My colleague, Phil Oakley, left a comment on my blog yesterday in which he said, “I fully appreciate the benefits of blogging and twitter etc but have always had a concern as well. A concern that the new medias can be rather like a conversation in the pub after several pints – it is all to easy to make ill-considered, sweeping and impulsive statements”.
His comment was made in response to me saying that the era of social media was moving on to one of ‘hyper local’ networks, where we become more discerning about who we share things with. I should make it clear, however, that Tweeting and blogging will not fade away, nor will the conversation in the pub after several pints (or, in my case, orange juices).
Phil is right that it is easy to make ill-considered, sweeping and impulsive statements on Twitter (less so on a blog). But there are two differences between Twitter and the pub. On Twitter you can always delete the tweet unlike the pub. And unlike the pub, where you may upset and offend your immediate circle of drinking mates (a hyper local network), on Twitter it can reach all your followers and, if re-tweeted, their followers too.
But exchanges of views is the life blood of all organisations and causes. Conversations happen, and hopefully they will be characterised by professionalism and respect.
Some organisations seek to control online content while ignoring the banter in the pub, possibly because that can’t be controlled. There was an item in last week’s Inside Housing which reported that Howard Sinclair of the London homelessness charity Broadway who revealed that he has not even been given the login details to his own Twitter account. He says that he has to email his 140 character messages to several different figures within his organisation for approval before they can go online.
In fact, online content is very difficult to control, and if restrictions are placed on staff or clients, there is nothing to stop them setting up anonymous online identities for blogging and Twitter purposes. When that happens, debate can take a life of its own. Take, for example, the unveiling of a certain footballer’s identity on Twitter.
I would rather there be open discussion and debate. if someone has something to say, let them say it, no matter how robust their views may be. Of course my response might be as robust! Used appropriately, blogging and Twitter can be very influential. But some things are better said quietly, with greater care and consideration, in hyper local networks of colleagues and partners.