Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Even the Anti-Social Need to Pay Attention to Social Media

Blogging, twittering, facebooking, it can be a bit overwhelming.

But every day we’re reminded how these new communication tools are taking a leadership role in driving dialogue, nationally and locally. Not just dialogue about movie stars, fashion or special sales - but also about important issues like healthcare, the war in Afghanistan and our economy.
For corporations and individuals who carefully guard their reputations, ignoring the “social” media can be devastating.

Take the Friday after Thanksgiving Day blog post about the reputed “black screen of death.” It accused Microsoft of releasing a faulty security program with its new Windows 7 that caused computers to go black and crash.

Posted on Friday November 27 by an obscure computer security company, and allowed to flourish unanswered, the “black screen of death” claim spread with alarming speed.

By Monday morning the blog post had morphed into a news story picked up by wires, PC World, ComputerWorld, CNN and MSNBC. With each repetition the story gained credibility. And with each hour the story was repeated by dozens of additional publications each quoting the other. Mind you, there was still no substantiated connection between Microsoft and the “black screen of death”.

Finally, ZDNet’s Ed Bott tracked down the destructive roots of the story, the sloppy journalism and sluggish public relations that allowed it to flourish.

By Monday afternoon- as a few good journalists got around to asking Microsoft for comment- the headlines turned... but only slightly. As Bott notes the new headlines didn’t help much:

“Microsoft is investigating… Microsoft is probing… Microsoft is looking into the problem… And then, finally, on Tuesday afternoon: Microsoft denies blame for ‘black screens of death’. Oh, really? By the time your name appears in “So-and-so denies…” headlines, you are toast. Ask Tiger Woods.”

Used to be you’d have more time before turning into toast- at least a couple of news cycles. Now it happens in a matter of hours, or even minutes, at the speed of one quick key stroke.

For those who have yet to dive into the “social” media- the “anti-social” among us- there are quick and easy ways to get started. Our basic advice as you put your toe in the water: get an interactive website, set up a blog, sign up for Twitter and establish an e-newsletter. This is your basic communication network, which will allow you to quickly reach your key audiences with accurate, up to the minute information. It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but it can be reputation saving.

Oh and about the black screen of death? Debatable on whether it even exists. But a couple of things do exist- a new “safety patch” sold by the obscure company that posted the first blog and of course out there in cyberspace- just waiting for a Google search- the hundreds of headlines, news stories and posts on the topic that sprouted up and left unchecked, ran rampant.

Posted by Dyana Koelsch

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