On publishing, people, privacy and Pepsi

So, I’m taking an online class in social media this semester, and since I’m putting a good amount of time into reading and discussing topics every week, I am going to selectively cross-post some of my thoughts here on my blog. Because I am really interested in discussing this and I want it to be “out there” for all four of you to engage with. ;) And because this could be fodder for something more polished in the future, and I don’t want to lose it when Blackboard locks up old courses. This is further proof of my comparatively liberal view of publishing and privacy, I guess, but if I don’t have permission to publish others’ words, I’ll paraphrase them.

The prompt was on what are the consequences of being able to freely post information using text and a variety of other media as an individual or as a representative of an organization…”Does it matter where you post? Should you able to control who sees what?”

My response (scattered as it is):
Publishing has been transformed through Web 2.0, in a way that reimagines what was traditionally a closed process. The audience are now co-publishers, as we blog, tweet and Facebook our reactions to what we read elsewhere. I’m noncommittal about whether these consequences are positive or negative.

The effect of opening up the market like this to millions of producer-consumers means that yes, there will be a lot more noise and a lot of it will be crass and popular and really worthless, the long tail, if you will. There’s a niche for every topic out there, and while not always the sites with most hits, highly intelligent conversations are going on.

What we have is more people getting together who are willing to collaborate and willing to share ideas back and forth. And an unprecedented level of creative remixing, which strains at the intellectual property laws which predate this revolution.

Citing your sources, i.e. the link economy, is even more important in today’s networked social environment (whether as a traditional news provider or an average person). If you try to pass of a lie as truth or somebody else’s work as your own, you will inevitably be found out. Information can travel very quickly, and while there is the risk of falsehoods spreading that Chris Heuer talked about (Safko, 17), I agree with his idea that being able to share ideas in progress is only a good thing. What he refers to as self-correcting blogging. What Jeff Jarvis calls process journalism.

All of this is great, but what about the consequences for people concerned about privacy? What about companies concerned about their brand image?

For the first, historically individuals who speak in the “public arena” waive their right to privacy, and that extends to online contexts. People should learn how to tweak controls in social networks so that they can share what they want about themselves and about their thoughts with only a limited group of acquaintances. [I'm not sure where I fall on privacy, but the post Two ways of looking at the future of privacy, from VentureBeat, does a good job of explaining the arguments out there.]

For the second, companies, candidates and the like should realize that they no longer control the message. Unfavorable news may get out there. There is more transparency than ever, so more responsible behavior than ever is needed. Their recourse for quelling negative published material is to engage directly and counter with their own version of the story. (Individuals should, however, be wary with what they post about their employer, as speech is not protected in private companies.)

Q: Will companies create new departments of social media communicators?

They already are…shifting people and resources away from marketing and PR as these departments reassess the brand landscape evolve. Just look to Pepsi, which announced it would not run a Super Bowl commercial this year, in favor of community-directed investing and increased online advertising.

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