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FreePint BlogWhat Shall We Do About ... or With ... Social Media?

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Reviewing a smorgasbord of articles on the subject of PR and communications, Ulla de Stricker highlights how the pieces demonstrate the wealth of ways that social media can reach current and new fans but also how this can present potential headaches.


FreePint's buffet of articles over the last six months is a rich reflection of the perceptions shared by organisations focused on engaging their customers and stakeholders through their preferred communication means. Social media offers tantalising new ways to reach current and new fans, yet also presents potential headaches, not to be tackled by the faint of heart. 

Here are just a couple of examples:

It seems a happy convergence when social tools permit humans to step up what they have always loved to do: congregate, join, belong. Now, in a split second, we can encourage others and find like-minded individuals anywhere. We can show our opinions and allegiances and feel good about signalling our support of an initiative happening on the other side of the planet; and we can cast immensely wide nets of "does anyone know …" type queries. But … things can get out of hand. Tim Buckley Owen explains in "Endorse, Like, Review - You Scratch My Back ..." how abuse, devaluation - if everyone endorses everyone else, the endorsement has little value -  and paid positive reviews can spoil the party quickly: "As more people say more things about more people on social media - good and bad - it seems there's a hornet's nest just waiting to be opened."

Such concerns may be one reason why some organisations are - to this day - banning the use of social media in the workplace. James Mullan outlines the considerations when going into a corporate social media policy in "Selling Social Media in the Organisation" and provides pointers to examples of "good (and bad) social media policies" as he addresses the question "how can you create a policy that encourages employees to use external social media … but limits the liability of the employer?"

The favourite social media are subject to some woes of their own, as outlined by Tim Buckley Owen in "Social Media - Pick the Winners or Take the Risk?". Is the Facebook stock market story but an indicator that the "bubble has burst"? No, says Owen; regardless of crashes and untoward tweets, organisations banning the use of social media do so at great risk to their competitive edge.

Of course, social media can't be lumped together - each tool has distinct advantages and lends itself to particular purposes. Colleen Sullivan in "Finding the Right Communication Channel to Empower Teams to Work" stresses how important it is to be aware of, and adapt to, the preferences and circumstances of employees when choosing messaging vehicles. Email, social media, instant messaging, and face-to-face meetings offer unique benefits and require consideration of limitations: "If you think an email is too cold, don't read too much into it or overreact in the response."

Social media and their ready ability to replicate what others have said and done pose a twist on the old challenge of plagiarism. Arthur Weiss in "Plagiarism: the Problem, Prevention, and Detection" provides an overview of services invented for the purposes of facilitating content stealing, outlines the various types of plagiarising behavior, and suggests tools for detecting whether one's content has been pilfered.  

Legitimate opportunities to share abound, of course, and it's early days by the looks of the latest tools. Pinterest, for example, promises to be a hugely valuable tool for museums, libraries, and galleries. Valerie Kittell in "How Information-Related Organisations can use Pinterest to Meet Their Goals" stresses how the tool supports education and discovery. Visual means of communication will only become more powerful, says Tim Owen Buckley in "Visual Representation - Information's Beautiful Future". He discusses the incredible ability of visualisation and mapping software to deal with the scale and diversity of information typical in today's professional environments where "workers … want to see their world, not just read about it".

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