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Posts Tagged ‘social media

Weekly #3: Right to Privacy on the Social Web

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I have several thoughts floating around in my head, all seemingly connected to this assignment, so bear with me…

Post #3 is in response to the following question: Do we need a Bill of Rights for the social web?

I need definitions before I can answer this.

First, what is the social web? “The social web can be described as people interlinked and interacting with engaging content in a conversational and participatory manner via the Internet.” Thank you very much, Wikipedia. I think about this in terms of activity on social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia and so on.

Second, a Bill of Rights to what? I get the sense that Joseph Smarr and Co. were advocating for the right to greater usability of the social web. They weren’t outlining ways that users are to be protected on the social web. They were talking about convenience for users via open data sharing, and they were doing it under the guise of property, ownership and control. Because if the social web “just works for users,” as Smarr so desires, then it is equally as simple for it to “just work” for marketers when they need to collect our data. The big selling point of this so-called user-centric Bill of Rights is that it is supposed to be beneficial (read: profitable) to those platforms willing to share users’ data. That’s fine and all, but I was hoping for a Bill of Rights more in line with the protection of the little guy from The Man.

Third, who is the “we” in need of these rights? You have to ask this because enforcement of rights is impossible without knowing the beneficiaries of them. Not that I believe enforcement can happen easily even if the “citizens” afforded these rights are clearly defined. But still, are we talking about the entire world population? Or the American population? Or perhaps just internet users? And then what level of user? Who would claim these rights if given? If you take a look at the Social Technographics Ladder in Groundswell, you have to wonder if the “inactives” even care about having rights on the social web.

The Bill of Rights put forth three years ago makes us imagine a social web where we the users own and control the information we put out there. It is attractive to us because we crave privacy in a space where “community now shades into audience” and “communication is instant, global, and nearly permanent” (Here Comes Everybody, p. 89).

My assertion that we crave privacy may seem paradoxical given the amount of personal information we disseminate and consume on social platforms. For example, today I received a text from my friend informing me that a past high school friend of ours is pregnant. How did she find out? Facebook. Of course, I immediately called her for more information:

Me: “Wait, what?!”

Friend: “I was reading my News Feed and just saw it on there! I could get a life but instead I just read about everyone else’s lives on Facebook.”

Was anything inherently wrong with this information sharing? No. Were rights violated? No. Did it feel unsettling that I learned of this major life event via my friend’s virtual stalking habits? A bit. Sure, said Pregnant Friend put up the information herself. And, yes, we are “friends” on Facebook. But we aren’t close anymore, and I don’t think she would be happy that I reacted to news of her firstborn in the same way I would to a Sarah Silverman tweet.

The point is that the social web is a giant microphone, and it is overwhelming not knowing how personal information is being consumed, reused and reacted to. It was so overwhelming to Tyler Clementi that he ended his life over it. Social platforms were integral to his tragic death. Tyler posted his suicide note on Facebook, three days after his roommate made his sexual orientation and exploits known to the world through Twitter and iChat. Now, Tyler didn’t post this information himself and it is clear that his right to privacy was grossly violated. But the concern still remains. Why worry about API tokens and data sharing when we should be thinking of the protection of our right to privacy and the serious consequences for violating that right? This excerpt from a Washington Post op-ed sums it up well:

Technology is not the villain. Humans have never needed sophisticated tools to spread malice. Word of mouth and surreptitious notes have long done the trick. But technology has exponentially enabled and emboldened the mean or thoughtless among us. It allows those with less than noble intentions to hide behind screen names or lurk from afar, distancing themselves from their human targets and the possible consequences of their actions. And the trespasses are no longer contained to a circle of friends, a school or a town but accessible to millions.

This is the stuff keeping me up at night, not whether I can log in to all of my preferred platforms with one universal ID. Bring me a Bill of Rights protecting my privacy and punishing violators of it. Or better yet, show me a SCOTUS willing to figure out privacy in the digital world using the BoR we already have, and I’ll stand up and applaud.

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Weekly #2: Bibbidi-BLOGGidi-Boo!

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For this week’s Social Media assignment, I drew inspiration from a CEO who became synonymous with his company – Walt Disney. Similar to Steve Jobs, Disney elicits a mix of feelings and descriptions, perhaps the most common being “visionary.” If this visionary had a blog, what would he say?

Of course, Disney did not have a blog, but what he did have was timeless advice. So, Mr. CEO, if you want to jump into the deep end of the blogosphere, take some hints from the man who became a mouse to become a legend:

When people laugh at Mickey Mouse, it’s because he’s so human; and that is the secret of his popularity.

