The only thing in the world that can make you rich overnight – or get you fired for some personal comment on your Facebook page. Social media is infamous for its power to promote or punish.
Freedom of speech vs. Vandalism
We all like to keep in touch with our friends. Whether boasting about that wild weekend party, or how you can’t believe your boss handled a situation at work. We share the good, the bad, and the ugly. But there’s a difference between sharing a story over a barbecue and sharing it online. The one is almost harmless; the other is comparable to vandalism.
The problem is this: what you post can be damaging to the company’s reputation and affect them financially. The bigger the company, the bigger the damage is. It’s not only our friends that read the things we communicate via social media. Companies, clients, consumers, etc. are all reading such posts.
Freedom of speech isn’t the issue. The issue is the platform used to do it with. Nothing stops you from venting frustrations with friends at the weekend barbecue (as just one example). But the platform in this example is a private one.
You can even commit treason, apparently
If the platform is public, keep it appropriate. Not only individuals, but also companies have made the mistake of biting the hand that feeds it on social media. One of the biggest banks in South Africa made the mistake of pointing out some problems in its country, by having citizens voice their opinions via social media and ads. The bank was accused of treason and the government demanded the removal of the ads and ceasing the social media campaign. The bank’s intention was to inspire people toward solutions for improving society – not to hurt public relations of the government.
We can learn a lot from cases like these. But despite people losing jobs over social media posts, there’s plenty of reason to learn how to use social media effectively. Use social media appropriately and you CAN make good things happen.
How social media can be a powerful ally
The “unwritten rules of social media” are by no means clear. It can hurt you, or it can also help you. Social media can promote accountability. For example, complaining in public platforms like social media can be done as an unhappy consumer of a product or service. Consumers can get their words out at websites like www.hellopeter.com, www.ripoffreport.com, www.my3cents.com, and the list goes on. Some sites are for legitimate feedback and give the companies a chance to resolve the issues. Other sites are all about sensationalist journalism. Consumers choose where they want to go depending on what they want to get out of it.
Social media has the power to create trust. As consumers, we all know that we trust word of mouth via social media more than advertising. If satisfied customers are so happy that they share that experience with others – and there’s a few hundred or a few thousand of them – it speaks volumes more than any amount of marketing ever will. If marketing then builds on this established trust and credibility, fireworks can happen, and the famed viral success story is made.
Trust is a big topic. Not only companies, but individuals are promoted too. Websites like “Linked In” create a space for career-enthusiasts to network with each other and even get recognition from peers, clients, and managers to build a credible track record. You get the spin-offs of course. Some companies want to take advantage of the Human Resource Recruitment industry and focus almost purely on connecting employers with employees, like www.bark.com for example.
Social media has the power to connect. No, not so-called “friends” that spam each other for attention with meaningless status updates and photos of their faces, foods or fails – rather, social media can connect us with things we are never exposed to, yet can become a part of, like charities. One of the most famous examples is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Another is Movember for fundraising toward men’s health.
Social media can empower resourcefulness. Ever heard of crowd sourcing Medical advances have been made using the “power of the crowd”, where people voluntarily apply their own efforts and skills to solving difficult problems. The examples range to recreational computer game development to every type of science you can imagine. For profit, or not for profit – it is simply a resourcefulness tool.
The usefulness of social media keeps expanding, just as its dangers do. A few years ago, email was fancy. Then, smart phones were fancy. Now, social media has gone past the phase of fancy.
As with all potent tools – social media will remain controversial for its power to bring big change, quickly.