The world of social media is often scary for businesses to think about. The old pattern of having separate PR and advertising departments is deeply ingrained. Plus, many businesses have a firm “head in the sand” type of attitude when it comes to any outright criticism or discussion of their business that is not heavily regulated and monitored on their own terms. Businesses are having to relearn some deeply seated ideas about the nature of communication.
TechCrunch has posted an article talking about NBC’s recent firing of an employee for posting a decades old video that aired on television. The video is of the anchors discussing what at the time was a relatively new medium – the Internet. And the anchors don’t come across in a good light. Obviously, this is the type of video that NBC wants to have remain buried, despite it having aired on live television back in 1994.
We like how TechCrunch describe it: we aren’t laughing at the anchors, we are laughing with them. Back in 1994, the number of people who could intelligently and coherently describe the Internet were few. Much as fans of classic science fiction look back at old sci-fi movies and laugh about their depiction of life in the year 2000, the ability to look back at the past is good for us as we look toward the future. We still don’t have flying cars or dehydrated family meals that emerge out of a glowing sphere. Those ideas are quaint now.
Seriously, NBC. No one was laughing at your then-star hosts. We were all laughing with them. It’s not like they were asking questions about the Internet now. This was 1994. No one outside of unveristies and X-Files watchers had any clue about the Internet. The video simply served as a nice reminder that the Internet grew in importance so rapidly that even some of the world’s most versed newscasters were simply clueless in the early days.
NBC’s alleged firing of the employee who posted this video is troubling as it is a very public example of the perceived “dangers” of social media and the Internet as a whole. Where once you could feel perfectly safe criticizing your employers in your private written journal that you keep beside your bed, now people think they are safe criticizing their employers on their own private Facebook or Twitter account. Right now there is no set of laws or policies in place that protects practicers of free speech on the Internet from those they are criticizing. It is highly possible that in 30-40 years, as the older administrations are replaced by younger ones that grew up with social media, that the taboos and privacy laws will change. We will need a total shift in understanding if actions like the one NBC took become not only the exception but also less of a fear.
Employees who work within social media on behalf of a company should not be living in a state of fear that they have said or neglected to say something that will land them in hot water with their employers. The very nature of social media and the Internet is that it is an open discussion. Twitter accounts and Facebook profiles are expected to be lighter and have a personality behind them, one that makes jokes and engages with Internet culture. No one likes a PR mouthpiece on the social media platforms.
One of the amazing things about this NBC video though is the apparent foresight the female anchor displays:
“It came in really handy during the quake, a lot of people, that’s how they were using it to communicate it with family members because all the phone lines were down.”
Word for word, that could have been a description of recent uses of Twitter and Facebook just as much. Just a few months ago during a particularly bad winter storm here in Minnesota, Comcast went down for a number of states across the Midwest. The only way some people knew the problem was with Comcast and not their own Internet set-up is because Twitter users started talking about Comcast being down and then Comcast reps getting the word out on Twitter, which was still accessible by everyone’s smart phones.
We are now living in an open world where everything anyone says can be tracked in some form on the Internet. Privacy, as we’ve known it, has been readily given up as we’ve been distracted by the latest shiny object online. Does this mean that all privacy is dead? No; for example, Evolve Systems prides itself on offering secure a secure CMS in Amiro.CMS, secure shopping cart technology in X-Cart, and secure mobile payment transactions software. These systems are entirely secure providing you use the tools as they are designed to be used and to be wise doing so, ie, don’t set your password as “password”.
How we understand privacy is changing. As well as how businesses interact with the Internet.
Finally, just because everyone else seems to be posting it…here’s that awesome Volkswagon commercial featuring the Darth Vader kid.
Although this is just as cool…