People connect to people. It’s as simple as that. If you want to put yourself out there and talk about your company, you need to speak with a human voice on your blog (see Cluetrain Manifesto). Distinguish yourself from the marketing jargon. People are smarter than ever before and can dig up information on you and your company without your help. Why not speak for yourself? Come out from behind the fog of “The Company” and be honest and transparent. That is what your customers want, what your employees want – hell, what all of your stakeholders want. Your corporate reputation is built on honest practices and transparency, and your blog should be one channel that demonstrates your commitment to these values.

I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I have ever known.

This famous Disney soundbite seems as if it came hot off of WordPress. It gets a laugh and shows the quirky side of Disney. Blogging offers the CEO an opportunity to show the humor and vulnerability – the human side – of a company. There is a caveat, however. Think about this quote for a bit longer. It is quite sad if taken at face value. It could be showing the cracks in the psyche of a man who, after all, built an empire around fantasy and escape. As noted in Say Everything, there’s a fine line between the “sincere” blogger and “authentic” blogger. Being honest and transparent doesn’t mean you have to reveal the inner demons within yourself and your company. Instead, be sincere, marrying your online persona as CEO with your offline one. You need to make sure that “life and blog are in harmony” (pg. 258).

Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.

It is important to view your multiple stakeholders as equal parts of a whole culture, especially since that is how opinion leaders now view them (2010 Edelman Trust Barometer). Employees can be your company’s strongest advocates. They also happen to be who your other primary stakeholders – customers – want to hear from (Cluetrain). You can lead by example with your blog and encourage your internal stakeholders to join by writing their own blogs. The goal should be clear: this is one way to engage our stakeholders and build relationships through sincere dialogue. You can even improve your blog cred by linking to your employees’ blogs. Respond to employees’ concerns, answer their questions, comment on their links. They want to know you care about them, too. Plus, this shows proof of the genuine conversation going on both internally and externally that is now expected by your stakeholders (Edelman Trust Barometer).

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

Cluetrain taught us that your customers want to know what your strategies and plans are. They want to be part of the conversation surrounding your new ideas and innovations. Including them via your blog will help build trust and provide you with feedback and insight that you may not have otherwise had access to. Allowing comments to your posts is not a must, but they do provide for a more open and honest dialogue with your stakeholders. You also can build credibility by inviting experts to comment on your posts and by linking to their blogs. According to Edelman, your company’s story needs to be told through multiple channels and multiple people, especially experts, academics and industry analysts. Involving experts shows that you are knowledgeable about your field and open to idea generation from outside of the company.

You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.

The answer to the question dancing in your head is “Yes.” Yes, blogging comes with risks and may even result in some backlash for you and your company. That is the nature of the beast. This nature is never more apparent than when the economy is bad and companies are easy to blame. Right now trust in companies is fragile and people are mad – Howard Beale mad. However, you can take preventative measures to decrease negative reactions. First, create a communication plan that has clear goals and objectives and consistency across platforms. Second, realize that blogging is just one platform for you to reach out to your stakeholders. Do not neglect other forms of communication that are needed to build trust and relationships. Third, think before you post. You can still be genuine and have your assistant proofread your post. If something appears that you as CEO in real-time would not say, take it out. Remember, sincerity means life and blog are in harmony. Editing in this way is not only okay, it is necessary. After all, writing about a portion of your life does not warrant complete self-exposure (Say Anything, pg. 265). Of course, you will inevitably get some backlash, especially if you allow for comments. When this happens, don’t run and hide. If you or your company messed up, own up to it and make good with the disgruntled party. If you are in the right, use your blog as a forum to explain why. In either case, it may be the best thing for your company. You can learn from negative feedback and change for the better. You then signal to your stakeholders that they matter and are valued.

Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.

Images are shortcuts for the imagination, and people love shortcuts, so use them. More specifically, use ones that further your story. You know how you love watching behind-the-scenes clips from films? That’s because you get a glimpse of the real people and methods behind the creative process. You want the genuine story that made the film possible. The same holds true for your company. Your stakeholders want the insider’s view of your people, how they work and what they are working on. Pictures and short videos of your inner workings will enhance your blog. Once you are comfortable, invite your customers to contribute pictures and videos relating to the company. This is proof that they are internalizing your company’s story and making it their own.

I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.

It’s important to keep in mind your company’s history and how it influenced the culture today. No matter what technology or platform you use, remember that you are telling a story. Blogging is just one of the many ways to tell that story. But unlike your company website or marketing materials, you get to be the narrator. You get to invite others to participate and help modify and expand the story. You get to build relationships by using the human voice. It truly is an exciting gift.


The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.

Starting a blog isn’t as easy as bibbidi-bloggidi-boo. (Side note: It’s scary how similar-looking the Fairy Godmother is to the nun who taught me in fourth grade). It will take you a while to get used to the form, and it may feel like a chore at first. But you have to start somewhere. It may not be perfect, but like a fine wine, it will get better with time. Now that you armed with my sage advice, go forth and start blogging!