Green Shoots

A journey in optimism, ethics and enterprise

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Can businesses benefit from Twitter and Facebook?

I guess you’ve probably figured I’m a bit of geek. I love tinkering to see what I can make technology do for me now.  Perhaps for that reason social media is at the sweet spot of geekness and fun for me. Making connections and enjoying the random serendipity of link following and  “meeting” people online.

Of course there is potentially a business benefit of Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and the rest of social media tools. But I am not convinced that simply paying for a wonking great banner ad on a social media site will achieve much more than burn your marketing budget very fast. Social media is about engagement, involvement, transparency and a little honesty too.

Ooops - that's not the way win friends on social media

Ooops - that's not the way win friends on social media

If you’re a business leader, key decision maker or marketing director thinking about using Twitter or Facebook for business then take a deep breath before you jump in. In fact my advice is do nothing official for a few weeks. Open your own account, post a few entries and seek to understand what social media is actually about. As George Colony of Forrester research put it in his personal blogSocial [technology] is like sex. It’s fun to talk about and read about, but you can’t truly comprehend unless you do it.” Have some fun – see who you meet and then think more carefully about exactly if and how you want to use it to meet your business needs.

Of course, there are some (unwritten) rules to figure out if you want to be successful. Be interesting, be honest, be transparent and don’t seek to plug your own cause at every opportunity. People soon get bored of a perpetual advert no matter how differently you think it is being spun.

There are some examples of people who have got it right – Tony Hsieh has built up an almost cult level following 575,000 followers.

There are also some examples of people who have got it wrong – although they are much harder to find. Amazing how quickly the errors of judgment disappear from the social media space (even when mere mortals usually have no power to delete things). There was a good example this week. Randi Zuckerberg a senior marketer at Facebook and sister of Mark Zuckerberg founder of Facebook posted a message on Twitter “Worst bar ever = apothecary in NYC. Worst bouncer ever = james. It would be a huge bummer if their facebook pages “accidentally” went down.” You don’t have to be good in PR to know that threatening to take down someones Facebook page out of spite when you work for Facebook isn’t smart. In fact this Tweet disappeared very quickly – although not quickly enough to stop Google from spidering and cacheing it as shown in the picture above. Doesn’t breed a sense of trust and honesty in social media if go around making threats that one can only assume you can actually deliver on!


Twittering Magistrate forced to resign

The British legal system is clouded in mystery to most people. Archaic clothes, funny wigs and seemingly outdated practices. Various organisations have tried to bring it up to date and make it more accessible especially for victims of crime. Locally in Newcastle you can get notification by email of the verdict of a case where you are the victim of a crime. Nice idea to try and make things a little more accountable.

All the more reason why it’s a shame that Steve Molyneux ( felt the need to resign from being a magistrate when a complaint was made that he was twittering the verdicts from trials that he was presiding over. Twittering the verdicts of cases held in public, sometimes with journalists in the room writing stories for their local papers hardly seems controversial.

Now I’ve no idea who made the complaint or why @ProfOnTheProwl felt the need to resign, but my guess is that someone didn’t want their details being twittered round the web. And I guess when you get caught doing something wrong you don’t want anyone to know. However, I believe that there is a greater degree of accountability that comes from people knowing when we break the rules. The Tyne and Wear metro has run a successful campaign of naming fair dodgers in the paper. I know of one regular fair dodger who now buys a ticket solely because they don’t want their name in the paper.

Of course, we can point to examples where it doesn’t work. Plastering pictures of kids with ASBOs on the back of buses (another North East experiment) just made the kids heroes to their friends! However, we should not be put off – mutual accountability is important glue in our society that reminds us of the consequences of being “anti-social” in the broadest sense.

So should @ProfOnTheProwl and other magistrates be allowed to Twitter? Of course – in fact I would like to see far more transparency in the legal system. Let’s make court transcripts available on the web as matter of right. Let’s make sure that the local press report details of all cases – not just ones that involve sex or violence. We have a public justice system – designed to allow communities to know what was going on. In today’s world where our sense of community is as often online than not, let’s make sure the justice system is there too.