Monday, May 04, 2009

Are We Overcommunicating Online?


I recently attended a great keynote at the Web 2.0 Conference, in which the speaker, John Madea, president of the Rhode Island School of Design, started off by saying, "I'm going to talk about what I've been thinking about lately." That's interesting, I wish I could do that, I thought to myself. Either this guy is very off-the-cuff and not worried about coming off as unprepared and spontaneous, or he's really a genius who can gather his thoughts in his mind in 10 minutes and articulately communicate them to an audience of thousands of people--or, he's not as spontaneous as indicated. As it turned out, the truth was somewhere in the middle. Yes, they were thoughts about leadership and communication that he had been thinking about, but he had been thinking for a while about them, or else how would he have the sleek prepared slide deck to show for it?

So I got to thinking, how much do we think before we speak, or write, in our lives and particularly in business, and I got to further thinking about this when I saw 3 examples recently of online communications that were, shall we say strange, because they felt too much like what the communicator was thinking, rather then the end result they probably wanted. I felt it was important to hone in on this, because with the advent of Twitter and other social media tools that enable us to say what we are up to, or what we are thinking, with relative ease, we have to be careful that was we are saying is nonetheless, thought out. The social media gurus remind us that being "liberated from print" only goes so far, and that we do leave behind on online footprint in everything we write, that can come back to haunt us. In the same vein, we need to keep in mind that when we are speaking in person, we need to be concise and relevant, and not go around in circles. So I am presenting 3 scenarios of what in my view are online communications DON'Ts.

Scenario #1 - Making Mountains Out of Molehills
1. This week I got an e-mail blast from a marketing specialist, who was apologizing profusely that she had called out a correction on the way "tweeting" vs "twittering," was being used in a print article. There were all kinds of exclamation points and mea culpas all over the place, as if this poor woman was going to die of shame. Was she kidding? Apparently the editor researched her objection, contacted "Biz Stone," one of the Twitter founders, and discovered that the answer could have gone either way. So why did the marketer feel the need to apologize so profusely, as if she has committed social media suicide, when:
*it was not so clear that an error had been made
*even the founder of Twitter confirmed that either use of the word "twitter" or "tweet" would have been OK
*Twitter and all social media are relatively new phenomena anyway, so there is much that is still evolving, including our lexicon

Is it possible that the marketer was not as upset as she seemed online, but could also have been using this recent debacle as a ploy to get more SEO pickup, or more new subscribers, like me, as I went to her website and found her materials pretty darn good? I guess we'll never know. In any case, there's a reason why there is a famous expression: if it isn't broken, don't fix it.

This would have been a case of leave well enough alone. The world, Twitter included, is still revolving. Not only that, but the odds being what they are, chances are she'll make a greater mistake sooner or later that she really will need to apologize for, and I would save my apology chips for that one.

Stay tuned for Scenarios #2 and #3 coming later this week, they are doozies.

1 comment:

ET said...

I especially enjoy your human insights in your helpful communications observations and training. That woman you reference with apologizing too much re: Twitter, you raise an important question, how to improve SEO rankings without ruining professional credibility or personal and professional brand?