A ‘Social Media’ rulebook: yes or no?

by Lee Hopkins on December 14, 2007 · 5 comments

in Uncategorized

media-bullseye

The wise Chip Griffin has started a fabulous meme over on his Media Bullseye site.

Chip argues persuasively for the ‘throwing out’ of the ‘rules’ we leading-edge social mediarists have sometimes insisted be followed.

As Chip says,

I’m here to tell you that most of the rules are bunk, and we as an industry to ourselves a disservice by frightening off potential participants with absurd proclamations of the way things must be.

Many comments along the lines of ‘I agree’ have followed Chip’s long and well-reasoned post.

Naturally, I disagree with them.

This ‘throw the rule book’ stuff is all fine and dandy when you know what the rules are, but most corporations, businesses, enterprises and the corporate communications people within them haven’t got a clue how to best engage.

That is why they pay me to advise them, why they pay Melcrum lots of dollars to run seminars on ‘Social Media 101′. Why they lurk and not join in the conversation themselves, but read and listen and look and learn.

Business is traditionally conservative in nature, therefore we as business communicators need to provide our clients with clear guidelines so that they can take their baby steps without too much fear of the unknown.

Once they have found their feet they will, like teenagers, push boundaries and break rules to see how far they can go.

But when they first start out using web2.0 tools they are infants — reliant on others to hold their hands, steady them, be there for them, encourage them, support them, help them learn right from wrong until they are at a development stage that allows them to make their own value judgements.

To say to them, before they have started taking those baby steps, that there are no rules is a sure-fire way of encouraging and re-stocking the ammunition of those nay-sayers who proclaim loud and long ‘the new internet is the new anarchy and its inhabitants are not to be trusted’.

The social media space is like any other social arena, where there are formal and informal rules of acceptable behaviour (and I’m sure we can all name at least one social mediarist blog that has deliberately engaged in anti-social behaviour). We need to help those who come after us to adjust to this new and different social environment (not all my clients have experience of bulletin boards, for example, and don’t understand ‘flaming’ and other potential risks).

Those of us who have been around this space for a while have learnt our lessons, made our mistakes, upset others, gained hard-won reputations, mostly by following the wisdom of those who have come before us. Let us provide our clients the same set of rules so that they can at least get started — once they are as comfortable with the genre as us, when they no longer require our hand-holding and emotional support, THEN let them start to ‘play’ with the tools.

But let’s not scare them off first by giving their bosses the ‘no rules, therefore it must be anarchy’ nonsense.

UPDATE: Ask any developmental psychologist how to raise happy and secure children; near the top of the list will be supportive rules and boundaries. Learners learn better when they have boundaries to lean on. But let’s not pretend that society works better without rules. Freeform too easily equals anarchy, not self-correction.

Currently listening to: Gare Du Nord – In Search Of Excellounge – Tune Up

  • http://www.sound-strategies.typepad.com/ Ronna Porter

    Good perspective Lee. It’s very easy to get caught up in the ‘Let’s change the world’ hype around social media, and forget about how to bring others with you. A lesson to use all!

  • http://www.sound-strategies.typepad.com Ronna Porter

    Good perspective Lee. It’s very easy to get caught up in the ‘Let’s change the world’ hype around social media, and forget about how to bring others with you. A lesson to use all!

  • http://www.mediabullseye.com/ Chip Griffin

    Natrually, I disagree with you, Lee! :)

    Seriously, though, I will have more to say in the coming days as I round up the reactions to my original commentary, but for now let me say that I was taking aim at the hardcore orthodoxy that exists. I am supportive of advice/guidelines/suggestions or whatever we want to call them.

    Mostly I don’t want to hold people up for ridicule if they fail to conform. To dive into the child psychology angle, you don’t tell a child learning to walk or talk that everything they do is wrong. You praise them for their effort and seek to educate them, while understanding that everyone develops their own style.

  • http://www.mediabullseye.com Chip Griffin

    Natrually, I disagree with you, Lee! :)

    Seriously, though, I will have more to say in the coming days as I round up the reactions to my original commentary, but for now let me say that I was taking aim at the hardcore orthodoxy that exists. I am supportive of advice/guidelines/suggestions or whatever we want to call them.

    Mostly I don’t want to hold people up for ridicule if they fail to conform. To dive into the child psychology angle, you don’t tell a child learning to walk or talk that everything they do is wrong. You praise them for their effort and seek to educate them, while understanding that everyone develops their own style.

  • Pingback: Are Social Media Rules Made to be Broken? : deswalsh.com

Previous post:

Next post: