us that someone in the band was ill and the concert was cancelled. Everyone thought it was a joke at first, but quickly realized we had all been waiting around for nothing.

The crowd responded collectively with moans, expressions of frustration and disappointment as they snatched up their blankets and picnics and headed for the parking lot traffic jam. Curious if the expression I was hearing offline was the same online, I turned to Twitter. Sure enough profanity, doubt and extreme frustration filled the “Tweetwaves.”

I wondered if the best practices of social media engagement (transparency, respect, authenticity, disclosure and accountability) had been applied would the crowd’s response been different?  For example, if a member of the band broke the bad news immediately after the opening act and apologized, instead of an unknown spokesperson 60 plus minutes later, would we have been more sympathetic and forgiving?

And as more people engage with all types of brands – companies, organizations, celebrities, groups and musicians – through social channels, are their expectations for offline or traditional channels changing?  At what point will people no longer accept company spokespeople and prepared statements and demand real answers in real-time? Or is it happening already?  I would love to know what you think, please share your comments.

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