It was reassuring today (Thursday 25 August) to hear that the Government have stopped talking about finding ways to switch off social networks during times of disorder. At the time it was mentioned it seemed fanciful given the advances in technology but it did make for some lurid headlines.
What is important is that we look at the reality of what the social networks mean about life in 2011, and how they impact on our daily life. If we can do that and then recognise the environment around us is changing then perhaps we can stop being afraid of social media and actually start to look at what it can bring in a really positive way. Police forces are unfortunately still in many cases too afraid of what may happen that forces don’t even dip their toe in the water for fear they may drown.
The establishment may decide to sit and tut at the decline of modern life and point fingers at social networks. They have moved from blaming the ills of the world on computer games to pointing the disapproving finger at social networks. The moral outrage is wasted effort. The critical issue is that we look at what social networks can provide in a positive way to improve people’s lives.
In the case of large corporations and organisations it means finding the way they can support business objectives. Recently I found some work that had identified on a map of Manchester where Twitter, Flickr and the two were being used. It was a heat map that certainly was hot. It would appear they are being used extensively. The networks are in no way just the domain of particular groups, young and old all seem to have found ways to make social media work for them.
Using social networks, engaging with people using them, providing information through them and listening to what is said on them should be a positive experience for any organisation. There are great opportunities and they need to be grasped and developed. The actions we take now are an investment for the future. As communication or public relations professionals this an investment we must make for our organisations or companies.
Just because we don’t like the message on the telephone doesn’t mean we smash the phone up. And just because some people use the telephone to make nuisance and prank calls doesn’t mean we stop all people using them. Just because the Internet is used for criminal activities doesn’t mean that we try to stop the vast majority of the law-abiding public using it. In the same way, we need to embrace social networks and the positive elements they bring and stop any talk about trying to switch them off when we don’t like the message or we find criminals may be using them. The Government appear to have had a sharp dose of reality – the reality of modern life.