(^MK) How important is social media as a communications and marketing tool? If you still ask yourself this question as a communicator, you should consider to change your field of work! We live in the age of new media. Things have changed over the past decade: the former audience of traditional journalism has turned into active citizen journalists. The rise of citizen journalism – seen as the democratization of the news – has changed the way news is gathered and disseminated. The evolution of the Internet and the rise of new media, specifically the sharing of content, have changed the traditional way news and information is distribution. The Cluetrain Manifesto acknowledges social networking communities, self-organizing activists, and “open source” progress as the “Markets are conversations.”
Today’s task is to name a brand in the United States, which uses social media in a good way and one, which isn’t. The TIME magazine mentioned in its cover story “How Twitter will change the way we live” a very good example for a great implementation of the social media tool Twitter. A conference devoted to reform education, called Hacking Education, took place with a small number of participants, mainly educators, entrepreneurs, scholars, philanthropists and venture capitalists. They all discussed on the future of schools; a topic with a broad public interest. Conference attendants posted live commentary about the event via Twitter (#hackedu). People started talking about the conference online and a shadow conversation unfolded. A large screen placed in the conference room showed a running feed of tweets. This is a very simple example of how social media enriches a conference of experts with the view of “outsiders” such as students or parents.
I do not have a specific example for a corporation, which uses social media in a bad way. However, I have some specific thoughts on “how not to use social media.” As a business communicator, it is very important to understand the science behind social media: Clay Shirky proposes in his book Here Comes Everybody three easy-to-adopt key principles to successfully implement a social media community: The “plausible promise” describes the basic “why” to join and/ or to contribute to a group. The promise creates desire to join any group. The “effective tool” is the way of “how” to accomplish the promise: for instance, to start a successful online photo sharing site, one needs servers and a easy-to-use interface to upload and view the photographs online. The “acceptable bargain describes “what” will be expected from each individual user when joining the group: in the photo sharing site example, the user is expected to upload his own photographs and to comment on other’s photo work (if you re interested in further information visit my social media blog posts here). And as simple as this might sound – if you do not follow these three principles (or change them during the course of action) you and your communications efforts will end up as a negative example. Facebook, for example, recently changed its terms of service followed by an outrage of many of its users. Facebook promised to provide social networking and therefore users have to upload personal data. As simple as that. However, now Facebook takes possession of all uploaded data and published personal information – and Facebook’s users feel betrayed. This seriously damages a brand.