One of Social Media’s Enduring Myths Disproven
February 28th, 2012 by Brian Posnanski
Of all the reasons cited by companies and businesses why they don’t “do” social media, control (or the lack of it) is at the top of the list. It goes something like this: “Why put our brand out there on Facebook or Twitter when anyone and everyone can take shots at will? On top of that, we can’t trust that our employees will do the right thing.”
NPR recently ran an excellent, in-depth story about the State Department’s use of social media – it’s a great read (or listen) and we highly recommend heading over to NPR to hear or read the whole thing.
Much to its credit, the State Department gives all U.S. diplomats a crash course in “21st century statecraft” before they head out on assignment. As a result, the State Department has at last count 195 Twitter accounts and 288 Facebook pages. More to the point, there are plenty of examples of ambassadors and diplomats using that social media presence for good. U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford routinely used his Twitterfeed to send out images of tanks rolling into Syrian cities. When pro-government bloggers, known as the the Syrian Electronic Army, mounted a disinformation campaign, Ford’s frequent posts not only got them to retreat, but also encouraged other Syrians to counter the Syrian Electronic Army, as well. How cool is that?
But here’s the critical thing – the State Department’s use of social media is a great example of how social media is about gaining control, not about losing it. It’s something that Alec Ross, the head of innovation for the State Department, articulates perfectly. Money quote from the story:
Social media is a lot less risky medium than live television; you can edit yourself, you can think ahead of time before you hit send. So, I actually think that if you look at the vast amount of communication that this administration has done over social media over the last few years, it’s actually shocking that there have been as few mistakes as there have been.
This is what we tell companies all the time. Social media provides a publishing platform, and just like any platform, it requires planning, collaboration and review. And if the State Department, which literally deals with world-changing situations everyday, can effectively turn social media into an effective tool for good, it stands as a lesson for all of us. Who says government can’t innovate?Tags: alec ross, case study, facebook, npr, social media, state department, twitter