One day, many years ago, I was in my dad’s home office. As he turned his computer chair to face me I could see that he was visiting Twitter dot com. He was on what appeared to be his profile page. His profile picture was the default Twitter egg, he had zero tweets, and the only person he followed was Mitt Romney. My father, 60 years old at the time, was “online.”
Twitter, and social media more generally, is now the necessary evil. In order to be a human being on planet earth, one needs to be “online.” Without a “presence,” we have essentially decided to live in the woods. Since I don’t believe that anyone taking a graduate-level social media course has chosen an Emersonian way of life, it will be necessary for all of us, either personally or professionally (note: what’s the difference?) to be “online.”
Okay, so now that we’ve agreed that we need to be online, how do we do so? What examples are there to follow? How should we do this? How should our employers do this? How should our (deep breath) elected officials do this?
Do we take the scorched earth approach that’s popular with the fast food companies?:
Do we fumble around in the dark like baby-boomer politicians?:
Should we be cute and extremely on-brand like certain pet care companies?:
Social media is a PR tool. No, wait, its a marketing tool! No no, its a branding device! Ugh. What is it? How should my company use it? Are there best practices? Is there any tone a company can adopt online other than “sarcastic?” Does it differ by industry? Should Raytheon and Burger King both be responding to customer inquiries in front of the entire world?
I don’t expect this class to answer these questions because I don’t believe there are hard and fast rules. I believe each and every company requires its own unique strategy. Furthermore, I believe the approach that is taken should be informed by more than the PR team, the marketing team, or any 3rd party agency hired to do the task. This is why the group learning approach the class is supposed to take is so interesting to me. We are all out there in the wild, behaving as consumers and social media users. We are the best ones from whom to learn.
I expect it will be hard to drop my personal bias about how companies should use social media. I assume the rest of the class will have a similarly difficult time. For example, I personally believe Gillette’s recent ad on toxic masculinity was a botched attempt to catch up to Harry’s in the race for cultural relevance. This ad set the company up to fail. They’ve been dragged on Twitter for over a week now. Can you imagine having to manage that account? No thanks.
However, if you’re in the camp that “no news is bad news” then you’re probably a proponent of this campaign. And perhaps you’re right on the mark. The ability to drop your bias and stick to a larger, strategic goal should certainly be the aim of these companies. My hope is that this class will help us develop that strategic compass.
I look forward to a diversity of viewpoints and backgrounds when it comes to our online experience. The use of social media by an undergrad is likely very different from that of a 32-year-old graduate student. This spectrum of usage and attitudes should be highly illustrative of how difficult it can be to manage your brand online.
I’m pretty sure my father’s still never tweeted, and that’s okay. Actually, given his political beliefs these days it’s VERY okay. However, the public entities we’ll be joining upon graduation will be tweeting, and posting, and commenting. They will most likely be “online.” As leaders in these institutions, if we plan to remain leaders, it will be essential that we have a strong understanding of how to navigate this environment.