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.

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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?

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.

 

Thanks to Tweetcamp Counselors!

Yesterday as part of my presentation for the Benedictine Development Symposium in Schuyler, Nebraska I did a little demo to show the Tweetcamp participants the speed and reach of Twitter.

The exercise was amazing; within less than an hour we had responses from Australia, Spain, Sweden and Italy and several Canadian provinces (including one tweeted from an airplane), as well as about 20 U.S. states.

Thanks to everyone who retweeted or replied! You made an impression on the participants in the symposium!

The participants found the content of your tweets encouraging and inspiring, too…not just the wide geographic dispersion.  Thanks for your help!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy 5th Twitter Birthday @MayoClinic

It was five years ago today that I created our @MayoClinic Twitter account, and launched it with this message:

If I had known Twitter was going to get this big, I would have been a little more creative and thoughtful in composing that first tweet. Not exactly a memorable “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” formulation.

But it got us started. That’s probably the main thing. A little over 10,500 tweets (and 530,000 followers) later, we have seen revolutionary impact and some amazing stories. We’ve made connections that likely never would have happened otherwise. Patients have been saved from decades of chronic pain. And it’s helped us extend the reach of our weekly Mayo Clinic Medical Edge radio call-in program around the world, with tweeted questions coming from as far away as Australia and Indonesia.

Thanks, Twitter, for five great years of connections!