Fans of the popular Netflix series “Back Mirror” are no strangers to its delightfully dark, prescient perspective on the human condition, our cultural relationship with technology, and how those things will often come to odds with one another. One episode in particular, Nosedive, imagines a world where people can rate each other from one to five stars based on every interaction they have. However, unlike gaining or losing followers over social media, this social credit system directly impacts an individual’s socioeconomic status.
Social Credit System IRL
This may sound like an over-exaggerated interpretation of our personal investment/obsession with social image and acceptance, but it carries an added weight after discovering that this concept may not exist purely within the realm of science fiction. In fact, a form of this big brother monitoring is already rolling out in China.
First announced in 2014, China has begun testing what is essentially a social credit system. This system is currently handled through local councils and non-disclosed tech platforms, and exists to reward those who exhibit anything deemed as positive behavior and punish negative behavior. Individuals would carry a score based upon their observed behaviors and this number can dictate how a person is treated in everyday interactions.
The potential repercussions of these social punishments include such things as denied purchase of plane tickets or hotel rooms, having your Internet access throttled, denied opportunities for better jobs, and even the possibility of open public shaming when labeled as a “Bad Citizen.” While on the positive end individuals can expect perks for high scores such as increased boosting on dating apps, reduced energy bills and better interest rates from banks.
While we may cringe at the notion of a social credit system applied to human beings, the concept really isn’t all that foreign to brands, PR professionals, marketing professionals and the like. Everything that a brand does, says, tweets and hashtags has an affect, from minuscule to massive, on their overall perception. A run of bad press can destroy a brand’s good standing with consumers, just like a series of positive press can improve a brand’s standing. Say the right things, and a brand’s social credit can earn more loyalty, improved partnerships, etc. But say the wrong things, and face a long, uphill climb to regaining the trust of your audience.
In today’s digital world of screenshots and databases, it’s essential to carefully maintain a consistent message, personality and presence in the market. Just like a product recall can have long-lasting affects on consumer trust, screenshots of deleted tweets can spread like wildfire and have the same long-lasting affects on a brand’s reputation. That’s why it’s important to regularly affirm both, internally and externally, what your brand stands for and how that is communicated.
Looking to evaluate your brand and improve its “social score?” We know a few people who can help with that.