Craig McInnes had an interesting opinion article in The Vancouver Sun yesterday with the headline: Digital pictures are the tattoos of the Internet: You wear them forever. It is a great headline, a good piece and worth a read.
In the article, McInnes talks a little about Ray Lam, NDP candidate for Vancouver-False Creek and the Facebook photos that led to his resignation. He also mentions Sharon Smith, Mayor of Houston, B.C., who had a photo of her wearing only her chain of office show up online. There are many instances and incidents—political, corporate and personal—where inappropriate comments, images or videos have shown up on the Internet. McInnes is right, even if you pull them off your Facebook page, blog or website, chances are they are still out there somewhere and accessible.
We talk to clients a great deal about this new and unedited world when we consult on brand/reputation management as well as how to deal with an issue or crisis online. It’s a part of who we are today as communicators, professionals and people.
One key point that I think hasn’t been talked about a lot yet is that right now, it seems that the medium is the message – or at least provides news value. Ashton Kutcher takes on CNN and the discussion surrounds the ethical use of Twitter and whether Kutcher represents the “common” person. Somehow the story that this “stunt” (for lack of a better word) did something good for charity. Oprah starts to Tweet and pundits wonder if Twitter has jumped the shark. Never mind that Oprah is highly influential and does some good things for the world and might use Twitter to create positive change among her followers.
I think one of the most interesting cases of the medium overtaking the message is the miracle of the crash landing in the Hudson River by the US Airways pilot. There were some great stories about the miracle landing, the amazing abilities of the pilot and how the story was broke on Twitter. All good news stories. What I didn’t see much coverage on was the reason the plane crashed or much focus on that key point – THE PLANE CRASHED.
Right now, an organization that starts to use social media has a good chance of generating some coverage – good or bad – about their use of social media. Are they using it right, what does it mean for the organization, it is a good or bad thing for that particular tool?
Oprah on Twitter, oh my goodness, it’s gone mainstream and that’s a shame – cry the purists and early adopters. And I can see their point, to a degree. But aren’t these tools being developed to create opportunities for all of us to communicate?
Perhaps Oprah will use the tool more as a broadcast medium to send out messages rather than join the conversation. Personally, I give her more credit than that. However, if she does use it only as a one-way megaphone to talk at people, then either her specific community will either accept that form of communication from her or they will abandon her. At the core of it, usage depends on what your stakeholders and/or community will or won’t engage with. It’s all about them.
Social media has opened the door for real conversations. Some smart organizations realize the value of embracing the fact that the consumer now has a strong voice. These organizations also support, encourage and collaborate with their communities.
I have to admit, I can’t wait until this phase is over and social media is seen as what it is – another tool in the communicator’s tool belt. We can do some great things with the organizations we work with – both as in-house communicators and consultants. Don’t let the buzz around it all push you away from looking at what will work for you.