I'm sitting at home watching an old "I Love Lucy" episode called "Ricky has Labor Pains". Towards the end of the show Lucy disguises herself as a male reporter so that she could sneak into a mens social club. Someone takes a picture of her and in the moments after, a flashbulb-blinded, pregnant Lucy lurches around the room looking for steady ground. The last week has been a little like that in the social media world.
In the middle of last week General Mills announced a change in their terms of service which appeared to limit an individual's legal rights after engaging the cereal company by "liking" their page. The magnitude of the outcry was not surprising and on Saturday, General Mills announced a reversal which the New York Times reported on Sunday Morning - http://nyti.ms/PjXdA8.
This is a good development for the social consumer, General Mills and industry in general.
The social consumer can continue to engage companies with less concern that their actions will have unintended consequences in the future; General Mills demonstrated a commitment to listening and responding rapidly, or as one would say, at the speed of social. Finally this is good for the rest of industry who can be more secure in embracing the idea of liking and following as an organization.
The concept of a "follow" or a "like" is powerful but less so because of what it implies for an individual's actions or intentions and more because of what can mean en masse - depending on the arena, if hundreds or thousands "like" something it can be translated into a call to action. Social is about crowds but the individual needs to able to, at least to a certain extent, hide in plain sight. Putting too much scrutiny on their individual actions isn't good for anyone and runs the risk of making too much of single event, leaving us all lurching in over reaction, just like Lucy. Thanks to the actions of General Mills it looks like we're back on solid ground for the moment.