When I started writing this blog some months ago I talked about social media being just another form of communication albeit a relatively new one. I talked of the way the telephone was treated when it first appeared but now it is just part of our daily life, which is what I hope we will see with social media.
This week I had a number of conversations about the use of social media that made me review the current situation. The result of this was a realisation that there are still too many people who are trying to treat social media as something completely different to all other forms of communication. As communication professionals they are not integrating it but are seeing it sit somewhere on its own. As members of public they are wanting to prescribe all kinds of restrictions and controls on its use without understanding it.
The latter point is almost like saying that you have to seek approval for what you are going to say before you use the telephone, or that you can’t use the telephone for both personal and business calls. It is incredibly frustrating to encounter these views when I keep assuming that the world has moved on.
Social networks are just another way of having a conversation and are an addition to the methods of communication that already exist. They need to be understood in the same way that people had to learn how the telephone worked or how to read. They do require some additional hardware to make them accessible in the same way that people had to install telephones. And of course, they are only as good as the people who use them.
So if that is the case why do people want to sideline social media, refuse to understand it, and seek to impose rigid controls on people using it? Clearly, it is because they have a fear of the unknown that makes them want to place unnecessary and ill-conceived restrictions on it.
I had the privilege of meeting Dominic Burch (@dom_ASDApr) at a recent event who made the point that businesses don’t have a head of telephone strategy so in a few years they should no longer have heads of social media strategy. It is a good point and one that I hope happens sooner rather than later.
As 2012 draws to a close social media is even more a part of our daily lives. It is on our phones, it is on our computers, it is talked about in our newspapers and it brings us our news, gossip and information. I only hope that as we move into the next 12 months we stop seeing any boundaries around it and recognise it is just another way of having a conversation. And for anyone working in communication roles, I hope that they will be working on integrated campaigns and activities that no longer treat social media as something different to other methods of communication.