Twitter: Social Media’s Gateway Drug

I’m doing the second in a series of adult education workshops through a grant with Rochester Community and Technical College today. The last session was a social media overview. Here are the slides from the Twitter crash course:

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5 Reasons to Keep Your Twitter Disclaimer

An article published by Ragan Communications yesterday suggested that the “tweets represent my opinion, not my employer’s” disclaimer in Twitter bios is unnecessary, perhaps even harmful, and urged its demise.

Screen shot 2014-03-04 at 4.33.05 PM

UK-based Stuart Bruce, in an article reprinted from Stuart Bruce’s PR Guy Musings, said disclaimers should go because 1) Many people will never see them, 2) They don’t protect you from legal liability, 3) People will associate your comments with your employer anyway, so a disclaimer can create a false sense of security and 4) the real solution is good corporate social media policies and effective employee education on the policies or guidelines.

While I essentially agree with all four of those points, I believe getting rid of what I like to call “the personal responsibility clause” would be a mistake.

Here’s why:

  1. It’s the social media equivalent of TSA screening. The security benefits of removing shoes and belts, laptops and one-quart bags with liquids and gels for x-ray examination are questionable, too. But having most passengers endure this ritual enables otherwise wary travelers to board airliners with more confidence than they would in the absence of such a process. Likewise, having the social media disclaimer enables corporate leaders to more easily reconcile themselves to having employees posting opinions publicly.
  2. It’s not an ongoing burden. You don’t include the disclaimer in every tweet. Unlike TSA screening, which inconveniences passengers on every flight, once you have added your disclaimer to your Twitter bio, you don’t need to do it again.
  3. It’s free. Maybe it “costs” a few of the 160 characters in your Twitter bio that you could otherwise use to describe yourself, but having the disclaimer has no out-of-pocket cost.
  4. There is a difference between association with your employer and speaking for your employer. In a presentation I uploaded to Slideshare today, I outlined a series of “Bad and Ugly” examples of conduct on Twitter. No disclaimer can protect your employer from the impact of a truly stupid action you take, but most things you say or do on Twitter hopefully won’t fit that description. And many of the most troublesome Twitter gaffes resulted from employees mistakenly posting tweets on their employers’ accounts that had been intended for their personal accounts. The same content on personal accounts likely would not have caused the controversies.
  5. A disclaimer is a declaration of your right to express a personal opinion online. It’s not just a disclaimer of responsibility for speaking on behalf of your employer; it’s staking your claim, your right as an American (for those of us in the former colonies), to have and express opinions. The disclaimer/declaration is a reminder of that right and the associated responsibility.

Of course if part of your day job is to speak for your employer, the lines get a bit murkier. For example, our Mayo Clinic CEO doesn’t have the disclaimer on his Twitter bio; because of his office, he does speak for Mayo Clinic. The same may be true in some cases for those of us who work in PR, which may be part of Mr. Bruce’s point.

But for most employees in most organizations, the personal responsibility clause/disclaimer should stay.

At least that’s my personal opinion. It’s also in our Guidelines for Mayo Clinic Employees.

What do you think?

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Social Media: What’s all the Fuss?

Today I am starting a monthly series of two-hour sessions on social media organized through Rochester Community and Technical College. I hope the participants will find the series encouraging and empowering as they explore ways they can use social media tools personally and professionally.

Below are the slides from my first presentation, which will introduce many of the important social platforms and also sets the stage for sessions to be held over the next three months. Because I move quickly through the slides, I want to have them available for review here. Many of the slides include links to relevant sites or examples.

If you have questions or comments on any of the material, let’s discuss in the comments below.

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Twitter Email Alerts Much Less Useful After Change

Twitter has taken a minor but annoying step back in the usefulness of its email notifications.

I have selected relatively few types of email updates to receive from Twitter, but one of the ones I had appreciated was notification that someone has sent me a direct message. And in the old days (meaning maybe a month ago), the text of the direct message was sent along with the email.

In the last week or two that has changed, and not for the good. Here’s a message I got yesterday:

New message on Twitter

Really, Twitter? You send me the alert, and you purposefully removed the content of the message?

This looks like something done to increase page views on Twitter.com, but not thinking of the users and what they need or prefer.

It’s a minor annoyance, and I didn’t say anything at first. But after having this happen a few times, I decided to take a few minutes for a post, because it relates to a larger point that applies to all of us.

Think about the changes you make in your online interfaces, and how they serve (or may annoy) users.  Don’t make them work harder to get the information they need. You may have valid business reasons for your changes, but if you’re making withdrawals from your reservoir of customer good will and loyalty, the benefits may not be worth the cost.

Even more importantly, try not to get into these cost/benefit calculations. Just do the right thing for the customer (as Twitter generally has until this point.) Doing the right thing will be better for everyone (including you) in the long run.

I was disappointed to see Twitter swerve into this short-term thinking. It’s a good reminder for me to be sure that what we’re doing keeps users and their needs first.

Update (2/25/14): I just noticed that Twitter has returned to a more useful direct message email notification. Looking back through my deleted emails, it appears this happened back on Feb. 12 or 13.

David Harlow DM

Good deal.

 

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Email Flood Relief

81st Ave Oakland flooding

81st Ave Oakland flooding (Photo credit: mr. nightshade)

In the New York Times Bits blog, Nick Bilton has a thought-provoking piece called Disruptions: Looking for Relief from a Flood of Email.

He confesses filing email bankruptcy to get out from a mountain of 46,315 unread emails, and explores some reasons behind the phenomenon of email overload and burnout. He also highlights one creative (and less extreme than bankruptcy) solution:

Some people have come up with their own solutions to the problems email presents. Luis Suarez, lead social business enabler for IBM, decided to take on his inbox several years ago, and by all accounts seems to have won.

He said he had moved most of his communication to public and social platforms. When people contact Mr. Suarez by email, unaware that he is not a fan of that route, he scans their email signature for a social network they use and then responds in a public forum, whether on Twitter, Google Plus or LinkedIn. This way, he says, he can deal with several messages at once.

Over the last few years, he has managed to get his inbox down by 98 percent. He rarely uses email anymore.

“If email was invented today, it probably would not have survived as a technology,” Mr. Suarez said. “Social and public sites are much more efficient.”

I agree that social networks can be much more efficient, but taking email contents to public forums needs to be done with care and consultation. For example, sometimes I get questions by email, and I ask the sender if it’s OK to answer in public on SMUG or elsewhere. That makes the answers more accessible to others who may have the same questions, and also invites others to share their perspectives, which may be better than mine. But going public without permission is bad form, as I see it.

I also would recommend David Allen’s Getting Things Done for some good thoughts on avoiding the need for email bankruptcy. And while I have some basic disagreements with Timothy Ferriss

in The 4-Hour Workweek as it relates to the purpose and meaning of work, he does have some good tips on managing the email beast.

What do you think? How have you managed (or not) the rising tide of emails?

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