Social media give an immediacy to communication that is fundamentally different from what we are used to in the more formal and traditional world of work. WIthin learning environments, this immediacy can allow debate and discussion to take place, it can form a challenging and constructive extension to the learning experience, but it’s important that there is a coherency and consistency to the tone of voice used with each channel.
This is a lesson that Quantas must be reflecting upon this morning with their latest social media mistake: http://www.news.com.au/travel/news/fail-qantas-red-faced-after-twitter-campaign-backfires/story-e6frfq80-1226202445747
Having decided to use Twitter to engage in a dialogue with their customer base, about ‘luxury’ in this case, what they discovered was that their customer base in fact wanted to talk about the delays, outsourcing and current strike action that was affecting travel. It was not a happy result for a campaign.
The lesson here is one that we take over from our core learning methodology: context. Context means understanding the everyday reality of the learner, or, in their case, customer. Just because i want to engage in a conversation with you about one thing, doesn’t mean that you don’t want to engage me in a totally different conversation. The joy of a social media channel like Twitter is that it’s conversational, virtually stream of consciousness, and that the conversation can vary. Whilst this makes it engaging, it also makes it hard to control. Impossible in fact. That’s it’s purpose.
Quantas have employed four full time social media managers, whose role it is to oversee their social media profile: it’s admirable to want to engage in this space, but really they should have been wise to the wider picture and aware of the risks, plus, at a simple level, aware of the strike action taking place.
We don’t want to discourage organisations from engaging and indeed experimenting with social media in learning, but we do need them to be aware of the context and the associated work that needs to be done. All channels need to speak with a common tone of voice and we need to be responsive to the needs of the community. Twitter is not a one way broadcast media, it’s a conversation.
The pace of response and speed of change cannot be underestimated. These are fast paced channels, and can be balanced by more reflective ones, such as a blog, where opinion can be slightly more reflective and considered.
It’s great to get into social media in learning, but important to understand how the channels work and to unify our voice, to avoid the worst social media mistakes.