Some basics before we jump into specifics of Screening and its importance. What is Information Asymmetry? When two parties in discussions have different set of details it is called information asymmetry. If one of the parties has more or better information this could be misused or could bring about a sense of doubt in the other party. The next term to understand is signalling. Proposed by Michael Spence, it is a method by which we communicate our preference to opposite party by our actions that provide an indication of our choice thus negating the Information Asymmetry. Screening, originally pioneered by Joseph Stiglitz, is about less informed party having the capability to reveal information about the opposite party that the original party may not have revealed.
Applying this to Social Media Marketing, what screening means to a marketer is that how much ever he / she tries to limit the advertisement / promotion to a specific topic the individual on the other side will look to increase their understanding through additional reading, Internet or knowledge sharing between other similar individuals. What this translates to possibly is a mass critic of the Campaign being advertised. If at all the marketer has not thought through the campaign or is trying to restrict the knowledge around it which could be detrimental, it is bound to be revealed. While the purpose of the Social Media Campaign may have intended a particular outcome the actual outcome may be completely opposite. And hence it becomes important for a marketer to be ready with various responses or factor in the issues that could crop up into the Social Media Campaign.
A positive example of such a campaign would be by GAP where they used models of various ethnicity. GAP wanted to show its opposition to racism and support for every community. It did expect some backlash and was ready for such a response. What happened was that some posters, which it had a India Sikh with a turban, were painted black. These pictures showed up on Social Media immediately. GAP immediately noticed it and responded by replacing these pictures and opposed such activity. There was a lot of positive comments and impression generated by GAP by not just the ad but also its response to racism.
When advertising on social media it is very important for an organization to come through successfully without any blemish in the screening by Social media users. What this does is create a brand value for the organization. Organizations will be recognized for their value system. Customers / Fans will relate to the product and will try to associate themselves with it. Which has further opportunity to be capitalized on through network effect. However, no organization can take this for granted and will need to ensure and treat every campaign as a new one. Where it would take a great amount of work to build a successful brand it only takes matter of seconds to destroy the brand too. Be it an individual or an organization ‘Reputation’ plays a critical role. Not only does the screening process act as a deterrent but it also acts as a form of policing to ensure symmetry of information!