Social media – a tempest in a teapot?

Have you ever heard of Eric Monkman? I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t. If not, it would mean that you are not accustomed to watching British, college-level trivia television shows. But, that being said, it would also mean you don’t watch CBC or Global or read the local paper or listen to the radio or log onto Facebook. So, maybe I WOULD be a little surprised.

For some nearly inexplicable reason, this Canadian-born Economics student recently captured the attention of millions of people around the world. But how, exactly? What was his secret? Whatever the reason or reasons, he can now be added to the list of other web-based phenomena like Slender man, the Ice Bucket Challenge and of course, the often imitated but never duplicated, white and gold dress. Or was it blue and black? I could never tell.

Consider the ever popular Grumpy Cat. There are countless photos of cats on the Internet. About the only thing that outnumbers cat pics are stars in the sky. So, what made Grumpy Cat different? It certainly wasn’t some universal message of peace. What was the magical combination of seemingly ineffable ingredients that culminated in this internet and pop-culture sensation? What went right? Or wrong, depending on your attitude toward cats. (Sorry, cat lovers – no offence intended)

Three years ago, when American Apparel initiated a social media campaign for the 4th of July, their team confused a picture of the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger for fireworks. One wonders how exactly such a mistake can be made in the first place but the fact is that it resulted in the company issuing a public apology and removing Mr Dov Charney as president and chief executive officer. Not exactly a social media “win”!

So, the question remains: how do you ensure the success of your social media presence? Don’t worry. Organizations ask themselves this question constantly, as if it were somehow in their power to capture a tempest in a teapot. The real answer lies in persistence. It may not sound exciting but the first priority in any communications effort should be to increase your positive profile in a socially responsible way.

With every new technology, there are those who will own it and be masters of it (or attempt to be, as much as they can) and those who must serve these masters. Today’s organizations must embrace these changes, remaining ever vigilant in their efforts to respect the principles of openness and transparency which must be the cornerstone of any communications initiative.

In a time when social and conventional media allow for a level of scrutiny that is deeper than ever before, all organizations must ensure they engage with their publics – internal and external – as responsibly as possible.

Referenced news sites:

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